Exploring your pain cave

Hi Everyone!


Happy Summer! School’s out, and the heat is on. If you happen to enjoy a little less structure over the summer months, just remember that it’s still a good idea to get your runs in early if you want them to be quality. The heat has a real impact on your perceived effort and your real performance. Just remember that we can and do adapt to it, but it takes a few weeks, so be patient and kind to yourself as you get there. Also, remember that heat adaptation is the “poor person’s altitude training”, so it will benefit you in the long run. It’s just a little uncomfortable as you get there. Top tips: drink more fluids, protect your skin, temper the pace, take breaks.


Speaking of adapting, I’ve been thinking about the process of “getting in shape” again as I start a new build for a marathon. I know a number in this group are now training for fall events – whether marathons, half marathons or speedy 5K’s at the end of the summer. (I think the triathletes in this group are the only ones who are nearing peak fitness right now – enjoy that feeling!) The rest of most of us are in our “ok, let’s get going” phase. When I visualize this phase, for some reason I picture digging a tunnel in the snow. We are working to clear out the snow and create a space that is easier to move through. The work is not easy, but once we clear the path we’ll be able to use it and move with more ease. Just up to the point that we’ve cleared though. If we want more, we have to get to work and dig some more. My long-ish runs are not coming easily right now, but I imagine each one creating a bit of an easier path for the next one. You just have to punch through a bit.


Courtney Dauwalter is the greatest ultra runner of all time. She habitually wins races outright – often beating all the men as well, and recently set a new record in the Western States 100 mile race in a time of 15 hours and 29 minutes. Not that that time means much to any of us except for the fact that she was running pretty hard for that long! Courtney’s mental tactic in these races is to visualize herself in a pain cave – an actual cave where she is exploring and digging new tunnels. When she first started, she saw herself coming to the entrance of the pain cave, and not going in. She would see it, look in, get scared, and not enter. As she worked on her mental toughness game plan, she started visualizing herself entering the cave and sitting down in a comfy chair – just inhabiting the space. Now she pictures herself owning it and digging and making the cave bigger – it is her space to create and explore.


So much of what we do with training is mental. If you can find a mental space that helps to connect you to the effort and keep moving you forward, you’re well on your way to continuing to enjoy it as you improve. No one has it completely figured out and we all struggle. But each time you go out, it’s another opportunity to explore that mental space – whether you call it a tunnel, a pain cave, or whatever else makes sense for you. Enjoy the exploration!


On to tomorrow’s workout! Back to Lakeshore and Leslie – 6:05 drills, 6:15 Go.


  1. 6-8 x 800 w 1:30 rest. Option of making every 3rd one Hard or outside of your comfort zone. That means the others are not at max capacity – leave some room. I’m thinking 10K pace and down to 5K pace for the hard ones if you have the gear.
  2. If going by time, 6-8 x 3 min ON, 1:30 OFF. Option of every 3rd one harder.


That is all – see you in the am!