It's hard to believe this is the last week before my goal race. My goal 10K is a week from tomorrow! After my awesome five-miler on Wednesday, I'm feeling pretty confident. I keep reminding myself that anything could happen, though, so I don't want to get overly confident. When I first started training, I felt like I had so much time to prepare. And now it's nearly here!
I was listening to Matt Fitzgerald on a podcast during my run this morning, and he was talking about "choking" during a race (figuratively, not literally). That is my biggest problem with racing! I tend to do really well during training, but then I choke at the race itself. Fitzgerald said that women especially will put so much pressure on themselves to hit a certain goal, and that pressure doesn't usually serve well for racing. I've been talking up this race for MONTHS, and I definitely feel a ton of pressure to hit my goal at the race (not from others, but from myself). My best races have all been where I didn't have a goal time, or where I just kind of let the race happen.
The first race where I set a very specific goal was the Big House Big Heart 10K in 2011. I was aiming for a PR of 55:04 or better (an 8:50 pace), and I trained hard all summer long. I followed Hal Higdon's training plan right to the letter, and I was determined to hit that PR! I was super nervous at the start, because I was feeling so much pressure to hit my goal. I just couldn't handle that last mile, and missed the PR by nine seconds.
I thought that taking the Garmin off would relieve the pressure to hit my pace, but I was wrong. To this day, I don't know what my splits were, and that drives me crazy ;) I wish I had some insight as to my pace during the race, but I ended up finishing in 26:57, nearly a full minute shy of my goal.
The most recent race with a time goal I was shooting for was at the Turkey Trot in 2014. I was hoping to hit a sub-55 time, and Nathan said he'd pace me. I ran my hardest, and if it weren't for Nathan, I'm sure I would have finished much slower than I did. He tried to push me at the end, because I was cutting it SO close, but at that point, I was so exhausted I just didn't care. I finished in 55:07.
Anyway, training for a particular race or aiming for a particular goal is disappointing when I don't reach it; but I really need to learn not to put so much pressure on myself. Of course I'm not going to PR every race! I think as long as I give it my best effort, then I can just be happy with the outcome no matter what. There are a ton of different factors that go into a "good" race or a "bad" race, and some of them have nothing to do with me (weather, for example). All I can do is run my best.
As far as my best races? I didn't feel pressured for any of them! My current 10K PR (2013) was a total fluke. I knew I'd probably PR the race (with 55:04 or better), and I guessed I'd finish somewhere between 52 and 53 minutes; but because I wasn't aiming for that, it really made no difference to me. I had actually forgotten that I was signed up for the race until a week beforehand. The stars aligned that day, and I ended up having a REALLY awesome race--finishing in 49:23! That race still blows my mind when I look back on it.
During the Ann Arbor Turkey Trot this last November, I went into it with the mindset of setting a new baseline of my fitness. I hadn't actually raced hard in a year, so I had no idea what my current pace was. I just told myself I would run my best, and it was what it was--I had no finish time or pace in mind. I ended up finishing in 27:00 (adjusted for course length; my official time was 26:14, but the course was short). I was pleasantly surprised, actually--I expected more along the 29:00-ish range.
|Nathan smoked me! Wearing a turkey costume.|
"It's nice to have a starting baseline of my current 5K pace. I have to take about 46 seconds off of my 5K pace and double the distance in order to PR my 10K... that's going to be extremely difficult! But honestly, I am really looking forward to the challenge. I'm going to put in all of my effort during training, and then even if I don't PR the 10K in April, I will know that at least I gave it my best shot."I really have enjoyed this training period. I've put in more effort than I ever have before during training, and it has paid off (I say this even before my race). I learned that I like doing short and fast speed work (one- or two-minute intervals) more than tempo runs (kill me now!); but tempo runs make me more confident in my abilities. I learned that I really enjoy long runs when I run very slowly, keeping my heart rate low. I learned that training slower on most days has helped me become much faster, despite feeling counterintuitive.
Looking back on the last four months, I can honestly say that I wouldn't change anything. I used trial and error to find out the best training for me, and I put in my best effort. I've improved my pace dramatically, and my confidence going into the 10K is fairly high. I keep imagining how exciting it would (will?) feel to cross the finish line having pulled off this goal that seemed impossible four months ago.
During the podcast I was listening to this morning, the host said something like, "...the training is the important part to focus on; the race itself is just the icing on the cake". And right now, that's pretty much how I feel. I put in all my effort to training for this ("baking the cake"), and a PR will definitely be some nice icing on said cake; but even without that icing, the cake is still there, just waiting to be iced. The hard part is over! ;)