New Year, New Focus

Running is officially my #1 priority and passion these days. This weekend, I completed my second half marathon since November and shaved seven minutes off my time! My PR is now 2:35:43. I completed the half at a pace of 11:53 minutes/mile and I couldn’t be more proud. For my first half marathon I trained with a group through Lifetime Fitness, and to be honest I was slightly discouraged with my time. I was putting forth my best effort, and running farther than I had since I got injured, but my extremely talented running mates finished their races over 30 minutes ahead of me. My need to compare myself to others (aka my fiercely competitive nature) clouded the pride I should have been feeling for my accomplishment. The truth is, I’m glad I slowly eased back into running. I ran and trained conservatively with a  specific purpose – to prevent another injury from occurring. My injury took an entire year to heal and the last thing I want is to take mandated time off of running again.

For my second race, I didn’t exactly train as hard as I should have. I signed up for the race about six weeks out. Six busy, party-filled weeks out. My birthday, Christmas, New Years, and countless Christmas- and birthday-related get togethers filled the weeks leading up to the race. To say I put training on the back burner would be a huge understatement – I completed one run longer than seven miles in those six weeks. One. Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re looking to get injured that’s probably not a bad way to try. I’m extremely grateful that I didn’t get injured and even more perplexed as to how I was able to run so much faster the second time around.

I’m actually not that perplexed. I know most of my running-related obstacles have been mental. I probably could have run my November half at a faster pace, but was still scared to overdo it. However, I have never felt faster, fitter, or stronger than I do today. When I met my running coach back in August I told her I was looking forward to regaining my “mental toughness” and I am finally there, 110%, no doubt. Now that I am where I need to be mentally I am going to see what I can accomplish physically. I have one more half marathon on the books, in six weeks. I am going to use the McMillan Running Calculator as my guide, and one of Hal Higdon’s training programs to execute.

According to the McMillan calculator I should be able to run a half marathon at a pace of 11:07 minutes per mile. That is 46 seconds per mile faster than my last race! I will not let the numbers scare me – or I will try my hardest, anyway. Greg McMillan has revolutionized running with his pace calculators, and my plan is to simply trust in them. If  you are unfamiliar with his work I highly recommend checking out his website. You can plug in the time of any standard distance race you have run and it will not only give you projected times for races of different lengths based on that time, it will also give you suggested training paces for tempo runs, long runs, speed work, etc.

46 seconds. Per mile. I’m not going to think about not doing it, I’m only going to focus on what I need to do to get there. That’s what the experts tell us to do in order to be successful, right? If I follow my training plan truthfully, if I incorporate strength training and cross training consistently, this should happen. I’ve never tried to run 13.1 miles at that pace before so I have no reason to believe I can’t do it. I will not enter this next phase of training with trepidation, but rather with confidence and determination. Now that I know my leg is back to 100%, and my mind is back to 100%, there is no reason to put forth less effort than 100%. This is only the beginning.

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