Wednesday I made my first trip back to the indoor track where I did most of my training for my first indoor marathon. I was scheduled for a 6-mile speed workout, which is 48 laps.
My plan was to jog the first and last mile (8 laps each) as a warmup/cooldown. In between, my primary pattern plan was to run a fast lap (200 meters), walk a lap, jog a lap, then repeat. I brought my lap counter and clicked off each lap at the same spot each time so I wouldn’t get off track.
I paid no attention to the time on this workout. My main goal was to focus on the lap I was on without fretting about how many remained. My still emerging yoga mindset proved to be a huge asset here that I didn’t have last time.
In yoga, sometimes the only way to cope with a strenuous pose is to just focus on your breath — don’t think about anything else but the breath you’re on. This used to be really hard for me. I’m such a naturally impatient person that I literally couldn’t even take one single deep breath in a relaxed, focused state. Getting over that hump has literally been a transformative experience that has helped in other aspects of my life. Everything else, learning a new pose or getting better at one I can already do, is just a bonus.
That doesn’t mean I can instantly shut down my monkey mind. On Wednesday it was howling about halfway through each fast lap. “Just breathe,” I’d tell myself in a calm voice that was more pleasant to listen to than the monkey howl. “Before you know it you’ll be on a recovery lap.”
After I got in eight hard intervals, on laps 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27 and 30, I rewarded myself by switching to an easier pattern: fast lap, walk 2, jog 1. At that point I knew it wasn’t too long until I started my cooldown on lap 41, so the difficulty had passed.
Because I was paying attention to the rhythm of the workout, I didn’t give a lot of thought to the memory palace this time around. I didn’t start on a certain year associated with the first lap and work my way up. But I did give some thought to what new material might be fun to add — little bits of history or memory that I’ve accumulated in the two years since I last trained for a mega-lap race.
I’ll probably mine several year associations from The Brothers Vonnegut, an awesome double biography of the novelist Kurt Vonnegut and his brother Bernard, one of the top scientists at the General Electric Research Lab who was working on weather control after World War II. Kurt worked in the company’s PR department, and GE provided much of the material for his early science fiction stories and novels. Now I can’t think of 1945 without remembering that’s when Kurt was one of the few to survive the Dresden fire-bombing horror as a POW captured at the Battle of the Bulge.
I’ll probably also come up with some lap-year associations from the time-travel game Chrononauts, which we learned to play over Christmas break. One of the key years in the starter version of that game is 1936 — flipping the Berlin Olympics to an alternate fate in which Hitler was assassinated changes the game’s timeline rather dramatically, as you might imagine.
The other thing that might be fun is a future-based time palace, built on key dates from various sci-fi books and movies. See, this is stuff I would never think about if I wasn’t training for a mega-lap race. But now I’m actually looking forward to these little lap-counting mental projects. It’s kind of fun, in a twisted sort of way.