How I exercised my brain on the track

photoIt was relay night at the track. I showed up and to be honest, I was nervous. Scared even. I hadn't been to a track practice in well, I can't remember the last time. That's how long it had been. Maybe the last time was sometime in perhaps?

Starting in mid-April and running thru October, I have this love-hate relationship with Tuesday track nights. I know how great tempo runs and speed workouts are for my training. And that's the only reason I go.

But oh how I don't enjoy running speedily (or attempting to) around the track. I enjoy life immensely more the moment track practice is over.

And then of course, I think it's the best thing since sliced Ezequiel Bread.

This night was different. Instead of giving us our workout, blowing the whistle and sending us off on our timed laps around the track, the coaches asked for our mile time.

Excuse me. You want me to tell you how long it takes me to run a mile? Like, right now how long it would take me? Or in peak training shape how long it would take me?

I can safely say there is a big, gargantuan difference between those two times. A difference of more than seconds. We're definitely into the difference as measured in minutes range.

My heart started to race even quicker and I could feel the blood rushing through my body. My nerves were heightened and my brain started to go into overdrive, preparing my lungs, legs and body for the impending misery.

This night at track practice was going to be made all the more miserable because I couldn't run alone. Oh no, there would be others depending on me <GASP.> I had teammates counting on me to run my best. Sure it was friendly competition, but still....

Who likes finishing last?

Within minutes we were paired up and I found my other Mount Rushmore (the name on our relay baton) teammates.

First up was a 4 x 400, one lap around the track.  As the third runner in our relay, I had ample time to get nervous and get my panties all in a bunch about that lap.

Really, what was I nervous about?

I was nervous about hyperventilating. I was nervous that I'd have an asthma attack. I was nervous that all the other runners would blow by me, leaving me in the dust. I was nervous about embarrassing myself by running slower than a snail stuck in molasses.

Somehow I survived one lap around the track. My worst fears weren't realized, but then again, neither were my dreams. Oh well, onto the second of three relays for the night.

Next up was the 4 x 800. 800 meters is two laps around a track, or half mile. Two l o n g laps, four straightaways, eight turns and just shy of the four longest minutes of my life.

Hang on a sec here.

A half mile? Damn, I can run a half mile. Fo' sure, a half mile I can make happen. I may not be as fast as the speedy people in the Coastal Athletic Association, but  I can hold my own.

So why the hell was my brain going on and on about how awful running is and how I'm so slow?

My brain was telling me that I was going to die (chances are good that wouldn't happen tonight), have an asthma attack (mmm, also pretty sure that wasn't in the cards) and apparently collapse before I made it back to the baton handoff.

Here was my brain misleading me, lying to me, leading me astray without me even realizing it. My damn brain, that four or so inches between my ears was sabotaging me.

I stood there on the track, laces knotted, water sipped and muscles stretched out, chest heaving to catch my breath and lungs stretching to fill with oxygen.

That night I was exercising lots of muscles, but overlooked the most important one. My brain. I need to exercise my brain.

The whistle blew and our teams were off again, this time notching two laps under our belt before we passed the baton. Soon my teammate Nancy was on the home stretch, arm oustretched, ready to pass me the baton. We connected, I grabbed it and took off.

My quads and hamstrings were working in unison and the ground was flying beneath my feet (well, at least it felt that way). My arms were pumping back and forth, clutching the baton. Inhale. Exhale.

And in the silence of the track, just me and a couple other runners, I shut out the cheering, narrowed my eyes, lowered my shoulders and settled into a rhythm.

"You can do this Jo. You can do this Jo. You can do this Jo. You've got this. It's a half mile, two laps around the track and then you're done. You run half marathons. You can run a half mile. Keep on breathing. Legs up, legs down."

You can do this Jo.

You can do this Jo.

You've got this Jo.

You're all over it Jo.

Wouldn't you know it?

The half mile was over before I knew it and dare I say, I actually passed the baton with a smile on my face.

What about you? How does your brain lead you astray? What could you do about it? C'mon over here and tell me about it. xx Johanna