Wednesday, October 2, 2013

First-place problems

At the end of Monday's boastful post about a 5K personal record, I alluded to some Debbie Downer thoughts that came after the runner's high had dissipated.

If you don't want to roll your eyes at my melodrama, close the window now.

Recently, my 5K goals have been to beat my current PR. At first, I didn't even know what my 5K PR was, because I rarely ran that particular distance — usually only three miles, or well over it.

So it was safe to assume that my 26:22 last fall was a 5K PR, particularly given my shock at seeing splits all under 9:00.

Going into this spring's 5K, I was anxious and raced poorly but still knocked nearly a minute off that time.

And despite my nerves last weekend, I was well-prepared, physically and mentally, so shattering my spring record was almost a given as long as there were no weather curveballs.

Naturally, I want to run the next competitive 5K I enter even faster. But unlike with the past two PR attempts, in which I entered with confidence that I could do it, I'm not sure how much better I can get.

I've already surpassed the limits of what I thought I could do by so much, that I haven't left myself much margin for improvement: Consider that in a year, I've knocked more than two minutes off my PR.

Where do I go from here? Sure, I've thought several times "no way can I run faster than X pace," but 7:47 definitely falls under "comfortably hard": fluid at the beginning, heavy at the end. I'd never seen it before as a longer average, not even during the tempo runs.

So how much faster can I run? Or, worse than not beating it, what if I don't match it again?

Moving away from logic to superstition: When it comes to 5Ks, I haven't been disappointed yet. That makes me dread the other shoe.

All of these thoughts cropped up within 12 hours of finishing the race. Now that a few days have passed, and I've shared the fears with the Internet, they sound as silly as they are.

Sure, I'm likely to whiff at a 5K, but God knows I've done that several times at half marathons, and yet I'm once again believing that I can hit 2:05:00 in a few weeks.

And of course the gains will shrink with time, but there's nothing to say I can't go just a little faster. A sub-24:00 race only needs 7:43 miles, and I was nowhere near vomiting after Sunday's race.

I think what this boils down to is my weak willpower. Breaking my PR will continue to get tougher, no doubt about it, and so the logical part of me that shrieks "Hey, why are you running so fast? This feels awful!" will speak up sooner and louder.

It would be much easier to rest on my laurels, to declare myself incapable of running faster. I hope I don't succumb to the siren song of "easy way out." And trash-talking a competitor will only work if I've at least walked the walk in practice, by myself.


  1. You need to know that you are only as fast as your last race and likewise whatever you ran in your last race you can run faster than that. Knowing that you can do something only resets the you go back and tweak the training to take it to the next level. Of course you have been logging those workouts so you can easily see what got you to where you are at and with that you refocus and start working on the next step. The faster (fitter) you become the easier it all is, getting faster/fitter entails stepping out of your comfort zone, not all of the time but often enough to change the outcome.

    1. Yes, the dreaded "step out of your comfort zone" ... thanks for the words of encouragement. I was just thinking about you the other day, how when you said that if I'd been part of your youth running group back when I was a youth, I'd be knocking out races like whoa. Have to admit I didn't believe you — was still caught up in "no natural ability" — but I do now :) Hope all is well!