Monday, March 10, 2008

Every Last Minute

"I can do anything for 5 minutes."

That's how it started. I was reaching the end of a gut wrenching, find the wizard, leave your guts on the floor bike test and there were five minutes to go. So I decided I could finish this if I could convince myself I could do anything for five minutes.

"I can do anything for 5 minutes."

I said it outloud. I had no reason to trust it. I just wanted it to be true enough, so I forced its existence.

And I could. Managed my focus, kept my form, found some patience and gave the test a little bit more. And I finished and was fine. No blood, lots of sweat, and only a couple tears. I really could do anything for five minutes.


I didn't really think about it until a few weeks later and I was in the pool and desperate to be done with the swim. I was tired and cranky and I still had 15 minutes to go. Only 7:45 and no excuses to get out of the pool. More intervals and a cool down, and I wanted out. But, I decided I could do anything for 15 minutes.

And I did. And I was fine afterwards. And my trust in this little process was growing a little.

Fast forward to that same week on the bike. My toes on my right foot were cramping from my too-tight shoes and I still had 15 minutes to go. Again with the intervals. Again without excuses. But I can do anything for 15 minutes, including that.

So I did.

And now I've come to trust this little tool. I really can do anything for these little periods of time. Even with the pain and the effort and an intense desire to get the hell out of there, I can do this training thing if it's broken up into trusted increments.

I whip out the rule on longer runs, when I'm far enough away from home to want to walk but too close to let myself. I really can get home in one piece because I can do anything for 5 more minutes.

In the water, on the bike, on the road...I've taken the concept out a million times now and it holds up each time. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, another 1/2 hour and those last three miles home.

And yesterday, during my 3:15 on the trainer, I pulled it out one more time. It was well over 2 hours into the ride and my coach put in 2 minutes standing @ 60 rpm, 3 minutes seated @ 70 rpm. Big gear. Zone 2. Repeat.

The first one I cracked at 1:30 and sat down with a thud. Ground my way through the next 3 minutes and stood again. This time at 0:55 my quads were shaking and I leaned into my aeros for support. I sat at 1:30 again. But then I remembered.

I can do anything for 2 minutes.

And I did. I shook and dripped sweat all over the floor and cursed my bike and I wanted to stop at each second that passed, but I made it through the full 2 minutes.

Because I believed that I could. Because I knew that the pain of those two minutes would dissipate soon after and I would be left with a lingering trust of my body and my instincts. The pain always feels like it will stay forever and is larger than you are. And you always have the choice to sit down, cry uncle and give up.

But the pain never really is larger than you are and it's never better to sit down. Because you always can finish if you trust your guts. If you prove to yourself each day that you can do anything for two minutes, it's only a matter of time before that two becomes five, which becomes 90 and then 200.

And then, you're free to do it all. Every last minute of it.

23 comments:

stronger said...

Just wait'll you have a mini-might m. After 18hrs of natural child birth, your mantra will quickly become "I can do anything for 18 hours". Or do the IM first and then you can say (during child birth) "I can do anything for sub 17 hours".

Kathy said...

Great Post! I love it!

AGA said...

WooHoo! Awesome. 3:15? I'm cringing.

Wes said...

I like that. I use it all the time. My fav is in the open water.

I can swim like this forever...

LG said...

I do the same thing! And I've also noticed how quickly a minute passes --- 5 minutes in the pool goes by faster than 5 minutes running. 5 minutes running goes by faster than 5 minutes on the bike.

Stef said...

YES! This is great. Not only the thought but the way you put it. So easy to relate to. I am totally going to use this during my race this Saturday!

Steve Stenzel said...

Cursing the bike most likely helped...

; )

Nice job!!!

Leah said...

Great post. V. inspiring. I don't know how you do 3:15 on a trainer. Impressive.

LBTEPA said...

Thanks for this post:)
(and your kind comments on my page)

Andrea Ford said...

Thanks for that! I do something similar, although more like the Little Engine That Could, just repeating "I think I can I think I can I think I can" and before you know it, you've done it. Your method is more quantitative though, so will modify mine a bit :)
I just hope the comment from stronger is true and that this works for labour!

robert said...

Thanks, that's the mantra I need, and it's actually believable, bonus. Great post, as usual.

CAMI said...

Amen sister! You are SOOOO right. I've tried that trick before and it works so well, especially when you look at that whining little girl inside of you - stare her down and say, no, you CAN do anything for 1 more minute. And if you need to, you can cry when you're done. But what a sense of accomplishment when you finish and realize you didn't give up on yourself. You didn't quit. You ARE an athlete! Way to go!

triguyjt said...

great tool to get that extra...

you are becoming a beast...

thats a compliment

JenC said...

That exact thought runs through my head all the time during workouts. Very effective game for the head!! Good on ya!

Sara said...

wow....inspiring mantra. I will definitely give it a try. Sometimes when I am starving at the end of a particually long swim session I think about the minutes left in the session compared to the minutes I have to wait for the microwave to heat my dinner....bizarre I know.

Robyn said...

I love this and use this mantra a lot too. I've been repeating this quote over and over again:

"Inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that is where I renew my springs that never dry up.” - Pearl S. Buck

greyhound said...

I say something like that nearly every workout, because the lazy part of me always wants to crap out when I'm about 75% through.

Mallie said...

Sometimes I think those 2-3 minute intervals are harder than gutting out the last 15 minutes of a workout. Kudos to you for sticking with it on both counts.

GP said...

Not only do I totally agree with your approach, I use it on a regular basis. Especially during races.

When I'm heading up that stupid hill I know they put at the most tiring point in the race, I'm looking at my watch and saying, "I can totally do this for 45 minutes."

And it's funny how you hit that pain threshold and can just keep going forever and ever.

TriShannon said...

I use this all the time! And I've said it out loud many times. You can do this... you can do anything for 1, 2, 5, 10... 20... 30 minutes. It totally works!

monica said...

wow, you put it so well. i gotta remember that one for the next trainer session cuz we got rain coming. i had to ride 3:20 last night, my longest on the trainer. i used the 5 minute increment the entire way. IT WAS ROUGH!!! but i did it. i'm alive. and i'm stronger for it!!!

Jesse said...

well articulated... do this long enough and often enough and, oddly, it becomes 'normal' ... stringing these efforts together is an important mental component to racing well - you're doing great - keep up the good work.

momo said...

this is exactly how i get through everything involved in training. well, everything involved in anything that's hard to do. i think about things by percentages. in im, after the swim is over, i'm 33.33% done. timewise, definitely not, but sport wise, yep - a third done. then i break the bike into percentages and pretty soon, its all over. the same with the run. if your mind can conceive it, you can achieve it. those little games just help our mind know that it can conceive it.

way to go! and 3 hours on the trainer? girl, move to arizona!! :-)