I have one goal this year. OK, that's not truthful. I probably have something like 17 or 26 goals, give or take 11, but either way, ONE GOAL: to run a PR (personal record, for the un-runners) at the Lakefront Marathon in October. My current record: 3 hours 58 minutes and 34 seconds. Seconds totally count, you guys. Don't hate on the seconds. Give me no more or no less. Only exact times here, people.
For the last year-plus the goal has been long and slow. Not so much slow as steady. I've been building my endurance over and over and over, adding more and more miles to my legs. The ultramarathon world is amazing (the 50K is my new favorite running love), but I've completely ignored my speed. It's been two years and two months since I ran my fastest marathon. That doesn't seem that long ago, but it is. It really, really is. A lot of things can change in two years, especially speed.
So I've been kicking the speed work up a notch at the hands of my trusted pal and coach, Caleb Masland, (who probably wants to wring my neck these days). Hammering out speed sessions feels FANTASTIC. My legs! They move at a rapid speed when I try! I forget what that's like sometimes. I'm planning to race a half marathon next weekend, and while I don't expect a PR there, I'm hoping to see good things come out of it.
But here's the problem -- with big goals come big pressure. I feel pressure. I start analyzing every step, every pace, every twinge, every workout. I get nervous with a bad run. Over-confident with a good run. Overwhelmed with most runs. Suddenly running is scary. It stresses me out (it's not news that I stress entirely too easily). I start losing motivation, and start sliding deep into a pit of pity. Loss of desire. Loss of motivation. Before I know it, I fear I've let myself backslide into a point of no return.
Today is Thursday. My last run (it was a great one, at least) was Sunday. I let this entire week so far pass me by while I sat on the couch, biting my nails, mad at myself for letting the opportunity to improve pass me by with no motivation to do anything about it.
I feel guilty for letting myself down, guilty for letting Caleb down, guilty for not "being a runner," like I'm "supposed" to be. All the pressure zapped the joy, which is exactly why I fell in love with ultra running -- the ease, the friendliness, the non-competitive nature (for me, at least). This is why it's been two years since I've successfully raced a marathon. They are scary.
With all of this said, I'm confident. Am I worried about next weekend's half marathon performance? Yes, I am. But despite my current motivation failings, I am confident about my marathon in October. My body has gotten stronger, more resilient, more adapted and better since June of 2010. It's my mind that hasn't. In another day or two, it'll all turn around and I'll get my groove back. My mind will crawl out of its dark place and back onto the roads.
But for now, it's funktified.
And now that I've typed this I feel better. I needed to let loose my neuroses. To show myself in another year or two or three that, yes, I struggle with running all the damn time. Always have, always will. So many people tell me I inspire them, that I am motivating and strong and they wish they had the [insert this-or-that running ability here] that I do. But I'm here to tell you I am flawed. I am not as powerful as I "appear" when you look at my running history. But I'm thankful for that.
Running is hard, you guys. And it should be. That's why we do it.