The good thing with me is that I am reliable. It means that, when I said that I would post about my race, I will. It may just take two years… by which point nobody cares, if ever they had in the first place. It also means that, if I share my training plans with you and swear it is fool-proof, you can be sure it has been tried and tested, and it works. I am also opinionated, so when training for a PW, will stick to it, no matter how hard, no matter what it takes. So without further due (and only a week late), here goes the PW report.
Since I wanted to make sure I would not screw my attempt at a PW (you never do, the opportunity may not arise again any time soon), my pre-10K race week went something like this:
On Saturday, despite feeling already very flu-ish and immensely, IMMENSELY tired, signed up for the race. I was in town, getting a birthday present in the local running shop for a friend recently hooked on running. I had been hesitating for the last two weeks, but there, with the entry form on the check-out counter, I just could not resist: being there was a sign I had to (pun intended) sign up. Yes I was ill, yes I had probably slept the grand total 40 hours in three weeks. And for those already getting their calculator out, yes, that’s an average of 2 hours an night, and yes again, it is probably not enough to be qualified as a healthy living). Oh, and yes I know, even I don’t always make smart moves.
On Sunday, went for a flat run by the lake, trying to convince myself that sweating through it was the best way to get rid of my cold. Pace was OK but run confirmed what I suspected: kilometers are longer when ill. Oh, and in case that was not unfair enough, minutes are made up of more than 60 seconds, too.
On Monday and Tuesday, as a result of feeling too weak, no runs. And just in case that may have helped me to recover slightly before race day, I started my first “real” week of work as a freelancer (real as in : seriously-at-my-desk- with-my-computer-and-a-cup-of-coffee, instead of breastfeeding-with-my-daughter-on-one-knee-and-my-laptop-on-the-other), which meant even less sleep.
On Wednesday, I was supposed to go for a run with a local running club, something I had been thinking about doing for the last 4.5 years. Instead, ended up at home with a husband back from work early with migraine and had to deal with an incapacitated husband, two kids still too young to understand that when that’s the case, a quiet environment is requested, and my own frustrated self (admittedly by far the toughest of the four to deal with).
On Thursday, describing how I felt by saying “a bit low on energy” would have been a massive understatement, but I did feel compelled to go for a short run anyhow. Ended up running 40 minutes after the kids were put to bed, by the light of my headtorch. Ran at a reasonable pace but felt I did not have much left in me when I stopped. Since my (by then already revised) goal for that 10K was a sub-40min finish, was hoping that the adrenaline on D-Day would help me stick to a more sustained pace for the same amount of time on D-Day, no matter how ill and tired.
On Friday, since N°2 was at home with me, decided to take her for a run with me, and noticed that the Chariot’s weight had mysteriously (and significantly) increased since the last time I had used it, so heavy was it to push. Did 40 minutes anyway, but felt very tired.
On Saturday, swapped the 4 miles initially planned for that day for a “is there any point in doing that race tomorrow?” session, on the coach.
On Saturday night, N°1 slept through the night for the first time in 3 weeks. Very well then – except N°2 did not… for the first time in 4 months. She woke up at 3am, I did not.
And that’s where you get the good news.
At the start on Sunday morning, I lined up by the 40min sign, thinking I may just be able to finish a few seconds below the shameful 40s. As soon as the gun went off and I started running, I could tell this was going to be hard. I just had no energy to push. Nothing. Zip. Today, there was no way I could hold a sub 4:00 min/km for 10K, so I decided to stick to 4:00, a pace I can normally sustain (for a while at least) while training. After the KM4 marker however, it became clear than even 4:00 would be too ambitious.
At KM5, as planned, Husband was waiting for me with Kids N°1 and 2.
