Thursday, 3 May 2012

The limit is the mind

Session 10 : Tuesday 1st of May : 10 x 500m

The picture below is me. After my tenth session on my path of becoming a faster shorter distance runner. However, not overstating, I was slightly exhausted. But let's jump further back in time.

Mr Jean: "What limits you is your mind."

I've never before in my entire life been more nervous for a training session. I admit I was nervous before my first Krav Maga session (which I did quit after one year of training). When I went to the gym the night before I met Mr Jean. He was laughing as he understood I was worried about the session. I told him I needed to start no faster than 1:40 if I should be able complete do the session. He stopped laughing, his smile disappeared and he looked me straight in my eyes. "1:30 till 1:33" he said, "no slower on any of the intervals". I turned silent and white. Then he continued, "OK, we'll start with some 100 meters, to get you up in speed. Then the 500 meters.". I started wondering what Jean saw in me, or what he thought I was built off. Did he misplace me for Peter Snell? A session like that seemed impossible. But he was not joking at all. I decided to quit strength training right away and in stead go home and rest.

Solid race breakfast, sufficient number of hours (3.5) before the session.

Orange juice mixed with chia seeds and a cup of latté, both on a bed of races.

I had a good night sleep (8 hours) a proper race breakfast (eggs, coffee, juice with chia seeds) several hours in advance. We had moved the session till 2 pm since it was a no-work day. When I packed my bag I chose my lightest pair of shorts and my lightest pair of shoes (none being that light though) . I also had a race tummy this morning. Needless to go in details about that phenomenon, those of you who know knows.

I picked the lightest surf shorts I've got. And no, I don't wear tights, ever.

Asics DS Racer, the lightest pair of shoes I've got. So far.

A perfect day for eating ice cream, and doing 500m intervals.

I brought my bag and went out in the sun. It was a perfect day. A day where I assumed most people were laying in the sun chilling out. Where the citizens of Oslo were reading their books, eating their ice creams and enjoying life. And here I was, planning to use my day on purposely getting sick. I knew what was waiting for me on the track, but I was still on my way there. No one were forcing me, but myself. I could call Jean and let him know that I had decided to start a new sport. That 400m running was nothing for me. That I saw myself as a shot-putter in stead.

Me as a shot-putter. My new sport?

But I never made that phone call. I went to the track and waited for pain. After all I had made a goal, and I want to see if that goal is within reach. As stated before "Neither gravity nor age will slow me down!" It was a bold statement, I knew. But being bold, that is me, literally.

Jean came, on time, and the session I had been nervous about for several days started. Warmed up, jogging in a 9 minutes per kilometre pace, which is extremely slow even for me. The first times we did this I got stressed. Now though, it was not too slow at all. 9 min/km was just perfect as I knew what was lurking around the corner. We continued doing 3 x 100m of "heel to bum" drills. Then I did three faster shorter sprints, from 50 - 100 meters. Mr R just entered the track. He wished me good luck. Mr V was there with his family as well. Pressure. Would they witness me collapsing?

I was ready and walked slowly to the start line. Go! I started off trying to focus on all the things I had been told. High knees, good arm movement. Finding the rhythm. Relaxing the upper body. The first 100 meters in the turn went well. So did the next 100m. I continued. Mr R stood next to the 400m line. "70 seconds" he yelled at me. "70 seconds..." I was thinking as I continued on my last 100m. A lot more tired now than on my first. "70 seconds on 400m?" I finished my first interval. Mr Jean told me it was good, and that I should continue in the same pace. I looked at my watch, 1:28.55 it read. "Oh shit!" I yelled out. "Man, this is far too fast for me! Starting this fast was really stupid.". "Get back to start." Jean demanded, meaning I should both get up and shut up.

I walked the 300 meters back to the start line. Well knowing that Mr Jean, Mr R, Mr V and Mr V's family all looked at me expecting me to do nine more of these. I looked at the sky. Tried gathering energy from the sun. Stopped a couple of times and leaned forward towards the ground to stretch my hamstrings. I focused. Once more I was standing at the start line. Go! The first 100 meters felt good this time as well. I passed Mr Jean and Mr V who were both standing at the 100m line. "16 seconds!" Mr V yelled at me. 16 seconds on the first 100m means a 64 seconds pace for the 400m. I continued but noticed I could not keep up the pace. After 200m, in the second turn, I could feel the headwind, it got heavier. From 300 till 400m I thought of keeping the stride. From 400m and in I focused on finishing. "Lower your shoulders!" Mr V yelled. I could feel that my shoulders were about to hit my ears. It felt heavier now. I looked at the time. 1:30.15. "Holy track cow!" I thought to my self. "This is going too fast!" I told Mr Jean and Mr V. They didn't seem to agree and I was once more told to get back to start.

I walked slower this time. I stretched more. I spent the next 300 meters trying to prepare myself for once again doing the same thing. And once more I started. Once more it felt OK during the first 100m. However it now became a lot heavier after this point. I didn't manage to keep the pace I started in. I had to slow down. The last 100 meters I started hyperventilating. Mr R, that now was chilling out in the sun next to the last turn, raised his head as I passed by and said to me it looked good. It didn't feel that good any more though. I finished in 1:34.02. I was told I finished the first 100m in 16 seconds, the second in 18 seconds, and the third in 21 seconds. For each 100m I lost a few seconds. Time that I would not manage to win back. But in stead of starting slower I was told to run faster towards the end.

