Saturday, February 22, 2014

If you're going to be in, be all in

Since my return to running, I've enjoyed the fact that I'm running. No pressure, no specific time goals, just wanted to get back and run another marathon. My welcome back race done, I've been looking forward to a reunion race with fellow female West Point classmates in April, but without a time goal in mind.

Until this morning.

This week's mileage was one of the easy weeks; only 14 miles for my Saturday run, with 18 last week and my first of two 20 milers in front of me next week. It's been a pretty good week for my training - I've been on a reasonably steady plan of 1-2 days of speed work, 2-3 days of mid-mileage during the week, and focusing on learning to negative split my long runs on the weekends.

With a company holiday last Monday, I skipped the interval work and ran a couple of miles with Justin for the first time in... well, for the first time in forever. I can't even remember the last time he and I laced up together. It was short, but it was sunny, and we kept a nice pace for the run:
Tuesday I got on the trainer - I'm very much looking forward to warmer weather so that I can get back on my bike and back in the pool. For now, though, I set my bike up inside, had the added bonus this week of being able to watch some Olympic Nordic Combined during my ride, and gave my sore hamstring a break.

Wednesday was the best run I've had in a while - all four of us, my stalwart friends who've trained with me every step of the way since I returned to running - had an excellent run. My plan for the day was to run for time, not for distance. Those are sometimes my favorite runs because I feel less pressure for pace, and am able to just get into the flow of however I feel that day. Turns out, we all felt great on Wednesday:
Ten miles, steady pace, felt like I could run another 10 at the end.

Thursday was my weekly tempo run with my friend Andy. He's a crazy good runner - he was instrumental in my PR / BQ run at Houston last year, doing regular interval and speed work with me. My tempo runs tend to be his recovery pace, which works great for me - I huff and puff, he carries the conversation by himself. It was a pretty windy morning; we started out downhill with the wind at our backs. I'm officially declaring myself an expert at running downhill with a tail wind. Even when we turned around, though, I kept the tempo pace. First time I've done that this year - another great run this week, and a solid morale boost, too.
A rest day on Friday, then this morning's 14 miler. Another beautiful morning - tights and two shirts, no jacket, no mittens. I could breathe without my tongue freezing (yep, that's happened a few times this winter) and I didn't have to cover my cheeks in Aquaphor. My friends by my side, my new kicks on my feet, and I felt... great. Free. Strong.
Sometimes the best part of a run is the feeling when it's over, but this morning, I felt great the whole time. There were a couple of rest stops, but I don't think I would've needed them if it was race day. We talked here and there along the way, especially about the upcoming Garmin Marathon we've been kicking around as a race to run together. Andy is going to pace his wife, Shauna, my running twin and perfect running partner - her BQ time is 3:55, and I know she can do it.

We talked about the plan; I felt great; the sun shone down on us; I thought about my own BQ effort that fell just a little bit short. I thought about the injury I'd sustained and my lack of focus on anything other than getting back into the game. And I thought about just how hard it is to train to run a race that fast. A year older, my BQ time is now 3:45, and I've dismissed it as too difficult to achieve with the shape I'm in at the moment.

And then it hit me - that's an excuse. I'm afraid of trying and failing. The first time I set a BQ in my sights, I knew that it might not happen the first time. The second time. The third, fourth, fifth, or fiftieth time. I thought it might be a decades-long odyssey, a shiny object always out of my reach. When I achieved it on my first effort, it changed everything. It then became an expectation of myself, and running became more about the pace and the time instead of the joy of putting one foot in front of the other.

When it became about the pace and the time, I realized this morning, that's when I began making excuses for myself for not trying to BQ again. I know exactly how hard it is to train for that kind of race, and I knew I hadn't trained that hard. So I said things like "I'm just happy to be running" and "my goal is to just finish the race." Excuses; half truths.

When I'm in, I'm all in.

This is my official declaration - I'm going to try for another BQ time in my races this spring. I have Raleigh on April 13th, and most likely, Garmin on April 26th. I'm going to buckle down, do my speedwork, watch what I eat, lose a few pounds, drink more water, and get more sleep. I'm going to do the hard things that have to be done to put myself in a position to train for a 3:45. I may not achieve it in April, but that's okay. Because if I don't try, I've already missed out.

Life is too short for excuses, and it's too short to try next time. This is my time, and I'm all in to go all out.

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