Practicing Patience

I’m not a patient person.  So I guess it’s good that running gives me a lot of opportunities to practice it.  Yesterday was a prime example.  I’m not in racing shape right now.  I’m 4 weeks out from the marathon and have done mostly easy miles with a few tempo miles thrown in here and there.  Last week, I started regular strides again (usually 6 x 20 seconds at a comfortably fast pace, followed by 40 seconds easy).  So when I set out a “race plan” for my 10 miler yesterday, I figured a 3 mile warm up, 6 tempo miles, and 1 mile cool down would be a solid effort and also give me an indication about where I am fitness-wise.  A lot of my friends were doing this race, so I thought it’d be fun to just go, have a good time, get in a good workout and enjoy the day.

Things went mostly to plan although my warm up miles were probably a little faster than they needed to be: 8:09, 7:55, 7:45.  I often get caught up at the beginning of races and actually felt good that I didn’t start any faster.  Then I settled into my 6 tempo miles: 7:13, 7:10, 7:20, 7:04, 7:13, 7:23.  I decided not to carry a water bottle or take a gel since it was cool out and I’m trying to start being less dependent on both in training and racing.  I stopped, like actually stopped and drank gatorade during the two 7:20 miles.  I wanted to make sure I got down the whole cup without spilling it all over myself.  I’m kind of surprised I thought I would be able to slow down for the last mile of a race.  Even though I wasn’t “racing”, I don’t have the kind of personality to slowly jog it in.  I know this about myself.  I would’ve been better off planning to do a 3 mile warm up, 3 mile tempo, 1 mile easy, 3 mile tempo.  As it was, I ran the last mile in 7:05.  I felt good when I finished.  Legs felt strong, foot felt good, I felt like I put in a good effort without pushing myself outside of my current fitness zone.

As I was walking through the finish area, I looked at my splits and instead of feeling proud of myself, I felt frustrated and mad at my body for being so slow.  I had hoped to see a couple of 6:xx splits.  What?!  2.5 months ago I ran a half marathon in 1:50 (8:24 average).  1 month ago I ran a marathon in 3:31 (8:04 average).  Yesterday I ran a 10 miler in 1:14 (7:29 pace or 7:24 according to my Garmin because of my failure to run the tangents).  Isn’t that what every runner wants to see?  Progress?  Not just progress in terms of paces either.  I remember 2 years ago when I was running much higher mileage at must faster paces, that every day, I would get out of bed and just feel worn out and fragile.  Like I was one run away from my body breaking down and I knew subconsciously that I was on the road to an injury.  This time around, every month I feel a little stronger.  Instead of running 70+ miles a week, I’m running half that and doing a lot more strength, core, and flexibility work.  I’m actually really happy with where I am.  It’s only when I start to compare the current me with the old me that I feel discouraged.  My first 10 miles during the 2012 Richmond marathon were: 7:08, 7:13, 7:10, 7:09, 7:07, 7:13, 7:11, 7:13, 7:22, 7:10.  I ran a faster 10 miles during my marathon two years ago than I did during a 10 mile race yesterday.  My tempo miles now are what my marathon pace was.  It’s easy to get discouraged when I look at it like that.

But I know that I have it in me not just to get back to where I was but to be better.  The key for me now is not to do anything stupid.  By running workouts I have no business running.  By running mileage way too high for my legs to handle.  By letting my impatience to be faster derail the progress I’ve made.  My goal right now is to make it to the next start line healthy.  My next goal race is the Blue and Grey in December where I will likely be slower than I was 2 years ago but that’s okay.  I’m in it for the long haul.  And I know patience now will mean results later.

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