Your Pace or Mine (And Why You Shouldn’t Care)

comparisonOne of the best pieces of advice I have ever received as a runner…was to stop posting my Garmin face post-run with distance and time.  Stop putting my splits up on social media for others to see.  While a lot of times, this garnishes so many LIKES and compliments…it also, honestly, is no one’s business what my run looked like that day.  And, sometimes, it can also bring about negativity…or pressure to perform.

How often do we do this to ourselves?  We go for a run.  We feel good during the run.  Or maybe we don’t.  Maybe the run feels hard, but we’re pushing.  And we’re just giving it all we have (I don’t recommend doing this for every run you do, btw).  And when we’re done, we click that stop button on our watch and check our time…

And how often does that time…or overall pace…determine for YOU…whether that run was a “good run” or a “bad run?”

Hey…I’ve been guilty of this myself.

When a run feels hard and it should be easy…guess what…you’re probably running too hard.

When you feel good through your entire run, but then stop your watch and are disappointed with your overall pace…guess what…you have forgotten the golden rule of…easy runs should be easyhard runs should be hard…and BOTH are important.  You probably did this run perfectly…you felt good…but your Garmin spouts off an average that makes you feel inadequate.

Why?

So many people play that social media comparison game.  Just because one person can easily crack off 7 minute (or less) minute miles, everyday, for most distances….doesn’t mean that you have to be able to do that too.  That’s the great thing about being a human being.

WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT.  And guess what?!  OUR ABILITIES ARE ALL DIFFERENT!!

Am I screaming at you?  Yes!!  Because I often get told that someone doesn’t think they need to recover as much as I do because I run so much faster than them.  Well, my 8 minute mile might be just as hard to me as their 10 minute mile is to them.  The effort is equal…the paces are different.  But someone’s slow will always be someone else’s fast.  And it’s a serious problem if you are judging your worth and your fitness or your place in the running community based off of how fast your legs move to propel you forward.

And social media has done nothing more than take all of this insecurity and elevated the comparison game to new heights.  It is great to motivate people…but your paces and your miles logged don’t really do that.  WORDS do that. Examples do that.  Just because you can run that 6:XX mile tempo, doesn’t mean that I can.  And expecting me to be able to isn’t right too.  Telling me that you’re an extreme runner, or getting it done right, doesn’t make me feel good about my 8:xx tempo of the same distance that day…probably less consistent than yours.  Your Garmin watch face…your split times…your average pace…that does have the power to motivate…and inspire…but it also can really get into people’s heads.

And let’s talk about burnout.  So many times…these “extreme” runners that consistently post these fast times in training often burnout or hit a wall…when it counts most.  On race day.

Sure, it might seem fun to post your 7:XX mile runs during training, every day, no rest days, no days off, but when you end up sidelined with an injury, or your marathon times don’t match up to your training runs, or you hit a wall…hard…at Mile 21, those social media brags and posts will have been in vain.

Let’s face it…an 8:20 pace is not easy if your marathon pace is an 8:30.

IT. IS. THAT. SIMPLE.

Whether you consider yourself a speed demon, a middle-of-the-packer, or a back-of-the-packer…ultimately…the comparison game will only bring you unnecessary stress.

And that’s why, my friends, my Instagram posts don’t show off my pace, my distance, my stats, my splits…because that is for me to know and for me to work on.  Not for anyone else to cast judgement on or to compare themselves to.  We’re all different.  We all run different.  We all train different.  But in the end…I’m not here to set a precedent for anyone but myself.

Comparison is the thief of joy…and I’m not looking for anything but happiness out on the roads right now.  Don’t get me wrong, I certainly have my goals and am actively pursuing them the best I know how to.  After all, happiness is definitely a goal worth pursuing.

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Quality Over Quantity

44425106_10100467243748681_8763605971185434624_oTwo weeks ago…I ran a marathon.

I haven’t blogged on it yet…but it’s coming. I just need more time in my days to get my thoughts down.

Two weeks ago.  And I have been taking my time returning to my training.

