Cave of Pain

Friend Caren Jew recently shared with me a race report by Sophie Speidel, who finished the aptly-named Hellgate 100k this month in under 15 hours. That report in turn led to an article by Eric Doehrman titled "Refine Your Mental Flexibility by Making the Most of Your Pain Cave". It offers a metaphorical step-by-step guide to feeling more at home in one's head during hard physical activity:

1. Find the address. You have to figure out where uncomfortable starts.

2. Stop by and stare in the window. Spend a few minutes there at first.

3. Step inside for a bit. Look around and know that you can leave at any time.

4. Decorate a bit. Find the cues that signal when you are at threshold and use them to decorate. Your rapid heart beat can represent a wall hanging and the burning in your legs could indicate that you have taken to the stairs. Take the discomfort that you feel and make it your own — by doing so you have taken control. When you are in control you can push harder in your sets and reach heights that you never thought possible.

5. Get some furniture. Find positive motivating thoughts (furniture) that you can use while you are there to make your stay more comfortable. An athlete that is in control and who is comfortable pushing themselves to the limit will develop an instinct for maximum performance.

6. Paint the walls. Focus on a color that soothes you and helps you get through your set. The ability to control your focus during threshold sets is the key to success in every workout that you do.

7. Leave on your own accord. You are now in control of the Pain Cave and you can feel free to call it your "Happy Place" if you like.

Doehrman cautions that it takes time, and practice, to move down this list. I'm definitely still in the first few baby steps of the journey; I've only recently begun to push significantly beyond my comfort zone when running, thanks to encouragement by comrades such as CM Manlandro. The mental experience is a fascinating one, with connections perhaps to Buddhist mindfulness meditation techniques. I'm learning, slowly, about separating physical feelings from the me who observes them. Hmmm ...

(cf. Lorraine Moller (2009-12-12), ...) - ^z - 2009-12-18