Since I trained and ran for my first half marathon in 2013, I have been in training for something, almost non stop. Why? Because as a newbie runner, I knew how difficult it was to get in shape to run 13.1 miles and I didn’t think I would ever be able to do it again. So I decided to always have a half marathon goal within 8-12 weeks. I would recover from one race and immediately start training for the next race. This may or may not have been wise, but it kept my legs moving and I showed steady improvement, eventually achieving my half marathon PR last May at Wallis Sands.
With that PR came a change in strength and conditioning and running coaches, and a change in training style and schedule that took some getting used to. Since I no longer had a half marathon goal in near sight, I decided to train to run faster middle distance; but my goal race came and went, and as I literally tried to chase that goal by entering every race I could between August and December my training became more about beating myself up by racing 5k’s every week. The only goal that I achieved was learning from my mistake. (I did achieve a 10K PR the end of August, but it was not my sub 60 min goal time.)
I decided to sign up for a 25K trail race the end of May, to give myself a training goal, and took a break from running training the months of December and January. I still worked on strength and conditioning, and running form drills, including a few hill repeats and 400 M intervals; but I only started adding mileage a couple weeks ago, in preparation for my 25K training-which started this week.
And here we are in the dead of winter, temperatures are supposed to be near 0 degrees this weekend, and I have a treadmill at my disposal-something I have used less than 10 times since last spring. This is the first week of a 4 week “pre-training” phase, and I am going to think of it that way because I totally underestimated the loss of running fitness that comes with an off season running break. I feel like I am starting over and I have never run before. 20 second hill repeats felt fine, but by the time I jumped on the treadmill 8 hrs later, my 2 mile timed run was torture. I could not even manage a mile at my half marathon pace. I wanted to quit, but I reminded myself
This is what starting from scratch feels like, and it’s only going to get better.
This is exactly why I never wanted to stop training for SOMETHING. I knew how hard it would be to start over and I knew it would be a mental challenge more than a physical challenge. I underestimated it would be both.
Going from a half marathon PR, to a 10K PR to quite a few 5K top 10 age group finishes last year felt great! Right now I have no idea how that even happened. My legs feel tired and I feel slow. I do not have the mental stamina to work hard for more than 2 minutes. 1 Lap around the track. So here we are starting over and my goal race is pretty far off. I have a plan, thanks to my coach, who now more than ever is going to have to act as my mental coach as well. I should feel strong and ready to take on this new challenge, but right now I am feeling doubt. I have never gone through an “off season” before so I did not know what to expect. I never wanted to experience the unknown. I can only hope it doesn’t take as long to get back to running shape as it did to get in running shape the first time. But it will take as long as it takes. Right now in this “pre training” phase I am in mental training to achieve my goal. Besides trusting in my coach and our plan I am going to re-read The Runner’s Brain by Dr. Jeff Brown:
“• G: Can I feel my goal in my gut?
• O: Is my goal objective and measurable?
• A: Is my goal challenging yet achievable?
• L: Will my goal help me learn about my running and other abilities?”
Excerpt From: Jeff Brown. “Runner’s World The Runner’s Brain.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/LH3h7.l
The answer to the above is YES!
The Runner’s Brain has some great insight about the mental aspect of running and training. This week my goal is to just do the work that is on my plan and forget about it until next week. I am in training. These runs are just runs, they are not races, nor are they meant to be compared to anything. That is the hardest thing for me to accept and get used to.
I may have to get that tatooed on my wrist as a reminder. Why do we want everything to be easy when we really don’t? Easy is going for a walk, not racing, not training, not competing, not trying to level up your game. I want it to be easy the 20 minutes I am running on the treadmill-but easy doesn’t get you results and help you achieve your goals.