On Saturday, I had an eight mile run on the plan.
Eight miles for me is not extraordinary. It’s a weekday run during marathon or half ironman or ironman training. It’s something that is 90% of the year totally within my comfort zone, as it is right now. It’s one of those runs that’s not long enough to really be daunting, but definitely not short.
However, five of those miles were planned at half marathon pace.
For someone who’s spent the majority of the last few years running anything over a short handful of miles at a pace in which I could carry on a full conversation and probably also juggle, that was intimidating. My original plan with this training block was to do a lot of these, but when it decreased from 10-12 to 5 weeks, I barely got comfortable running anything with two digits at significantly slower than race pace. However, I had been diligently (at least, for the last four weeks) doing my speedwork, and that had gone from hilariously bad to actually being able to hit the paces I should most of the time.
I needed to know where I stand eight days out from the race. I knew this was a run I needed to do.
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t procrastinate the eff out of it. I mean, Saturday mornings without alarms are precious things, and I’ll enjoy them while the cold lasts, but I woke up and read for a long time and then dithered around the house until my husband got annoyed enough with me he started warming up on the bike, convinced I was just going to sit on the couch all day.
I didn’t even though it was tempting. I got my warmup in on the bike, and we decided to hit the gym instead of running outside because my eyes were already itchy from just existing. Over an hour outside sounded like a death wish. The air filters at the gym are AWESOME, and I knew that it would be the best thing overall for my health and well being.
3M 2017 – 2:13:40.
I started up the treadmill, and the first two miles seemed to go on forever. I was straight up dreading these five miles. Anything below 10 minute miles scares me nowadays. I can hold it sometimes, but recently, it’s a toss up how long. I’m decent at running slow forever, I’m decent at running pretty fast (for me) for short stints, but approximately 45-48 minutes just outside my comfort zone? Ick. Worst. Give me a 20 mile long slow run instead.
1.98. Sighhhh. 1.99. Eeek, ok, let’s get this over with. 2.0. I clicked the button to increase the speed from 5.5 to 6.3 on the treadmill.
I went through the five stages of grief within the first half mile.
Denial. “Hey, this isn’t so bad, I just feel like my feet are turning over a little faster than normal.”
Anger. “F#%k, never mind, this s#&t feels pretty f@%$*#g terrible. What horrible coach put this on my schedule? I hate this!” (keep in mind that coach = me)
Bargaining: “Ok, well, 6.3 pace isn’t soooooo bad. If I get too thrashed later in the workout, I should be able to come back and hold this 9:30/mile pace alright and still *technically* complete the workout at the minimum acceptable standards.”
Depression: “Oh. em. gee. I’m at 0.3 miles into my 5. This is going to take sooooo long. I’m never going to make it.” *cues the dramatics*
Acceptance: “Right. I’m a half mile in now. Just nine more of that same distance to go.” (maybe a little bit of bargaining still, but I was in…)
3M 2016. 2:11:02
By the end of the first mile, I realized this was doable. Slightly uncomfortable? Sure. But my legs were turning over and my lungs were holding out. I had calmed my brain into submission to accept that this is where we are suffering right now. And my heart felt the importance of this run. I tend to lack the confidence to really hold my foot to the gas pedal when things feel tough because I’m scared I’ll crash (even though I have plenty of reserves). I have been building confidence by holding pace for quarter miles and half miles and miles, and now it was time to prove to myself that I could string miles of that pace together, enough to approach half the race distance.
The second mile, as each subsequent mile, started with a little adrenaline rush as I hit the UP arrow on the treadmill (was this going to be too much, would this send me over the edge?). Then, around a quarter to halfway in, it got tedious (ackkk, isn’t this mile over yet?). Then, around three quarters in, I felt confident (I have survived, I got this), and then it started all over again when the mile ticked over to SOMETHING POINT ZERO.
Every mile, I checked in with my legs, my lungs, my head, and my heart. My legs started the run feeling great and had moments where they felt heavy, but it definitely wasn’t a slog at any point and if I focused on my form it felt better. My lungs felt taxed by the end but not maxed out, well within the place where they could keep this up for longer. My brain had many moments of wavering motivation and focus, commercials on spotify were an absolute TRAVESTY to me while grinding out the last mile, but once I realized that the first two components of my body were actually doing just fine, I told it to shut up and deal. I think one thing that helped was tapping into my heart near the end. My heart would REALLY like to prove to everyone (though mostly myself, ’cause I can’t imagine anyone else gives a shit about my 13.1 PR) that I have a better half marathon than 2:08 in me.
The last quarter mile, I found myself tired but not crushed, so I “sprinted towards the finish” envisioning the last part of the race and the finish and I was about at my half mile repeat pace by the end of it. I needed a few moments to catch my breath once the mile ticked over, but the cooldown mile followed the same formula – mentally tough (you mean, I didn’t *actually* just finish the race and I get my bagel and beer now?), but my legs and lungs felt so good I sped up the pace to about 10-10:30 min/mile (since I knew I got an extra 10 minute bike cooldown anyway).
3M 2014 – 2:10:02
I find myself going into race week feeling a little anxious about the preparations (or lack thereof) I’ve made, but more confident than I was a week ago. The little training I have been able to complete has been pretty specifically tailored to THIS race, and I haven’t been able to do that for a long time. 3M has been a stepping stone to a marathon, a longer triathlon, or just weeks after coming out of hibernation or a project as a pacer.
As an aspiring coach, I do a heck of a lot of reading about training and bodies and how to structure the former so the latter performs well. What’s hilarious is there are perfectly valid theories that are mutually exclusive. Maffetone would tell me I’m a flipping idiot for doing any training above 143 beats per minute. Almost ever. Bill Pierce and Scott Muir would wholeheartedly concur with my training program (in fact, I’ve based my weekly schedules loosely on their wisdom). I think the difference is the quick fix vs the long game. The 3-day a week but serious business technique will eek some fitness out of you fairly quickly without a huge time commitment. MAF is the long game where in six months, you’ll have a huge transformation, but it’s going to suck in the meantime.
I realize I’m playing the quick fix card here. I know to realize my true fitness, I need a lot of base building first, but I’m choosing to sharpen the stick I have instead of hunting for a new one.
Chasing whatever magic I found that morning over 7 years ago with my 2:08:08 at Rock and Roll San Antonio.
Sunday, I need to bring out my best version of SAPPHYRA the barbarian warrior racing badass to conquer the course. I need her strong and capable legs. I need her large, hearty, and conditioned lungs. I need her head, the one that stays cool in the heat of battle. But most of all, I need her heart, the one that fights until the end, the one that doesn’t give up when she’s tired, but when she’s done.
She’s ready to line up with that 2:05 pacer and find a new PR, even if this cycle has been imperfect and even if my longest runs were 10 and 11 a few weeks ago and even if the idea of low 9 minute/mile pace for two hours scares the bejeezus out of me and even if even if even if…
I’m ready to go for that PR or fizzle out trying. If I don’t hit sub-2:08, it doesn’t really matter to me whether it’s 2:10 or 2:15 or worse. After 22 of these things, it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s my third or fifth or twentieth best result. I want it to be FIRST. So, I might as well go for it with all the fight I have in my legs, lungs, head and heart.