A year in the life of a runner

Man y’all. Sunday was just terrific. I had so much excitement leading up to the race, and it did not disappoint. I ran a PR on the 10k distance (51:52) and I cried happy tears (because apparently that’s thing I do now at the end of races). Then I got to spend the rest of the morning celebrating with Team Snack Attack and all the great runs and PRs they had as well.

Before I dive into the meat of this post, I figured I’d share a quick race recap first:

  • Mile 1 – “Mmmbop” was playing as I crossed the start line and I knew it was going to be a GREAT day. I stayed conservative through the first mile, trying to remember that I would be thanking myself later for conserving my energy for the second half.
  • Mile 2 – I felt mentally prepared for the rolling hills, and focused on my form so I didn’t wear myself out.
  • Mile 3 – Hit the 5k mark at around  26 1/2 minutes, I was ahead of pace! Now it was time to really turn things up.
  • Mile 4 – Flying downhill, and loving every minute.
  • Mile 5 – Ugh. After running hills, flat becomes boring, and hard. I had to get out of my head, and decided I’d just used to being uncomfortable for the next 16 minutes.
  • Mile 6 – Side stitch ARE YOU KIDDING ME? It’s ok, I fought through it, slowing down for maybe a quarter mile. Then I told my cramp I have no time for this shit and picked up the pace again. There was a set of signs pasted to the ground around the last 1/2 mile of the course. One sentence at a time, it read something similar to “What if your life was a movie, and you are the hero? What would the hero do right now? This is your time, give it your all!” Cheesy yes, but that shit works when you’re in that last few minutes.
  • Mile 6.2 – I turned the corner to the finish line. Taylor Swift was playing as I approached the finish line. It is a REALLY FANTASTIC day! I pushed till I see the clock at the finish line, did some quick math, and sprinted a little harder. If I figured it correctly, I hit under my goal pace! I ran so hard I really expected a medal at then end. After coming to terms with the fact there was only water at the finish, I grab a water and head back to our team’s tent.

Once I met up with my friends. I checked my watch for actual pace and time and realized I ran under 52 minutes. My pace was 8:14 (per my watch, the course was about .1mi long so the official pace reads longer). I asked a friend for a hug because “I have a lot of feelings right now”.

I spent a lot of time last week, and especially Sunday afternoon thinking how different I am than just one year ago. A year ago, I was training for the same Cap10k race. Although I’d tackled some crazy things months leading up to this, most significantly the marathon distance, training to run at a certain pace was terrifying and exciting all at the same time. Consequently it was the also first time I committed to speed work – track workouts and hill repeats – on a regular basis. It was hard – in a very different way that long runs are hard. Long runs, you just have to get through.  Keep moving forward, keep fighting the self-doubt in your head. But speed work ? Well it just hurts! It brought back the burning in my lungs that I hated so much in junior high track. It also brought out a healthy sense of competition in me. Not competition in that I wanted to beat people around the track, but I enjoy chasing someone else to push myself along.

The three biggest things I noticed about myself this year compared to last year:

I am physically stronger. I have never ever ran a negative split in a race. I practice it very hard in my training runs and can usually make it happen then, but when race day rolls around, I always seem to go out too hard, leaving me struggling at the end. Also even though I know I ran hard on the course, I didn’t want to die when it was over and let me tell you, that’s a huge improvement. Last year I was literally pushing people out of the way because I thought I was going to through up. My heart would not calm down and I seriously considered visiting the medical tent. This year, I felt winded and tired, but nothing like last year.

I’m also mentally stronger. I am much better at positive self talk (but yes I still have to PRACTICE it, just like anything else). See last year, I thought my training would bring me to race day, as this ONE shining moment in time where I would run at a 9min pace for 6.2 miles. And that would be the end of it, just that one day. Because I did not believe I was a 9min runner in “real life”. However in the last 3-4 weeks before this year’s race, I realized – race day is not the only day I am an 8:30 runner. I’m an 8:30 runner MOST days of the week. This is not an anomaly. This is something I’ve worked hard for over the last 12 months. Recognizing this was a HUGE game changer for me. However the biggest factor in my mental game was this…

I was not afraid! Look, I’m naturally a very anxious person anyway, but I can’t begin to describe to you how crippled with fear I was about my race last year. I was embarrassed to say my goal out loud. I was scared about having my coach run with me. I was TERRIFIED that she wanted to walk to the front of Corral A, lined up only a few feet behind elite runners. I was scared that if my coach bailed, I wouldn’t be able to pace myself and everything would fall apart. This year, I was set to “race” an 8k two weeks prior to the Cap10k, a kind of warm up for the big day. When that day came, I was not prepared. Rather than go all out, I decided to run without too much pressure on myself. I set some baseline paces to achieve for 4 of the 6 miles (this was still training after all), but it was not anywhere near my initial plan for that day. Guess what? I STILL set a PR that day. I felt kind of terrible (pro-tip, no kale the night before a race), but that day I realized, when I ran without fear, I had a lot more fun and everything sucked a little less. By the time this year’s Cap10k came around, I was buzzing with excitement over our new team shirts, and the large group of runners we had with us. I was anxious to see the crowds at the start, and everything was just FUN until it was time to race. I really think that made all the difference.

Sometimes it’s really hard to see progress, especially when the days are busy and your quads haven’t fully recovered from one run before you have to go out on the next. Ahhh recovery…that’s a subject for another day. Until then, take a long look back at far you’ve come kid – you won’t be disappointed.





6 thoughts on “A year in the life of a runner

  1. “Then I told my cramp I have no time for this shit and picked up the pace again.” This is the motivational speech we all need

    1. I’ve found two techniques effective for side stitches 7/10 – for squeezing the cramp and breathing hard. 10/10 for changing the pace dramatically. I didn’t want to stop and walk, so fast was the only other option haha

  2. This is awesome, Teresa! I was the same at mile 5 – it got boring really fast! I just wanted to say it’s been awesome to watch you grow as a runner the past few years. You rock! See you out there next year!

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