"Running doesn't get easier. We just get stronger."
A friend of mine posted that on Facebook recently and it really resonated with me.
I've been running long enough to know that I can usually push through when I don't feel like I can. That I can usually complete the long run no matter how bad it feels in the first few kilometres. That the last two kilometres of a long run are always hard, no matter how long the run is. I've learned that 14k is hard when I have to run 14k. When I have to run 18k, the first 14k is not that much of the problem.
It's about getting strong mentally and physically.
The Niagara Falls half marathon training continues. My original plan was to train up to 18k and then sign up if I felt that I could do the distance and do it well. Well, the race is more than 85% sold out (up from 75% a few days ago) so I needed to decide and quickly.
I was scheduled to run 16k on Saturday morning so I decided that would be the make or break run. I had run 14k at the cottage last weekend and it was tough and exhausting but I did it.
So I figured I'd be ok running 14k this time but that the last few kilometres would be tough.
I was tired before I started and I didn't warm up and find my groove as easily as I would have had I been running long runs all summer. I decided to ignore my pace and stick with keeping my heart rate between 165-168. I've found that, as soon as I hit 170 bpm, my ears start to plug up and I start having trouble catching my breath. So I hovered just under that in order to be able to do the distance.
I decided to break the run up into 4x4k sections. The first 4k were laboured but I forced myself to keep going until my watch beeped 4k and then I was allowed to stop for a quick drink. The next 4k were better. I never really found my groove but I felt better. At 8k I had another quick drink break and carried on. Because I've run this route before, I knew that the 12k point was on a busy road and not a good place to stop so I convinced my legs to run 5k instead of 4. This would allow me to stop at 13k for a quick drink. It was a good psychological move because I'd be down to 3k left which would seem short after running 5k.
Running is a big mind game for me.
Sometimes I win. Sometimes I don't.
With 13k down and 3k to go, I started flagging. Fast.
I resumed my run and my ears immediately started plugging up and my breathing came in gasps. I checked and my heart rate was only 160 bpm. I walked for 20 seconds until things settled. I resumed and made it to the stop light with 1.8k to go. When the light turned green I headed off again and made it another kilometre before I walked again. I never walk in the last kilometre - it just seems ridiculous to walk when I can see the finish. But I felt so 'off' that I walked for 20 seconds and then managed to run the last few hundred metres to the end.
Running doesn't get easier. We just get stronger.
I have been running and racing all summer but 10k was the longest I have run since March. Building up the running mileage is always hard after a break. I know that and I expect it to be. By the time I reach 20k in a few weeks, 16k will be no big deal. I know that.
It used to freak me out when I had tough runs when I was training. It used to demoralize me when I struggled to do the distance.
Now I know that I just need to get the mileage in. To push through without pushing beyond my limits and to slowly build my strength and my confidence. I know that I'll be fine by race day.
Trust the training. Do the work.
It will all come together.
I struggled home. I collapsed on my yoga mat with my chocolate milk and I stretched my exhausted legs. I showered and pulled on my recovery tights. I ate lunch. I sat on the couch with my coffee.
And then I signed up for the Niagara Falls half marathon.