It is always a bit of a let down when you cannot achieve your main goal, but it is important to remember the process goals and the secondary goals are important too. I have a bit of goal amnesia at times, having a goal maybe and a deadline, and then moving on to another goal and deadline without really giving myself enough time to come up with a realistic timeline and plan for achievement.
It is hard to stay focused on a really long term challenging goal that is outcome based- like achieving a race Personal; Record (PR). It is especially hard when it is speed and endurance based and you keep throwing endurance training and speed work into the mix without putting in the necessary tempo work, which is what happened this time around.
I fell short in my annual (4 year) quest to achieve a sub 60 minute 10K time at the TD North Beach to Beacon road race this year. Not to be negative, but I knew it would be pretty impossible to achieve a PR under the circumstances:
I injured my ankle 3 months ago and have only been able to train hard for about 6 weeks, and prior to that could do no running whatsoever for about 4 weeks. I underestimated how much running fitness I had lost during that time.
Temperature and humidity on race day were not conducive to racing conditions for me; I tend to overheat pretty quickly, so managing my body heat was definitely an issue
That being said, those were really the two biggest obstacles and I ran the best race I could have under the circumstances. My first 3.5 miles I was on pace to run at least a 1:02 and then my body told me to slow down, or maybe it was my brain, all I know is my head felt like it was going to explode. I was wearing a hat through mile 4 and as I passed each water stop I dumped water over my neck and shoulders but it was not really doing much good. Even though Mile 3.5-4.5 are pretty much downhill, my heart was racing and I felt pretty bad; by the time I reached the 4 mile water stop I took off my hat and dumped water over my head and stepped off to the side of the road to get my heart rate down a little bit before starting the mile 5 hills. The last mile and a half was a combination of walking, climbing and running .25 mile at a time. I finished my slowest 10K time ever in just over 1:07. I was not too disappointed however, because I realized other than overheating, my ankle and back felt great.
SO HOW DID EVERYTHING ELSE FEEL?
My nutrition was spot on, but I knew I hadn’t hydrated enough the day before, and I decided NOT to wear my Nathan hydration belt because I didn’t want it to slow me down. I should have worn the belt so that I could have used water with electrolytes continually throughout the race. I need to remember to follow my instincts about hydration.
I wore my go to Nike outfit and it was a non issue which is what I count on. Except for the hat. The hat seemed to trap the heat, maybe it was just literally in my head, but maybe there is a reason the top runners don’t wear hats in a short race?
I wore my Darn Tough socks and they were great!
I wore my new Saucony Kinvara 7 shoes and I was pretty disappointed. I know my shoes are race worthy when I don’t even notice my feet and this time my feet were really sore after about 3 miles, and the soreness continued into the evening. It could be that my running form has changed in the last year so that I am much more a forefoot runner than a year ago when the Kinvara was my go-to shoe. I ordered up another pair of Brooks Pure Connect when I got home.
My ankle, back, achilles, shoulder and abs felt good throughout the race. I had a slight twinge in my left shin twice which was concerning, and at about the 50 minute mark I started having slight ab cramps due to dehydration, but overall-except for the annoyance of sore feet- my body felt good.
At about the 1.5 mile mark I felt the urge to stop and walk. So I did, for about 10 seconds. And then I stopped for water at the 2 and 3 mile marked and walked briefly. What I realized is that for 6 months my training has consisted mostly of quarter mile and half mile repeats with occasional tempo runs and long runs thrown in, which I have been unable to run with consistency in the last 8 weeks. I underestimated building up the base again after an injury. You run what you train and so I was great at running half mile intervals, but in a 10k that is not really a good plan.
I have been struggling with the whole notion of running “fitness” because I know I am fit, but now it is time for me to build up my running stamina getting some regular runs in without walking breaks. This will also help with my pacing. I knew going into this 10k that my pacing was too fast and my body could not figure out a comfortable 10k pace. I did wear my Tomtom cardio watch so that I could look at my splits, heart rate and cadence afterward, and my pacing between walking breaks was exactly what I had been training; too fast to maintain throughout 6.2 miles without recovery periods.
QUIT NOW OR KEEP MOVING
There is always that moment after a racing struggle when you wonder “Why am I doing this?” When it feels like no matter what you do you are not making progress, and that is the danger of focusing on outcome based training. Eric Cressey of Eric Cressey Sports Performance just shared a post about process versus product and it is important for me to reflect on my training progress over the last year and not focus on race times.
This year I decided to focus on running fewer 5k races (so less speed) and add some trail running and trail races into the mix, including a 10 mile and 25k trail race in May. I also decided to try running fewer miles overall, adding a third day of weight training and more shorter intervals into my 10k running training plan. I also worked, and continue to work on my running form, trying to become a more efficient runner. I think I also underestimated how all of this change might affect my race times. Whenever you learn something new that is not quite second nature, there is always an adjustment period, and right now I have gone from trying to maintain form for 20 yards to 6.2 miles, at a faster pace. THAT is about process.
Process training is slow and is not always evident at first glance-especially when using a single performance to measure outcomes. I like to think of process training as whole body and mind training. I know I can run faster by running 100 miles a month with some speedwork once a week, but obviously that was not able to be maintained.
Now that my ankle is clearly 99% healed, my plan now is to work on building back my running stamina-not speed stamina, but duration. I feel like I felt when I first started to run and I tried to run 2 miles without stopping. I remember the first time I ran 5 miles without stopping. It has been a very long time since I did that. Last fall I was in my best running shape ever, coming off of an excellent half marathon run which was at a faster pace than my 10K race this weekend. The last time I ran a good 5k race time was in October. Since then speed and pacing has been a problem for me. It is time for my body to figure out how fast I CAN run AND maintain for 2, 3, 4 or 5 miles. Right now I know what I can maintain for 1.5 miles.
So there is more work to be done, my 10K goal is still out there waiting.