Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Resting Easy

It has been an incredible indulgence to have taken this time off from running. While my legs are feeling jittery and I'm restless and ready to run again, it's been nice to "sleep in" until 6am. It's been nice to give my legs time to heal; the twinges in my hip flexor, knee, and foot (all on my left leg) are growing faint. I've spent this time getting back to work, coaching volleyball, and relaxing. It's funny how, right after traveling for the holidays, I'm always in desperate need of relaxation.

This week off hasn't left me feeling awful or depressed, as I wrote about feeling on unplanned days off. In fact, I feel whole and sound in my body, mind, and corny as it sounds.

I've kept myself in the running loop, though. The three or four Facebook running groups that I follow are alive with chatter as fellow runners gear up for their big races. Mine has passed and I'm in a moment of suspension, but it's cool to sit back and watch the training go on around me. Goals are being met, feedback is being requested, advice being doled out, and I am happily finishing the last of the cranberry sauce and pie and just...taking a break.

It's nice, too, to know that this break isn't indefinite. There have been times in the past when taking a week off quickly rolls into months of inactivity; that's what started this 2012 resolution in the first place. But I know this time that this year has changed me. Running has become too important to me; I will not fall idle again.

I'm not ready to ruminate on the year. It's an upcoming post which will be more appropriately timed, but even the thought of sitting down to write it is daunting. For now, I'll leave it at that.

I am so excited to run this weekend. My plan is to have no plan. Ah, freedom! I just want to stretch my legs, take it easy, and start at square one. This weekend's run won't be about training. I'm not even quite sure which race I'm gearing up for next, so I guess the answer to that question would be "none". There are a few left on the list for this race season, but they're in the back of my mind.

I'm reliving fond memories of breaking out of two-milers at the end of the summer and consistently adding distance and weekly mileage, rocking our first long-run, shocking ourselves at how far we could really go, and how easily! It's exciting to know I'll be starting back there soon, and that the increase and skill will come back faster this time around. It's exciting, too, to know that I'll be able to add longer tempo runs, more long-runs...that basically this was my first round of training in a lifetime of training cycles, and this next cycle will give me the opportunity to climb up to the next level. Maybe I'll push my distance. Maybe I'll push my pace. Maybe my new goals will be ones that were previously unfathomable. Who knows? The running world lays open wide with possibilities before me!

I feel weirdly...fresh. A chapter is closed - the Half is finished. A new chapter begins.

On my time off, I've been collecting the quotes I get from I feel like it would be lazy to just post a bunch of them and call it a blog entry, but I want to keep them somewhere that's easy to access and available to others in need of inspiration. I think I'll create a new tab for quotes sometime this week. It will be good mental prep that I know will get me revved up and ready to rejoin the running world.


Weekly Report: Nov. 19 - Nov. 25

The only run this week was my Turkey Trot, and I'm totally cool with that!


Sunday, November 25, 2012

ALSO Youth Turkey Trot 10k

Thanksgiving is usually one of M's and my rush-around-crazy-busy holidays. Our parents live in the same city, and we have the pleasure to visit and partake in festivities at each of their houses. We've never run a turkey trot before, mostly because I was under the impression that our local one was 5k beach run, and because we're always so short on time. But this year we learned that ALSO Youth, an organization dedicated to supporting LGBT teens, was putting on their third annual turkey trot, and that it would be downtown. Instead of running the beach, we would be running the causeway bridge, and instead of running a 5k, we could run a 10k instead.

The race route, from M's Nike GPS.
So, we were in! The race was Thanksgiving morning, only four days after the Half, and I hadn't done any small runs or such between the two races. My right knee and hip flexor had been giving me some issues on and off, and the morning of the race my knee was especially painful. Still, I was too stubborn to back down from the 10k to the 5k, and decided to go into the run as a slow, steady post-race fun run.

