I ran another 5k last Saturday, a cross country race, and I didn't have the race I wanted. I had hoped to find that extra gear that I know I have based on recent workouts, but it wasn't there. I ran hard, but not very fast. After the race, I added on 9 miles for a total of 15 for the day. I am in marathon training, after all. I spent the whole run wondering what was going on. I have now had 4 subpar race performances in the past ~8 weeks: three 5ks and one half marathon. I've had few if any bad workouts.
Now, I know that this type of situation usually calls for a complete rethinking of what I'm doing with my training and racing, but I don't think that is warranted and here's why.
During the rest of my long run, I realized I have two choices: I can keep moving forward and put in the work to try to achieve my ambitious goal, or I can stop trying. It is impossible to know how I will perform on any given day. So many things have to line up to have a great performance. What I know for sure is how I will perform if I stop trying. I won't have a chance.
I spent the next day looking through my training logs leading up to my two best marathon performances in 2009 and 2010. I was fearless back then and willing to push the limits of my body and mind. I had a singular focus on my goal and didn't let myself give in. I looked back at the workouts I did and was a bit surprised at how hard I worked each week. I was doing so much and really pushing the boundaries of overtraining and injury. I did not experience either before these races, but I came close. THAT is where you have to be willing to put yourself to achieve great things.
I tried to remember how I felt during those training blocks. I was tired. I ran on tired legs all the time. I had to push myself to get out the door, but I got out the door every day. I did my core and strength training. I rolled my legs out regularly. I gave up alcohol. I pushed myself hard. I had some crappy workouts along the way. I stopped for "water breaks" during almost every marathon paced run, but I did not let that smash my confidence. I was magically able to hold that pace during the marathon.
I then contrasted that with the way I've been thinking about my training and racing lately and had to admit that I've become somewhat of a wimp. When did that happen? Over the last couple of years, I have lost that fearlessness and drive in my running. Sometimes, I wake up and feel a little bit off and put off my workout. Maybe my legs are too heavy from strength training. I convince myself that I'm going to feel awful during my workout and either postpone or don't do it. What happened to the runner that never missed a workout?
She's still here. She just got lost when she got injured. I was lucky for the first 5 years of my running career because I was never injured. I was able to train consistently and got fast very quickly as a result. Then, in 2010, I got injured and kept getting injured and lost my confidence in my body. Fear and pain became my constant running companions. They stood by my side the entire time I was injured and helped me lose faith in my ability to push myself. Even after the pain went away, the fear remained.So, during that long run last weekend, in the midday heat, I asked myself: what am I afraid of now? I am not afraid of putting my goals out there and failing. I am not afraid of working hard and feeling pain. I am not afraid of losing, and I am not afraid of winning. The only thing I am afraid of is giving up.
I feel like something in me shifted this week: a sort of culmination of the events of these last couple of months. If I had spectacular races all summer, I wouldn't have come to this realization and might still be approaching my training with trepidation. Instead, I added a bit more work to my schedule this week and went after it like I did back in 2009 and 2010.
I didn't worry about whether I was doing too much on Tuesday, and might jeopardize my 10 mile race on Sunday. Add in a short, fast fartlek on Thursday to keep the legs fresh? Why not? Besides, Sunday's race is not my goal. The marathon in just under 14 weeks is my goal. This race is a stepping stone but not a validation of who I am as an athlete or what I'm capable of. I will have good and bad races and I can handle both with equal amounts of grace.
I feel like I found my JoMo, which is kind of like MoJo, but better. It is also a 100% natural joint nutrition supplement recommended by orthopedic surgeons and olympians for fast acting, maximum strength joint relief and the first name of the leader of Kenya during the 1960s and 70s.
Finally. Game. On.