Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tempo trials

Pre-workout fuel: Slice of whole-wheat toast with Peanut Butter & Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams
Workout: Ran 8.02 miles in 1 hour, 10 minutes and 52 seconds; average pace, 8:50.

I needed this run. My legs needed this run. My confidence needed this run. My head needed this run.

And somehow, on some level, I feel like I failed on all accounts.


I found myself a week ahead on the Runner's World sub-2:00 plan, and the details of a tempo/"quality" workout were going to be my responsibility. I decided that I wanted to do 8 miles with 6 miles at "tempo," with the tempo miles starting at a 9:00/mile pace and progressively getting faster so that last mile was about 8:30.

I set out about 6:30 a.m., and the air was crisp and the sky black. It felt good to feel alone, to feel my legs beneath my feet. I kept the pace reserved, comfortable and just let myself focus on breathing.

By the time I hit the mile mark, I started to wonder whether the Garmin was once again being attacked by gremlins. I struggled to keep an eye pace and my body gauge was so off. I thought I was going at a good clip and then the first tempo mile ticked off at 9:03.


"Mile 2," I thought to myself. "Let's get this around 8:52. 8:55."

I wanted to see those numbers on the display so I'd surge and pull back. Surge and pull back. Not what I was wanting to do. I wanted an even effort with gradual, steady improvement in pace.

Tempo mile No. 2 -- 8:50. No. 3? 8:53 -- too slow. No. 4 -- 8:40 ... too fast.

By this time, I was just frustrated. I felt tired, lost (mentally, that is) and wondering what the hell I was thinking when I set the goal of a sub-2:00 half marathon. Here I am. Struggling. Struggling at 5 miles. How am I going to do this for 13.1 miles?

When this negative self talk surfaces, I like to tell myself to shut up. Shut. The. Eff. Up. And get it together.

So I went. I pushed. I blocked everything else out. I tried to salvage what seemed like such a good plan gone wrong.

Tempo mile 5 -- 8:14.

S$%*! I wanted to negative split. How I'm going to run my seventh mile under 8:14?

I run like hell. Up a hill. Out of breath. Dodging a middle-schooler who left something in her mom's car. I remind myself that it's almost over. In 8:12, it is.

All that was left was a casual run home to cool down. And far too many thoughts. Many of which involved the word failure. While I got in the mileage and, for the most part, negative split the run, it wasn't easy-breezy, controlled and well paced. It was hard. It was uneven. It was salvaged (as opposed to executed). It was none of the things I want for race day.

I know it's easy for us all to be hard on ourselves especially if, personally, our head is not in the right place. It doesn't do us any good. Getting frustrated in the beginning only messed with my pacing, further exacerbating my mood and my pacing again. It's important that we remember there are bad runs. And good ones, too. Things don't always go according to plan. You don't have to be perfect. You don't have to be fast.

You just have to run.


  1. OMG - you're nuts! You're doing soooo great! Seriously - think about 6 months ago. You hadn't even done your first half! Now, you're rocking mile 7 at 8:12! Chica - you're going to amaze yourself!!! You so totally have this in the bag. One mile at a time - maybe even write some words of encouragement on your hand for the race to help get the negative nelly out of your brain. I can't wait to read the F4F race recap post entitled "1:55 BAM". Know I'm cheering for you from the back of the pack!!!! Rock it!

  2. I love the end of this post! It's true, just gotta keep running!