The morning started off unbearably cold - for us, anyway. We arrived at the venue when it was still 55-degrees and windy. S, M, and I were all running; our cheering section included our mom, M's mom, and G, S's boyfriend. I had opted for long running pants because of the cold weather and wind, but this was a mistake; by the time the sun was up, I was feeling a little warm. Still, it wasn't terrible.

The run was gorgeous. We all started at our own paces, but S caught me on our way up the bridge. (This bridge, by the way, is much steeper and longer than the bridge K and I train on, and it was definitely a hike.) We ran a few miles together by the water, but after our turn-around (just about 4 miles in), I was really starting to feel the pain in my leg. S went ahead and I pulled my pace back a bit.

The high winds and steep inclines got me in the end. I had to walk near the top of the bridge on the second ascent, but ran 6 of the 6.2 miles, so I'm happy with that, especially considering that fact that I was in pain the entire run. I did have one of those moments of clarity where I realized 6.2 miles really doesn't seem all that long anymore, even when I'm struggling through it.
Getting my second wind.
My time was a sad 1:07, with a pace of 10:13. (To compare, my last 10k was 58:27.) My Nike+ had some issues and I had to entirely reboot my iPod, so I don't know my splits, but I'm sure they weren't negative. I took off a bit fast in the beginning and really slowed down in miles 4 and 5. I was able to pick up again at the end, and I overtook two women I'd been neck-and-neck with the entire race. Still, my place was 174 of 219 overall 10k runners, and 39 of 46 in my AG (divided up as 18-29, which honestly is a pretty big range). I'm not at all happy with that, but I need to remind myself that this was meant to be a nice, easy post-Half long-run.

M and S both did very well; this was M's first 10k and he ran it at a faster pace than any of his training runs. S came in with the same time as her previous 10k, but with the bridge included this meant her pace was better.

Post-race...sunny and warm
It's nice to see that I'm continuing to infect others with the running bug. My brother-in-law recently bought his first pair of real running shoes, began training, and ran his first race on Saturday.

The rest of the day was spent over-indulging and seeing family...and the rest of the week was more of the same. Work starts up again Monday, and it's back to regularly scheduled programming, as they say.

Really, I'm ready for a couple easy runs before scheduling my next race. This was such a light week, and despite my injury I am chomping at the bit to get back out there, but I know I need to take it easy for a couple more days. Then, it'll be time to get back to it! I can't wait!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is, I think, a holiday that doesn’t get enough love. Even those who like it are more focused on the abundance of food they'll get to indulge in, and then their minds shift quickly to holiday shopping. Like with Valentine’s Day, those who dislike the holiday tend to spout some bitter dictum about how we don’t need just one day to show our love – or in this case, gratitude – and that those who use the holiday as an excuse to do so are missing the point.

But I would argue that they are the ones missing the point. We don’t live our lives oblivious to those we love, or ignorant of the things that bless us. But taking a day to pause our busy lives and focus on those things can bring us fulfillment that, in our stressful world, we often forget to seek. It is important to feel fulfilled; it's restorative.

I couldn't have survived Proteach without you!
So in honor of finally having a break in schedule - a time when training is paused, school is out, and I can rest and reflect - I present a post on gratitude.

So often, the thing that causes me the most stress is a thing worth being thankful for. I am truly grateful that I have a career that makes a difference. One of the purest joys in life is watching a student's face light up as a connection is made, new understanding is reached, and they can say, "This makes sense now!"

I am grateful that after a long day of work, I can come home to a secure home with electricity, A/C, a comfortable bed, and a stocked fridge. So many go without these simple necessities.
More than I deserve.

It seems like such a trivial thing, but I am so grateful for the freedom to set my own schedule, travel to see friends, plan my weekends as I want them, and pursue hobbies that make me happy.

I am grateful for the freedom to practice my religion as I see fit, and to have authority and control over my choices regarding my health.

Words cannot express my gratitude for my friends. Their kind words and actions, their lively discussions and debates, their vigor and energy add to my life abundantly. They challenge me, keep my brain sharp, commiserate, comfort, and bring me laughter that reduces me to tears and hiccups. They are a group of sharp-witted, intelligent, loyal people who I could not live without.
Distance is meaningless.

