Honestly! Sports really are as much mental as they are physical.
If I'm running and I'm trying to maintain a faster than usual pace, it's exhausting.
If I'm running and just enjoying the scenery and the feel of my feet pounding the pavement, I'll look down at my watch and find myself doing that very pace I couldn't do the day before. Easily.
Yesterday, in the pool, we had a really good workout. After an 800m warmup of pulling and kicking and such, we had the following set to get through:
4 x 150m build on 3:00 minutes
4 x 50m kick on 1 minute, 30 seconds
4 x 100m build on 2:00 minutes
4 x 75m kick on 2:00 minutes
4 x 200m descending on 4:00 minutes
Let me explain a few things so you can picture the workout.
When it says build we start off at a good but not too challenging pace and we have to get faster every 25m. The last 25m is a full on sprint.
Descending means that every 200m has to be faster than the one before. At least that's what it normally means. We were told yesterday that we had to do #1 faster than #2 and #3 faster than #4 but numbers 1 and 3 could be the same and numbers 2 and 4 could be the same. (just smile and nod if it doesn't make sense).
Finally, when it says to do a 100m swim on 2:00 minutes it means that the second 100m swim starts 2:00 minutes after the first. So if you finish the first in 1:35, you have 25 seconds rest. If you finish it in 1:59, you basically don't stop swimming.
The difference between this and most of our other sets is that we usually get to rest between each line on the white board. So we would do our 4x150m on 2:00 and then we'd get a few minutes off before we started in on our 4x50m kicks. Time to sip our drinks, adjust our goggles and laugh about something or other.
This time, we had to go straight from one thing to the next and did not get to stop at all until just before the final 4x200m. Then we got to stop for one. whole. minute.
I would expect to be exhausted after a set like this but I actually held my own all the way through and managed to sprint when I was supposed to sprint and kick like crazy when I was supposed to kick like crazy. Everyone said the same thing at the end - it was hard but they felt good all the way through. Some people even got a new 100m personal best despite starting off slower than they normally would and building up to a sprint at the end.
We swam 3600m in 75 minutes and felt great.
Last week (on Wednesday and on Friday) we did less distance in more time, with more rest, and we were exhausted and completely spent by the end.
I'm not exactly sure how that works but I like to think that workouts like the one I had yesterday take advantage of the long-distance part of me that is much hardier and better trained than the sprinter in me.
Give me a choice between swimming 750m or swimming 2k and I'll pick 2k.
Give me choice to run 5k or 15k and I'll run 15k (when I'm not injured of course). In fact I'm trying to build up to that distance just so I can run it on Saturday mornings again.
I guess that means I'll be in my element on Friday when I do my second 1.9k open water race.