This is a tough post for me to write, for many reasons, not least of which because I should be out celebrating instead of wallowing in disappointment.
First, I really do want to say this. Over the past few months, I’ve tried to take the focus of the blog off of pace. I read some really great posts in the blog world about this topic a few months ago, and while I didn’t chime in with my two cents (strange), I did completely agree. And with that, I’ve stopped posting my daily workouts with average paces and full descriptions of how fast and slow every moment of the workout was. I do post my workout overall times in the weekly wrap, but not to give you math people the chance to figure it out, just to show the amount of time I’m working. I totally get it: my fast is your slow, or my slow is your fast, and it’s all relative. Going along with that, I’ve tried to take my own focus off my pace at any given moment. I’ve been generally running my tempo workouts without looking at my Garmin until the interval is over, and trusting that the comfortably hard pace I’m working at is where my body wants to be right now. I’m here to do my thing, and then go cheer y’all on while you do yours. But this post is going to be all about pace, and if hearing about my pace is going to make you upset because either you run a lot faster that I do and want to give me a little pat on the back OR you run a lot slower and want to shake your little angry fist at me because you think I’m being an asshole by complaining about it, then you should probably go look at puppy pics instead. They are still here here. Oh, here here and here and here. Because this post is about my pace, where I am now and where I want to be. It’s just really difficult to write a meaningful and reflective race report without talking about numbers.
I’ve been injured for so long, and that has been my excuse for my performance, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of hearing, “Well, that’s great, considering...” I started running again in November. I solidly PR’d the 10K in December, 5 weeks back into running, but it was tough and the PR, for me, is not even close to what I think - what I hope - I can do. I eased back into speed training starting in January. I’ve had 4 weeks of fairly decent tempo runs, and last Tuesday I ran some times in my first interval workout that surprised and delighted me. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m healed. Because of that, I wanted to run this race, hard and fast and strong, and accept the time I ran. No excuses. And that’s where I’m disappointed.
Spoiler: I PR’d the 5K, and even by more than the 3-minute window I was hoping for. Wow, now I sound like an even bigger asshole. So why am I wallowing? Well, I had goals for this race. I was hoping to take 3 minutes off of my current PR (27:35). I was hoping to take 10 minutes off last year’s time on this course (34:14). And based on my last few weeks of tempo runs, I honestly thought I could sub-24, and maybe even get close to 23.
Amy deserves a ton of the credit for this race, because she was a fantastic pacer and me being frustrated has nothing to do with her. She let me control the pace but kicked my ass when all I could say was, “I can’t,” and she was tough and strong and for that, I’m thankful. I ran this race last year, and it’s a tough course. A decent uphill the first half-mile or so, and then rollers the whole way out and back. Our goal was to run the first mile in 8:30 - and not a whole lot faster - and then let loose on the rest of the course as it eased up. When I got there, we left the crowd of crazy and ran a short warm-up, and then jumped in the masses. I put some music on to give myself space to focus and then the gun went off and we were on our way.
Amy made the brilliant decision to wear my Garmin so I couldn’t stress about pace, and we got up and over the hill pretty quickly. A bit too quickly - there was a clock at the 1-mile mark, and it said 7:41 as we went by. I was a little bit worried about how far ahead we were, but pretty soon I had a different problem - my piriformis. I started feeling twinges during the big uphill, but hoped it would smooth out once we got to the top. It didn’t, and it got worse pretty quickly. We hit the 2-mile mark at 15:13, and I felt like I was starting to limp. Not too far after the 2-mile mark I stopped to try and stretch it out, and this is what I’m angry about. Because now I had exactly what I didn’t want - an excuse for my time, a weak race, another problem that kept me from running the time I’m capable of and being proud of it because it’s what I can honestly do. I know this doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it broke my heart to stop and stretch.
About a half-mile from the finish I had to stop and stretch again, and at that point, I figured I’d blown most of my goals, but we cranked back up pretty quickly anyway. I was too tight to really make the most of the flying downhill back to the start, and I didn’t look at the clock until I was only a few feet out from the finish line. It started with 24, and that made me sad. Especially when I realized that without those stops, I would have run a sub-24 by a pretty big margin. My tank was definitely empty when I crossed the finish line, and I’m glad that I can feel like I left it all out there on the course, but I’m still frustrated. My final net time: 24:15, a PR by 3:20. A course PR by a really annoying 9:59. And not a sub-24.
I am sure it’s difficult to understand why I’m upset. Runners and the mental game - wow, what a mess we all are. I know a lot of things. I know that hill work irritates my piriformis, and I probably should have avoided this course in favor of a flatter race until I was a bit further away from the injury. I know that I've only been running again for 3 months after 2 years of on and off due to various injuries. I know that I've only been doing speed work for four weeks. I know that I've posted times in workouts over the last month that I've never seen before in my life, and I know that all of these facts should add up to me being thrilled with my performance today. And I'm not nearly as upset about the time itself as I am about the way things unfolded. I want to run a race where I feel strong and run hard and get from the start to the finish without blowing up, for whatever reason. And I want to be sore and tired and happy that I had a plan and executed it, instead of being furious that my body is yet again holding me back.
There’s nothing to do from here but move forward, to continue with my training plan, to keep doing all the things that are necessary for me to get to the starting line of my half marathon in one piece, but it’s going to take me a few days to get past this. While the logical and reasonable part of me knows that is a great step in my training cycle, it instead feels like yet another frustrating setback.