Back to the Track: Speed Workouts Without Spew

The psychological progression of waking up early for hard workouts always entertains me.

5:30am Alarm: Roll over. Hit snooze. Tell myself I should send a cancellation text because doesn’t it look kind of gray and cold outside?

5:40am Snooze Alarm #2: Roll over. Hit snooze again. Tell myself I will get up a little later than planned and drive to meet my running partner instead of running there. It will cut two miles off my daily mileage total, but it’s going to be a decent mileage day either way so who cares.

5:50am Snooze Alarm #3: Roll over. Hit snooze again. Remind myself that all the gear is laid out and waiting from me. Getting ready is as easy as sleep-walking over to the bathroom, tying a few laces, securing a heart strap, grabbing a water bottle, and bolting to the car. I can do that in 10 minutes, right?

5:58am: Wake up before the next alarm and think, "Shit! I gotta roll!" The dread of a track workout sets in. I tell myself I will just run to the track and then around the track at just below tempo while watching Natalie do the actual intervals. Yeah, that’s it.

6:20am: Arrive 5 minutes late at Natalie’s house. Still sleepy. Natalie’s super-happy-fun-ball spirit starts to wake me up. This is our first running workout together. I get excited but still tell her that I might go out mellow-style when we get to Grant Park. She indulges me this bald-faced lie because she knows it is making me feel better.

Of course, we ran the two miles to the track and I decided to start the interval workout with her.

"We’ll see how this goes."

It goes well.

My body starts making running motions and my legs yell at me: "This is what you’re good at, jackass! Stop selling yourself short!" We find our target pace and kick out the prescribed dosage of pain:


The 800s hurt a little. The 400s hurt a little less even though we overcook them a little. I can feel the previous night’s ride in my legs but my heart is making up for it.

Natalie and I are good together. Finding the right running buddy is tricky. The slightest hint of competitive energy and I’m turned off. I want to compete in events, not in training. In training, I want to run smart. I want to stick to my plans. I want to have fun and meet goals.

I spent four years in high school competing with my friends in every last training run. I measured my worth on any given day based on whether i could hang with a small group of closely matched girls. I soared when I was on top and despaired when I was bested.

I hated losing. I let it define me. I ran against other runners, not against the clock. It made me tenacious and feisty, but it also tormented me. The problem with comparing myself to the next long-legged, pony-tailed freshman to come along is that I simply could not control the performances of my opponents.

On your best day, someone else may be better. So you’ve got to learn to recognize your best for what it is and remind yourself about what really matters. Let the competitive spirit drive you, but be careful it doesn’t consume you.

It’s taken me years to get past the idea that I have to win absolutely everything in order to feel worthy in life.

Today on the track with Natalie, I began to see that I might actually be able to be fast again without having to be a head-case about it. I am constantly amazed by the purity of her intention in the world, her generous energy, and her calm tenacity.

We’re on to something here – and I’m excited about it.




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  1. oooohh right, running. I’m gonna have to do that again here pretty soon.

  2. Aww, schucks – my pure intention was to go out hard and hammer you tomorrow morning, Swift!

    Okay, maybe I lie :)

  3. Whoa, it’s like you were in my bedroom witnessing my morning wakeup/excuse routine… Creapy stuff, stalker… :)

  4. I’ve noticed myself having a hard time getting the motivation to wake up and hit the workouts. But, I started logging my miles, and it’s helped me “stick to the plan” a little better. The site is a very cool social training log for cyclists, runners, and triathletes. – .

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