The title of today's post is the title I typically write on the team white board for the Monday workout. It's our toughest workout of the week and I figure there's no sense in dancing around the hard fact that Monday involves a solo journey into the pain cave. Now that the track & field postseason is officially upon us -- launched after Friday's league championships -- that mantra is aimed my way, too. The postseason is when coaching becomes alchemy, blending that perfect potion of speed, rest, pace work, tempo, and simple positivity to get my runners as far as possible, and hopefully all the way to State. I need to convince them that they will emerge from the pain cave just a little bit stronger each time they begin the journey.
It's easy to look at a top athlete and see that competitive juju. But I was inspired last week by a completely different group of runners. I've started a regular Tuesday night track workout ("Take Your Medicine Tuesday" doesn't quite sing. I'll have to find a new title for that one) for adults. It's mostly teachers and parents from the school where I coach. The group is a healthy mix of new runners, returning runners, veterans, and a few just sniffing it out to see if they like it. The focus is on developing simple running mechanics and a modicum of speed endurance, but what inspires me is watching how our innate drive to compete plays itself out in that setting. There's no State Meet on the horizon for the group, no social media or youtube video of their racing. But it's so cool watching everyone push themselves into their pain caves and make those deals with ourselves that we all make in order to get through. They find a way to manage the next interval, then the one after that, checking them off the list on that white board one by one. The best part is when it's done, and they've accomplished something that they spent the day fearing.
It led me to make a list of all the things I fear. I wrote it down on a yellow legal pad. This will not surprise you in the least that most of those items were just your garden variety 3 a.m. anxieties that wilt into nothing in the light of day. "Take Your Medicine" can mean a lot of things, but mostly it just means confronting weakness and anxiety and telling them you are stronger than they will ever be, and then emerging from the mouth of the pain cave just a little bit more sure you can manage the next challenge, and the one after that.
A bruiser. 2x400 @ FAST, followed by 3x1200 at two-mile goal pace, then 2x400 ALL-OUT. Not much rest.