Sunday, December 21, 2008

Brain Training

Haven't blogged in a month (I realized when I went on the site today).  That's what my life has been like.  2 1/2 weeks ago, after a really hard effort doing muscle endurance work on the bike, my low back felt really tired and my piriformis went into spasm.  It's been a challenging time since then, alternating low back pain, buttock pain and iliotibial band pain and tightness.  on Wednesday at precisely 50 minutes into my treadmill session, my left IT band tightened up on me.  This is a little scary, as IT bands have a tendency to lock up at a fairly precisely appointed time.  On Thursday, it was tight and sore after 40 minutes.  So, it was with some trepidation that I began my treadmill run this morning.  The goal for to go 100 minutes, that's what my coach set for me to do.  However, any pain was supposed to get me to stop immediately.

With that in mind, not really, but it sounds good, I started reading "Brain Training for Runners" last night.  The idea that pain is something that starts in our brain and not in our muscles was fascinating.  So, as the inevitable twinges, tightness, and spasms would come about, I overruled them with my brain.  I literally visualized melting the spasm, relaxing the muscle, ignoring the pain. 111 minutes later, I completed my 13.1 mile treadmill run.  This was pyschologically important as I have a half marathon in 6 weeks.  Now I have no doubt about my ability to run the distance recovering from my latest physical malady.

Of better note, the run was entirely done in zone 1 and 2 and I managed to keep close to 8:20 pace.  This bodes well for my race goal of running just at or under 7 minutes/mile.  But, too early to start thinking about that.  

Years ago I went running with an ultramarathoner.  He talked about regularly checking every muscle in his body throughout a race and literally making sure that he would alternate different muscles throughout a race.  I kind of did this today as well, varying my speed by 0.1mph with regularity, thus assuring a very slightly different gait.  I would occasionally focus on my toes and feet and how I was landing.  That said, heel striking was NOT GOOD.  The few times I landed on my heel, my low back immediately felt like it was going to spasm.  This brain signal was probably good and instead of ignoring it, I focused on landing on the balls of my feet. Downhill running (while running on flat ground), like downhill swimming, is not a bad idea.

When I look back at the last 2 1/2 weeks, I can be quite happy.  I missed one workout (the day after my back was set off).  And while my coach adjusted my workouts, I put in more time than I ever have for this time of the year.  My HR and pace are going great in all three disciplines.  It's been a huge mental challenge, however, especially with end of year work issues (I need to take some vacation time).  But, that's what triathlon is all about to me, being sharp mentally.  Today's treadmill was all about the brain.  You don't run on a treadmill for 111 minutes without being focused ("The best of the Beach Boys" helps, but only so much).

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