Racing is never fun.
The goal of a race is to figure out exactly how much energy you have in your body and how much tolerance for discomfort makes up your mettle and have both of those expire one step after the finish line. And since there's always more in you than your brain wants you to give (your brain's job, after all, is to conserve your energy, so it wants you to stop wasting calories running while dinosaurs are not actively chasing your and eat cheese fries instead) it's a fight between your will and your being. You have to overcome the cheese fry craving not-wanting-to-run with that part of your brain that says "screw you, I'm in charge here". It's never fun, because it is exactly the opposite of what you want to do, and when you're racing -- by definition you're trying to be the fastest you can be. You can run on a saturday morning and enjoy the birds and the flowers and whatever, but when you're racing, you don't really notice any of that.
The catch is that without racing your running doesn't get better. The only way to run faster is to run faster -- each time you push the envelope, your capabilities are that much more.
I raced the Philly10k this weekend, which is a 6.2 mile race through South Philadelphia -- it's an odd distance but I hadn't raced all summer because it's too freaking hot to do anything and I wanted to support Philadelphia Runner, who came up with the idea. I'd run it last year and totally bombed -- clocking in at 52:51 and 527th place.
My Personal Record for that distance as 49:49 which I ran a little over a year ago. I wanted to beat that. So my goal was 49:48.
Mile 5 was pretty terrible.
Weather conditions were nice, for the time of year and right out of the gate I found someone running pretty much exactly the pace I wanted to do, vacillating back and forth between 7:50 - and 8:00 and I stuck one step behind her. It's easier when you have a pacer. We stayed pretty much shoulder to shoulder and everything faded away but the discomfort of running.
I always thought that if I ran fast it would be effortless -- I would be like a gazelle, I'd be this perfect, joyous form but that's not how it works. I've come to realize over the years that no matter how fast you are, it still hurts. For me it just felt awful mostly the entire time. Miles 1 and 2 were ok and then I just hated it.
One depressing thing is that I've gotten slower over the summer. Doing ~8:00 miles for six mile distances is something I'd done relatively effortlessly in April, but lately I'd been fighting to do a 24:30 5k. My training's been a bit lax. I've skipped a few long runs in the past few months and it's been showing.
Some of the West Philly Runners enjoying an 8:20am beer.
Like you do.
was waiting for me at mile 5 waving and cheering but I was a broken shell by then. I missed the marker that said "Mile 5" and misread my watch and thought I was much farther from the finish than I actually was. I thought I was still a mile out when I turned a corner and saw the finish line two blocks away. I had little left for a mile, but plenty for two blocks and sprinted my way to a finish in 49:51 -- two seconds slower than I wanted.
Here are my splits, you can see where I came unglued.
Back in April for the Broad Street run my pace never dipped below 8:05 for ten miles. I took too many days off over the summer. Blah. One of the things you tell yourself when you're racing is that you won't remember how much it hurt the next day or a week or a year later, but that number will always be there on the Internet.
I wish I could have squeezed another two seconds out of it somewhere in the middle where I was flagging, I wish I'd realized sooner how close I was to the finish but in the end -- hey, I ran the race, I learned from my mistakes. I, hopefully got a little bit faster and pushed that envelope a little further.
Many of the other West Philly Runners jumped on the bicycles at the end and rode off to do another race that started at 9:30 in the morning (it was like 8:15 am when we finished -- and I accurately told Trillian when I'd pass her, to the very second) but all I wanted to do was come home and collapse.
I'll do better next time.
Hope your races, actual and metaphorical went well this weekend.
The day before I went on a fun run with comedian Kevin Hart and 4,999 other people. I ran a loping 27 minute 5k and had a great time.
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