I don’t have a ton of training talk for this post, because nothing of particular importance happened last week. I got all of my planned runs in, about the same mileage as last week but spread over 3 days instead of 4. I cross-trained 1 day – a spin class at the gym – for a total of 4 workouts. I had planned to do 5, but ended up with an unplanned rest day. The 5th workout was going to be hot yoga so it wasn’t a huge deal to miss it.
Instead, I’m going to talk this week about my ongoing shift in mindset and coming to terms with my new running reality.
I’ve been in this Groundhog Day sort of mindset where I remind myself that I’m still coming back so I should expect to be rusty, but then I’ll still spend each workout bemoaning the fact that my paces are slow and how “humbling” it is, and rinse and repeat every workout. But this week, when I was on the treadmill doing 400m repeats at a pace that used to be only slightly faster than my half marathon race pace, my slower speed wasn’t humbling – it was just reality. Eventually you get tired of comparing to what you “should” be doing and start to accept things for what they are, however begrudgingly.
Looking at the big picture, there’s nothing lacking or out of ordinary about my running. I’m feeling fine, I’m running fine, everything is going fine – I’m just not as fast anymore. It happens. People get faster, people get slower. Things change, bodies change. Over the past few weeks my attitude toward this fact has gradually changed from resistance to acceptance. As long as my running is otherwise going well, maybe it will be more productive to turn my focus away from pace and onto something that I have more control over.
That’s not to say I won’t still make improvements, maybe even get back to the level I used to be at in time for the marathon this fall. I just need to come to terms with what I’ve lost. I’m not the same runner I was in 2016 and 2015. I run less and I weigh more, for starters. The sooner I can truly accept that, the sooner I can move on with my life and just enjoy my new pressure-free journey as it unfolds. Here’s what’s true: I’m trying. I’m getting out there, I’m logging the miles, I’m putting in the slow work of training, and for the first time in my running career I’m actually making an effort to train appropriately (aka, not racing my workouts and easy runs). All of that has to be enough for me. If it’s not enough for me now, it never will be.
I also came to a “stop and smell the roses” sort of realization lately that by focusing so much on comparisons to my past self and feeling embarrassed about my paces, I’m sabotaging my ability to enjoy this unfolding new chapter. I’m running again, I’m trying new training, I’m doing races, I’m building up my fitness. That can make for a fun and gratifying journey, if only I let it.
On a more upbeat note, with every week and every long run that goes by, I get a little more confident that I can run 13.1 miles and the Canyonlands Half won’t be a total meltdown. I’ve known since the day I signed up for this race in September that this wouldn’t be anywhere near a fast race for me; fitness level notwithstanding, I’m going to be spending the week leading up to the race hiking through national parks so I’m going to be running it on some pretty tired legs anyway. Plus, altitude. But I think I’ve done a good job managing my expectations so I can hopefully have a good, fun day no matter how fast or slow I am.
It helps that I honest-to-God have no idea what kind of finish time I can expect. And my past race times don’t really provide an accurate frame of reference for estimation: I’ve run most of my half marathons at a pace that isn’t much faster than my training, either because I was running them tired and slightly overtrained during a marathon build-up, or because it was in the off-season when I wasn’t formally training but was still in fairly decent shape. So I’ve never really approached this distance from the same position I’m in now: undertrained and fresh-legged, with no base but with a few years of running experience under my belt.
You know, it’s funny – I remember being so disappointed at those off-season finish times back then, but now I would be over the moon if I could run those times at Canyonlands next month. I actually get excited just thinking about it. My how things change, eh?
I also still have 4 more weeks of workouts to get in before the race, so I should be holding my breath on any finish time talk anyway. The one advantage of being back down at the bottom of the fitness mountain is that I have more room to grow again, and right now I’m at a point where a lot can happen in just a few weeks of consistent work. I can’t get too ambitious, but I can’t count myself out yet, either – just think of how many times runners have tune-up races that show them they are making more progress than they think they are. That’s why I’m sticking to my guns and making my only “goal” for this race to have a slow start and a fast, adrenaline-fueled finish, and ENJOY the scenery. That way, while it’s possible I might not like my finish time, at least I won’t have any “what-if”s or be disappointed in myself for not running a good race.
Oh, speaking of which – last week I briefly mentioned the Rock n Sole half marathon but didn’t go into much detail. So, yeah, I’m running another half marathon in June. I was originally planning to run the Wisconsin Half in early May, but for a number of reasons I just don’t want to, so I got my registration refunded (how nice of them to offer that through January!) and signed up for the local RnS half instead. The race is one week before I plan to start marathon training, so I look forward to using it as a celebration of making it through base building. I’m not sure I’ll be PR-ready, but I do plan to run it hard and hopefully get a good time as a way of closing one chapter and opening the next. Then I can use the following week to recover before Chicago training starts :-).
RnS is a race that I should hate. It’s expensive. It’s corporate and not run by a local company. It’s part of Summerfest which I don’t even like. But for some reason I just really enjoy this race. I’ve run it twice – last year I ran the quarter marathon and in 2014 I ran the half – and I enjoyed myself both times. It’s the biggest race in town (10,000 runners across 3 distances), and I like bigger races. Or maybe it’s the just the good memories and the familiar, mostly easy course, or that it has the feel of being an unofficial kick off to summer each year. Either way, looking forward!