Weekend Running Recap: Panic, Dismay, and Frustration

Not a good weekend. Panic: I'm not ready for my race. Dismay: I haven't gotten any faster. Frustration: Why haven't I gotten any faster?!

Yesterday (Saturday) I went to North Park to run the Just a Short Run 5K course. I'm not familiar with North Park so I also wanted to check out where to park. The odds for a good run were stacked against me from the start. The night before, we had our first firepit of the year in our backyard, and I was up late celebrating. On Saturday I didn't feel like doing anything, much less driving a half-hour to run a half-hour and then driving a half-hour back. But with the race just two weekends away, I had to.

I found the Boat House easily and parked there. When I started the run, it was so windy I felt like I was running into a wall. My plan was to start at a 9:30 pace and to increase each mile. I was able to keep to 9:30-9:40 when I started, but it felt very difficult--probably from being up late and drinking too much or the wind or a combination. I had printed out a map of the course and memorized the names of the roads to turn onto. When I turned onto McKinney Road, I was shocked. The course description of "gently rolling hills" failed to mention the steep, long hill that was McKinney. I was mentally unprepared for it, and it was so steep and so long that I was struggling to not walk, even though I was jogging at a snail's pace. It destroyed me. By the time I got to the top, I was done. My pace was shot (average pace by then was about 10:30), I was done with the run, and I was considering not even running the race. I never recovered from that effort, and while I made up some time on the short, sweet downhill that felt so good after the climb, I wasn't able to really push and run much faster the rest of the run. Then, I didn't remember the course map exactly, so instead of turning to go back to the Boat House and the finish at the end, I continued on Pearce Mill Road up another long and steep climb. Midway up I glanced at my Garmin and saw the mileage was 3.33, so I knew I missed a turn. But I forced myself to finish the climb (cursing the whole time), took a brief walk break at the top, and then jogged the downhill to the parking lot. Mentally, the entire run I was panicked that I was so unprepared for the race. Stats: Time: 35:53; Distance: 3.52 miles; Pace: 10:11.

When I got into the car, I felt defeated. 10:11?! 10:11??? I got home and reviewed my old running logs. Last fall, while training for the 5-mile Turkey Trot, I was doing 5-mile training runs between 9:40 and 10:00 paces. My official stat from the Turkey Trot was a 9:58 pace...for 5 miles! I continued to flip back through my logs and found entries that made my heart sink.

 August 2011...just three months after I started running for the first time in my life, when I was still struggling to run 30 minutes straight. There was the proof: I haven't gotten any better, any faster.

It's not because I haven't tried. Since last fall when I decided I wanted to improve, I increased my run sessions from three days a week to four, added speed workouts, added long runs, and increased overall mileage. I've been following a training plan designed to run a faster 5K and have missed only one or two workouts, even through the polar vortex. So how can it be that I'm running a slower pace than I was just three months after I ever started running? I'm putting in the work but not seeing the results. Does that mean that I will always be a slow runner, that I'll never be able to run much faster than about a 10-minute mile? I was so disgusted and upset that I considered just throwing in the towel and taking up Zumba and spinning instead of running. Why bother when it makes me feel like a failure?

I like running, so I'm not going to quit. But I do wonder if I should just run the way I like--long, slow runs--instead of even trying to work on speed. And even though I don't have a chance at keeping a 9:30 pace for JASR in two weekends, I'm still going to run it. Next weekend I'll do one last practice run and will try to think of a strategy. As much as I hate the thought, maybe I should just walk up that hill so that the effort doesn't destroy me for the whole run. I'd probably walk faster than I can jog it, and my average pace might be better. I'll have to see how next week's run goes.

If anyone has any advice--Is it impossible for certain people to get faster? Should I not even try to work on speed? Should I resign myself to walking up the hill during the race to save my energy?--I'd love to hear it. 

Today, Sunday, was the perfect weather running for me--cloudy and cool. It was my one-hour race simulation run, where the first 20 minutes were at an easy pace, second 20 minutes were moderate, and last 20 minutes were hard. Time: 1:00; Miles: 5.50; Pace: 10:55

Weekly Recap

Total weekly mileage: 17.45