Besides Beach to Beacon, the last time I ran a 10K was in June, the MDI 10K in Bar Harbor, and I missed the 1 hour goal by 25 seconds. For whatever reason, this really bugged me. It was only the 2nd time I had run a 10K at all, but because both times I was pretty close to breaking 1 hour, I really wanted it.
A few days after that June race, I decided I wanted to spend the summer trying to run faster. I emailed my friend Roger, who is not only an accomplished runner and triathlete (understatement), but a really kind and supportive guy whom I know because his daughter was one of my favorite students. (shh.... don't tell anyone I said that). Roger is also a local cross-country coach. And I knew from experience that he loves to talk about running.
So I asked Roger if he could help me come up with some speed workouts. I felt like I was in a rut because I was always running the same speed, and I was sick of my running routes, and I just wanted to breathe some life into my running. I had only ever done "speed" workouts on the treadmill, but that wasn't getting me anywhere, and I hadn't really pushed myself anyway.
So, we talked about my patterns, history, and future goals. I told him I wanted to break 1 hour at Beach to Beacon. He wrote me up a training plan that fit in one speed workout per week into my triathlon training. I did these workouts at the track, religiously, and reported back to him my splits.
The coolest thing is that he made the target splits for each interval to be "hard, but doable." I had to work very hard to make the splits, but the accountability factor was enormous, and knowing that he thought I could do these workouts gave me a great confidence boost. I emailed him after each workout and told him how it went. He pushed me to work harder than I have as a runner, and I was loving it. Most of the time, I nailed my splits and felt fantastic. One time, I utterly failed at the workout (but that was 4 days after the Boston ER incident, so my head wasn't exactly in the game.) He was encouraging and kind, except for the two times he told me to stop whining. But I deserved it.
In other words, I had a coach. Excuse me if this sounds dramatic (who, me?) but it was kind of a dream come true.
So, Beach to Beacon. Yeah. I have to admit that once it became clear that the weather was going to be what it was, I had very little faith in myself pulling out a sub 1-hour 10K. I've struggled through enough hot runs to know what that weather does to me. And as you know, I missed it by a loooong shot.
I texted Roger after the race, and of course, he was nothing but encouraging about how I was young (ha) and had many more races ahead of me. But I was bummed. Really bummed.
We flew to Michigan, and I kept stewing about the race. On the one hand, I knew I made progress this summer on the track. On the other hand, I spend a lot of time running and thinking/writing about running, and wouldn't it be nice to feel that my efforts were showing just a little, tiny bit of payback? In short, I was pissed.
Wednesday we spent the entire day out in the sun at Michigan's Adventure, a really great amusement and water park a short drive from where we are staying. We got home at 7:00 pm. I ate a yogurt, drank some water, and decided, kind of on a whim, that I was going to go out there and re-do my 10K.
I truly hadn't thought about it that day until 15 minutes before, but all of a sudden, I was fired up and ready. My legs felt fresh. To borrow a phrase from another running mentor of mine, Kristina Pinto, I said to myself when I got out to the street: "Let's race this bitch," started my Garmin and went for it.
Mile 1: 8:52
Mile 2: 9:29
Mile 3: 9:32
Mile 4: 9:33
Mile 5: 9:41
Mile 6: 9:43
Last .2: 9:26 pace
It was 8:00 pm when I left, I had no ipod (left it in my car in Maine), no spectators, no cowbells, no water on the "course." Nobody knew what I was doing except me. It was just a quiet, cool Michigan night, and I got my redemption.
Besides reaching my time goal, the biggest victory for me is that I felt differently. I didn't feel like I was plodding or shuffling or suffering at all; I felt like I was running, like I was working hard but totally in control. Just like how I felt out on the track doing my speed work this summer.
The "finish line" of my 10K was a few blocks away on a tree-lined street. I quietly walked back home feeling really proud. For some reason, I needed to jump that hurdle. I think that before this run, only like 80% of me believed that I would ever do it.
I texted Roger last night to tell him that "we did it," and he was as happy as I am. And he also basically said: "I told you so."
I know that my times are still not fast and that many of you can run a lot faster. It's just that this shows quite a bit of progress for me. And we all have our giant hurdles that we day-dream about clearing, whether it's finishing a marathon, making a certain time goal in a race, or running our first mile without stopping.
In conclusion, I am more in love with running now than ever, and I can't wait for the next stage of my training. Every runner needs a Roger.
Thank you, Coach.