I am, always have, and probably always will be a little too hard on myself after a race.
The major problem I have is that, in my head, I have performed far better than my legs have physically carried me in reality, leading me to truly believe that I should be performing better than I have. While this kind of confidence is totally necessary for high-level running, it also can lead to cases of overly high expectations.
When I set my goals for this season, they were honestly pretty arbitrary.
My precise thought process:
I ran 1:14:03 at the Houston Half, which equates (via equiv. performance chart) to 55:33. I want to run under 55:00 because that sounds like a badass goal, would give me something to work hard towards, and I want to say that at the end of the summer I am better off than before my dumb non-injury injury.
Now, I want to clarify something. TODAY, after the race, I went back and looked at those half marathon splits. Technically (meaning, if you take my 15k split of 52:48 and add 3:57 based on the fact I maintained 5:39 pace for another 5k), I went through the 10 mile in 56:45. In my head, I misremembered this as 55:45, meaning I thought my 10 mile PR was a whole minute faster. Soooo maybe 55:00 wasn’t as realistic of a goal to begin with, because we all know that, 1: equivalent performance calculators aren’t the most accurate tools in the world, and 2: they tend to work better when you move up in distance, as opposed to move down (and, even then, they don’t work great for someone like me who has way more endurance than speed). So, point being: I chose an incredibly arbitrary goal that had zero rhyme or reason.
After the 20k, the biggest lesson I took away from that experience was that if I want to be in the race, I have to go out hard. My plan today was to put myself in the mix and see what would happen.
As a marathoner, I am used to running the first 5k conservatively and slowly working my way up. Going out hard and holding on is not exactly my strength, so that was a strong focus for me today as part of my race plan. I executed this perfectly. I was in the mix, rolling through the 1st mile in a surprisingly good feeling 5:16. Next mile was 5:28 (10:42), and then the hills began. From here, splits are a little all over the place, depending on if I was going up or down. I was 16:30ish through 3 miles, 21:57 through 4 (hey-o PR), 27:51 through 5 miles (another PR), and from there I stopped paying attention to splits. I wore a chrono watch instead of a GPS, and the only place on the course where digital clocks were available were at miles 1 and 5. My finishing time was 56:27, about 90 seconds slower than I had been hoping for (but a PR nonetheless, so my C goal was achieved!).
The second half of the course was where things started to fall apart for me. A couple women passed me and I simply struggled to cover their moves. I felt like I had a big surge with about 3 miles to go, once the men started to pass us (the men started 5:40 behind us). A couple things I noticed: I lost ground on the downhills, but gained on the uphills, and my lungs are in better shape than my legs. I felt like my legs were red-lining, but I was barely breathing. While this excites me for the marathon, it leads me to believe that I probably have some more speed work to do (maybe some more tempos?). Or, it means that a 5:16 is a little hot for the first mile of a 10 miler ;)
Afterwards, I will admit that I was irrationally disappointed that I hadn’t run faster. I really don’t think there is anything else I could have done. I *could have* started out more slowly, but I’m glad that I did not, because I like that I spent the first 5 miles trying to keep in contact with 10th place. While I ultimately lost some spots over the final few miles, I’m glad that I gave myself a fighting chance.
-I have improved every race I have run this summer/fall.
-In Houston, I ran 13.1 miles @ 5:39 pace on a pancake flat, ridiculously easy course. Here, I ran 10 miles @ 5:39 on hills.
-new PRs today through 4, 5, and 10 miles (probably all other distances, too, TBH, but I don’t keep track).
-I am ahead of where I was at this point last year. Besides the fact that my equiv. performance is a marathon PR, there is no way I would have been able to run 56:27 then.
-I finished in my seed position (15th), which is good, considering I was seeded at 55:33.
-I finished the season without injury and built back up to where I was in January. This is an awesome ending point for the season, and will be a great starting point in a short couple of weeks.
-Things did not go perfectly for me in the past few days. While I do not believe that it would have made a big difference had things been better, the fact of the matter is that I slept terribly, messed up my nutrition big time, and have been struggling with some back tightness. Thursday night, I only got 5 hours of sleep, and Friday night I only managed 5 again, due to bad (period-related) back spasms in the middle of the night. My back never felt like it returned to normal, and I only managed a mile shake out on Saturday before erring on the side of caution and calling it a day. My back was definitely still sore today. For dinner last night, I ordered mashed potato latkes, which were heaven on a plate. One problem: I forgot to ask about garlic. Turns out, the menu didn’t mention they were garlic-mashed potato latkes, which led to a majorly upset stomach. I’m calling this a positive because all three of these situations were less-than-ideal, and I dealt with them like a champ. None of it crossed my mind before or during the race.
-I want to be better than I am, plain and simple. When I work on mental game, I work on making myself believe that I have already achieved my goals, meaning that I approach the race as if I have already run that fast and can do it again. Sometimes it is hard to remember that this process takes time, and especially at shorter distances (remember that 10 miles is a sprint for me), you don’t make huge jumps overnight.
-I don’t like to set goals and not achieve them, even when the goals set forth have no real rhyme or reason behind them. As my college coach texted me today, “I don’t think you ever placed 15th in a Big East race, and now you’re placing 15th at a national championship” which is completely true. But, I mean, come on….is it too much to ask to run a crazy big PR every single time you race???? ;)
-While I know that I can’t control the thoughts/feelings of others, I’m a little bit disappointed that I didn’t have some crazy blow-it-out-of-the-water performance, because I know that people have been following my come-back season, and that watching athletes race well after injury gives other people hope when they hit similar setbacks. I feel (irrationally) bad that I wasn’t able to provide that.
A break. My body is beat up. I asked it to do A LOT this summer/fall, especially coming back after injury. I had toyed with the idea of a late fall/early winter marathon, but it’s not going to happen. I think if my season had gone another week longer, I probably would have broken down.
After that, I definitely want to run more races on the circuit next year, with the 15k being the first race in March. October to March is a long time to go without racing, so there will probably be something in between. Maybe the Houston half again?
Post race with teammate Steph Bruce who took home 10th today!