My family has given me support in all ways that they can, from the very basic needs of a child to the complex and demanding needs of an adult. My parents have encouraged me, been strict when necessary, led by example, and allowed me to follow my own paths and make my own mistakes. For their continued love, support, listening ears, and friendship I am forever indebted. 

My siblings have forced me to be my own self, to find a way to stand out from between their own bright personalities. Their presence in my life grounds me and connects me to a past that I can appreciate because it has made me who I am today. My brother's easy ability to shrug off the opinions of others and to let his own intelligence shine has been a constant beacon for me to follow; my sister's amiable nature and truly magnetic disposition have made her the perfect lifetime friend, confidant, and soul mate.

Up early in cold & wind...just to cheer me on!
I am grateful for a husband who strengthens who I am and whose values mirror mine. I am grateful for our disagreements, through which we grow, and I am grateful for the depth of understanding and willingness to listen that keeps our relationship strong. I am especially grateful for his support of my quirks and idiosyncrasies. I am grateful that he takes an interest in the things I love, and that if he's not running races with me, he's there cheering me on. I am grateful for the hour-long leg massage post-Half that completely eradicated my knee pain and reaffirmed my confidence in being able to run long distances without persistent injuries. I am grateful that he puts up with so much from me - constant messes, awful TV, ridiculous YouTube videos, muddled priorities - and still wonders aloud how he could ever deserve me. I am grateful for a love that demands equality, fairness, and respect from us both. 
And now, because this would be incomplete without a mention of the thing that, lately, keeps me sane and whole...

I am grateful for a sport that makes me feel strong and humble all at once. A sport that allows me to challenge myself in my own way. A sport that, even in failure, allows me to succeed. 

I am grateful to myself for meeting this goal of learning to run, and for dedicating time to myself despite my stressful, busy days. When I first decided I wanted to run, it was M who outfitted me with all the accessories and encouraged me to keep going - another thing to thank him for. 

From the first Half to the last mile.
Running has brought me friendships so strong, complex, and meaningful that I cannot doubt the bond itself is strengthened through the sport. Relationships that could have been surface-level have been made irreplaceable because of running. Even casual friendships, like those started through work or fractured by distance, take on a level of respect, openness, and connectivity that would often be lost if the love of running weren't involved.

I am grateful to the running community for the camaraderie and healthy competition it constantly provides. I am grateful for this amazing outlet for stress, anger, disappointment, and fear. I am grateful for the bad runs that remind me I have far to go, that I am a work in progress. I am grateful for the strong runs that rebuild my confidence and remind me of how far I've come. I am grateful for health in my mental and physical life. I am grateful for my body, which is strong and capable. I am grateful for my aching muscles, because they remind me of what I've accomplished. I am grateful for my mind, which is kept clear and sharp because of the reflective time running provides.

I am grateful for where my life is. Running and daily life are so intertwined these days that my gratitude for life and my appreciation of running must go hand-in-hand. Running has made me strong, mentally flexible, and has proven to me that there are only limits where I choose to set them.

Truly, there is so much, and I am so humbled by my good fortune. I hope everyone has a relaxing, fulfilling, and enlightening holiday.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Weekly Report: Nov. 12 - Nov.18

This "set" of training is officially over.
Time to take some time off, then start fresh for the next one!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

St. Pete Women's Half Marathon

All my planning, preparation, and training paid off.

I know I'll regret not giving a play-by-play of the entire race, and if I don't write it now I'll forget the little details, so despite my exhaustion, here's a rundown of the race I've been training for...I can't believe it's over.

Pre-race. Chilly & ready to get going!
K and I arrived at the race venue about an hour before start-time. We had time to check our gear and use the porta-potties, but no real warmup time. It was chilly and extremely windy, but once we got into our corral (technically K's corral, but I sneaked in with her), all the warm bodies shielded us. I never felt the full-on butterflies that I expected. M and his mom were able to arrive just before starting time and actually found us, so I was able to say hello and they were able to take some pre-race pictures of us gearing up for the start. We picked out the pacers ahead of us that we wanted to try to follow.

