Remember that big, scary goal I wrote about a while back? The one I was over-the-moon ecstatic and horrified to starting working toward?
Right. Well, in case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t done a lot of talking about how the steps toward that goal are going. This is partially because I haven’t had any time. Between working, running, relaying, traveling, and the life in between, my blog-updating time is limited and I’ve had to focus on the current happenings rather than the far-out goals.
So here’s an update on the 1:35:xx half-marathon goal I’m pining for before the end of this year:
I’m not feeling great about it.
It’s not that I don’t want it, and it’s not that I don’t think there’s potential in it. But the commitment and enthusiasm I felt when I initially began this scary endeavor hasn’t really been there recently, and frankly…I’m not surprised.
I don’t think I gave the magnitude of two ultra relays in the same month the credit I should have from the onset. They both required a lot of slow and long miles to prepare for, a week of taper beforehand, and a week of recovery afterward. I suppose I felt like the relays would simply “fit into” my training for my goal half. Instead, it became the other way around; I was trying to fit half-marathon training into preparation and participation in two ultra relays. And let me just tell you…the training regimens for each don’t necessarily fit together.
It’s the same reason why it’s really hard to focus a lot of attention on speed work during the peak weeks of marathon training. You can try and bust out a few tempo miles, but ultimately it’s the mileage count that reigns supreme, and we must abide by the desires of our already fatigued legs.
With that said, after a weekend of running over 35 miles in 24 hours, my legs were not going to be okay with 800 repeats, or goal paces, or anything other than a humble jog for that matter. And that happened to me twice.
Ultimately, I was more concerned with recovering adequately from the relays than checking off every half-marathon specific work out. And IMHO, this was definitely the right way to go. Sure, long term I probably care more about increasing my speed and my half-marathon PR than I do about relays. However, I definitely care more about running injury free above anything else—so it was in the end a matter of maintaining health.
The other part of this whole training-not-training deal (the part I’m more embarrassed to admit) is that the paces are ridiculously intimidating. It feels like I’ve just become mostly-comfortable with the idea of a 7:30 half-marathon pace (my old PR), and all of a sudden I’m supposed to be working on a 7:15. Those numbers, “7-1-5,” have kind of been haunting me, and it’s become obvious that I need to not only up my mental game, but I need to practice this pace to the point where it’s a little less daunting.
With that said, I have been practicing! What’s funny is that I “wrote” this post (in my head, on an easy run) on Monday , and then yesterdays run kind of changed my perspective on the whole “lack of confidence” theme. Which subsequently changed the ending of this post…as you’ll see below.
For me, tempo workouts at goal pace are my favorite way to gain some confidence about a goal race. Before Eugene, I practiced the feel of 8:00 miles so much that I guarantee I could have done them without a watch. So for Bellingham (the next half-marathon on the horizon), I’ve been playing with 7:15. Not a lot, but just enough to where my lungs and legs can start to know how it feels.
On Wednesday, however, it was time to step it up: I set out for 5 tempo miles, sandwiched between a warm-up and a cool down. The goal of those miles was to simulate a race plan (start slower, finish faster) and mimic the pace I would ideally hold for a 1:35:xx finish. I was nervous, I was unsure, but it had to be done:
Here are the results:
I’m not calling it a game changer, but that one workout gave my self-doubt-filled brain a jolt of inspiration. Maybe, it turns out, this goal isn’t too far-fetched. It might take a little more time and more races than just Bellingham (9/29), but I’m starting to feel a little more like that giddy, speed-hungry girl from a few months ago.
And yes, it really only took one workout. I can’t explain it, but yesterday—those paces that have felt way too fast and way beyond my capabilities felt a little more like mine. Instead of thinking those paces belonged to more experienced, faster runners that weren’t me—I felt like maybe I’m a little more entitled to them than I previously thought.
The goal now is going to be to really embrace that “ownership,” and I know I might need to be patient. From the onset, I had it in my head that Bellingham was going to the *the* race to make that 1:35:xx happen. There’s still a chance, but instead of putting all my eggs in that basket, I’m going to work more toward really getting stronger and more comfortable at those paces than just gutting them out for one race. The ultimate goal is to improve my speed overall, that’s what my goal was for this fall, and while a half-marathon PR is a good tangible step during that process, it’s not the end-all finish line.
The reason I’m not running a fall marathon this year is two-fold: one, I’ve run a marathon during the past four racing seasons, and I want to stave off burnout while resting my legs for a (potential) Boston Marathon run next spring. The second part, however, is to focus less on mileage and focus more on speed. So far, that hasn’t necessarily been the case considering the distance I had to put in for the ultra relays. And that’s fine! I had such a fun time at those relays, and I feel so fortunate I was able to participate in them.
However, it’s time to get back to work. Kind of like school starting again, it’s time to get a little more regimented if I want to get serious about improving my speed. It was hard to say no to a fall marathon this year, even though I knew it would ultimately keep me healthier and keep me moving toward my goal of getting faster.
That said, I don’t want to waste this opportunity. I’m a big believer that our comfort zones are meant to be broken, and our limits are supposed to be tested, and it’s time to practice what I preach.
Fall is here folks, and it’s time for this birdie to put on some big girl wings.