Today’s Reason: Speed (or lack thereof)

I initially started to write a race recap today but feel the need to share/vent about an incredibly embarrassing and somewhat troubling event that happened yesterday…

For all the running I do, I don’t really focus on my speed too much.  Sure, I’ve had some flukes where I was completely taken by surprise by my fast(ish) pace, but nothing consistent.  In training for the marathon, for me, it’s about accomplishing the distance and track practice is more about pace work than speed work.  Since joining Team in Training last May, I have been attending Thursday morning track practice led by Coach Al and Coach Kim.  Due to lack of attendance, that track session was cancelled last month.  I was then invited to Coach Al’s Speedy Demon track practice on Wednesday mornings.  I thought about it, put it off, thought about it some more, and put it off some more… I mean, just the name Speedy Demons sounds intimidating!

After much encouragement from my coaches and friends, I promised myself that this week, I would join Coach Al’s Speedy Demons.

Wednesday finally came, I got out of bed at 5:30am, dressed, and headed to track.  As I started walking towards The Oval of Doom (that’s what I’ve decided to call it now- isn’t that nice?), my nerves started going crazy, I started walking slower and slower while texting my friend Sammie, “I don’t think I can do this.”

I got to the top of the stairs, and nervously peered through the fence and heard Coach Al’s voice.  My stomach jumped into my throat, I freaked, turned around, walked away, and drove home crying for being such a wimp.

Why, why, why did I flee like a scared child?  It took one therapy session and a lot of soul searching to figure it out…

First off, I recently realized that I am running my second marathon in just over 6 weeks. That’s right around the corner.  Anytime I think about that, I get very nervous and feel the urge to pee.  Okay, yes, I have already done one marathon but that doesn’t mean that now it’s easy or anything!  Running a marathon is INCREDIBLY CHALLENGING for me- a challenge I welcome but it’s still very difficult!  And with 6 weeks to go, adding in another goal of improving speed feels very overwhelming, distracting, and… just plain hard.

On top of that, I was very worried that I would be the slowest- not speedy, not a demon, just a slow sucker.  Kate told me that the group always waits for the last person to finish before they move on to the next challenge.  That last person, I feared, would be ME.

What’s the big deal being last?

Well, I was worried I would disappoint Coach, disappoint myself, and then disappoint my very fast friends who could very well point and laugh and taunt me and my snail’s pace.  (Of course, I know they wouldn’t do that, but you can see how I got my head all fricking messed up!)

I have often considered how much I am willing to suffer for my sport.  How much discomfort- that is, harder runs and faster runs- am I willing to endure to improve?

Obviously, not that much.

If I don’t push the pace, I won’t improve the pace, but at least I’ll know why. If I push the pace and it hurts and I don’t like it, then I won’t want to run- and I never want to out run my joy of running.

I ran 2 half marathons, 2 weeks apart, earlier this month (recaps coming, I swear) and found that even though the second half marathon took me longer (2:27) than the first one (2:17), I had a lot more fun.  At the “faster” (ha ha ha) half, I was incredibly angry at myself as I had a time goal in mind and totally blew it due to an 11 minute stop at the porta potty.  Oh, I was SO ANGRY at myself for that one and hated that I felt that way.  At half marathon #2, I finished 10 minutes slower but was happy and proud of myself- that feeling, I love.

At races where I let go of the numbers, leave my Garmin at home, and run just for fun, I have a much better experience overall.  I may be slower when I ignore the numbers, but I sure have a good time!  And isn’t that the point?

After the disaster that was Wednesday, Kate offered to meet me at The Oval of Doom this morning to help me get acquainted with the track itself and the kind of speed work she does with Coach Al. (Is Kate an awesome friend or what?  LOVE HER!)  We met, we ran, we talked, and Kate helped me to realize- even further- that my running goals may be simpler than all this Speedy Demon pressure I’m putting on myself.  Accomplishing the distance, however long it may take, and to have fun while doing it, is truly my ultimate goal.

It’s just running, for the love of all that’s good, I’m not curing disease or solving the economic crisis or feeding hungry children.  Just.  Running.

So, I guess speed really isn’t one of my personal reasons to run; however, keeping speed  in perspective and finding the happy place within my pace, is.

Do you think I am a big jerk for fleeing from Speedy Demons? Do you do speed work?  Do you like it?  Do you put pressure on yourself to get faster with every race and PR every time?  How do you relate speed work to distance training?  Can it ALL really be done???


12 thoughts on “Today’s Reason: Speed (or lack thereof)

  1. You’re definitely not a jerk!! I totally sympathize with you about not wanting to do a speed workout with other people. Speed isn’t my forte either, so I’m working on it, but I prefer to do speed work by myself. It makes me feel less self-conscious.
    I’m starting to read a book called “Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel” by Matt Fitzgerald. It’s basic message is to concentrate on what feels good/right to your body and not to some arbitrary numbers or training plan. I think it’s easier said than done, given my type-A personality (coupled with my obsession with data/numbers), but I think by concentrating on the joy of running, you can never go wrong however “fast” or “slow” you’re running.

      • Hmmm… yeah, maybe it was the severe pressure of doing that which I’m not best at in front of other people! Major performance anxiety there!!! Thanks for the book rec- and yeah, I am leaning more towards leaving my Garmin at home more often!

  2. We have a track workout for my TNT participants and some of them were speedy too but we also had some slower folks. I purposely leave the word ‘speed’ out of all the communications. I say go for it!

    • I dunno, Coach, my mental fortitude seems to be breaking down in light of other Life Stresses. Gotta get my confidence back somehow… argh…

  3. I’ve been working to let go of a lot of my pace obsession over the past several months. After two missed attempts at a sub-2 half (close but no cigar…i can’t seem to stay out of the portapotty), I found myself depressed about it. I have started doing a lot of trail running and really challenging route running to get my mind off the pace. Just running and getting stronger. Maybe that would help?

    • HA! Me and you and the fricking porta potty! I HEAR THAT! Yeah, I guess road running is all about the numbers whereas trail running, you must let the numbers go when dealing with sever ascents… just gotta get through marathon #2, take a couple months off, then try a new challenge… hmmm…

  4. not a jerk for fleeing and nothing wrong with not worrying about speed. I know we already talked about this, but I am right on the same page as you. I am not fast by any means (my “race pace” is a 10 minute mile at best!), but for me that is the pace where I am having fun and enjoying running as my sport. If I push harder, then I start to hate it and end up not going out to run at all. I run to feel good, to release stress, and to be healthy not to be the fastest person on the track/race course. I currently do not do speed training. I would love to do some track workouts in the future, but that is mostly for the workout to work different muscles and just do something different. Would I do it if I thought I was going to be the “last” one holding everyone else up? No, I’d probably flee in tears too. 🙂

    • Great minds think alike! My pace has improved just on its own without any speed work and I settle in at about a 9 minute pace on my own. But if I ever go back to 5K/10K land, I think I would add speed in. In the mean time, I’m all about the easy, happy, fun miles! 26 of them to be exact! 🙂

  5. I’m terrible about working on my speed but I’m planning to focus more on that this summer. I am always intimidated by fast runners so I would have been running scared!

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