When I was in younger, my track coach had us do a timed mile about once a month. He could use that time to gauge where not only if our fitness levels were improving but also just to get us in the mental game of racing. He learned a lot about our current psyche and if he had a little head-game strategy work (pep talk :) ). Most of the time, he could tell you beforehand how we'd perform just from the pre-run banter - or lack thereof.
I've been running pretty much non-stop since my college days but not until I got serious with my training and, in particular, marathon training, did I fit this timed mile back into my program. And like my premonition coach, I can almost tell how I will perform well before I step foot on the track. I sensed today's mile was not going to bode well.
Today was timed mile #2 post-Boston Marathon and pre-Portland Marathon. The first one went well (though hard, who enjoys running a full mile at full throttle?). I could have told you before I walked out my front door at 5:10a.m. that today's mile was not going to go well: I had written a blurb for Women's Health Magazine that was suppose to be on yesterday's newsstands but it didn't make the cut and alas, I was bummed. Typical...it happens frequently but this piece I invested a great deal of time and it was important to me. Anyway, my attitude when I hit the track this morning was sour.
I wish I had the mental strength to make myself hurt a little on the track to abate the hurt I was feeling inside. You know, a little physical self-inflicted pain to make the, "I'm a failure...." pain go away. I know I'm not a complete failure...but man, it's hard sometimes to pull yourself up. I had hoped a hard mile would do the trick. It did not.
Rob met me at the track for my 2nd timed mile. I so badly wanted to show him my article in the mag. So as soon as he arrived at 5:30, after I had done my one mile warm up and some stretching, tears were starting to form - I was so disappointed I didn't have the magazine I had told him I would. We talked a little and then all I wanted to do was get that mile done and on the books.
I decided not to wear my watch; I want to learn to "feel" my pace, be it easy, tempo, or excruciating intervals. I think this is kinda important so that you learn what your body feels rather than what the watch says. I decide to let Rob use the "thumb up" or "thumbs down" approach to tell me to pick up or slow down my pace. Not one of my smartest moves. My first 400, I was right on pace target (6:35 was the last recorded time. I had hoped to improve). But I felt I was pushing it too hard. I couldn't get in a groove. My mind was not focused. I was having problems breathing. The article was on my mind. My PR in Portland was on my mind. You name it, it entered my head and I couldn't get into a comfortable pace. Second 400, I got a thumbs up -- meaning I needed to pick up the pace. I lost it. I was hurting so bad and I knew I couldn't push it harder for two more laps. So I quit. I just stopped and quit. Done. I've never quit. Never.
I don't know what possessed me to stop other than I just couldn't get into it and I wanted to quit rather than the watch read a number higher than 6:35. Some days we just don't have what it takes and today was one...but I felt it more beneficial for my fragile mind to just stop without a number than that number be higher than I wanted it to be. I ran another 800 at just a slighter better pace..but I know I cannot combine the two 800's for a timed mile. I just did it because I wanted to. I felt I needed to.
I feel really bad that I wasted Rob's hour this morning.... but just maybe he's actually "seeing" the anguish I face instead of hearing about it for two years. A visual display is worth a lot more than a written one, no matter how well written. Still, I am sorry he had to get up so early for this.
I am headed out of town this weekend to run the Park City Marathon with a group I've been working with. I will not race it, I will just run it for training for Portland. I have no problem running 26+ miles for a long training run, I actually prefer it. Pre-Boston, I got my longest run up to 30. I have a lot of mental problems running, as you can tell, and I've just always believed that if I (and I'm only talking what works for ME here) can run longer then the upcoming race distance, then I have an advantage mentally believing I CAN run 26 miles because I've already done it. As long as I run it slow. Anyway, upon my return, I plan to get back out there on the track, article out of my mind, head on straight, and knock off that timed mile once and for all!! Most of my day I had a feeling of "failure" for not at least finishing what I started....but as the day has progressed, I started feeling that sometimes, I need days like this so maybe I don't take good running days for granted and get lazy. But really what I think what today did was teach me how to be a little bit stronger in the upcoming marathon mental game. If the marathon were easy, I wouldn't be doing it.
Today was a success even though I failed.
Oh, and here's a little sideline pick-me-up note: I was at the grocery store today checking out and the clerk (male) said, "Are you a dancer?" Perplexed, I just looked at him and muttered, "Huh?" He proceeded to tell me that he couldn't help but notice my muscle tone and that I looked "stunningly athletic." Hum...not words I'd choose but okay, I'll take it. I'm not sure if he was trying to pick me up or just being overly friendly (ha), I can't tell the difference between that stuff anymore, but when I told him that no, I was not a dancer but rather a runner, he was noticably impressed, asking me a million running related questions. Yeah, nothing like a little ego boosting admiration to pump some fuel back into the running tank! Thanks Mr. King Soopers check out man!