Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Don't Be So Hard on Yourself

I had been planning to review The Sports Gene today (because I loved it so much!), but I was inspired on my run last night to write about a different topic.

I've made it no secret on my blog that I'm very Type A, and I recently bit the bullet and revealed I struggle with depression as well. Running is my way of exerting control over my life. (This is part of the reason I'm so resistant to group runs - I don't want any external pressure on my running!) All this translates into a tendency to feel down and be extremely self-critical if a run doesn't go perfectly.

There are times when my physical needs override my mental state. I was pretty bummed this summer when I couldn't keep up with Hansons, but eventually I was so overtrained and beat down that I had no choice but to back off. I've come to the realization that that wasn't the plan for me and moved on.

I've also talked about how right now I'm totally in love with RLRF. I'm able to fit in some of my other favorite activities (swimming and yoga) while still feeling like I'm getting the running preparation I need to hopefully run a big PR at Myrtle Beach.

As a quick review if you haven't been reading my absolutely thrilling weekly recaps (insert sleeping emoji here), RLRF consists of three runs a week - a track workout, a tempo run, and a long run. Each run has very specific paces to hit, based on a goal marathon time, which is in turn determined by a recent 5K or 10K time. I used a 10K time I had run a few weeks prior to starting to training, so I didn't "cheat" and pretend like I was at the same fitness level as when I ran my 10K PR.

So far I've hit my tempo and long run paces perfectly, and I'm incredibly excited. I have a lot of self-doubt as a runner and assume I will always be slow. I realize this is stupid and counter-productive, but I still think of myself as the girl that was literally last in every race in seventh grade track. It's bad enough to the point that I typically remember my 10K PR as being almost a minute slower because I'm obviously physically incapable of running a 56:08, even though I think if I had started closer to the front of the race, I could've finished even faster that day.

However, I've been struggling a lot with the RLRF track workouts. I think some of the struggle is I'm still trying to figure out how to fuel for a tough workout if I run in the morning before work. On the couple occassions I've slept in and ran after work, I've still gone to the gym at lunch to lift, so my legs are obviously a bit fatigued when I start, so it's not like I'm setting myself up perfectly for success and still failing - there are other factors at work.

The problem is, when you expect perfection, you will always be disappointed!
As of this post, I've done four different track workouts, and I've only nailed one of them. (But let me tell you, that runner's high left me floating the rest of the day!) In two other cases I've come pretty close (3/4 800s and 3/5 1000s), so it's not like I'm trying to run way beyond my ability.

This left me with a bit of a dilemma, which I contemplated as I trotted back to my apartment yesterday, tail between my legs. Should I scale my goal back? This was really tempting: I'm slow, what was I doing trying to run with the real kids? But I nixed that idea, since the tempo runs and long runs have been great, and I think those are probably much better indicators of my marathon fitness than pure speed workouts. I know leg turnover is important and all, but I have a very long way to go with building my endurance before I think this will be a major factor. Just rejecting this idea of dropping down, even before I had a new plan, was huge for me, because before any smidgen of failure led me to self-sabotage and back off, even though logic would seem to be that 2/3 faster workouts is better than 0/3.

What to do then?

I went with logic.

I know I can do the work for tempos and long runs, and I want to keep building my fitness. I've made the executive decision that I will start each track workout at the required paces until I can't any more (ie, I feel like I'm going to puke, my legs have nothing left to give, etc.), and then finish out the required mileage at an easy pace. I think a year or two ago this would've sent me into a tailspin, so I'm really proud that I've been able to get past that and look at the issue a little more objectively.


  1. I'm the same way with following pace plans, sometimes I just can't keep up. I think your plan of starting out with the pace and backing off is great. We can't be perfect, and like you said that pressure is going to ruin running for you. As long as you keep up with the runs, the pace will come sooner than you think!

    1. Exactly! I could back off the pace, but then I wouldn't see improvements. Hopefully by the end of training I will be nailing my workouts.

  2. Coming from a fellow Type-A, it sounds like you made a good choice! It's so easy to overthink this stuff but taking a step back and evaluating your options, like you did, is the best way to handle it.

    1. Yes, it can be hard to remind myself that the entire world doesn't grind to a halt if I miss one or two repeats! I definitely needed to think about when I wasn't running to get a better perspective.