I’m not forcing myself to go out there for double-digit runs at the moment.  I’m not forcing speed work on myself.  I’m running by feel, fewer days a week than normal, not worrying over how long I’m out there or how far I go.

I’m recovering.

So many of my friends are shining in races.  Some of them also had hard efforts in marathons.  But, to me, it’s not about how many races I do…it’s about being able to do the number of races I register for…comfortably, without pain, without injury, without burnout…

I don’t wear race volume around my neck as a bragging right.  I don’t care how many races I have run or of what distance each one was.  Every finish is a victory.  Every race is a victory lap for the training I put into it.  And part of training…is taking the necessary time off to get my body strong, rested, and prepped for the next training cycle.  I’ve done the whole rush into the next thing route before…and we all know how that turned out for me.  So many people overlook the downtime and recovery…and I used to be one of them.

NOT. ANYMORE.

It’s so hard, these days, to keep this in perspective.  Social media has a funny way of making you feel inadequate.  Someone is always running more, running faster, running further, hitting goals you’ve dreamed of but have fallen short of for months/years.  But, in the end, we can only do what is best for ourselves.  No one else.

This past weekend, I was in Columbus, Ohio, visiting my friend Jenn and seeing Phil Collins in concert on Friday night.  I had some late nights…I slept in each morning.  And…I put in some miles each morning.  One was mild and windy, the other was frigid and also windy (but less windy, I guess).  I never once looked at my Garmin to check my pace.  I just counted each mile beep until I hit the miles in my made-up plan.

Each run was solid and strong and amazing.  I mean, I was having fun, even when the headwind felt like it was pushing me back.  I got inspired when I hit up the Columbus Marathon expo, purchasing more things than I should of from the booth, and stopping by Noxgear to say HI to the people there…and get my hands on their new product, which hasn’t launched to the public yet.  Watch my social media for more on that.

I ate well.  I stretched.  I foam rolled.  All the self-care stuff that comes with recovering from a hard effort.

So while others are stocking up on medals and miles, I’m cheering them on, but not rushing to join them.  I never want to be out for as long as I was in the past.  And with these solid recovery runs coming so easy…I’m proud to say, I think this time, I’m doing it right.

The number of races I do is nothing compared to the number of races I will continue to do, simply by respecting this body.

Being a runner isn’t about the number of races I finish.  I know plenty of real runners who aren’t even interested in racing.  I love racing.  It’s fun.  But I don’t care if I’ve run 1 or 100 races…as long as I’m still enjoying it and listening to my body so I can continue to do it.

You do you!

Real Talk About Disappointment

I heard it so many times…

“You’ve got this in the bag.”

“There is no way you’re not going to Boston Qualify.”

“The only way you won’t BQ is if you get hit by a car.”

“Look at what you did at Dopey…this one will be easy!”

ALL. THE. WORDS.

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And while I appreciate that people have confidence and faith in me…there were a few things I was contending with…

I didn’t have a coach or…technically…a plan starting in August, when marathon training was really getting heavy.  I figured it out by turning back to an old training plan from 2013 and making adjustments.

I didn’t feel like I was in shape, personally, for my goal.  After all, my longest run in my training plan didn’t go well at all.  It ended with me walking my last 1.3 miles of it to hit the mileage and almost passing out thanks to the heat.  Let me tell you, that really did little to boost my confidence at all going into the taper and the race itself.

I still feel out of shape.

And…disappointed.

With myself.  With letting those who believed in me down.  For not doing what others did that day.  For feeling like an absolute failure every time I hear the success stories of those who ran the same race at me…but achieved their goals.  For letting myself down.

Maybe I didn’t want it enough.  Maybe running without my watch telling me pace and distance was a mistake.  Maybe I didn’t spend enough time off my feet the day before.  Maybe I didn’t fuel right that day or at dinner the night before.  Maybe I didn’t wear the right thing for the weather.  Maybe I didn’t fuel enough during.  Maybe…maybe…maybe.

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Excuses?  Reasons?  Justifications?

