Friday, June 26, 2009

Trying Something New

I did a tempo run yesterday on the track, and it was awful and it was glorious. Awful because of the heat and humidity, glorious because I managed it despite the heat and humidity. This was the first tempo run I had done under my new program and I was nervous about my ability to do it, especially in this weather. But I got through, on pace, thanks to just enough of those beautiful moments when you feel that all is merging together perfectly to bring you, the run, and the world into blissful harmony. That, and the garden volunteer who kindly watered me when I asked him to.

For those of my non-running readers who don’t know what I’m talking about, a tempo run involves warming up at an easy pace for about 10-15 minutes, then an extended run at a middle race distance pace (that is, not as fast as you would do a 5K, but not as slow as you would a marathon), and then cooling down with an easy jog for another 10-15 minutes. The idea is that they teach your body (and mind) to run at a fast pace for a long period of time, thus getting you ready for actual racing conditions. This is something new I've been doing this year, and aside from being fun to do on its own, it has also really boosted my confidence about my abilities.

As I said, this was the first week of a new training program. I’ve been getting mine from the Runner's World Smart Coach program, and previously I had been working with one created from my 5K time of earlier this year. But as I started incorporating speedwork and tempo runs into my training, I realized I was improving much faster than I had expected, and that in fact I was finding it harder to go at the slower pace set by the program than to just go at a faster one. Was it possible that I had already improved so much as to need a new program? It seemed so - every time I changed my planned runs to go faster the transition was effortless, even at the longer distances. I was tired of the endless tinkering I was doing, and worried that I might end up "improving" my program to the point of overexertion, so after a few weeks of this I decided to recalibrate and create a new one, based on the actual speedwork I'd been doing.

Of course I worried that I was being too ambitious, but after a week it feels just right - hard enough to have to put more physical and mental effort into it, but temperate enough to feel like it's a challenge I can continue to meet, week after week. (I hate the word "moderate.") I really do need to be able to stay the course on my training - as the mother of an almost-toddler who relies on my runs to keep me happy and grounded (and pleasant to be around), I cannot afford to be injured or to burn out.

I would love to be able to do more - I read the blogs of other mother athletes and envy what they are doing. But I have a thirteen-year history of not managing to string more than two years of running together, despite my great love for it. I am determined this time to keep it going, which means, for this first year back at least, I need to keep my ambition in check. Or rather, to recognize that in order for me to realize my running ambitions, I need to maintain a steady, measured effort over the long haul, and not succumb to the allure of a fast dash out of the gate.

Because I have dreams, baby, I have dreams. And I have sat on them for thirteen years, and I am not content to sit any more.

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