Learning to Race Uncomfortably

VictoryI have a confession to make- I’m too comfortable with running comfortably, especially in a race. I’m trying to change this and in 2013 I will change this. I’m a pretty competitive person but since I only started running a year ago racing is totally new ground for me. However, slowly but surely I’m starting to get faster during my training runs and I’m trying to translate that speed to racing.

My problem is I get kind of lazy. I know, a race is about the last place you want to get lazy but I hold back when I know I have more to push. I make excuses like, “well, I’m not really ‘racing’ this race,” or “well, I don’t want to get hurt so I’ll just stay at this comfortable pace.” I think I make these excuses because I’ve always been more concerned with finishing a distance than the time my Garmin reads.

However, now that my paces during my “easy” runs are consistently sub-9:00/miles I know when it comes time to race, I have the energy and endurance to push that pace even harder. I like to call it, learning how to run uncomfortably and part of that lesson is realizing races are much different than training runs. You’re supposed to pace yourself but push yourself too. You’re not supposed to be able to talk. You’re supposed to hurt a little bit because you’re working you butt off to get a good time.

In an effort to learn how to push myself, I’ve been trying to do at least one speed workout a week, whether it be intervals or a tempo. A few of my speedy coworkers asked me to come to mid-week intervals with them one week. Scared, and extremely nervous, I conceded and thought I’ll just do my own thing and if I can’t finish it so be it. Well when I got there I thought to myself, oh no, if I’m going to do this I’m going to do the whole damn thing just like everyone else- and you know what? I did!

This workout was HARD. I started off with a 2-mile warm up at an easy pace just to get the blood flowing. Then, our coach, Budd Coats, had us do a workout that would break the heart of any slowpoke like myself. We did the following:

200m, 400m, 600m, 200m, 200m, 400m, 600m

What. Yes, that happened.

But you know what? I lived and my pace was a solid 7:24 for the entire thing! So a few weeks after that I decided to push myself and see what I was really made of. I had promised Michele, of NYC Running Mama dot com, I would participate in her virtual Race for Recovery 5-K. What better time to test my new speedy legs than a race where no one’s watching? Well it worked and I busted out a 24:14 3.1 miles! A 5-K PR by almost three whole minutes! I was dead at the end but felt amazing! I finally learned how to really push it even when my lungs, legs and mind were trying to get the best of me.

But, as always, it’s important to remember not to push yourself beyond your limits- because we all have limits. While my fast may not be the same as another runner’s fast, it’s fast for me and for now, I’m just trying to find my limits.