Finding My Way

Tuesday: Intervals – 5x1K @ 7:21 pace

Wednesday: Easy

Thursday: Tempo – 2 mi easy, 3 mi @ 8:04 pace, 1 mi easy

Saturday: Easy

Sunday: Long – 8 mi @ 8:48 pace

 

Somewhere around mile 8 of my long run on Sunday it occurred to me that I actually respect myself as a runner now.  I wasn’t really sure at the time what that meant exactly, but I knew something had shifted.  It isn’t easy to pin down.  It isn’t about finally being able to run a particular pace, although it has everything to do with the progress I’ve been able to make this year.  It’s not really about dedication and hard work, because I’ve always been committed.  It has a lot to do with PR’s and getting out of my comfort zone this season, but what I would consider the turning point came in a race where I didn’t PR.  What I realized Sunday was not that I had improved my self-image as a runner, but that I had one at all.

I should, of course, know better.  I’ve read a number of sports psychology books over the years, and the model is pretty much the same: We all put perceived limitations on ourselves and it is very difficult, both physically and mentally, to break through those barriers.  The stress response arises when we encounter a situation which requires more than we believe we can deliver.  The cascade of physiological fight or flight responses then ensue, all of which can further interfere with our ability to perform.  For many people (myself included), the realization that this is happening creates further stress and then you’re off on a vicious cycle of stress -> physical symptoms -> poor performance -> additional stress…

The hard part, of course, is breaking the cycle.  I’ve tried visualization, meditation, relaxation, and my old stand-by—reading a ton of books on the subject.  While they were all very pleasant activities, I never felt like I was fundamentally changing the way I thought about things, or what I believed about my abilities.  Self-talk cheerleading is not something I’ve been able to pull off, and I suspect that, like actual cheerleading, the activity only brings out my general sarcasm.
 
I’ve been trying over the past few days to deconstruct what finally clicked for me, and I think it really comes down to finding something I could actually believe in.  For me, that was the way I was training.  The thing I really love about RLRF (and I promise I’ll do a post soon exclusively on this topic) is that it very clearly maps out each workout to get you to your goal time.  If there’s one thing I do trust, it’s empirical data.  Once I could see my training run paces improving, I could buy into the system, and ultimately, trust myself to deliver.   Basically, if I can do the training runs at the proscribed paces, I have no reason to think that I can’t run the predicted finish time for the race.  
 
I still have the occasional bad workout, and when I do, they still stick with me longer than I would like.  I continue to worry that if I take too much recovery time between races that I’ll lose my speed and my confidence with it.  I worry that that tendency will lead to injury.  I’m sure that I’ll always be dealing with my confidence and nerves to some extent.  But I do feel like I’m able to enjoy running in a way that I never have before, and I’m actually kind of proud of myself.
 
-ModC
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