I looked at my watch.
And that was my mistake.
Why did I do that? Curiosity? Hope? Self-destructive tendencies?
Welcome to Taper Week, or the time when my mental toughness is tested repeatedly before race day. It may be a week to give my body a rest, but that only works if I let my mind stop beating me up.
This run was a test. One that I struggled through, but ultimately passed.
Today’s workout was a 10K easy run. No problem, right? A 6.2-mile run is normal for me these days. No, it was the easy part I struggled with.
I headed out with my trusty Garmin and a mile in noticed that I was running slow. Not painfully slow, mind you. But slow. This is not what I wanted. I wanted my easy pace to be quick. I wanted to be amazed. I wanted to say: Look! I’m running free and easy and joyful and it’s a quick pace!
That was not happening this morning.
But wait. Does that mean it was a bad run?
The conversation continued in my head. After the first mile and half it took for my body to warmup and wake up I started to think about what this run was all about. It wasn’t about speed or tempo or race pace. It was about easy pace. It was about getting in the miles my body has grown accustomed to, maintaining my fitness base and shaking out the legs.
It wasn’t about gaining. It wasn’t about proving how fast I could now go.
Here’s the question I ended up asking myself: Do I want to run fast today or do I want to run well on race day?
What’s in my control right now? It was a cool start to the day, but the sun was bright, the sky was cloudless and the sharp blue made me smile, even if the air was still a bit crisp on my inhales. In my control was enjoying the beauty of the morning (even as I ran through the outskirts of urban sprawl). In my control was running an easy, relaxed pace. Out of my control is what number that easy, relaxed pace was today.
So let it go.
My friend Sue constantly tells me that pace and numbers are just for our amusement. It’s something to play with. Something to shoot for. Something to make the run more interesting. But it’s not the be-all-end-all. And while improving my run (and swim and bike) is fun to me, it’s not the reason I’m out on the road.
It’s that sense of joy. Of freedom. It’s a feeling of playfulness. It’s a gain in confidence. It’s the way I want to be in the world.
I finished my run in an easy-pace time. It felt good. Not too hard. Not too easy.
And I smiled.
Through all the busyness and the predictable doubts, something remarkable has happened over the last four months.
I’m not so scared of diving into that 70.3. And I’m getting further and further away from having any concern over how fast I complete the course.
Forget my faster run, my more confident swim and my steady bike — this detachment may just be my greatest achievement yet.