Clearly thinking that, like the leading runner (who, in passing, will finish in an honourable sub-00:30:00), his mum deserved a motorbike escort, Kid N°1 started riding next to me on his push bike. Scared he would be knocked over, I shouted to him he could not come with me, the result being he was in tears and could still hear him cry several dozen meters after I had passed them. Today was clearly going to be my day, proving my skills at being both (and simultaneously, no less) a crap runner and a bad mother.
From KM 6, I was running between 4:20-4:30, in other words, training pace, and there was no way I could go faster. It was actually a very weird feeling: it is not like my legs were hurting or my breath too short. No, I just had no energy in me, nothing at all to help me accelerate even a tiny bit, even if my mind definitely wanted to, even when I saw, from the corner of my eye, a girl about to overtake me less than 200m from the finish line.
Result : 00:43:24 –in bold so that those who came across this post only because they googled my name while trying to get confirmation I am an appalling runner will be spared the work of going though this (as usual rather) long post.
00:43:24 : pretty bad, hey, for somebody who had initially hopes for something close to 00:39:00, then thought it more realistic to lower her expectations to 00:40:00! It is so bad in fact that, had I indeed finished in 00:40:something, I may have been tempted not to write about it in the hope that nobody would notice, but 00:43:24 is just so far from my worst expectations that it is funny… in a somehow masochist and perverse way.
And there you are asking : so where the hell is the good news?
The goods news is that I survived the shame and am here to talk about it and say: have a really bad PW and sure, you’ll have to live in hiding for the rest of your life, but you won’t die.
The real good news is that, for the first time in my running life, and maybe even for (one of the) first times in my life-full-stop, I accepted a situation as it was, no matter how sub-optimal.
Yes, I was close to a physical wreck. Yes, I would not be able to perform like I normally should. Yes, I had all reasons to feel very sorry for myself that, for my first race in a long time, I would not be where I wanted to be. Oh, and did I mention how embarrassing it would be that somebody happens to goggle my name, tumble across my poor performance, and think that I am that slow a runner? A 40’ something 10K time for – gasp - the whole world to see?
Instead, on that Saturday night, I was feeling (kind of) OK with the idea that this would not be the sub-40’ 10K I had expected. But since I had signed up (and paid for) it, I would just go, and at least get the t-shirt.
And in the end I did gain more than a t-shirt. By gain, I am not talking about prize money (since the female race record is 00:33:28, I am under no illusion it will never fall into my lap, even on a exceptionally good good day), but about benefiting from the crash course in accepting one is not always at the top of ones ability and conditions not always optimal. In a nutshell and as I was reminded recently by somebody who knows me well, we’re not (always) “living in the world of Care Bears”… and I better get on with it and start accepting that (admittedly distressing) fact.
Call me a masochist, but I actually felt good, mentally if not physically, last Sunday. I did not decide against going. I did not quit (my previous self would not have either, once decided to be on the start line, but may have walked when it became obvious my body was just not responding). I felt happy to have my two kids cheering me up on the side (even if my way to show gratitude was to make one cry). I focused on how I was going to finish, no matter how slowly, instead of on how hard it felt. And it was not like I see myself as a 10K runner, and this particular one was the key event of my season, was it? Indeed not, except I normally would have felt crushed anyhow.
Most of all, I focused on the fact I had chosen to be there. And I was there because I love running, and that this did not change only because I had a PW. I started the race determined not to let negative thoughts creep in, and, guess what, it worked!
I recently read “Born to run”, and if I had only one takeaway to remember from this book, it is about the relation between performance and enjoyment (well, Mc Dougall may have not formulated it this way, but that’s what I decided to remember from my reading). It definitely worked for me my best races so far (admittedly as somebody who does not race often), two trail races where I finished 1st and 3rd lady, were the ones I ran feeling happy to be there, and was able not to let negative thoughts settling in.
And there is, of course, the added bonus I got to run with my big boy for an additional kilometre, if not the fastest, at least the most fun of the day.
From here to saying my PW was actually a (mental) PB is a gap I am bridging… at sub-4:00 pace.