It doesn’t undo how much it hurt to know that I didn’t achieve a goal that I was told was going to be so easy for me to get this time.  It doesn’t undo the fact that I ran a marathon in January an entire minute faster after running a 5K, 10K, and half marathon in the 3 days leading up to it.  It stings.  It hurts.

I am very proud of my finish, please don’t get me wrong.  But it feels like such a let down because, while I wasn’t actively proclaiming my goals from the rooftops…I carried all these high hopes with me.  They drove me.  They pushed me.  And in the end…I still came up short.  By a bigger margin than it should have been.

And that’s a hard pill to swallow at times.

Still.

Even today.

I am okay with how my race turned out…but I’m not satisfied.  And I’m not happy.  I know, just like everyone who told me, that I have at least one more BQ in me.  It just wasn’t this race.  It wasn’t my time.  And it’s okay for me to not be okay with it.  But it’s not okay for me to dwell on it.  Or to let disappointment hold me back.

After all…I still have goals to meet.

I am proud of every finish line because, ultimately, my goal is always to finish.  Sometimes it feels easy…and sometimes it’s a struggle.  I still believe every struggle and every shortcoming is a learning experience and something to grow from and improve on.  So, while it didn’t happen this time…and perhaps might not happen next time, I’m driven and striving to get there and make it happen.  I know it will.  I’ll chip away until I reach that goal.

For everyone who believed in me then…believe in me now.  I’m not done yet.

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I’m not unproductive…I’m recovering!

My Garmin Forerunner 935 sometimes expects great things of me…and other times blocks out the fact that I’ve been recovering from a hard effort and calls me “UNPRODUCTIVE” or tells me I’m “DETRAINING.”

Considering that it thinks I can cut about 2 minutes off  my 5K PR, 2 minutes off my 10K PR, 5 minutes off my half marathon PR, and 13 minutes off my marathon PR (all of these cuts are on PRs that I set 4-5 years ago…which is sad, honestly), it should also understand the value of rest.  I mean…high expectations there on race predictions…the best way to do that is to give this body the time it needs to get strong and happy again.  You know what that requires?

REST.

And I’ve been doing so much of it.

Finally…just over a week later, my Garmin seems to understand me a little better…

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That’s way better than being told I’m unproductive.  I mean, I may not be piling on the miles, but I’ve been taking walks, returning to spin classes (that started this week!), stretching, foam rolling, strength training…all because I want to keep this body happy and healthy.  Too many times I’ve rushed back into training and ended up sidelined with either a major or minor injury.  I’m done with watching others achieve things I’ve dreamed of from the sidelines.  Done.

So yeah, I have put recovery as a priority, where I might have really overlooked it before.  I keep trying to work some extra sleep in, but that is harder for me to accomplish.  I get to bed as early as I can when I know I have an early morning ahead of me.  To the best of my ability, of course.

Remember…sleep, eat, rest, recover…and you’ll be set to give it your all when training kicks back in.

I can’t wait.

RESET

The last couple of months have been crazy-busy.  Go-go-go-go-go.  Do this.  Do that.  Travel here.  Travel there.  Work.  Catch up on work.  Work overtime.  Cook.  Gotta eat.  Food is fuel.  Train.  Run.  Run.  Train more.  More.  Keep training.  Run.  Keep running.  Still gotta work.  This work won’t do itself.  Oh…yeah…sleep.  That’s kinda important too, right?

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Needless to say…the simple things…those every day things that often fall to the wayside…well…they fell to the wayside.

I’m not just talking about my presence here on this blog or even online.  I mean…making time to do something as simple as vacuum my apartment.  Or dust the shelves.  Or put away things from race expos and food expos.  Or…just organize the apartment.  And if you know me, you know clutter and disorder drive me crazy.  It’s been pretty hard to breathe.