We ran the first 10k together, and it was marvelous. I had prayed for cool, overcast weather, and somebody up there listened. The day was in the low 60s, nicely cloudy but rainless, and in most parts of the run the wind was unnoticeable. K and I kept remarking to each other how great we felt, even as we kept a brisk pace. We eventually grew annoyed with the herd of runners following the pacers, and we broke off to keep our own pace. Running the first six miles with K was a great way to keep my mind off the difficulty of the first four miles. We seemed to breeze through it without trouble, feeling strong and confident. I tend to let off some speed in the middle miles of any race, and being with K forced me to stay fast.
Crossing the line, big grin in place!

After we hit the 10k, K took off ahead and I kept my own pace. I still felt strong, and in my chest I could feel the certainty of a strong finish growing. I knew going in that this race would destroy my first Half, but I was concerned that I'd be tempted to walk. Once on the course, though, I just felt totally calm. I knew I would run the entire thing and be true to my own pace and goal.

Around mile 7.5, I crossed paths with SB, who was coming down the opposite side of the road waving maniacally at me. When I finally realized it was her, I waved back and was able to pick up my pace again, feeling great.

I hit the wall at mile 9, where I knew I would. I just kept mentally coaching myself. You will do this. You will not walk. You are running your own race here. Do not let the other runners get into your mind. By mile 10, the wall had passed and I felt ready for the final 5k.

I couldn't have met my goal more perfectly!
Mile 11 brought us to the Trop, which was really fun to run in. The turf took some pressure off my knees, and when I was back on the concrete my feet were ready for more sturdy ground. It was a great break. With only two miles to go, I was really feeling good. I was able to drop my pace back into the low 10s, and the cheering crowds at mile 12 kept me going.

Soldiers gave us our medals. So amazing!
My goal, as stated in my previous post, was a pace of 10:18. I was exactly on target! I was grinning like a lunatic coming down the final chute, and K was there shouting for me. As I crossed the finish line, I bent over to catch my breath and K gave my head a hug. She was exuberant for me, so excited that I had met my goal. My chip time was 2:15:01 with a pace of 10:18. Talk about perfect! K finished in 2:04, destroying her last Half time as well. Both our Nike+s put the course at over 13.1, but I'm not going to argue the timing/distance here.

I think if I could have kept my mind clear after K and I split up, I could have come in under 2:10, and that's definitely my goal for the next Half I run, which should be in January. My knees are killing me tonight and I'm ready for some rest days before my 10k Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving.
Mission Accomplished!

All in all, this was a really successful, awesome, beautiful race. The "cobblestones" and "bridge" we were preparing for ended up being perfectly even brick roads and a small road bridge with a mild incline. Basically, we were really well-prepared for it and were laughing about how easy it all was! We both indulged in massages post-race and relived/discussed the high points numerous times. Basically, K and I are both thrilled!

Apparently at-home spectators could input your bib number and follow you along the course. I received an email/text from my parents congratulating me on my time, and K's husband - at home with the kids - was able to track her splits and send her encouraging texts. What a brilliant addition to usual bib-tags!

I really can't believe that the race I put so much time and effort into training for is over now. Really, it's a perfect culmination of my year. I set out to be a more consistent runner, and it led me to a Half in which I beat my last time by 40 minutes. I can't wrap my head around how far I've come, and still how much further I want to go. 2:10 and below is within reach! I'm aching for a chance to get there.

Now it's time for recovery...until the next one.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Race Prep

This should really be titled "BIG Race Prep and Mental Word-Vomit", because preparing for a 5k is hardly anything these days and this post is mostly going to be anxious garbage. But if not here, then where, right? Anyway, Sunday brings my Half, and it's been well over a year since I've run a race of this distance. Two Saturdays ago K and I ran an excellently paced 13-mile long run, and that's done wonders for my confidence, but last weekend's long run was rough and has left a bad after-taste in my mouth.

