Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A small crisis of confidence

I must come clean and admit that in the past few weeks I have been having some doubts about whether I can do it. What is "it," you ask? That's a good question. While I know I am feeling insecure about my running abilities, I am not completely sure what it is I think I am courting failure at.

Is it running a four-hour marathon? Or a sub-4:15, which is sort of my cut-off point between "decent, just not my best day" and "wheels completely off the bus." Totally arbitrary, of course.

Is it running a half-marathon PR? Or even just maintaining a reasonable sub-two? Because a PR is not my highest priority these days, but certainly maintaining my sub-twos is.

Is it obtaining PR's or reasonably decent performances in some unknown future fall 10K or 5K? Because again, I would like to get a PR or two but would happy to just stay in the range of my better showings.

I'll admit, all of these things seem a little scary and elusive. I feel like I am falling back into my inexplicable early 2009 slump, where I kept getting slower and slower, until I hit "bottom" at the Bath Half, then started to speed up again. This culminated in major PRs in every distance by fall of 2009. And now, a year later...what?

I think a few things have been going on this summer which have led to my self-doubt. I've already mentioned a few times that my easy runs, and easy long runs, seem slower than they were a year ago. As far as I know, I have been exerting the same level of effort but the times just feel slower. Or longer, whatever.

I've had a couple of 10K's (the last two I did) that were notably slower than my 10K's earlier this year (let alone my PR from November 2009). I also had a slow 5K, but I excuse that because it followed immediately (like five minutes) after a 10K.

Then there was the half marathon from hell in August. Granted, I was intentionally doing this as a long run rather than speed work, and it was super hot out, and I ran five miles before I started. But I was still stunned to end up with a 10:30-ish pace, which is completely out of the realm of my typical half marathon.

When I go out to run speed work, for example 800's (which are on the schedule tomorrow morning), I am never sure that I will be able to hit my desired pace. Even though I have largely succeeded at every effort, it has been success with an asterisk; for example, starting out too slowly but finishing on pace.

My fear is that what should seem easy (at least I think it should seem easy) instead feels too hard. And I don't know why. Probably it was hard last year too, and I am just remembering with too rosy a glow.

One thing that adds to my nerves, I know, is my ever-tender right ankle. It has never gotten to the point of true pain, the kind you can't run through, but the level of discomfort, though varying, is almost ever-present. That can't help my state of mind.

This morning I registered for the Super Jock & Jill Half Marathon on Labor Day. I've had it on my training schedule since the beginning, but hesitated to sign up until I was pretty sure it was doable (I'm talking personal schedule-wise, not ability-wise). For the first time ever, I think, I was somewhat reluctant and nervous to sign up for a half marathon. It's not that I want to try for a PR or anything. What I want to do is run comfortably and stay under two hours. I want those two things to be mutually inclusive, not exclusive.

And then there's the Fairhaven Waterfront 15K on September 11. I would like a PR in this one. But my PR from last year was so fantastic, I don't know that I could beat it even on a good day (surely on a great day, though!). My average pace last year was 8:18...I'd accept 8:30 without whining too much. My fear is...well, you can imagine.

So I don't know that putting all my concerns out there has helped me much. Perhaps it just added to the ephemeral worries that have been drifting through my mind. That can't be good.

But on the positive side (I have to be somewhat positive, I am the glass-half-full girl after all!), I am still running. The ankle hasn't laid me up or anything. As negative and reluctant as I might be starting a run, I always finish pretty strong and happy to have run. I tell myself that race-day adrenaline is powerfully strong.

I'll run Super Jock & Jill and see how it goes. If it doesn't go especially well, I'll try to let that go and concentrate my energy on Fairhaven. If I am in a slump, eventually I will climb back out of it. I know this to be true.


lindsay said...

I know the feeling!! I haven't PR'd (or really ran hard period) since last fall. I am SOOO psyched out about of I will ever PR again... Just keep getting out there, don't forget to schedule a few work (speed) days in your training and believe in yourself and your abilities. They won't all be PR's, but we will grab them here and there. And sometimes we do just need to run/race for fun and not to obsess over a PR :)

Sassy Molassy said...

Just don't overthink it too much. It's easy to let the mind start swirling. And maybe try icing the ankle a bit after your runs if you're not already doing that? I know I've decided that this weekend's half isn't going to be anything crazy fast bc my focus is on the marathon and this race is really just a training run for the marathon. Plus I'll be adding a few miles on to the race afterward I think.