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Today, that all came to a head.  I woke up this morning and causally lingered in bed and played on my broken (aka: shadowbanned) Instagram account, hoping that it might be visible again.  It’s not.  Meh.  I got up and did my stretches and exercises and worked in some foam rolling.  And then…despite the light drizzle and nip in the air…I went out for a run.  And I felt good.  I smiled a lot.  I didn’t worry over pace or speed or hills or flats or anything.  I just did what my legs wanted to do from one mile to the next.  My mind was on the numerous people I know who were tackling the Ironman Louisville today.  I’ve been tracking them all day and it’s been both nerve-wracking and exciting all at once.  Had the weather been less wet…I would have actually been out there cheering in person.  But I honestly (for reasons to be explained in an upcoming blog) just couldn’t bring myself to do it today.

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But, while using the app to track their amazing progress and great feats of athleticism, what I did manage to do was this:

  • Went for a short run in the rain.
  • Showered
  • Made breakfast for my roomie and I
  • Cut up and baked a large, organic kabocha squash (my favorite)
  • Went to Target to pick up my prescription
  • Went to the mall to just move around a little since weather was so shitty
  • Went to Meijer so my roomie could pick up her prescription and then we finished grocery shopping.
  • Organized the pantry at home (finally putting away the GFFAF Festival goodies/finds)
  • Organized the snacks/running fuel drawer
  • Laundry
  • Cooked dinner from scratch (delicious stuffed peppers)
  • Stretched
  • Foam rolling
  • Folded and put away laundry
  • Watched Top Chef (I’m catching up on all the seasons I missed since the upcoming season is in Kentucky (and some in Louisville))
  • And a lot of dishes and cleaning and prepping and all that in between.

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The best part of the day though…had to be the impromptu dance party via Marco Polo with my friend Natalie.  It was a good way to get shit done and yet…still keep a lighthearted and fun-loving perspective on it.  It was so much fun.  And we hit each other with some good songs.  But my roomie and I slapped her with some Baby Shark…so we might win.  HA.

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I’m finally down on the couch and relaxing.  Not ready to go to bed yet, despite feeling utterly exhausted.  But that will come in about an hour.  I’m so happy with how productive I was today and all that got done.  I mean…my roomie even painted her pumpkins today.  Cross that off the list too.

Anyone else have a busy and productive weekend?  Anyone else cheering on friends at Ironman Louisville?  Any suggestions to help me keep up with life…hit me up.  Because my organizational skills are starting to wane.  And that’s not like me.

Ch-Ch-Changes…

Nothing is ever a perfect fit for everyone.  Nothing.  Just because something suits one person doesn’t mean it will work for someone else.  That’s just life.  No two people are exactly the same…and that means not everything will work the same for every body.

And that, my friends…is only the beginning of the changes that have been spinning through my life.

Let’s start with the biggie…

In a time where everyday runners…and weekend warriors are seeking out help through means of a coach…my coach and I have parted ways.

what
It was a mutual thing…in the end.  I was extremely unhappy with the way her plan had me running and the lack of mileage that I was putting into my training.  Running for time instead of distance is not something I enjoy doing.  When I marathon train, I want my 20 mile runs so I know…I can get there and then…hit that last 10K.  And I just wasn’t anywhere near that.  Halfway through training and I never once got over 13 miles.  And it was eating at me.  And the volume and length of the speed work days was overwhelming…where I’d have to get up at 2:30 am just to fit it in and, honestly, every Sunday night, I’d end up in tears over it.  And no training plan is worth that sort of misery and unhappiness.  I’m not an elite athlete…I don’t win cash prizes for running…I’m not a sponsored athlete…I run because I enjoy it.  Because it’s fun.  And it wasn’t fun anymore. And I wasn’t enjoying it.  It was stressing me out more than it was helping me to decompress.  And that means…it’s totally upside down.

I value what I learned from her in the years I had her as my coach, and while I respect that the plan she had me on got her the BQ she really wanted…it wasn’t working for me.  My body wasn’t reacting well to it.  I wasn’t getting better with it.  In fact, I felt it was only breaking down the progress I had made prior to starting it.

And so…she called me…and we decided it was better for both of us…to just be friends.

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It’s so much better now.

