Not trying to be dramatic or anything here. I just wanted to get my thoughts down while they were still fresh in my head. I've been working my butt off recently in how consistent my training has been and the amount of miles I've been racking up. Today marks 83 days of running in a row! So, naturally, I have expectations that my fitness is improving. And those expectations are being met. My "easy" pace is getting faster. For example, 3 days ago I did an easy 7 mile run at 8:05 pace averaging 144 HR. Back in October, I did the exact same run with an average HR of 143 but my pace was 8:37 and it wasn't a bad run or anything. In fact from the comments in October:
Wow! This was an awesome run. I don't know what this means but I'll take it. Maybe I was worn out from my tempo on Tuesday when I did the MAFF test yesterday. This felt great and I was able to keep a nice pace at a low hr. I hope this keeps up.
So that's a 30 second improvement for just one beat faster. This is one of many examples. I'm setting all sorts of PRs for my fast finish long runs and tempo runs. At the end of February, I did a 6 mile tempo run starting at 7:19 and ending at 7:00. I averaged 7:08 and although it may have been a bit fast, it was not all out like I used to do my tempo runs.
But, with all of this training and improvement, I have not raced in a while. I actually don't like to race that much. I still get way too nervous and I think about the race for way too many days leading up to it. Also, the shorter the race, the worse it is. Time trials are basically the same as races for me. In fact, they may be worse because there is only me to push myself, but without the added adrenaline of a race. This means that I always end up being disappointed when I try a time trial. Today was no different.
I was planning on running a 10K on Saturday morning, but by Thursday I had already started thinking about it way too much. All of a sudden, this morning I had a brilliant idea! Why not just move my time trial to today and be done with it. There were only a few negatives to this idea. I wasn't really as rested as I would like (I did 5 easy miles yesterday, but 12 slightly faster miles on Wednesday, not to mention 27 miles on Sunday) Also, I would wear my regular shoes and not my beloved racing Green Silences. Also, it was a bit warmer than I would like, 70 degrees. These all seemed like mostly non-issues and the idea of just doing it and then being able to relax and drink some wine tonight with April and have a good night sleep, made me go for it.
I warmed up for a little less than a mile with some strides at the end and I was already feeling the nervousness in my stomach. Ugh. I hate that crap. It's just a time trial! Anyways, I got to it. The first half mile, as expected, I was a bit fast at 6:48 pace. But I was no longer feeling too bad. And I was actually feeling optimistic at this point. Now let me back up and lay out my unrealistic expectations for the day. I really thought I could average a sub 7 minute pace for this. Why? Because I just told you I ran a tempo run a few weeks ago at 7:08 pace. And I was feeling strong during that, and I could have definitely gone faster. So there it was. A sub 7 would have put me at 43:30 which would have been a PR by over a minute (incidentally another time trial) Back to the time trial. After a half mile I felt like I was maintaining the same effort, but when I looked down at my watch, I was slowing down. By the time I hit the first mile, I had just squeaked under 7 minutes and I was hurting. This was not going well. I thought at this point I would be feeling strong and looking to pick up the pace. Instead, I slowed down some more to about 7:15. My legs were feeling tight and my HR wasn't even that high at 168, but I was in pain and pissed. How could I be working this hard to be maintaining 7:15?! I pushed a bit harder and finished the second mile in 7:09 but still way slower than I wanted. At this point, the thought of quitting this thing came to my mind. This was not going well. My legs were feeling tight and I was feeling very heavy and annoyed. But, I kept going and decided I'm not quitting no matter how disappointed I am. I slogged through the next 3 miles in 7:16, 7:13 and 7:14. I figured I would at least pick it up a bit in the last mile but I had barely anything left. I managed a 7:06 for the 6th mile and then a bit of a kick for the last .21 in 6:38 pace. My final time was 44:18. I did not even break 44! I was so upset with myself. I didn't understand what happened. How did I manage to average the same pace as my tempo run from a few weeks ago but with a lot more effort?
Of course all of these excuses started to fill my head. Looking for reasons. Wrong shoes? Please. Too much running in the last several days? Possibly. A bit too warm out at 70 and I'm not acclimated? Maybe. Just a bad day? Who knows. Excuses, excuses. In the end, I just felt like I failed. But, then I realized something. Despite all of this negative thinking, I did have a new 10k PR. Not by much (28 seconds,) but a PR none the less. So the reality is that I am improving. Maybe not always as fast as I want, and maybe some of these excuses do have some merit. Maybe I shouldn't look at them as excuses, but instead as factors or considerations. The only reason I was so upset was because of the expectations I had going in to this. And what were these expectations based on? Why were they so high? Because my training has been going well. Perhaps today was not my day. But today was not a race. A time trial is not a race. I have had break through races out of no where that I did not expect based on training. Last summer after my training had fallen off for a while I ran a new PR for 5K which was out of the blue. That remains my highest VDOT equivalent race. I'm not ruling anything out for my upcoming races in April. I may need to readjust my expectations a bit, but who know what will happen come race day. Maybe I do like racing from time to time. Thinking about the races now, I'm getting excited again. And tonight I'm drinking wine with April and sleeping well with some easy weekend running :)