So preparation needs to be spot-on for this one.

I've been analyzing weather and allergens, weighing all my options for clothing, editing and rearranging my running playlist, using my foam roller multiple times a day, and still I feel flustered. Is there a such thing as being over-prepared?

Although the weather report calls for low-60s and sun, the weather has been partially overcast the past few days. I'm hoping this trend sticks around; I'd love an overcast run in the 60s! Sunshine is running's nemesis. I think if I take enough Claritin, Nasonex, Sudafed, and Hydroxyzine, I'll be able to fend off any allergy attacks. I plan to be a walking pharmacy on Sunday.
Seriously, is ragweed good for anything?

Right now the plan is to pack as many possible outfits as I can - we're staying at my parents', so why not? - and to try to remember my foam roller, Immodium, sunglasses, iPod charger, asthma inhaler, water bottle, travel coffee mug, and warmup clothes, while still remembering my confirmation packet and paperwork. Once we leave home, anything I've forgotten is a lost cause. My mom has stocked up on K's and my usual breakfast-of-champions, so at least that's set!

I've also been mentally editing my goals. I've fixed the bracelet I made with the charm K got me last year with my previous Half time/date etched onto it so I can wear it on race day. It's a reminder that I can and must break my last dismally slow time. My goals for this race are to successfully run the entire thing (allowing for two water breaks) at a pace of 10:18 or faster. My finishing goal is still 2:15, but I think if I let the adrenaline take charge, I could make 2:10.

This looks promising!
Luckily, this Half is much bigger than our first; there will be a local running club providing pacers, and K and I both plan to sign up. SB is also running this Half, so we'll meet up with her after to fully enjoy the benefits of post-run massages, food, drinks, and fun.

Honestly, this is more a list of things I need to remember than having anything to do with preparation. But the point is that I need to get all this out of my head before I go insane from anxiety. Even though I'm better trained (there's an understatement!) and have a Half under my belt, I feel more nervous for this one than the last. It seems like more is riding on it.

The hours leading up to it are the worst, but I know once I'm out there I'll feel great. And once it's over...Well, I'm excited to wear my medal to work for the kiddos, and I will rock my post-race waddle with pride!


PS: I hit my newest Nike+ milestone this morning! I'm officially at the Blue level!

Finally, I've done my last two runs without my knee brace. I'm toying with the idea of not wearing the brace on Sunday, but I'll pack it just in case, of course.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Weekly Report: November 5-11

Let's just call this "tapering" and be done with it...

Next week's report will include the Half!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

When is it Quitting? When is it Compromise?

Last time I wrote about having a bad run, the badness was due to specific circumstances of that day. Today's awful run was a combination of things that began earlier this week. To start, the last run I had was Tuesday night, when pending election results sent me into a nervous tizzy and I sped my way along a very quick 3-mile route with M at my side.

After that run, I happily slept through four mornings when I could have run, but chose not to. Yesterday night, M and I had a bit of an impromptu date-night, which included buffalo wings slathered in rich, syrupy sauces and a ludicrously large hard cider. Needless to say, not a really great dinner the night before a long run.

Oh, extreme allergy conditions? Great.
So there brewed a dangerous storm. Then, this morning saw some rookie mistakes I should have known to avoid. For one, I checked the weather and knew it would be sunny but cool (in the 60s) when we started the run. I dressed for cool weather, forgetting that the sun actually still creates a warmer "feels-like" temperature in November, and hardly four miles into the run I felt fatigued and overheated. I found I needed a walk break early on, probably because my starting pace was in the mid-9s. Our long runs have been in the mid-to-low 10s, so this was a ridiculous pace to start off at. My legs were heavy and uncooperative, and I wasn't able to get a good breathing rhythm going. This is probably due to increased allergies; although the high allergy count is for indoor allergies only, anything that affects my breathing triggers my asthma, and I've been feeling short-breathed and congested for day. This is possibly also caused by the bad bout of Red Tide we've had in the area.

