Brains on the Brain

9 Mar

Yesterday was a real crusher. I skipped the 6am group swim because I’ve been feeling really tired lately and, this being a race week, I opted for the extra 2 hours of sleep over the pleasures of swimming at sunrise. I’ve been wondering if I might be over-trained but I got lazy with the resting HR check every morning and my Polar has been on the fritz so I’ll admit, I have no idea where my Zones are these days.

Regardless, I’m glad that I “slept in” because the swim on tap was another 2,550 yard beast. I did it by my lonesome and finished 2,200 yards in the allotted 60 minutes–the balance took another 15. I was proud of myself. Not two weeks ago, I was barely swimming 2k in the same amount of time.

Mentally, this was a rough workout. After a 500 yd mixed warm up, I had to swim 3 sets of 5 x 100s with 30 seconds of rest between each sub-set. Does that make sense? Whatever. It was never-ending. I hit my stride around the middle of set 2 and then I hit the wall towards the end of it. That’s when I had to start talking to myself.

I had to remind myself that I’d already gone twice as long as I will have to go in the race on Sunday.  The training is hard because it has to be, I told myself, remembering what Lee, my boxing coach used to say: Freeform girls never cry at fights because they get all the crying out in training.

I do, from time to time, think about quitting in the middle of a workout. Mostly in the pool but sometimes during a bike and occasionally on runs when speed or incline is a factor. Actually, it’s not full-on quitting I consider; I consider scaling back on intensity, taking it easy, giving myself a break. And then I don’t because I’m not a quitter. Which gets me into trouble sometimes.

Kate (Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m about to include a mention of her in this post) Gosselin was profiled in a recent issue of Runner’s World. She said that when her mind starts to focus on quitting, she recalibrates by having this conversation with herself, “Are you a quitter?” “No.” “Then why are you thinking of quitting?” “I’m not.”

It’s a little long but it really works in the middle of those long swims. So I’ve got the Twilight Zone, my friend Susan’s,”It’s the last fucking mile/lap/interval/etc..,” and Kate Gosselin’s psycho-chat rolling around in my positive self-talk arsenal.

About mid day it hit me that I didn’t have another workout to deal with until Saturday morning. And then it hit me that I had completed my swim workout and I was like, “Wait. I swam 2,550 yards today? And I’m capable of sitting at the head of this class and sounding moderately intelligent?” What I mean is, the mental aspects of these endurance training sessions are bizarre because before you’ve completed them they seem about as possible as scaling an office building with your bare hands. But then you complete them and that means that they’re totally doable. But I think we tend to forget all about that when the next session is upon us. Why can’t we just tap right back into the post-workout feeling of accomplishment and ease?

I went to the doctor today for a follow-up to discuss the results of my balance testing and MRI (all is well for those of you who are interested to know) and I got to look at my brain. Well, images of my brain, anyway. From various angles. I’d never seen my brain before. The doctor said it looked like a good brain to him. No sign of sickness or disease.

Looking at my brain, I found it amazing to consider that this lump of white stuff is responsible for all of this: these questions and these mantras and this blog and everything else. You can’t think about brains if you don’t have one. You can’t objectively analyze your brain because it’s your brain that powers the analysis. Every move I make, my brain has something to say about it. And sometimes my brain tells me to do something and then it tells me I can’t and I have to tell my brain that I can and then my brain concedes. But then who am I? And isn’t my brain a part of me? Or am I a part of it?

Obviously, I’ve got brains on the brain. Because I am working on a project that involves thinking about brains. A LOT.

Ultimately, the best news of the day, other than learning that I do not have a tumor in my ear canal, was seeing that my resting heart rate was 47 bpm.

So I guess I’m not over brained. I mean, trained. I’m not over trained.

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One Response to “Brains on the Brain”

  1. Mark March 12, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    I know what you mean about the insurmountability of certain training days. When I was training for my first marathon, each long run would be incrementally longer than the previous one, and every time I thought, “I’m not entirely convinced this distance won’t ACTUALLY kill me.”

    I wasn’t just training at that point… I was surviving.

    So I agree with you: so much more of this is mental than most people can fathom, and even when you have survived your worst nightmare workout, it still takes focus and concentration to weed out the weaknesses.

    Keep on truckin’.

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