It was a game-time decision. I woke up Saturday all to drive to Bond Lake to undertake my 10-mile run. My after-run bag was packed. My nutrition was all set. Mentally, that’s where I was preparing to go. But as I drank my coffee and ate my special pre-long run oatmeal, I immediately changed my mind. I would go to Orchard Park, one my usual stomping grounds for running, and do my workout there, in a familiar setting.
While Bond Lake itself is not new to me (I’m a Niagara County girl at heart) running there is. Last week was my first trip there where I combined trail and road for my 13-plus mile long run. I loved the people I met. Loved going out to get a stack of pancakes after the run. Loved being somewhere new and fresh.
But this week I wasn’t just doing a 10-mile run. After a two-mile warmup, my workout plan called for three to four miles at a tempo pace. Granted, the pace wasn’t blistering by my past standards. I’ve run this kind of workout much faster. But I’m coming back from a month of travel and a month of emotional heartbreak. My running has been slower. And with upcoming races, I’m finding that I’m nervous not just about my performance but about survival.
This weekend, I needed confidence. I needed to feel strong. Without hesitation, I decided the best place to challenge myself was in familiar territory. I wanted to nail this tempo pace. So instead of deciding to change my location based out of fear (of the new place and potentially not hitting my pace) I decided out of passion (I wanted to knock it out of the park).
My run became a solo event, which was just fine with me. I needed the mental toughness training, too. The easy warmup felt pretty good. I took my standard water and gel break and then went off for three to four miles at a tempo pace on the same route in which I’ve done tempo work for the better part of the last six months. The interesting thing about this tempo route (designed by my best running buddy Sue) is that the first quarter mile is pretty much downhill. Instant confidence. My pace were be guaranteed to be quick. And it was. But I told myself steady and strong, not kill it. I had at least two more miles to go. (The decision about the fourth mile would again, be game time. I only needed three.)
Mile No. 2 was a bit tougher and slower. Not a surprise. I had to moderate how my legs were moving now that the course was flat and a loop, but I was still in my target range. Hello Mile No. 3. I was starting to feel it a bit. Starting to get tired. Starting to feel the start of an abdominal cramp, the kind which tells you how hard you’re working. I focused on running street lamp to street lamp. By the time my Garmin buzzed, I had run my fastest mile of the day — a full five seconds faster than my tempo range for the day. If I’m running like this, I might as well do Mile No. 4. I backed off my pace just a tad. I thought about running steady and strong and fearless. The last half mile was tough. Oh was it tough. But it was just a half mile! Then came the dulcet buzz from my Garmin. Spot. On.
Pleased with myself, I began the balance of my run (four more miles) with a walk. Then a trot. Then a jog. I ran back to my starting location and grabbed a drink of water before finishing off the workout. And wouldn’t you know it, but I ran negative splits in my cool down. Seriously. The numbers weren’t as important as how I felt. And I felt like I was getting my run back. I felt like I was gaining consistency, fitness and focus. And that feeling is way better than whatever number pops up on my Garmin.
I’m not going to be putting up any personal records when I run the Flower City Half Marathon in two weeks in Rochester. That’s because (a) it was never the goal to begin with and (b) that’s not wy I’m running it. Originally I signed up for fun, something to use my fitness base from the Texas 70.3 for. Only, life got in the way of training for Texas 70.3 and the race never happened. So what is this race for now? Oh, it’s still for fun. But more and more, it’s a reminder that I’m stronger than I think I am. And that the only definition of success that matters is the one I create.