Browsed by
Tag: speedwork

That moment with yourself

That moment with yourself

Obviously, folks of all different body shapes and sizes, speed, and endurance levels run and proudly wear the “runner” badge. I don’t necessarily think there’s one “look” of a runner, unless we’re talking about the pros whose livelihoods depend upon their running careers, but for the rest of us minions, the gamut is wide and plentiful. One thing that we all have in common, though, pros and minions alike, is our stubbornness type-A -ness bullheadedness determination to realize our goals, and our mini-goals, and our mini-mini-goals, maybe to a fault.

What do you do, then, when you’re fairly certain that said goals aren’t going to come to fruition when you want them to, like during a particular workout (low stakes) or, god forbid, during a race (anytime but that!?)

My inspiration for writing came from my workout yesterday, 9 miles with 8x800m with 2 minute recovery. I really enjoy track-style speedwork, probably more than any other type of run (with the exception of the long run… maybe. big maybe on that), and 800s are no joke. The workout is nice and tiring, it goes by really quickly, and its challenge constantly deceives me because I tend to come to the workout thinking, oh, it’s only _ miles total, even with some breaks. NBD.

Yesterday’s 800s were the first I had done since early July, when I had done 4, on a whim, and before I began training for my Chicago/NYC double; before then, I hadn’t done 800s, or this many of them, since the throes of my Eugene training, when it was about 8 degrees outside and windy as all get-out (thank you, winter in Chicago). To the best of my recollection, I believe yesterday’s 800s were also my one and only batch–if not the first since my high school track days–that I produced on an actual track, instead of the lakefront path.

Thanks, Google and the Chicago Park District, for the picture. Unfortunately, the track is a bit more beat-up than this picture lets on, but it's still pretty sweet to have a track accessible downtown.
Thanks, Google and the Chicago Park District, for the picture. Unfortunately, the track is a bit more beat-up than this picture lets on, but it’s still pretty sweet to have a track accessible downtown.

I wasn’t totally sure of my goals for the 800s, in no small part because I’m still not totally sure of my goals for Chicago/NYC. (Ed. note: start thinking about this). I thought I’d “do the best I can” and try to hit a 3:10-3:15 range, even though I’m *pretty sure* I won’t be aiming for that range in the fall, but hey, who doesn’t like a challenge, right? And, returning to my earlier point about runners being stupid determined to hit our goals for each run’s purpose, I didn’t *really* want to adjust my expectations, based on the heat (about 83-85 degrees) and humidity (50%+), even though I knew I should.

After my first four sets, wherein my times dropped, instead of remaining consistent (3:11, 3:15, 3:17, 3:20), my head started going for a tailspin. In a matter of 20 minutes, I went from this is going to be the best workout ever! I love running! I could do this forever! Rainbows! Unicorns! Children smiling! to Fuck this. I should stop. Seriously, Erin, just stop. No one will notice, know, or care. At the rate you’re going, you’ll be producing 4:xx in a couple repeats. Looks like Chicago’s gonna blow again this year. Looks like you’re on your way out with marathoning. Twenty minutes–that’s all it took.

Once I realized that the mental garbage was damn near sabotaging my run–and one that I really wanted to do well, because I really wanted some feedback–I became that person who talks to herself to get her to her happy place.

Yup; I had no choice.

My recoveries, which went from 100% jogs to walks and walk/jog mixes–which, again, I had to tell myself that I wasn’t “copping out” by letting myself walk to get my heart rate down (see earlier note about the weather)–went from me focusing not only on getting ready for my next two loops around the track, and getting my legs ready to roll, to mentally pscyhing myself out. What I told myself, what I had to tell myself, was the same stuff that I’ll tell my ~2.5 year-old daughter when she’s being a rascal: c’mon. Just try it. You’ll be fine. You can do this. Don’t worry. Just do it. You’re fine. You’re safe. I promise.

My head was in a dark and lonely place there in the hot and humid afternoon sun, and I knew that I would be beyond pissed at myself if I didn’t finish the workout, even if it blew and the rest of the repeats worsened even more.

And would you know… it worked.

Somewhere during my final four sets, I told myself (this time, mentally) that I had read somewhere a couple interesting things: 1) that smiling relaxes your whole body, and 2) don’t think of this run as something I “have to” do; this is most definitely something I “get to” do. I’m not sure of the validity of point one, but regardless, I periodically tried to smile during my final four 800s, which I’m sure made me look like a fool, but I think it worked.

