31 March 2013

Week 7: Deciding

My training this week was uneventful, which is a good thing. I did three easy runs, one of which I did with Maple. I love running with her! I usually don't bring the Garmin when we run, since I don't care how fast we go, but this time I was curious. We did 4 miles at 11:13 pace. Considering that Maple only runs once every other week or so, I think that's a pretty solid pace.

I also did three key runs: 7x800s at the track, a 4 mile half marathon pace run, and a 14-mile long run. I love the track, so those workouts never feel too tough. I typically do my long runs at an easy pace, so aside from the occasional pants-shitting, those runs are gravy. But running at goal race pace for a sustained amount of time? I'm such a friggin baby. This week I missed my goal pace by 6 seconds, which is not a big deal really. But these tempo runs test my resolve like nothing else.

I admit I know very little about running, but I think about it pretty often. I think a lot about why it is that I run so much but improve so slowly. To get faster, I think you have have at least two of the following: talent, drive, and willingness to suffer. I am pretty driven for an old lady with a full time job and a young kid. But as I have little natural talent for running, I need to be good at suffering if I want to get faster. And so far, I haven't been too good at it. When I start suffering in a tough tempo run or a race, I get discouraged and start to wonder why the hell I am pushing myself so hard when I could be at home eating pizza. Which brings me to a story.

When I was a kid, I did gymnastics. I was pretty into it and competed regularly. I wasn't great, but I loved it. As a gymnast, I was squarely middle-of-the-pack. I used to have conversations with myself about why I wasn't a better gymnast - the same conversations I'm having with myself now about running.

The hardest event for me was bars. Bars requires a lot of upper body strength and a lot of focus, neither of which I had. I typically went through my bar routines in a half-assed way, and my coach Jack was always griping at me to focus and try harder. But I knew I wasn't good at bars, and Jack just didn't understand that. (Which by the way is the same bullshit story I tell myself now - that my coach, who has said multiple times that she really believes I can run this pace in my half next weekend, just doesn't know that I'm not a very good runner.)

One day, I think I was about 13, I decided to do a perfect bar routine. It wasn't for a meet, it was just during regular Friday night practice. I can still remember every move in that routine, and I remember that I nailed it. It was a true mind-over-matter moment. Jack was amazed, and he gave me a big bear hug with tears in his eyes and told me this: now that I'd proved to myself I could do it, I'd be able to do it again in competition. But I never did. Maybe it was good enough for me that I knew I could do it, or maybe I just couldn't muster the energy or courage to repeat that performance. Regardless, I've always remembered that moment as a rare time that I decided I would do something, and I just did it.

For the past few weeks, I've been doing tempo runs at my goal race pace. It feels ridiculously fast, and I've only had to hold this pace for 3-4 miles at a time. It is such a struggle, and I keep wondering, is it even remotely possible that I could do this pace for 13.1 miles next weekend? It's too fast, right? I'll blow up after 6 miles of it, right?

But it would be so cool if I could learn something from my 13-year-old self. Maybe I just have to decide that this is my moment, that I'm going to just ignore all the voices that tell me that I'm not fast and I'm not improving very quickly and I'm not built like a runner and I'm old and I have MS and just running a half marathon is good enough right? No, it's not. I don't get up at 5 every morning because I want to finish a half marathon. I want to feel my lungs and legs burn and ignore the "I should be having pizza" voice. I want to really suffer, and live with the suffering long enough to run the race my coach knows I can run.

I think it's possible for me to run at my goal pace. I just have to decide to do it.

I want to hear from you! Tell me about your experience with suffering in races. Do you suffer from the first mile, or does it set in later? How do you convince yourself to go for it? How do you get through the pain?


  1. I usually suffer the last few miles, but thinking about reaching my goal and how the pain is only temporary, really gets me through.
    Don't think about it, just go for it!

  2. I LOVE your post. I think you climbed into my head or something! I have not been able to hit my marathon paced runs outside (give me a treadmill and I'm good to go!), and with missing a month of training due to injury, I had been thinking there's no way I will hit my goal time at Boston. So I had been giving myself those excuses as a way out. But after reading your post, I want to decide that I can do it and I want to suffer by fighting for my pace in Boston. Thank you!

  3. Kristy - my goal is to come up with a pacing plan that has me only suffering the last few miles, not the whole time! :) I read something today that said "You'll either find a way, or you'll find an excuse."
    Beth - I'm sorry that you're also in this boat. Let's jump overboard! :) I was really glad to read your comment though, and find out that not only am I not alone, I'm in good (FAST) company! :)

  4. Sean O'CallaghanApril 5, 2013 at 5:29 AM

    D and E, mama! D and E. Discomfort is the afterbirth of sincerest Effort.

  5. Amen to the "what the hell am I up at 5am for, if not to improve" mentality.
    I go back & forth with the same arguments - am I happy just showing I can traverse long distances on my own two feet, or do I want to do it better each time? Haven't really decided yet. But I've accepted that "comfort" in training & racing means maintaining; so along the lines of what Sean said, getting out of my comfort zone is pretty much mandatory for new PRs.

  6. I totally forgot to update your new blog url to my list and thought it was weird that I wasn't seeing any new posts! Duh ;) Anyway, I think it depends on the race as far as suffering goes. I've run halfs where I felt great pushing the pace the entire time, and then ones like a few weeks ago where no matter how hard I pushed I simply could not move any faster and felt like I was struggling from mile 3 through to the finish. I think you will do great! Listen to Coach, she knows her stuff :) Today I paced my friend for a few miles of his first 50 mile ultra. He finished strong and much faster than he thought he would, and reminded me that anything is possible. You can do this!