The first mile I think I hit in 6:15, which may have been a little fast for the trails, but appropriate for the road. I also only wore my Timex and barely looked at it and this was a good decision. The race was well-marked and organized and more competitive in both divisions than in the past. I closed hard after adjusting my goals due to the energy drain of the sand and finished sub 21 instead of sub 20. After being more gassed than I've been in a long time, I quickly recovered and was able to run a nice 30:00ish cooldown after and my legs didn't feel too bad. I guess my inner Honey Badger decided to start resurfacing out there yesterday. So what if I really exerted myself out there, I can handle it! After getting my wind and wits back, I decided I wanted more. Let's discuss.
I'll take a step back to where I arrived as I processed some bigger insights from a small race. After winning in College Station but not feeling very mentally tough, I set a process goal to not give in, or at least bash myself for being uncomfortable. I was not going to be afraid to hurt, to feel my lungs wheezing while I refuse to let up. I know I beat his horse to death especially on the blog but I have had these internalized doubts that I am now 'fragile' and that I shouldn't expect as much from myself performance-wise. I have been doing some training lately where I simply push for an interval, say an 800 or 400 at fast/sustainable pace, jog a short recovery, and hammer again. No judgement and outside stimuli such as a GPS watch, just me working on my nerve and grit. I feel like I'm slowly getting that 'toughness' I prided myself in years ago-how I earned the "honey badger" title from my running friends. Honey badgers don't fear handling hard efforts!
This time around, I knew I would face discomfort and had decided to break the race down mentally as much as possible and run simply by focusing on line of sight. My execution was good, the terrain not so much-only so much I could do with running across a sandbox! I left the race feeling happy with how I mentally stayed in it, how my body held up, but with an odd sense of uneasiness about what to do next.
So here's where I'm at today: The Chevron Houston Marathon in January I hope to use as a conduit to a BQ. There are a couple ways to enter the race-running a qualifying 10k, 13.1 or 26.2 time for early registration, running as an elite, veteran, or other special case, or entering the lottery system-which is kind of a risk. I had originally planned on running a qualifying 10k within the next few weeks. The CHM committee only asks for a 51:00. I wanted to go out and qualify by running a solid 10k. Yesterday I weighed the options; while I could very easily run a 51:00 and likely with a lot to spare, I realized that just running races to prove to myself that I can still run is getting old. I need more focus and structure to what I'm doing. I guess in full honesty, I am tired of feeling 'soft' and want to get more out of myself. I've basically been afraid to set hard goals because of being burned in the past. Injury history be damned-I tell my athletes to have specific goals wrapped in higher (but realistic) expectations all the time. I suppose it couldn't hurt if I do the same.
For this race season, I have decided to nix the 10k qualifier and focus on something more specific and geared towards fully restoring my competence on the run. I drove away from Rob Fleming Park with a chimp on my back metaphorically pulling on my ears and poking my eyes and the only way to get rid of it is to work on lowering the 5k time. To many, this doesn't look like the process they'd take, but for a goal to be really motivating (vs. just clearing a soft qualifying time that is less gratifying) it has to have certain ingredients.
Yesterday, holes in my goal-setting processes were exposed and knowing myself, I need to correct this in order to get that sense of mastery back. For me to feel most effective and successful, I need something specific and relatively immediate to work towards. I have to accept what I've got here and now and go with it-ego and past performances aside.
Here's the really geeky part: I'm working my goals based on theory. I teach this stuff daily to my private athletes and students, why not apply it to get what I want? Lowering the 5k time comes from Harter's Competence Motivation Theory (1978, 1981)-in layman's terms, an athlete gains a sense of competence in what they do by a series of 'mastery' experiences where they are set up to be and feel successful. Therefore opening the door for more progress.
One of the bigger names in the international scene of Sport Psychology, Dr. Martin Hagger, takes the concept of S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting to a different level. In a TED talk he introduces the S.M.A.R.T.E.R. acronym (perhaps a bit campy, but a good mental device nonetheless). I put my own spin on this for myself and my athletes in setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Focused, ENGAGING, and REWARDING. Notice the last two. SIDE NOTE: watch the TED talk linked to Haggers name, it's quite informative on how top athletes think.
While a BQ is obviously a specific goal, it is fairly lengthy in time scope and more races where I am set up to feel successful vs. just hitting a certain time is needed. With my performance yesterday (and don't get me wrong, it was a solid time), it was running a sub 20 5k again, nothing fancy, that I really found this engaging, and definitely attainable as I re-learned how to push myself recently. I even have one scheduled on 5/10 so I can focus on running the 200s and 400s needed to do so.
Why do this? Simply to increase confidence, and to reap the benefits of connecting with short-term goals. From there, I will evaluate others and make necessary adjustments. As you will see below, I have another STG set up for running my first 15k in June.
To put it all in perspective, I got a little geeky creative yesterday and drew up a "road map" of some possible processes and directions for my ultimate goal. I have this posted up in my bedroom to keep me focused, and also give me permission to challenge myself again vs. feeling kind of lost in the space in between now and January. For each race, I have written 'why do it' to further establish a sense of purpose for each event, even if enjoyment or trying something new is the reason. There are also no connecting lines on this lovely piece of legal pad chicken scratch for a reason to allow for flexibility.
|Try this at home. Or dont!|
So there you have it. Yes, I ran a race, but more importantly, it helped me really define how to get from now to Boston. I know there will be obstacles to overcome, but here we go..time to go to the next level!
Stay the course.