I should pause here to mention that K was sick last week, so she opted for a 6-mile run, and SB and I planned 11. We all met up together, but K took off on her own early on. About four miles in, I dropped back from SB. Putting in music and setting a slower pace helped until I got to mile 5. At this point, I came to my water bottle. I only dropped off one bottle today, so by the time I got to it, I guzzled it down, leading to a cramping and sloshy stomach. At this point was the turn-around, but I couldn't fathom running the bridge a second time. Instead, I headed off down an alternate route, and I was able to shuffle-run until the main turning point, but pretty soon after reaching the next main road, I gave up on myself. I walked nearly a full mile, paused at the park for a drink, contemplated asking an early-morning tennis player for use of his cell phone to call M...

I ran from the park, knowing my car was 2.5 miles south, and instead veered off on the mile route home. I woke M, and he drove me to the car. The 11-mile run became 9.1. The time was laughably slow; I apparently walk at a 20-minute pace. I felt discouraged, even more so because I gave up on myself and 1) allowed so many walk breaks and 2) cut the distance short. While these decisions were probably good for my overtaxed body, I can't help but hate myself a little bit for making them. When it is quitting, and when is it compromise?

We need to learn from our mistakes, of course, and I think I have. If I know early during a crucial run that things aren't going right, it might be best to change plans early and salvage the run as best I can. I need to adjust my running plan later in the week if the plan earlier in the week changed. I need to trust my instincts over the weather report. I need to plan my pace better from the beginning, and I need to stay hydrated.

Even knowing all these things logically, I'm still feeling moody and regretful today. This was not how I wanted my final long run before our Half to go. I'm actually not feeling like this will be detrimental to the race, and if anything it's given me a chance to see how I run in the sunlight for a long distance. But all those walk, those are what really get me. I always feel so worthless, like I've let myself down and allowed my mind to beat me back. I've been making such amazing progress, and it was like the little Negative Nancy in my head wanted to prove she still exists.

Alright; I get it. And I'm going to shake this off and redeem myself this week and kick butt on Sunday. And then I'm going to take some mental rest, because training is starting to eat my brain, and I think that's mostly what made me weak today. On any other day, in usual circumstances, I could have run through the funk. Today, my brain got the best of me. That's all there is to it. Time to move on.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Weekly Report: Oct. 29 - Nov. 4

This was quite the week. K and I were awake and on time to each of our runs. We did every distance we planned, including a tempo run that I wrote about here. On Saturday morning, we planned to do 13 miles. As we dropped off our water at the 4-mile and 8-mile checkpoints, K and I began having doubts. But we soldiered on.

It took about four miles to really warm up, and then I felt strong. We kept a steady, slow pace in the mid-10s for most of the miles. (We even had some sub-10s, which is great considering our long runs are never that fast!) Around mile 9, both K and I began to feel the mileage wearing on us, and by the last three miles both of us were struggling through intense knee pain. Still, we picked up the pace for the last mile in order to come in under 2:15. My Half goal is (publicly) 2:30 and (privately...but now publicly) 2:15, so it was good to meet that goal in training!

The run did so much for us. Not only do I now know that I can run 13 miles without stopping for more than a drink or two, but now I've destroyed my Half time by 45 minutes, and I'm feeling really confident for November 18. Of course, I'm also absolutely wrecked with nerves. I've never felt both so excited and so anxious for Thanksgiving Break!

Anyway, after the 13 miles I came home and decided to stay on my feet to ward off sore muscles. A batch of chocolate chip pancakes later, M and I were on our way across the state for a wedding. Three hours in the car left me surprisingly spry, and I was even able to wear heels! I only experienced any pain when I tried to jump during the Cha-Cha Slide, or when standing up from my seat. As of today, I'm virtually pain-free, but we took today off and I was happy for it.

