On Expectations

You know what I like the most about Saturday mornings? PDRs.

I hit six miles for the first time ever this morning. I’m in the midst of a wow-that-was-a-perfect-run streak, and I’m loving it. I never thought six miles (or running for over an hour) would feel not death-inducing, but so far so good. Wednesday’s run was also one of the best runs I’ve ever had. Both of these runs have been the first time I’ve ever really locked into a pace. I’ve heard distance runners talk about this all the time–how after you get past the second or third mile you fall into your pace and just go. When your goal is simply to finish without walking, this is a beautiful thing. Especially on today’s run, it seemed like I didn’t have any control over my legs after the first mile. They knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing and just took me on a wonderful ride.

Today’s run was really important because it was the first time I’ve run a hilly course. My normal runs are, more or less, flat as a pancake.

Ignore the spikes -- that's just where my Garmin gets confused. I'm not actually sprinting up and down mountains.

Today’s six-miler was quite different.

Since the 10K I’m running will not be nearly as flat as most of my training runs, it was great to get a run in on hills. It was also great to see that the hills did not make my run nearly as difficult as I expected it to be. That makes me feel a lot better about my race.

Monday, however, was not good. I had my second five-miler on Monday, and it was generally miserable, especially at the end. I was hot, hungry, and so, so tired by the time I hit 3.5 miles that the remaining 1.5 miles felt longer than the previous 3.5. (On the bright side, it led to a whole lot of positive self-talk, because the only way I was going to make it to the end of my five miles was by encouraging myself. It was still stinkin’ hard, but at least my head was on my side.)

I was not particularly happy with my time after Monday’s run, either. I started off fast by my standards with a 9:41 mile. My last mile, however, was an 11:42 disappointment. Even though I am just running to finish, I couldn’t help but be pretty frustrated with that time.

During my track workout on Tuesday, I did some pondering over Monday’s run. Tuesday was my second track workout, and I noticed that it wasn’t nearly as weird as my first track workout. See, I was always a sprinter back in my track days during middle school and high school. I’ve done mile runs on tracks during my lifetime, but by and large my experience running on tracks has been 400 meters or less (usually much, much less: the 100 or 4×100 were my favorite running events. I liked long jumping even more, and that involved running maybe 70 feet). You can’t really run 800 intervals like you run a 100 dash, though, and this was a hard thing for me to adjust to. I felt like such a slacker running and jogging on the track rather than sprinting. I had to change my expectations for myself on the track to make the workout work.

On Tuesday, I came to the same realization in regards to my other training runs. Running super slow miles last Saturday and Monday really brought me down because earlier in my training, I was turning in 9:45 miles at worst. While that (or much faster) may be a sustainable pace for me when I’m only going three miles, it’s not when I’m running five or six miles. Since I started running four milers and more, my pace has generally hovered around 10:30/mile. This is okay. My goal is not to win my 10K. My goal is not even to run it at the same pace that I’ve run my 5Ks. My goal is simply to finish without stopping. If that means running 10:30 miles for my first 10K, so be it. Changing my expectations and accepting my slower-than-molasses pace made a world of difference in my Wednesday and Saturday runs. It’s all about the mindset, people.

How do you deal with disappointing runs/workouts?
Unrelated, but any Easter plans?
 — My biggest plan is to eat all the chocolate I see, because man, it’s been a long 40 days. A post on that is forthcoming :) But I’m also very excited for church, because Easter is one of my favorite church year holidays. 

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