Thursday, June 11, 2009

The penultimate rep

Am I mental?  I often ask this question in relation to what keeps me motivated during a hard workout.  I’m pretty sure most runners play mind games with themselves to stay focused when things get tough in a workout or race or to focus the attention away from the pain they are feeling.  I read that Kara Goucher likes to use the power word “fighter” during track competitions and “courage” during a marathon.  I did a little searching and found a Runner's World article that documents the mantras of other world-class runners:

  • Gabriel Jennings:  He memorized the Declaration of Independence. "During a run, I'd just repeat it.”
  • Bill Rodgers: "I turned to my running buddy and I shouted, 'Relentless!' I ran my best time of the year."
  •  Deena Kastor:  "Before I won the Chicago Marathon in 2005, my coach, Terrence Mahon, said, 'Today, define yourself.' This was so powerful; the entire race I repeated, 'Define yourself.' I've also used 'Go faster' and 'Push harder.'"
  • Alan Culpepper:  "I say things like 'Stay focused,' 'Run hard,' and 'Make yourself breathe.'" He pushes through a struggle with "The pain won't get any worse, you can handle it."
  • Frank Shorter: "At certain hard points in a race, I joke with myself and think, They [the other runners] can't be feeling that much better than I am right now."

About a year or so ago, I became reacquainted with the word penultimate.  I had heard people use the term as if it meant pinnacle or epitome.  That is not what it means.  It means second to last.  While this may not seem like an inspiring “power” word as it relates to your place in a race, I have found it very motivating during workouts.

I have had trouble all week getting motivated to do my workouts due to a very low energy level.  I failed to make my early girlie appointment for Monday's workout, so I was finishing a 10-miler (which included hill plyometrics and sprints) at 8 p.m. Monday evening.  I had a two-a-day workout scheduled for Tuesday with the morning workout set for 11 miles with hill repeats and strides. 

Once again, I was in no shape to roll out of bed and run Tuesday morning, so I did my not-so-easy evening workout in the morning.  I had 5 miles total with 15 minutes at marathon effort.  My coach told me to “ditch the Garmin” for this workout and just run at marathon effort.  I tried.  At least I didn’t program my Garmin for the workout.  Baby steps.  I ended up running those 15 minutes at 6:18 pace starting out slower and speeding up at the end when I felt better.  Did it feel like marathon effort?  Sort of J.

So, Tuesday night I was facing my hill repeats, and I decided to take on the ¼ mile William Pond Park Bridge again.  This workout was a total of 11 miles with 10 total strides and 10 x 75 second hill repeats at 1 mile to 3k effort with easy jog down rests.  The whole warm up, I was dreading those hills.  How in the world was I going to do 10 repeats on that hill with tired legs and an equally tired body? 

Enter the word penultimate.  This word is what motivates me in my workouts right now because, I, well, like saying it and find it exciting to actually do the penultimate rep in a workout.  So, I start the workout, far, far away from the penultimate rep, and it is difficult and painful.  Around the time I get to rep number 5, I start thinking about the penultimate rep and how close I’m getting to it.  I start counting down: 3 reps until the penultimate rep, 2 reps, 1 rep.  Then, I hit the actual penultimate rep and am magically no longer thinking about the pain.  I instead focus on keeping good form for the penultimate and then the final rep. 

Am I mental?  Maybe, but at least I can use big words.  I’m trying to figure out how to fit the words “phenotypic plasticity” into my workouts next week to spice things up a bit.

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