Monday, April 7, 2014

Success is Not Achieved in the Comfort Zone


Human pride is a funny thing, and it's something that's come to my attention a lot in my runs---

If while I am running, I see someone else running, I tend to speed up.

If I was about to walk during my run for whatever reason and I see someone---anyone---in the area around me (be it in car, on bike, or on foot), I will almost never slow down and actually walk.

Even if I feel like I'm about to puke in a race, if there is a single spectator (esp. a spectator who is cheering me on), I somehow manage to choke back the urge to vomit and push through it.

Lesson learned:

We are almost always the best versions of our physical selves if we work out where we will be seen.

As has come up here on the blog, I have been feeling a bit frustrated and burned out with running---I've been feeling that even though I've been more or less consistent with my running schedule for over 9 months, I have been regressing in many ways when it comes to speed and endurance. Call it a plateau, call it burnout, call it stress, but whatever you call it, I've been sucking it up big time out on the pavement.

In response to one of these blog confessions, my sister Jill messaged me on Facebook and asked me if I wanted to join her for a run next time I was down in Bountiful. She reasoned that I probably just needed a change of pace, and since my sister is a WAYYYY faster runner than I am, it would be a change of pace indeed.

Take a step back for a moment and picture this---my comfortable running pace is a 10-minute mile. Sure, I can push myself to go faster, but a 10-minute mile is the pace I can sustain for very long periods of time.

My sister's comfortable pace is between an 8- and 8.5-minute mile, and she can also push herself to go faster if she wants to.

So when she asked me what I wanted to do when I showed up at her place for a run, I replied (with all honesty): "I'm just going to try and keep up with you and not get lost."

Being the motivated spitfire that she is, she decided that we were going to run like we were racing a 5K, and then we were going to slow up and just do 2-3 easy miles after. I tried to play it cool and act like I was going to be able to keep up with her at a race-5K pace like it was no big deal, but I was more than a little skeptical about how this run was going to go, especially when she confided that she likes to push her pace quite a bit at the very beginning and then "slow up" into her usual pace.

We started out running about a 7.5-minute mile, and by a quarter-mile in, I was already starting to lag behind, especially when her legs only seemed to gain momentum while mine were dragging me back like I had anchors attached. Her steps were light and easy, like a deer, and I felt like an asthmatic elephant crashing through the trail 200 meters behind her. Occasionally she'd turn around, do some high knees, and yell back, "Come on! Keep pushing! YOU CAN DO THIS!!!"

I'd respond with a groan that she couldn't hear and a feeble attempt at an even faster pace. Not even halfway through our 5K distance, I was feeling like I was going to throw up and split my gut open and disembowel my stomach muscles, simultaneously. I was panting so hard I could barely  hear my footsteps, and the beads of sweat had banded together to form a slick, shiny pool on my forehead. More times than I could count, I was tempted to stop and walk--as I'd been letting myself do so often these past few weeks--because I just didn't want to push anymore. And every time I thought for sure I was going to actually react on that impulse, Jill would turn around, yell some more encouragement, and tap her watch, calling out my pace.

I think that 5K with my sister was one of the first times in my life I've ever really left everything I had out on the asphalt--I didn't let myself stop, and I was either going to keep pushing or die trying. When she turned around and waved her arms and said, "This is the end! Just sprint until here!," I somehow managed to make my legs give one last burst of speed.

I finished our informal 5K in 26:05.

Let me put that feat into perspective for you---the fastest 5K I'd run previous to that was about 29:30, and I thought I was pushing myself during that one. The only other timed 5K I'd done, I got just over 30 minutes.

Two points to my story:

1. I'm apparently capable of a LOT more than I think I am, especially when it comes to running.
2. It REALLY helps to have a running buddy or coach or someone by your side who is at least keeping you accountable.

Since I'd never done any really competitive sports in high school, I've never really known what it was like to have a coach pushing me to my limits. Sure, I've had lots of good coaches that helped refine my softball and basketball skills, but since I wasn't in a very competitive league, I never really was pushed super hard.

Saturday morning felt like a revelation, and finally---finally!---my running goals of doing a 5K in less than 25 minutes and doing a half marathon in less than 2 hours seem possible.

And DANG--I needed that motivation.


Have you ever had a personal trainer or coach? Or are you able to push yourself to your best without one?

3 comments:

  1. I love this! My comfortable pace is about 10:30, and my embarrassment from that pace has prevented me from running with others. When I first started running and ran in my 2nd 5-k, I ran with a friend about 1 week out from her full marathon. She was extremely motivating to me! We didn't go faster than I felt comfortable, but it seemed like every time I was about to ask to walk, she'd pipe in with some encouragement.

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  2. "asthmatic elephant crashing through the trail..." Torrie, I just laughed out loud. You described what I have felt like to a T. I have also felt like the deer before, but I am much more often the elephant. And I do have asthma. :)
    I grew up playing competitive sports, so I have had a coach. They are so helpful. Due to growing up always doing something active, I have learned how to push myself pretty well on my own. However, I do find, that exercising with someone else does give me some added motivation. Plus, for me, it's just a lot more enjoyable to be suffering with someone else at my side. I like having exercise buddies.
    Great post!

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  3. YES! It's so much better to run with others, especially someone who is (at least) a hair faster than you and can keep you at a brisk pace every time. Congrats on your PR and breaking the slump!

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