Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hit me with your best MENTAL training plan!

First, I want to announce the winner of the C-YA lightning bolt giveaway.  Random number generator picked Kristen!  Kristen, since I’ll be seeing you on Saturday I’ll just bring your lightning bolt with me---congrats!

Now onto mental training and my lack of it!  I’ve been thinking lately about how mental running can be.  Sure, without physical training most people can’t go out and run long distances or even more than a mile or two.  But training plans are all about the miles and paces.  There usually isn’t a section on the mental part of training.  I was talking with a friend who I run with occasionally and she told me that I have “major mental hang-ups.”  I was slightly offended when she first said it but then I got to thinking about it and realized hmmm…she might have a point.  I often find myself out running feeling good and then looking down at my Garmin, seeing a faster than I THINK I SHOULD be going pace, freak out and my breathing gets all labored and I have to take a walk break to calm down.  Is this the equivalent of a mental turned physical fight or flight response?  Would I have kept going strong at a XX pace had I not looked down and freaked out?

When I first started running back in 2000, I was strictly a treadmill runner, I never ran farther than 4-5 miles, I never took walk breaks and I always found my “zone.”  I was also a MUCH faster runner.  I remember getting on the treadmill, warming up at a 6.0 (10 min mile) for 15 minutes and then bumping the tready to 6.6 (9:05 min mile) and zoning out, covering the stats on tready with my towel and just running.  About the time I’d start to get a little tired, I’d uncover the stats, wipe my face with the towel, set the treadmill at 6.8 (8:49 min mile) and go for another ½ mile no matter what.  Sometimes that meant I’d run 4 miles total sometimes as much as 5 miles total, depending on when I got to that “slightly tired” phase.  I barely do speedwork at a 9:00 min mile now.  What was it about those days---how was it that I always found my zone and that my speed was always consistent?

Yesterday, I did an experiment.  I set my watch on the total time screen instead of the screen that shows pace/distance/etc.   I also didn’t go out with a set distance just a route in mind that I figured would be “about” 3ish miles.  I wanted to do a tempo-ish run.  Before leaving the house I had planned to run comfortably/easy to a certain street, at that street I’d pick it up a bit and then when I hit X street I’d go back to comfortable/easy.  I think I was still too much in my head about pacing but I think it was a little better.  Turns out my “easy” pace is about 10:45-11:15 min mile and my “pick it up pace” is about 9:50-10:15 pace.  I had the Garmin set to .25 interval catches so I look at my splits when I was done.  Granted this was a short run but if you had asked me yesterday before running, I would have said my “easy” pace was an 11:30 or 12:00 min mile and my “comfortably hard” pace was a 10:30-45 min mile.  It may very well be the case on a longer distance that those hold true BUT for shorter distances I think I’m faster than I think I am.   

So, keeping the afore mentioned in mind what is the best training plan for mental training?  I’m willing to do almost anything to get my head in the game so bring on all the creative and potentially silly sounding things you do to mentally train your brain to run at the paces you want to run.