Not a good weekend. Panic: I’m not ready for my race. Dismay: I haven’t gotten any faster. Frustration: Why haven’t I gotten any faster?!
Yesterday (Saturday) I went to North Park to run the Just a Short Run 5K course. I’m not familiar with North Park so I also wanted to check out where to park. The odds for a good run were stacked against me from the start. The night before, we had our first firepit of the year in our backyard, and I was up late celebrating. On Saturday I didn’t feel like doing anything, much less driving a half-hour to run a half-hour and then driving a half-hour back. But with the race just two weekends away, I had to.
I found the Boat House easily and parked there. When I started the run, it was so windy I felt like I was running into a wall. My plan was to start at a 9:30 pace and to increase each mile. I was able to keep to 9:30-9:40 when I started, but it felt very difficult–probably from being up late and drinking too much or the wind or a combination. I had printed out a map of the course and memorized the names of the roads to turn onto. When I turned onto McKinney Road, I was shocked. The course description of “gently rolling hills” failed to mention the steep, long hill that was McKinney. I was mentally unprepared for it, and it was so steep and so long that I was struggling to not walk, even though I was jogging at a snail’s pace. It destroyed me. By the time I got to the top, I was done. My pace was shot (average pace by then was about 10:30), I was done with the run, and I was considering not even running the race. I never recovered from that effort, and while I made up some time on the short, sweet downhill that felt so good after the climb, I wasn’t able to really push and run much faster the rest of the run. Then, I didn’t remember the course map exactly, so instead of turning to go back to the Boat House and the finish at the end, I continued on Pearce Mill Road up another long and steep climb. Midway up I glanced at my Garmin and saw the mileage was 3.33, so I knew I missed a turn. But I forced myself to finish the climb (cursing the whole time), took a brief walk break at the top, and then jogged the downhill to the parking lot. Mentally, the entire run I was panicked that I was so unprepared for the race. Stats: Time: 35:53; Distance: 3.52 miles; Pace: 10:11.
When I got into the car, I felt defeated. 10:11?! 10:11??? I got home and reviewed my old running logs. Last fall, while training for the 5-mile Turkey Trot, I was doing 5-mile training runs between 9:40 and 10:00 paces. My official stat from the Turkey Trot was a 9:58 pace…for 5 miles! I continued to flip back through my logs and found entries that made my heart sink.
August 2011…just three months after I started running for the first time in my life, when I was still struggling to run 30 minutes straight. There was the proof: I haven’t gotten any better, any faster.
It’s not because I haven’t tried. Since last fall when I decided I wanted to improve, I increased my run sessions from three days a week to four, added speed workouts, added long runs, and increased overall mileage. I’ve been following a training plan designed to run a faster 5K and have missed only one or two workouts, even through the polar vortex. So how can it be that I’m running a slower pace than I was just three months after I ever started running? I’m putting in the work but not seeing the results. Does that mean that I will always be a slow runner, that I’ll never be able to run much faster than about a 10-minute mile? I was so disgusted and upset that I considered just throwing in the towel and taking up Zumba and spinning instead of running. Why bother when it makes me feel like a failure?
I like running, so I’m not going to quit. But I do wonder if I should just run the way I like–long, slow runs–instead of even trying to work on speed. And even though I don’t have a chance at keeping a 9:30 pace for JASR in two weekends, I’m still going to run it. Next weekend I’ll do one last practice run and will try to think of a strategy. As much as I hate the thought, maybe I should just walk up that hill so that the effort doesn’t destroy me for the whole run. I’d probably walk faster than I can jog it, and my average pace might be better. I’ll have to see how next week’s run goes.
If anyone has any advice–Is it impossible for certain people to get faster? Should I not even try to work on speed? Should I resign myself to walking up the hill during the race to save my energy?–I’d love to hear it.
Today, Sunday, was the perfect weather running for me–cloudy and cool. It was my one-hour race simulation run, where the first 20 minutes were at an easy pace, second 20 minutes were moderate, and last 20 minutes were hard. Time: 1:00; Miles: 5.50; Pace: 10:55
- Monday: Rest and 60 minutes yin yoga, hip series
- Tuesday: 23 minutes core yoga | easy run: Time: 46:12; Distance: 4.23 miles; Pace: 10:56
- Wednesday: 30 minutes hip-release yoga | 25 minutes strength training
- Thursday: 25 minutes essential yoga for runners | speed workout: Time: 45:14; Distance: 4.20 miles
- Friday: 40 minutes strength training
- Saturday: Race practice run: Time: 35:53; Distance: 3.52 miles; Pace: 10:11
- Sunday: Race simulation run: Time: 1:00; Distance: 5.50; Pace: 10:55
Total weekly mileage: 17.45