So this week was mile-heavy and really, really strong after a couple of weeks that fell a bit short. Two weeks until the Half! Crunch time!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mind Games

I've been itching to write a post dedicated to the simple pleasure of the casual run - the kind where you didn't necessarily plan it ahead, and you're just blowing off steam - but this morning's run was just the opposite of that and quickly proved it deserved its own post. I suppose the other will wait for another day.

If I had to define what kind of racer I consider myself, I would say "cautious". I go into each race thinking, "I'll just keep my pace steady; I hope I meet [insert really easy goal here]." I don't have much swagger or confidence. I set my expectations low to avoid failure, a weakness in myself I've discussed a couple times.

I'm scared that if I push my pace, I'll burn out and end up limping my way to the finish, unable to even conjure up the energy to trot. So instead of setting a race pace that's really challenging, I actually try to ratchet down my speed during races. I know the adrenaline and the people all around will get me going, so I purposely try to counteract that by setting a slower pace.

But today's run - and Tuesday's, as well - have been working on my mind to lift this fear. Our Monday run left me feeling a bit tired, and I hadn't really given it my all, so I was happy to only do three miles Tuesday. But during those three miles, K and I ran at the same pace. She was doing a pace that was easy for her, and  in wanting to keep up with her, I reminded myself that this was a short run and therefore I could push myself and be okay. Her easy run is, for me, a challenge.

We finished those three miles in just over 28 minutes. My 5k time is usually mid-29s. So this means, of course, that I've been shortchanging my 5ks. I told M later that evening that I realized I could probably run a 5k in 28 minutes easily if I were just willing to be a little more uncomfortable for the duration of the run. Of course, letting people know of a goal like that means setting yourself up for embarrassment if you don't reach it, right? Well, maybe not, but it's certainly how my mind works.

Then we ran today. We did a 4.5 mile tempo run. I'd had in the back of my head K's latest blog post, wherein she mentions that the warmup mile we usually do was too slow for her these days. I kept this in mind as we ran this morning, doing our first mile together. (For those new to training runs, a tempo run gives you a warm-up mile and cool-down mile, and you run the middle distance at race pace.) That mile was around 9:28, which was faster than the race pace I did on the last tempo. Our run took us over the bridge and back today, so as I kicked up my speed for the middle 3+ miles, I had that moment of doubt.

K took off at her pace, and I followed diligently. Something in my mind seemed to click. This is "pounding the pavement". I am not going to die from this. I am going to run at a pace that feels uncomfortable until it's time to stop.

And I did. My second mile was 9:13 and my third was 8:56. This is including the bridge. The last mile came in at 9:11, and I took the last half mile in the 9:20s.

I finished this run thinking that I actually felt sore, a good kind of sore, and that I felt I had broken some barrier and proven to myself that the old dictum of running being mostly mental is so damn true! My tendency to slow down at the halfway point, my constant worrying and "checking in" with how I feel, my aggressively uncompetitive nature...these are all obstacles my brain has created to keep me from facing the pain of failure. (The most dangerous is that mid-run slowdown; I know it will destroy me in the Half if I give in to it.)

If you don't try your hardest, you can't be ashamed when you fail, because you can always say, "Oh, well, I didn't really try." How many times have I seen students working under this impression? How often have I told them that failing is how we learn, grow, and make progress? It's terrifying to take a risk, but the outcome is almost always worth it.

I don't think I'm "cured" of these mental hangups by any means. But I do think that these two speedy runs will be strongholds against that whispering doubt. And I know eventually that the doubt won't be able to break through, especially if I do it again and again, running at a faster pace, pushing myself harder, throwing fear of failure and discomfort and momentary pain to the wind. If I relive these runs in my head until the next run, and then the next, I will create stepping stones away from doubt and toward a new confidence.

It scares me to realize how truly desperate I am to feel confident in my runs, in my races. Because wanting to be good means I'm making myself vulnerable. I'm not talking about competing with others; I am fighting a battle with my own mind. I intend to win.

"The real purpose of running isn't to win a race; it's to test the limits of the human heart." -Bill Bowerman, Co-founder of Nike, Inc.