I've been told many times over that the days you feel the worst are going to be some of your best training days. Naturally, I just saw this as a mental ploy coaches used to encourage athletes through those really tough workouts. But then I started to hear this notion more often, and actually read the same adage in my mental training books.
After taking a short trip out west to visit my family, I found myself heading straight from the tarmac to the track. Traveling is never easy for anyone. Its tiring and time consuming, and the last thing you want to do after stepping off a plane is a workout. Well, that's exactly what I did, and not just any workout, but the hardest workout of the week.
As I got to the track I wasn't 100% sure if in fact I would be doing the regular workout, or an abbreviated one to take into consideration me flying in just that morning. I went on my long run just like any other day, and as I trucked through I could feel the effects of the days travel on my legs. I was stiff, tired and not mentally ready to do any kind of workout.
Once I get back to the track I see that my training partners have started the workout. I cheer them along as I work through my warm up. Not till I'm done with my drill do I know my fate for the day. I tell my coaches how I feel, having not much changed from my long run I though for sure I would be given a nice "flush" workout. I feel like they are speaking in slow mow as the pyramid workout is spouted out to me. I feel my face drop, and my eyes fill with disbelief. I get a reassurance from my coaches that 'the days you feel the worst are some of your best training days'. At this moment it's really hard to believe.
I join the guys on their last set, which ignited a fire within. My first few steps were a struggle, but as I finally got my pace I couldn't feel any of the stiffness or soreness anymore. As I cross the halfway point I'm still in the mix with the boys. I get excited, but I stay calm and keep my form. We round the corner to the home stretch and I've got one boy in my grasp. With one small move I take him over with 10 meters left. As the coaches announce the times I look up with puzzlement and disbelief. From what I hear, I just ran a 5 second personal best. That can't be right, I ask again....I heard CORRECT.
At this point I'm extremely excited, but also very concerned. I've only ran one rep of the pyramid and there are still 5 more reps to run, I may have blown it out a little to early. I try to stay positive during the rest and keep moving so lactic doesn't build up as bad.
The next two runs are a bit easier, as the distances decrease. The last three get farther as I work my way back up the pyramid, and I've got those in the back of my mind. I maintain my form through the shorter distances, and focus on keeping my pace through all the runs. I can feel my legs getting heavier and heavier with every step. I'm both mentally and physically tired and I just want this to be over. The key to a successful pyramid workout is maintaining your pace throughout all the runs, no matter how long or how short. Keep your pace, keep your form. My first run was a 5 second personal best, so now coming into my last run my goal is to run that or better. Talk about a big task for heavy legs. 5 hours of travel, 5 runs into the legs and it all comes down to this last run. Up till now the runs have been good, but they have definitely been getting harder. As I walk up to the line and wait for the countdown all I can think about is how tired I am.
*3, 2, 1...GO!*
I have to dig deep for this last one. I run the first 30 meters as hard as I possibly can. My legs feel like bricks, but I don't let that get to me. I focus on my form and just tell myself to focus on pace, no matter what I feel, focus on pace.
My training partners cheer me on as I cross the halfway point. I hear them clear as day, and I feel a rush. I feel no more pain, I feel unstoppable. I run tall and relaxed, and make a move for the last half of the run. As I come off the bend for the last hundred meters I know my body is getting heavier and heavier, but I don't let it get to me. I pump my arms, and lift my knees, and that's all I think about.
I cross the finish line and I hear nothing. I see a smile, but I don't hear anything.
My coach walks over to me and asks me 'what's your personal best'. I struggle to answer between gasps, but I eventually get it out. He smiles and suggest that 'maybe everyday you should come in straight off a plane'.
Running two personal bests after jumping off a plane.........not too bad :-)