A Huge “Duh” Moment

Week one of my aforementioned 10k training plan is over and I’ve now been catapulted into week two! Go me! (Hell, only three and a half people actually read this blog, and if you few don’t congratulate me once in a while, I’m totally allowed to do it myself!)

Back when I was doing the intermediate training program (big mistake, in hindsight) I had to run 4 miles. I did so on June 30th and felt like absolute death. Seriously, check out my max heart rate here! And can you believe that this was supposed to be an “easy run”? So much for that!

On that route there is only one hill with a 2.13% grade (steep, but not insane) and I attribute this hellish run to my realization that I had started a bit too strongly with my training.

Sunday was my longest run since ditching the intermediate program and downgrading to the beginner one. Until that point, I had only needed to run an easy 1.5 to 2 miles. Well, guess how long my long run was going to be this time?

Yup. Four miles.

Initially upon seeing the distance, I let out a big hearty “WTF??!!” I knew it had to be done, but this time I would fix the one thing I completely ignored last time: pace. I chose a different route – a simple out-and-back that started on an incline but ended on a steep decline to our house – and hit the pavement, swearing I would go no faster than 10:30/mile.

I always struggle with going slow. I mean, I’m not fast… that’s for damn sure… but it’s hard for me to see other people running faster than me. When I was training for my half marathon in 2011 with a group, my pace was the fastest it’d ever been. Sometimes I catch myself looking back at my log of times, envious of how I could run 6 miles at an 8:48 pace.

I do prefer running alone because I want to be able to let go of the competitiveness and self-criticism I give when I catch myself “racing” with those around me. Besides, I’m not the best conversationalist when I’m gasping for breath. (And, yes, you experienced runners who have somehow stumbled upon this blog: I know that being able to hold a conversation while running is a sign that you’re at a good pace. I’m dumb and, as I’ve clearly mentioned, I tend to choose speed over comfort, health, safety, and sanity.)

So, any time I looked down at my Garmin* and found myself going faster than 10:00/mile, I’d slow it down… except for the very end, because I can’t be perfect!

*SIDE NOTE: They discontinued my Garmin Forerunner 350?! Consider this another WTF moment! Still, get yourself a Garmin Forerunner GPS-enabled watch. They are worth their weight in gold. Look at the 410… isn’t it just sexy? Yes, electronics can be sexy. Don’t judge.

So, I finished, and I saw the proof that going slow actually helps in many ways:

  1. Despite the fact that there were two hills, one of which was over 4% grade for nearly a mile, my joints didn’t hurt. My sciatica didn’t even flare up!
  2. I wasn’t out of breath when I got home, even after a sub-9-minute/mile sprint in the final stretch. At the end of the first four-miler, I had to sprint to the bathroom thinking I was going to throw up, immediately putting cold water on my head. I stood in front of the AC for about 15 minutes before taking a cold shower. This time around, I simply walked in the door, the boy asked me how I felt, and I said, “Pretty good!” without turning the AC on at all.
  3. I cooled down a lot faster. Usually, even after getting out of a 10+ minute long cold shower, I sweat for at least another half hour. This time after a barely-10-minute long cold shower, I was perfectly fine and went out with the boy the rest of the afternoon.

In the end, I’ve officially been schooled. All of these years of being told to go slow, listen to my body, run my own race, and a slew of other running cliches, I listened. And they were right. My overall pace didn’t suffer that much between the two 4-mile runs; the difference was that I was steady on Sunday, and made it a battle two weeks prior.

Slow and steady wins the race. Duh!

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