So…where does this leave me with my training?  That’s a very, very good question.  This was NOT an easy transition to make.  And I’m still adjusting while trying to convince myself that I’m not too far behind on my fall marathon training.  That fall marathon is coming up fast and I’m still just…uneasy over it all.  I feel unprepared, undertrained, and just…lost sometimes.

My roommate had me dig out my first ever training plan for the marathon distance, from 2013, when I was training for Chicago.  She made a few adjustments to it, loaded it up on my Google Calendar…and that’s it.  That’s what I got for the next 7.5 weeks.  No pace requirements (although I’m focusing on keeping those long runs at a slower pace to not break down my body and also…to get me used to long periods of time on my feet).  I do the speed sessions, which are broken down into intervals I believe I can nail and not stress over.  I just go and do it…and whatever is my best that day is what I can give.  And without the stress…I usually do better than anticipated.  As for long runs…my roommate gives me only one bit of advice…

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HAHA.  Well…sort of.  Basically this schedule was worked up to help me grow in confidence, in endurance, and, eventually, in speed.  So…her advice is always…just go run.  However I feel.

And my only goal at the moment is to get through it all…uninjured.  Because when I’m usually working on this sport alone…that’s what happens.

So…fingers crossed.

fingers

Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN (May 26, 2018)

Me crossing the finish line at the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN

Race: Run for the Berries 5K

Place: Starlight, Indiana

Date: May 26, 2018

Time: 22:45

One of my favorite baseline 5Ks to run in this area is the Run For The Berries 5K, which is part of the Starlight Strawberry Festival in Starlight, Indiana.  And, while I had wanted to be running a half marathon with friends up in Medina, Ohio…I was still in the area and using the 5K as my speed work for the week.

As I say every year I actually am able to run in this race…there are a lot of things I love to run for, but strawberries…that has to be one of my favorite things ever.  If only they were free…but after a (usually) sweltering race, the strawberry treats are worth shelling out some cash for.  Trust me.  My go-to is a big bowl of strawberries from the Strawberry Shortcake booth and a frozen strawberry drink.  YUMMY!

It’s really weird showing up for a race you still need to register for…just sayin’…

Once again, I wasn’t actually registered to run the Run for the Berries 5K this year.  I waited too long to do the mail-in form…and it doesn’t look like there is online registration yet.  Which is weird.  I know.  But, that being said, this just meant we needed to head up to Starlight a little earlier so I could get registered, get pinned, get stretched, and get ready to run.  So…that morning, Cathy woke up early and, after I did all my PT stretches, decided on what I was going to wear (hello Wonder Woman sports bra!), and ate something, slathered on some sunscreen, and we loaded into the car (and yeah…the sign was able to come too since the weather was humid and hot…but not wet and rainy!).  The race was $25, which isn’t bad.  I paid in cash after filling out the registration form.  The shirts this year were a light sky blue.  Not tech.  I miss the tech shirts from this race.

We had to pin my bib onto my shorts because my sports bra didn’t have enough space for it (and I was now kinda nervous my girls were going to pop out of the cute little ziggy zaggy straps at the front).  But it would have to do.  I’m so not used to pinning things to my shorts at all.  Luckily they were long enough and not ones that would ride up over my, now very muscular, thighs like most of my usual running shorts do.  All this strength training and 3 days a week of spin have added some bulk to my thighs for sure!  We had a bit of time, so we went to stand around outside near the festival entrance to people watch and just get ready.

When you know your sports bra isn’t big enough for the race bib…be glad your shorts are!

About 5 minutes before the start of the race, runners began to make the walk down to the cone that marked the start of the actual race.  As I was wandering that way, my friend Renee asked me if I was actually running this one fast.  I told her that my training plan said to try to keep my pace below an 8 minute mile depending on humidity and heat.  I have been struggling a lot this year with keeping my speed and endurance up in the heat…something I’ve never had an issue with in the past.  UGH!  Best I could do was hope for the best.

