This is my happy face:

Happy because my track workout was over and because I totally surpassed my own expectations. There’s nothing quite like proving yourself wrong.

Last year, when I was running track workouts on a regular basis (why? Not sure!) 800s were the bane of my existence. I did the workouts with a TNT mentor and wouldn’t even look up the workout before arriving at the track. It was an ignorance-is-bliss type of mentality. We would warm up and then just launch into whatever was scheduled. I preferred to find out at last second… less time to anticipate the pain.

Yesterday’s workout called for 8×800 at 5K pace or faster, with a 400 recovery lap in between.

I decided that it is warm enough and light enough at this point in the spring to move track workouts from the treadmill to the local high school, wondering if I would push myself harder if I was controlling pace with my own two feet, instead of by setting a pace in the machine. My goal was to hover around the 8:00 mark for my 800s and to jog it out slow in between. An ongoing goal has been to not quit, not fade, and not talk myself out of working hard.

Imagine my surprise when I clocked my first 800 at 6:48 and my second at 6:51. Anyone can run fast in the beginning, I rationalized. Now I’ll probably average out to 8. Negative self-talk usually kills me, so I changed my goal from 8:00 pace to running strong and not quitting. Period.

My third, fourth, and fifth 800s bounced between 7:00 and 7:30. It started raining a little, my shins were screaming, and it started getting really dark. It got so dark that I couldn’t read my watch on my last two 800s, so I settled for pushing as hard as I could while repeating (sometimes out loud) Do. Not. Quit.

I finished in 28:53. 7:12 pace. Hell, yes.

There was a great article in this month’s Runner’s World about how you can sabotage your own race with negative thoughts, how mentaltoughness can strengthen your performance, and about mantras. (I can’t find it online right now, but will update this if I do ***Updated: Check out the hyperlinked text above!***) As I looped around the track again and again last night I thought a lot of about that, and about how I can usually make it about 2/3 of the way before I start backing down. Remember my 8 mile treadmill workout last week, where I literally told myself I was allowed to quit after 6 miles? In the NJ Marathon I ran a wicked strong 18 miles, on pace to run well under 4:00 until I bonked and finished in 4:07. I wonder how much training my mind to stay strong (in addition to my body) and think positive could influence outcomes. It certainly did last night.

In the meantime, this is my happy face.