Monday, July 18, 2011

The Johnnycake One-step

Well, after a few steps forward that was one heckuva step back. Over the last few weeks I went from being certain I'd be in contention for money and sub-30 at the Johnnycake Jog along with E and CV to just making it to the starting line in one piece. I still had high hopes for a big 5 mile pr, and I will tell you that 1 second is not what I had in mind!

I should take a figurative step back and explain what's been going on. I'm training with E and NC much of the time and they are both very accomplished runners. They have both been rebuilding after spring marathon training which has provided me an opportunity to keep up with them. It's been great! But the downside is that lately, as the training paces have dropped and the temps have risen, I find myself struggling mightily to hang on. I've dropped out of track intervals and tempos or struggled to run way slower than prescribed. It's tough after weeks of nailing every workout and tougher when everyone around me seems to be running faster and faster. It's all perception. I know. Yet, it's a struggle.

Anyway, I'm not sure what to say about yesterday's race. When I was running I felt like I was working hard, but when I didn't even feel like I raced. During the race I felt like I was racing and focused, but afterwards I remember a few things that maybe suggest there were some things I could have done differently. Given 24 hours to reflect, I realize I was running scared (and tired, but when is that not the case during the middle of a training cycle!) I was in self-preservation mode: I told myself I was racing, when really what I was doing was running safely hard and protecting myself from blowing up.

It was scorching hot and humid as we waited on the line. I was petrified to go out too fast and was worried I was going to die in the heat and humidity. I also insisted on not using the garmin and just using time splits. I went out a little behind E and watched her gap me nicely and then let 2 women who I should at least be able to run with pull ahead of me by the mile marker. I told myself they would come back to me and that I needed to run my own race. Looking back I think I was being stubborn and not pushing myself hard enough. I think when I race again I need to see my first mile pace on the garmin to set the proper tone for the race. I ran out in 6:07 when my plan was 5:55-6:00. I notice that I can get myself into a pace groove and it just depends on where I start. 6:07 felt hard, but a 6:00 wouldn't have felt much harder probably. Maybe I would have blown up, but at least I would have tried and set myself up to possibly achieve my goals. Running a disappointing safe race is not exactly a better option than blowing up!

For the second mile I let the women ahead of me really gap me. I told myself to stay smooth on the hills. Again, fear dictated my pace. Running 6:31 was probably too smooth. But I think if I had set a faster tone and been fired up and willing to go for it rather than running afraid, this wouldn't have been so slow. I passed a couple of people I know by the end of the mile. One was a guy who runs with us at the track from time to time and he stuck with me for a couple of miles. I noticed everyone around me was breathing hard and I hardly was. I think my perception of my effort was not quite the reality. Looking back I think I was afraid to push myself too early because I was so afraid of blowing up and wanting to bail. I wasn't running free: I was running scared.

The third mile has a few downhills to make up for mile 2. All I could think about was the last 2 miles out in the sun and although I certainly had upped the effort it was still not quite what I could have done. Still scared. Still holding back. The dude from the track was still with me and his crazy breathing was reminding me that I was relatively relaxed and doing well! I messed up my watch during this mile, but the mile marker dude said 18:51 at 3. On a positive note, I never let the slow splits get to me. Although I think because I was afraid, it was actually comforting and reinforced the idea that I was not going to blow up. I ran 6:13 for this mile.

The last 1.8 miles or so are down one long straight road. I made the turn and started gaining on the woman ahead of me. I was making decent progress for a while, but not fast enough and I kind of gave up on that pursuit. Before the race I told myself I would focus on dudes and pass them over the last stretch. I passed one dude and caught up to one at the line, so I kind of did that. I wasn't quite the animal I hoped to be the last 1.8. My last two miles were 6:14 and 6:11. I saw coach with 400 to go and he was screaming at me to pick it up to break 31. I felt like I was giving it everything I had, but at the same time I also was not fired up to really go nuts either. At the 5k a few weeks ago, I kicked. I found a new gear with 400 to go and went! Yesterday, not so much. I thought I crossed in 31:17 which is exactly the time I ran in 2007 when I ran an awesome race and set my pr. But the official results have me at 31:16.9 (ha!)

I hit the chute and was so happy to be done and then I saw E and NC and heard they ran great and was STOKED! E, NC and I took a photo and celebrated and then I bent down to take my chip off and started to cry. Gosh, I was so frustrated. In 2007 when I ran almost the exact same time I did mile repeats @ 6:26-6:27 pace. This time I did mile repeats in the 5:40's. I've run 5 miles tempos in 6:18 pace and ran 6:15 for the race. 5th place was just 30 seconds ahead of me. There's no reason why I shouldn't have been fighting for that. It's so frustrating.

But, I went into this race committing to use it as a learning experience and not as a barometer of my worth as a person or something like that. I promised myself that I would not dwell on it and let myself learn from it and move on. So, I just wanted to reflect on it and document what I think are the lessons and then that will be the end of that! Basically there are a few things.

1. As Coach G said after the race, "there will come a time when you realize that it hurts whether you run one pace or faster, so you might as well run faster." While I felt like I was running hard yesterday, I would have felt like I was running hard 10 seconds per mile faster. I might as well have tried.

2. I am working hard and keeping up with fast runners, but that does not mean I am as fast as they are. I still need to be patient with myself and realistic. I think it would have helped some to have the goal to just break 31 rather than hoping to break 30. I think when I knew I couldn't break 30, breaking 31 seemed like a lame goal and not worth fighting for, so I didn't.

3. Freaking go for it. Don't be afraid. Have a target for the first mile and use the garmin to hit it. At least try and set the tone. It might not work out, but at least give it a shot.

So that's what I think I've learned from the 2011 Johnnycake Jog and these 8 weeks of speed training. I'm closing the book on this chapter and looking forward to a day off today, a down week this week and moving on the marathon training next week!


Janet Edwards said...

I feel for ya girl. I know there have been several races where I was just disappointed in myself as I did not feel like I performed to capabilities. You are a fighter and I know you will nail it next time!

MP said...

Hey there Salty One! Thanks so much for the encouragement!!! I just read through your blog and am AMAZED at your accomplishments! To be able to be such a great runner and mother of two children is truly phenomenal!!

Congrats on a great finish at the Johnnycake Jog Sunday! Although it isn't exactly what you wanted, you clearly took a great deal out of it. Thank you for your honesty. Your 3 lessons are AWESOME and I couldn't agree more. I will be thinking of especially your first lesson over the next couple days pushing it in this awful heat!!