I was lined up in the second row at the start of the race.  As with Fast Freddie…it’s off gun time, so the closer you are to the race start, the more accurate your time is. The race organizer got on the bullhorn and started to give some information about the race. Like male runners at the finish will have white cards to fill out; female runners will have pink; walkers will have yellow. OH…and if you are registered as a walker…and you run down a hill…you are now a runner. This gets said every year, and it still makes me laugh.  He gave the words…On your marks…get set…and he fired a gun, then dropped it and got into the pack to run the race itself.  Or so I was told.  Me…I was too busy taking off as fast as I dared.

Me chasing pavements at the Run For the Berries 5K – Starlight, IN

The past couple of years I’ve managed to hit something in the high 6 minute paces.  In 2013, I managed a 6:54 and in 2016, I hit a 6:48.  I was sort of hoping for the same thing to happen this year.  Especially since, while there are slight rollers in this first mile…it is the flattest portion of the race.  I just pressed as much as I dared or could make my legs go…and decided my job today would be to push the pace and then try to hang on.

The turn onto Engle Road brought the second mile to a start.  I knew my legs were starting to fatigue, but it was way too early for that.  Humidity does seem to sap my energy a lot more than it used to these days.  So, I decided to focus in on form and turnover.  And, I did see a girl struggling, so I gave her some words of encouragement as I ran.  The humid air dampened my pigtails and I could feel sweat beading on my stomach…but onward.  I just kept going.  This mile also brings in more rolling hills, but a few more downhills than uphills.  We ran past Hubers Family Farm and continued down Engle Road.  And then I hit Mile 2, ignored the water stop, and just I just kept on running.  After the hill, it’s just a few rollers and a couple of smaller climbs to the finish.  You actually finish this race going uphill.

Nothing beats a frozen strawberry drink and a big bowl of strawberries after a good race.

I could hear Cathy yelling at me to run faster, which usually means another female runner isn’t too far behind me.  According to official results, this was a mere 4 second gap between me and the lady behind me, who was also in my age division.  As I crossed the finish line, a volunteer shouted out my time to me and I was handed a pink card.  I also got a lot of compliments on my compression socks.  I love being a fastinista.

Cathy sent me to get water and cool down by walking while she filled out the card and dropped it into the age group container for me.  Then she went to grab our frozen strawberry drinks.  Upon her return, of course I went to hit up the strawberries for my big bowl as a reward.  It’s the best part, as I previously mentioned.  While I was eating my berries and Cathy was enjoying a strawberry shortcake, a girl behind me said, “Excuse me miss…are those hair extensions in your hair.”  I told her they were.  She asked how I put them in so I tried to show her.  Then she said the best thing, that, honestly, made my day.  She said, “You encouraged me out there.  Thank you.”  She was the girl I saw struggling.  That was the best reward ever was hearing that.  That’s what running is all about, honestly.  I asked her how she did.  She said she was 12th overall female.  So she wasn’t far behind me either.  YAY!

After we devoured our treats, we went to check out the festival booths, where I ended up purchasing hair bows and a gift for my friend Melissa.  Then, we headed back up to listen to the award ceremony and get our cheering on.

Me with my age group award at the Run For The Berries 5K – Starlight, IN

While the men were being announced, I went ahead and checked my watch to actually look at my splits: M1: 7:01; M2: 7:25; M3: 7:33.  Yep.  Very positive splits.  My age group came around and I ended up as 2nd this year in my age division.  WOOHOO!!  I never expect to win…because there was one year where I was 6th overall and didn’t win my Age Group.  So…you never just expect it.  I went up to get my pint glass and then, Cathy and I decided it was time to make our pilgrimage to Hubers for some strawberries before heading home.  We bought 2 gallons because…I make kickass strawberry jam, friends.

As it stands, the official results of the Run For The Berries 5K are that I finished in 22:45. Not a PR…and none of my splits were over a 7 minute pace.  In the past few years I have run this, my first mile has registered in the 6’s.  Not this time.  I’m kind of bummed.  I just want a PR at some point…and none of my old records are falling.  Not. Even. Close.  I was 28/133 runners overall.  I was the 8/69 females to cross the line.  And I ended up as 2/5 in my age division.

I want to come back stronger and faster next year.  Goals.