February 2, 2012

Constantly Exceed Your Level

8:23, 8:50, 8:44, 8:59, 8:32... paces from my runs over the past week. Holy amazeballs I'm getting faster. I'm running my next race this weekend, the Gridiron 4 miler in Central Park, and my goal of a sub 9 4 miler is within reach. I'm planning on making it a reality and I'm putting it out there for you to read... motivation to kick a$$.

My last race, the Race to Deliver back in November, was also a 4 miler and although in my head my goal was just to finish strong & pain free without thinking about my time, in my heart, a sub 9 pace would've been nice. And by "nice" I mean "awesome". I didn't wear a Garmin to that race, I didn't listen to music, and I had someone by my side coaching me through it. I learned a lot about strategy during that race. I'd never really thought about race strategy for anything shorter than a half marathon before; I'd just go for it and modified based on how I felt. To respond to how I was feeling instead of planning for it. But I learned some great tips that morning, like checking in with my body every mile. My running buddy suggested I check in every mile. Every mile I asked myself, how do my legs feel? Are my shoulders relaxed? How is my arm position? And when I needed to focus and to maintain a steady pace, I counted each step "1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4". I knew the race route; I had run in plenty times before so I knew what to expect. I learned to run with the route in mind. The first mile included Cat Hill… should I spend a lot of energy powering up that hill and risk running low later? Or should I take it easy and save my legs for the rolling hills down the west side of central park in that last mile? I took each mile at a time, focusing on what to expect and adapting accordingly.

For the most part, my strategy worked. My final time was 36:43 which gave me a 9:11 pace for the race. Although I wasn't wearing a Garmin, my running buddy was and here were my splits:
Mile 1 8:56
Mile 2 9:06
Mile 3 9:05
Mile 4 9:36
With the exception of Mile 4, not only were my splits even but my pace was pretty steady too, wavering only a few pace seconds here & there. So what went wrong? Halfway through that last mile, just as I was finishing the last of the west side rolling hills, I got a major stomach cramp. You know the kind of cramp that makes you bend in half so you can't stand or walk or move? That kind of cramp. I've never ever come to a complete stop at a race until that day. I don't know if it was a crappy diet that week, or the fact that I didn't drink enough water before nor any during the race and I was probably dehydrated. But something definitely happened and I'm hoping I learned from it so I can correct it for this weekend.

So that's the plan this weekend:
- Run with the route in mind
- Check in with my body every mile paying attention to my form & how I feel
- Try to keep a steady pace... 1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4....
- Hydrate! Before & during the race. Better to take a quick water stop than a full cramp stop
- Don't eat crap this week. So far so far... but I should probably work on reducing my wine & cocktail consumption too. Hmmm...
- Exceed my limits

I'm not a big fan of putting my goals out there for everyone to read in case I end up sucking & feeling crappy. But I'm doing it anyway because I'm pretty sure that if I push it and work my tush off, I'm going to succeed. The day that I officially registered for NYCM 2012, I told someone my goal time which would be a ginormous PR for me. And I said to him "I can do it, right? I think I can do it". His response to me came via email in the form of this image
"Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it'll spread over into the rest of your life. It'll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level."

Amazing. True. Right On. Amen.

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