It’s hard to have really negative and horrible thoughts coursing through your mind when you’re grinning like the Cheshire cat.

wouldn't be surprised if I also had the crazy eyes, too
wouldn’t be surprised if I had the crazy eyes, too

Reminding myself that chasing my running unicorns is something that I get to, not have to, do always, always, always knocks me squarely on my ass. I get so caught-up in my aforementioned unicorn pursuit that I periodically forget that there are larger things people deal with (myself included) day in and day out and that TONS of people would love to even have the opportunity to worry about their half-mile repeat times for an hour out of their day, instead of their typical anxiety-and-panic-inducing-fare.

The mental pep talks worked, and I brought the final four home in 3:13, 3:13, 3:16, and 3:13 (almost metronomic there… so close! damn). Compared to the last time I ran 8 800s, yesterday’s were nearly 3 seconds faster, on average. I finished feeling accomplished and also hugely grateful and happy that I was able to do this workout at all (see: earlier note about humility) and in a remarkably better mental place. Truth be told, I haven’t had an extremely mentally-trying workout (that I can recall) in this training cycle yet, so I’m glad I had this. They can suck, but they matter.

It’s these moments that we have with ourselves, that, as runners, we have to have with ourselves, that both show us and teach us that we’re capable of more than we know… even if it takes some self pep-talks that make us look a little strange.


NYC marathon

What say you? What was your last workout where you had to have a moment with yourself? What’d you do, and did it work?

Bring it

Bring it

In my previous post, the one that apparently took me the entire summer to write, I quickly stated that I wasn’t sure what my NYC plans were–what magic I wanted to run for my marathon #18, and on my birthday, no less–but I think I finally got the motivation I needed to a) be real with myself, b) admit aloud what I’ve been marinating over for several months and c) just say f-it and go balls to the walls.

My plan? Have nearly as good a race in NYC as I did in April, and go for a 3:35-3:40.

My training has been strong, my speedwork solid, my races good, and right now anyway, the weather looks favorable.  It appears that I’ll be missing Frankenstorm, though I might get rained on a lil on marathon Sunday.

As you might recall, April’s Christie Clinic Marathon brought me a 3:34, a new PR (by about three minutes, one that apparently took four years and a pregnancy to shatter), as well as my fifth BQ.  Urbana-Champaign was a relatively flat course, with just some periodic rollers, so it was leaps and bounds different from what I’ll be experiencing in NYC… or so I’ve been told.

My thinking for shooting for a 3:35-3:40 in NYC is that lowballing myself a lil will prepare me to really go after that which I’m seeking most in 2013… and this is what I’ve grappled with admitting for a while.

I’m gonna break 3:30 in 2013. 

Perhaps in Houston in January.

Or maybe at Eugene in April.

Possibly at an as-yet-to-be-decided fall marthon.

But it’s gonna happen.

Any reasonable predictors (technological or personnel, haha) say that I’m capable of it.

I’m ready to see it through, and NYC–a hard course, with a ton of people, with conditions that will probably be more stressful to me than any other course I’ve run in a while–will be a good stepping-stone to it.

What initially get me fired up about this was Matt’s post over at NoMeatAthlete, basically about how if we don’t balls-up (excuse the crude and vulgar language; it’s mine, not his) and really go after what we’re shooting for– really, in a word, to make ourselves vulnerable by telling ourselves AND OTHERS what we want to achieve– we’re shortchanging ourselves and in a way, setting ourselves up for failure.

For whatever reasons that I don’t entirely know or understand right now, Matt’s post really resonated with me.

Perhaps because I wrote about something similar, back in 2010, just a few weeks shy of my third Chicago marathon–the one I ran 10-12 weeks pregnant–when I was still hedging a bit about finally trying to go for 3:35.

In fact, after reading Matt’s post, I arrived home from teaching and put it all out there for my final speedwork session prior to NYC: 10×800 (with an average split of about a 3:23, if memory serves).

And later that night, when I decided to admit to C what I was thinking, he gave me hell because he said it was like I was delivering a sermon or a motivational speech because of how fired up (yet intentional) I was with my delivery.

I’ll post a pre- and post-race vlog on my YT channel, so check it out in the days immediately preceding and after the marathon because chances are, it’ll take me a while to write a decent recap.

Good things are yet to come.  Better things, I should say.