Inner Strength


Consider this a companion piece to my last post, Strength in Numbers.  In that post I wrote about the importance of group running to my training and how it can be a great way to push through tough times on a run.  Last night I pushed myself to find that same strength on my known, knowing that, especially in races, I’ll have to rely on myself to get through pain and fatigue.

Coach Sage Canaday had me scheduled for a 10 mile tempo run with a goal pace of 8:05-8:10.  While I’ve run this pace in the past, I couldn’t help but be a bit apprehensive about whether or not I’d be able to hit the target, and what it would mean about my fitness if I couldn’t.  I even described the workout to Rebecca as a “yikes” run.  The first major decision I had to make was whether I was going to do the run outside or on the treadmill.  Typically, I’ll do runs where a target pace is a big part of the plan on the treadmill because, well, it does the pacing for you.  You don’t need to worry whether you are going the right speed, the display tells you.  Moreover, it feels a lot easier to keep up with the machine than to be constantly pushing yourself forward on the road.  Finally, there’s the added benefit of the TV, which can be a nice distraction from the miles.  Against the treadmill, I had the option of starting off with the City Sports Back Bay Group Run and then going off on my own, which I thought would somewhat mimic a race environment.  With a forecast of temperatures approaching 70, it seemed downright criminal to spend 10 miles inside.  I made the decision to kick aside the treadmill crutch, at least for a night, and see what I could accomplish by myself on the roads.

After some hemming and hawing, I decided on doing two loops of the Charles River, starting on the Storrow path and crossing over the Mass Ave Bridge to Memorial, around the Museum of Science, and back again.  At least on the first loop, the path was jam packed with runners, walkers and families.  While this made for a few cramped moments, it was just great to see so many people out enjoying the weather.  I imagine many were firmly in taper mode leading up to Patriot’s Day.  My goal was to run at a controlled pace that didn’t leave me gasping and where I felt like I was pushing myself without overexerting.  On the Memorial side, a brisk headwind tested my resolve on both laps and I reminded myself that headwinds are one more reason to run outside and not on a treadmill, it simply provides a different experience, one I’ll no doubt encounter on race days.

I won’t take you through mile by mile of the run, suffice it to say that it was a truly fantastic workout.  Some days you feel like every step is a slog.  Some days you feel so lost in your head that you lose touch with the ground beneath you.  Yesterday was not one of those days.  Without music, without a buddy to talk to, I concentrated on each foot strike.  I thought about each stride and the strength of my legs carrying me towards my goal.  When I sensed I was flagging, I slightly increased my arm drive, propelling my legs in the process.  The route I’d run countless times felt fresh and new and there were times I felt like I was just flying along with a mind focused on one thing, maintaining.  That is not to say there were not times that self-doubt crept in, times I wanted to slow down.  When those times came, I asked myself if I really needed to slow down because I couldn’t maintain my pace or if I was just tired of pushing myself and wanted to quit. When I accepted that I really just wanted to quit and that the fatigue/pain wasn’t so bad I told myself “Nope, quitting is not an option here” and pushed on with a little extra oomph.  I’ll admit ego played a part as well as I wanted to pass as many other runners as I could without being passed.

The end result was a 7:48 average pace for the 10 miles of tempo running, a pace I’m frankly thrilled about.  Still, the pace is secondary to the fact that I proved to myself that I can run hard on my own, outside.  Crutchless.  I’m certain I haven’t done my last speedwork on a treadmill, but I’ll no longer feel like it’s the only way to get it done and when I toe the line for my next race I will be that much more confident in my ability to translate my training effort to race effort.

Run Happy.

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