Thursday, October 16, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Army Ten Miler

A patriotic shot from the Army Ten Miler.
When was the last time I had a good race? It’s seems like I’ve run race after race that has fallen far short of my goals. Through these disappointing and frustrating months, I’ve wondered if I lost some of my old grit and determination. The going gets tough, and I give up. Mid-race, I drown myself in thoughts of not being able to keep up, that this is crazy, that I’ll never be the runner I want to be. And sure enough, I race poorly and retroactively make excuses: it was too hot, too humid, I was dehydrated/sick/low on iron. I needed to stop giving up on myself. But first I needed a reason to believe that I shouldn’t.

Soon after Philly—one of my Worst Races Ever—I felt better. I did a tempo run and actually hit my goal pace, for possibly the first time in the history of RunnerTeal tempos. I felt like I had more pop in my legs at track practice. A marathon pace run was faster than ever before. I felt…. great.

But would I be able to translate this into a race? I haven’t in so long. I felt great in the spring, but Boston was a disappointment. I had to race well for once, to prove to myself I could.

And so I made a plan for the Army Ten Miler. It’s simple. Silly even. No Negative Self Talk. Anytime I thought I couldn’t do this, couldn’t keep this pace, couldn’t keep running, I would just bat it away. Bury that thought somewhere else. Because most of the time when you think that, you are still doing it: still running, still keeping the pace. Often, it’s only after you tell yourself you can’t that it becomes true.

The more literal (and perhaps less lofty) plan was to go out at 6:05 pace. That would be a big PR and seemed intimidating, but given my string of good workouts I tried to stay confident. The optimistic side of me thought if I made it through five miles at 6:05, I might even be able to pick it up. The pessimistic side of me was told to shut the hell up.

My pace in the early miles was a little erratic. My first mile was slightly too slow, the next too fast, then too slow, then too fast. There were some slight inclines and declines, so I blamed that. I relied heavily on my No Negative Self Talk strategy. I didn’t berate myself for a fast mile or a slow one.

No Negative Self Talk was simple, actually, and surprisingly not as impossible as I thought it might be. (Clearly, I was having a good race, but the cause and effect is perhaps debatable.) Whenever I had a negative thought I just ignored it. Thought about something else. Focused on my breathing, on my stride, on relaxing. Told myself I could keep up this pace, because I was so far, so shut up, Pessimistic Teal.

By five miles I was slightly ahead of 6:05 pace and feeling good. Great, let’s keep it rolling and see what happens. I had long ago given up on my early season hope of sub-60, but now I wondered: how close could I get?

So I continued to bat away any negative thoughts and take it one mile at a time. When I saw they had a marker for the 10K, I thought, “You know, this is probably a 10K PR.” The clock flashed 37 something, and, sure enough, it was. (My previous PR was 38:05.) One PR down, one to go.

The endless bridge.
Soon after the 10k, the course turns onto an endless bridge/highway. You’re on the thing for nearly two miles. I was still feeling good by the start of it, but at the end, as the highway rises slightly, I had had enough. I wanted to be done with the bridge and the race. This is when it got harder to bat away the negativity. I can’t claim I was pure positivity in the last few miles, but most importantly, I did not give up on myself.

Trying to will positivity into my legs.
We looped around some more on the other side of the bridge, and once again I had no clue where the finish line was. I heard them announcing other runners, cheering for the people squeezing in under an hour, and still I could not see the finish. I just tried to push, push, push (no negativity!), to get as close to 60 flat as possible.

My official time was 60:19, the second new PR of the day. (My average pace was also faster than my 5K PR pace; I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I hate am terrible at 5Ks.)
Eyes closed, but legs pushing.
Do I wish I could have run 19 seconds faster? Sure, who wouldn’t? But I honestly don’t know where those 19 seconds would have come from. I did not have the confidence to go out any faster than I did, and picking it up significantly in the last two or three miles didn’t seem possible. I always start off the season with really ambitious goals, but this time they’re not so far from my grasp. (Which is good, because I've got plenty more for this season!) Mostly, I feel rejuvenated. This was the first race in a long time where I didn’t give up and decide I couldn’t do it. So sub-60 be damned, I’m pretty satisfied with my new PR.

And my new strategy. Think positive, people.

(Also, don’t give up. That race in Philly was completely awful, but the workout it became helped me later. Never give up, even on the really terrible days.)

Dream big,

1 comment :

  1. Teal,

    This is Chris Sloane-Beth Young and some of the GRC team knows me. I have enjoyed following your blog for quite some time. I'm really happy you had a great race-congratulations. I can completely relate to your post-sometimes those races that don't go well or go as planned, are a shadow of the light that will happen later on. It's the consistent training and PERSISTENCE that enables you to break down these walls. Sometimes, I think the races I "fail" in(I just dropped out of Chicago this weekend), toughen me up the most. Stay tough, and keep at it. I have the same goals as you. I'm a big believer in that consistent training and racing will get you to the level you know you can get to. Good and bad races get you tough. But as long as you keep running, keep training, you will progress. My blog is I'm happy if my experiences(ups and downs) can be of any help to you. Keep fighting for the trials, you'll get there. It's what I tell myself every day. Hope to meet you at a race sometime.