Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mental toughness training

a gnome representation of what Willie put us through
At the beginning of June Susan and I started training with Willie from Animal Athletics in preparation for our 50 mile race in September.  Willie provides us a monthly training plan and meets with us twice a month for an hour long training session. This past Friday was one of our training sessions and in an email from Willie confirming our session he wrote, "I'm glad were good for Friday, it will be a real doozy of a session". This statement made Susan and I both a little nervous. 

We met Willie on Friday and chatted a little about his recent fast packing trip in the Sierras and then instead of heading into Forest Park to start our training we headed towards the hilly neighborhoods of NW Portland. We started out jogging slowly up and down some hills to "loosen up", then we headed up some stairs and up a few more hilly roads and then Willie stopped and looked up at house. Quickly I realized he wasn't looking up at a house but instead a hidden staircase. This wasn't any staircase, it is equal to about 9 flights of stairs, it is broken into 3 parts. He told us to "warm-up" by walking every step on the first section, every other step on the 2nd section and then every step on the 3rd section and work it out on the way down. No problem! It was a little tricky skipping a step, but otherwise it was pretty easy.

Well I should know better than to think that was all he was going to have us do. He then told us that we had to run every step in the first section, every other step in the second section, and every third step in the third section. Then on the way down we had to skip every other step on the first and third section and not to skip any in the middle section. Then run down the street to a stop sign, back up the hill to a car and back to the stairs. Holy crap! Oh yeah and we were suppose to do this fast and try and beat each other.

It was difficult trying to skip one step, let alone 2 steps and trying to do it with speed, oy vey! Coming down and skipping steps was just as hard, then trying to sprint up and down the street, well that was the easy part. 

After our first round, we had 2 more to go and we were suppose to get faster each round. Willie then informed us after the 3 torturous rounds of this we would have to stand on one leg with our arms held out, like we were on a cross, for 15 minutes. He told us most people have a hard time doing this for even 7 minutes, but we could deduct time if we got faster this next round. I honestly can't remember how much time he would deduct for every second faster we were, but I just knew I was going to get faster. 

It was really hard to get any faster going up and down the stairs, but some how Susan got a lead on me. But once we hit the street and headed uphill I was able to get ahead of her, not really thinking that I didn't need to beat her per say, but just my previous time. I also forgot that I had one more round to go and I would need to beat the time I just set. Well that was going to be a problem, because I didn't think I could possibly run any faster than I just did.

We both beat our times enough to shave 5 (me) and 6 (Susan) minutes off, but Willie said he would add on time if we didn't beat our previous time. We both tried as hard as we could to beat our previous time, but we both came in a few seconds slower. At that point I didn't care how long I had to keep my arms out, just as long as I didn't have to run those effing stairs again. Willie informed us that he was going to give us "a break" and we would only have to hold our arms out for 7 minutes. 

Well holding your arms out for 7 minutes is harder than it sounds. I made Susan tell us a story, which probably killed 4 minutes. By the end of her story, my arms were feeling heavy and really wanted to drop. Willie kept telling us to pull our shoulders back and keep our arms up. He also kept reminding us how good this was for mental toughness training and that we were lucky to be able to be do what we were doing. As crazy as holding your arms out for 7 minutes sounds, especially after crazy stair training, he as right we were lucky to be able to do this and training for something we love to do. And I am sure at some point during the 50 mile race when I am feeling low the memory of this training will come back to me and make me smile. 

As if the training with Willie wasn't enough, we ran 24 miles on Saturday. I tried to plan a route with enough hills in it that Susan might curse my name a few times. But it is all about mental toughness! 

Route: 
holamn - ww .76
ww - pittock - 2.06
pittock - wild cherry - 4.01
wild cherry - leif - .56
leif - dogwood - .59
dogwood - ww - .34
ww - alder - .93
alder - leif - .84 
leif - maple - 2.33 
maple - saltzman - 1.45
saltzman - ww - 1.38
ww - birch - 8.5
birch - 53rd - .23 
total: 23.98

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