Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lessons From the 10K

Every race I do, I learn a few lessons. I don’t always remember the lessons, but I do learn something at each event. Sometimes I relearn a prior lesson, perhaps in a slightly different way.

Having made the switch from primarily a very fast walker to a runner / walker over the past 14 months or so, I still have a ton of things to learn about pace, aerobic conditioning, and mental attitude while racing. These all came into play during the Monument Avenue 10K this past Saturday.

One lesson relearned is to believe I can. My coach said that he thought I could set a PR. I never really believed it, because I have only been training sporadically at best, and only for the past two months. As I raced, I came to a point where I believed the PR was out of reach, probably by five minutes, maybe more. I slacked off a bit. I walked when I was a little tired. I didn’t push. I took probably 90 seconds to switch tops while stopped along the side. I stopped a couple of times to drink so I would not slosh the fluid on myself. As it turned out, I missed a PR by about 2.5 minutes. If you consider that stripping off the shirt cost me at least half of that, the PR was in reach for me all the time if I had pushed harder. But I didn’t believe it. And so it didn’t happen.

Another lesson is how much more work I have to develop a sense of the right pace. I never know what my pace is. Am I going too fast? Too slow? That will come with lengthening my run intervals and from experience, I hope. And maybe some work on the “dreadmill”, where your speed is known. At some point in the future, maybe I will get a runner's GPS, but I am saving money for a bike right now.

A third key lesson is to not listen to mind games. I’ll have been running for a while, and this conversation ensues: Me: “Been running for a pretty long time, don’t you think?” Other me: “Well, yeah, guess so. So?” Me: “Aren’t you worried about getting too tired?” Other me: “Yeah, a little, now that you brought it up.” Me: “What if you get so tired you can’t even walk?” Other me: “OMG! That could happen, couldn’t it?” Me: “Sure could! At least I think so, even though it never has.” Other me: “Maybe I should stop running and walk for a while.” Me: “Excellent idea, because you don’t normally run this long. You are not a strong runner. You are not capable of running more than a mile or so at a time, and you are asking for serious trouble. I see trouble coming. I see exhaustion coming. You're gonna be screwed!” Other me: “Legs, stop running. Start walking. Now, before we drop! Now!!!!” So much of endurance is mental. I need to improve my running conditioning so that I don’t listen to mind games. So that if I want to run 2 or 3 or 5 miles at a time, I can.

A final lesson, relearned, is to enjoy the experience and not stress over the race time. I generally do that, although I do wish I had pushed it just a bit and gotten that PR that really was just within range. I tell people all the time who are worried about their time: “It’s not your time in the race, but your time at the race that counts.” I think those are actually pretty good words of wisdom, coming from me, and I need to remember them myself.


Karen said...

Wow, sounds like the voices in our heads could be related! I try to shut mine up with Gu. ;)

Racn4acure said...

I think they are cousins! Or drinking buddies!