Two reminders before I launch into a post almost as long as the 10-miler itself:
1. In addition to Another Mother Runner having a booth at the Twin Cities Marathon expo, Sarah and I will be speaking on the Twin Cities Expo stage—Enjoy and Excel: How to Race Like a Mother—from 4 to 5 on Friday, October 7. We'll have prizes and plenty of laughs, so join us if you can!
2. We'll also be hosting 30-ish-minute, slow shake-out run before the Twin Cities 10 Miler or Marathon. We'll leave from Coffee Bene (53 Cleveland Av S., St Paul, MN 55105) at 7:45 sharp, head up Summit for a bit (away from the races going on that morning), then come back and hang with some lattes and BAMRs. We have a group room reserved from 8:15-9:30 at Coffee Bene, so if you just want to meet for java and chatter, join us post-run.(There is a $3 minimum per person; if that's a problem, let Dimity know on Saturday morning and we'll figure it out!) Any #motherrunner can join; you don't need to be running on Sunday or in a TLAM Challenge to attend. Thanks!
When it comes to races, I have two rules:
1. I rarely, rarely do the same race twice. That way, there’s no way I can have a direct comparison of my performances—and, as such, I mitigate the chance for feeling disappointed.
2. My time goals, If I I set them, are rarely so ambitious that they'd be out of my reach. Notice the "if." Mostly, I just don't set them at all and just run. Again, disappointment on race day: I just don't want to go there.
Way, way back in the day, I was a top rower. I won't make you relive my glory days, but I will let you know that when I quit the sport, my overtrained body, exhausted mind truly QUIT. And 25 years later, I can still taste the disappointment around which I have now put protective mental fences. I know I did the right thing, but quitting is not really in my DNA.
When I QUIT rowing, I promised myself I would never need to push myself that hard again. I promised myself I'd never wear a heart rate monitor again. I promised myself that all my physical activity would be on my terms. No more coaches, no more periodized plans, no more pressure.
Some promises are meant to be broken though.
Over two decades later, I wear a heart rate monitor for every run. I have been lucky to have thoughtful, compassionate coaches to guide me over the years (thank you, Ilana, Bri, MK!). These days, I am—dare I say it?—slightly enjoying pushing myself harder than I have in years. Just slightly though.
Some rules are meant to be broken too.
This weekend, I am heading back to the Twin Cities 10-miler, site of one my best races ever for a variety of reasons. I am both crazy excited—it is truly a beautiful course—and crazy anxious. Because I know what my time was there: a speedy (for me) 1:24. (Why do I, who regularly confuses the dates of my kids' birthdays, remember time that so well? I wrote it in the post.)
So here's the double-whammy: not only am I going back to a race where I basically tasted #motherrunner physical and emotional nirvana, I've been working hard lately and I am—do you believe?— not injured.
Translation: I have the ability to run my best on race day.
Have I do enough to beat 1:24? I don’t know. I hope so, but my more intense miles are hard to caclulate, since I'm not basing them on totally splits. I have been working on feeling my paces. When my workout intervals call for a 10K pace, I ask myself, can I hold this for an hour? An hour: the benchmark MK and I have settled on for feeling my 10K pace.
I'd like to think, when I am tapered and all is firing well, that I've found an intense pace I could run for an hour. That said, I’m still not sure because I haven't tried recently. Make that years.
More importantly, I've also really been trying to find a calm, accepting mental place when the work gets tough. I did a few tough workouts (6 x 1K with two minutes rest at 10K pace) outside and was flailing around so much on my pace, I had no opportunity to even feel anything except frustrated at my amazing lack of self-awareness and -control when I run.
So I decided to run them on the treadmill so I could just concentrate on my head and leaning into the effort. When I come to about last 90 seconds the intervals, I force myself into a mental rhythm so I can (try to) stop fixating on the hurt and find a rhythm with each footfall. One word for each step.
It worked well. (Although, I will admit, I also tee up a nice assist from listening to some of my old, favorite tunes. I mean, how can you NOT just go for it when Pat Benatar's All Fired Up is blaring?)
Anyway two weekends ago, I took my newly formed mantras outside for my last hard workout of this training cycle: 35 minute warm-up at easy heart rate, 10 x 4 minutes at 10K pace, 1 minute off, 25 minutes at easy heart rate, 2 miles at marathon race pace.
I got through about six intervals without needing too much mental umph. And then the last four intervals were HARD. One minute in, and I'm all, I.am.strong.I.am.l;ght.I.am.strong.I.am;l;ight.I.am.not.sure.why.I.am.running.hard.like.this.and.f.this.
That said, I do notice that my form immediately improves when I get my strong;l;ight on, and I swear, my effort gets easier.
I truly don’t know if I get faster, but I’ll take easier when I’m doing that thing I promised myself I would never do post-rowing: going way out of my athletic comfort zone. With a heart rate monitor on, no less.
So here's the thing. I feel weird posting my splits here, because I hope you know me well enough by now that so many more running-related things—mental health, confience, strength, friendship, connection, joy, foward motion—are so much more important to me than numbers are.
Still, we all know that in this sport, the numbers matter.
So another thing: I was going to wait until after the race to write about it and somehow couch my race in a word salad that would justify every mile. I'm still going to do that—and Lord knows, every mile will be lovely in some respect—but I hope you also know me well enough by now that I'm all about transparency.
Going to sea level will give me an assist. Being on my favorite Minnesota homesoil with my posse of #BAMNRs will give me assist. The cooler temps will give me an assist. Knowing I'm going to be able to cheer my head off after my 10 miler for the marathoners will give me an assist.
Still, I am not confident I can run 10 consecutive miles that average 8:24. And if I let myself, a slight obsession with 8:24 splits will swirl around in my head for the next six days through carpool trips and basketball practices, work meetings and dinner prep. Which, I probably don't need to tell you, is not super productive or helpful.
My solution: Instead of letting a time goal dominate my thoughts for the next six days, I'm going to concentrate on this: running SMART, STRONG AND SOLID
SMART: I am setting my Polar M400 exclusively to heart rate, and following the plan to the best of my badass ability. If I do nothing else on this 10-miler, I want to race smart. Not go out too fast, take the hills well, and pass people at the end.
STRONG: When it gets hard—and it will—I will not walk through the aid stations. I will not to not stop to tie my shoe unless it legit needs to be tied. I will repeat I.AM.STRONG.I.AM.L;IGHT so many times, I will get lost in the rhythm of it.
SOLID: As the miles tick off towards 8, 9, 10, I want to see that as an opportunity to lean in and shine, not an excuse to back off. If I can finish the race and say to myself, Dimity, you did not let yourself of the hook once, I will be as solid as the biceps of Jessie Ventura, the once illustrious MN governor.
Will that add up to a sub 1:24? We shall see.
When I'm standing in my starting corral,I will take deep breaths to keep myself calm and ready to race. I will remind myself that Billie Jean King said that pressure is a privilege and remember how lucky I am to be able to lean into the (self-induced) pressure. I will remember that I signed up for this race, I earned the right to feel this pressure. I will remind myself I.AM.STRONG.I.AM.L;IGHT.
And then I will go out and be the smartest, strongest, most solid runner I am able to be on Sunday, October 9, 2016. And that, no matter how it shakes out, simply can't be disappointing.