This morning I met up with my friends for some 4:45 am sleep running. I had 2 miles of warm up, 4 miles of 1 min hard, 1 min easy followed by 8 easy on the schedule. I didn’t feel amazing but I didn’t feel terrible either– I had minimal expectations.
After wam up we set off and to my surprise, my legs were just ready to go! On the fast sections of the 1 min hard, 1 easy I was running a 6:40 pace! Normally I’m struggling at the back of our pack but today I was pleasantly surprised to be in the middle. Everything was working right– my mind was focused, my legs didn’t hurt until the end of the fast sections and my body was cooperating. I even, very briefly, saw 5:50 pace. I averaged an 8:10 for the first 6 miles which is awesome.
Workouts aren’t a competition, but it is a decent way to measure your progress. I have been working my ass off lately. I might even be working harder than when I was training for CIM. The miles are a little less, but the intensity has been increased significantly. There hasn’t been a single run in the last few weeks when I haven’t demanded my absolute best. I’m running with faster friends and I’ve been trying to step up and run at their level. And the hard work is starting to pay off. I’ve been eating right, avoiding the wine and just plain working hard.
I think I’ve turned a mental corner too. I was so convinced that my body was done improving and achieving PRs but I now know that’s garbage. My body is ready to improve and I strongly believe my best races are yet to come. And I believe that I’m capable of running with my friends. I can hang, it’s just a matter of doing it. Yes, getting up at 4:15 is painful. Yes, demanding the best of yourself each time you put on your shoes is a little exhausting but you know what? This morning was really, really fun. Whizzing down the road with my headlamp on, breathing hard and looking at the moonlit river is priceless. And to do that with friends you really like? Even better.
The best part is that I think I earned a little bit of respect today. When I finished the fartlek section I was told by some runners I really respect, that I “was really flying out there today and starting to look really good.” And I was so happy. Plus, my coach had a few words with me about how hard I am on myself. My workout reports to him have been kind of negative (I could have gone faster, sorry I wasn’t faster, oh man, I’m sorry, I should have been faster) and told me to step back and look at the whole picture and to be thrilled with my progress. So I am.
I don’t say this to tout my own awesomeness. I am not yet awesome. I’m still a long way from being able to hang with my friends– they’re talking abotu 2:55 and 3:15 marathons and we all know I’m not there. I say this to encourage you– if you put the work in, demand the best of yourself everyday and exercise self-discipline where it matters it will pay off. It will. Yes, there will be days filled with pain and frustratation and slow splits. But there will be also days where you see a glimmer of improvement, feel your legs come alive and realize, “this is really fun.”