Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mental Strength and Endurance Need Training Too

This Buttercup sucked it up.

I had a big (for me) and MUCH needed confidence-boosting weekend of training. And not a moment too soon - I'm less than two weeks out from the Hokie Half Marathon, and less than four weeks out from PPD Beach2Battleship half iron distance race.

I needed the chance to prove to myself that I had the mental endurance to stay focused and deliver a consistent and fairly high level of effort from start to finish on these two key workouts that are much longer than the sprint/oly/rehab focused efforts of the summer. (wow that was a long sentence).

Frankly, my efforts on the bike have felt a bit lackluster. My runs have been inconsistent. I've struggled with focus, confidence, and positivity.

Building physical strength and endurance is a matter of consistent work, increasing physical demands, and sufficient rest to bring about physiologic adaptation. With Coach Jim, that part is taken care of.

Building mental strength and endurance takes the same, but it also requires stringing together thousands (or millions?) of moment-by-moment decisions to commit to do the work. It's really up to me.

I viewed this weekend as a dress rehearsal for the mental side.

What I did Saturday - 60 mile bike ride + 20-minute brick run with the first mile at 7:30 (about 20-30s under my half iron run pace.)

How I did Saturday - I did maintain mental toughness for the duration, despite the pleadings of the body to let off the gas the last 12 miles. I worked to keep heart rate between 150 and 155 and when things were tough I thought about technique rather than effort - a quiet relaxed body and steady, efficient pedaling. It paid off with a 20.6 mph average that made me very happy!

What I learned Saturday - I can stay focused and must! With focus comes speed and performance. I also learned that even if I'm hurting at the end of the bike, the run will be there, don't dread it!

What I did Sunday - 12.5 mile run, the longest I have done since last year's PPD Beach2Battleship half iron.

How I did Sunday - Confidence/focus dropped a little in the middle miles, then picked back up so that my fastest 1.5 miles (7:38 min/mile pace) were the final 1.5 miles! Cadence is a big indicator of my focus, and it stayed at or above 90 average per mile. I was very surprised to hold a 7:53 min/mile pace on this training run.

What I learned Sunday - The middle miles may have suffered from thinking about how much further I needed to go. "Run the mile you are in" I need to remind myself. That last mile and a half showed there is more in the tank than the body lets on. Don't be afraid to back off half a gear, just keep cadence up and stay positive!

Why mental endurance training is good - As a working mom and crazy busy person I'm in a constant state of multitasking. It's important to build mental strength and endurance in the context of a single task like biking or running. It's hard, but it's rewarding.

Take Away - Take a metacognitive approach and check-in constantly on your commitment to do the work; performance will follow.

Sharing my post-ride satisfaction with the ducks of Narrows, Virginia