Three down, seven to go. And now I started getting a lot more tired. I walked even slower on my way back to the start line. I needed every extra second I could get. I started on my fourth interval. I felt much heavier. "17.5" Mr V yelled at me on the 100m line. "Faster, faster!" Mr Jean yelled. But going any faster felt impossible. And after 250m the headwind felt a lot stronger this time. As if I had to push myself through a 200m sticky wall. On the last 100m my body was struggling from running out of fresh oxygen. Mr R, that had fallen asleep in the sun since last, almost leapt into the air as the very-far-from-silent-vampire-bermuda-runner passed by. "Faster, faster!" Mr Jean still yelled at me. 1:39.00 the watch showed. I was told not to slow towards the end, but keep going all the way to the finish line. I tried to tell him that I was feeling "slightly" tired, however I got no compassion. If I wanted anyone to feel sorry for me the track was not the place to be.

The fifth interval was done in 1:37.84, and the sixth in 1:39.27. It got heavier and heavier, and I felt that Jean got tired of telling me to run faster, and Mr R was tired of waking up, each time I passed his spot in the sun, screaming for more air.

However now there was only four more intervals to go. I was more than half way there. I tried to walk as slowly as possible on my way back, without attracting Mr Jean's attention. Stretching my legs as often as possible. My hamstrings felt tight. My head felt dizzy, my tummy felt sick. However on my way back to the start this time something changed. The energy was coming back. And when I started I once more felt stronger. No one yelled at me as I passed the first 100m. I continued, it was heavy, but still, it felt as if I managed to keep a better pace and rhythm. I was still hyperventilating like crazy on the last 100 meters, and as before, Mr R was quickly pulled out of his dreams, but I was running faster again. 1:33.47, and a time that both me and Mr Jean was satisfied with.

The eight interval was done in 1:34.33, and the ninth in 1:35.57. It didn't at all come for free, but I was way below 1:40, and to me that was pleasant to see. Mr Jean was still not happy about me slowing down through out the distance, but at least he seemed a bit more satisfied than a few intervals back. I was told I needed to do the last intervals no slower than 1:33.

Just having one more to go the sky seemed brighter. I still walked slow, gathering as much energy as I could. At the start line I stretched some more, and started chatting with some guys that tried out 400m running for the first time. I asked them to cheer at me when I passed them next time, as I needed help on my last interval. Suddenly I could hear Jean yelling from the other side of the track "Go! Go! Go!". I realised it was not over yet. I pulled myself together and once more set out on the journey of pain. First 100m: good. Second 100m: OK as well. Third 100m: hard, but I gave everything now. From 300m till 400m I could feel my body struggling. The guys stood at the 400m line waiting for me, and cheered as I passed them. I used my last remaining powers in the last turn. Hyperventilating as crazy, not slowing down before after I passed the finish line. The time became 1:29.88. I sank down on my knees, completely exhausted, before I once more got up and did one final round on the track, walking.

The oval ring of pain.

As my maximum heart rate should be 193 I've either found a new max or the Garmin is messed up (again).

Split times for the intervals and the pauses.

I think Mr Jean was pleased. But he told me that the mind is limiting me. When I saw how fast I ran on the first intervals I got put off. I got scared and passive. Hence I slowed down. Mr R suggested trying a session not looking at the watch at all. A good suggestion that I will try later. Jean stated that as long as I could talk after the intervals I was not as exhausted as I thought I was. And since I managed to do the last interval in sub 1:30 I should have done the other once faster. He didn't want to listen on me stating that it's easier giving everything on the last, because of the fact that it's the last. You can completely empty yourself as you don't have to go out and do another one. My opinion was that if I had done sub 1:30 on my second last I would not have managed to do the last one under 1:40. Similarly I felt it would have been better doing the first 100m in 18 seconds, in stead of in 16 seconds. Then it would have been easier keeping an even pace through out the distance. But that is where Mr Jean thinks I'm limited by the mind. If you don't push yourself hard you will not reach as far.

The 400 meter project is a tough one. Mr Jean is a tough one too. At the same time it's interesting pushing your boundaries. Believe it or not, it's actually great having a person that yells at you, tells you to run faster, when your mind just tells you to chill out. I feel lucky having met Mr Jean, the same way as I feel lucky having met the great people at SK Vidar that helped me achieving my 10km and half marathon goals. I like setting goals and working towards achieving them. My goal is not impressive compared to fast runners. The world record on 400m is 43.18, set by Michael Johnson in 1999, and the fastest 10.000 meter runners do the last lap close to 50 seconds. Hence I would not be able to keep up with a 10km runner on the distance. However, to me 60 seconds is a barrier that I want to cross. I might try doing this in August, if I feel ready. So this is how I ended up flat out, satisfied but totally exhausted, on the 1st of May, Norway's Labour Day.

10 x 500m down, and me down.

I lay like this for a long time, before feeling hunger and thirst. Since I was too tired to move it was a fluke that Mr KAR dropped by with a BBQ. Then Miss C showed up as well, and trying cheering me up doing scenes from The Ministry of Silly Walks.

BBQ ftr!


Miss C as John Cleese.

Or did she try to show me how to start on the 400m?

Or was it core exercise? I was tired and hence don't remember.


As a final note I would like to mention that I could not sleep properly that night. My entire body was aching of pain. I woke up five times through out the night. The last time, at 6:20 am, I just gave up and went to work. The program for the coming Tuesday is 6 x 600m. Mr Jean keeps cranking the handle of pain. I will have to try to change my attitude. I should not fair pain, I should welcome pain in stead. The 400MP story will continue.

LinksThe 400MP |


  1. Cool! Great project and good progress since 9x300m. Have been doing similar intervals too with some success. It certainly hardens you mentally.

    Good luck in the mud tomorrow

    1. Thanks a lot.

      Yes, it's interesting doing stuff like this. Painful, but if hardens the mind indeed.

      Good luck to you, too. Enjoy the cold mud!


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