Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Running Scared

I've always thought of myself as a mentally strong runner. Not confident per se, but just mentally tough when the going gets tough, which is why I think I have done well in endurance sports. I live by a 'never give up' mentality (which can be good and bad), and I don't let myself get inside my head. And while like everyone else, I've had some races where I feel shy of my goal, running had never really disapointed me until Phoenix.

When we were driving home from Sunday's race, I told Dan that while I was happy with my races this weekend, I still couldn't help but feel like I was running a little scared. Looking at my splits from both races, you'll see quite a gap between the first half of the race and the second half of the race - like 30 seconds per mile faster difference from the first half and the second half on Saturday (avg 7:49 on the first half, 7:13 on the second half), and about 15 seconds per mile faster in the second half of Sunday's race. This is highly unusual for me. I am queen of consistent splits. If you look at my mile splits from most of my marathons, my first few miles is the exact same pace as my last few miles. I've always had the ability to find a slightly uncomfortable pace and hold it for a long time - which is why marathons have been so appealing to me. So I was slighlty perplexed when I looked at my splits from this weekend.

DNF in a race is not a fun thing to do, it shook me up and it was hard to take - to the point where I lost some of my mental edge.  I feel like in some aspects, I went into last weekend's races scared of when my left wheel might fall off. I was afraid of reinjuring myself. At both races this weekend, I saw a person pull out of the race fairly early on. And in the back of my mind I am pleading to the gods above pleasepleasepleaseplease don't let that be me. As overly dramatic as this may sound, I don't think I can take another DNF.

Here are the numbers.

Saturday's Half Marathon: Miles 4-8 - 7:34, 7:41, 7:44, 7:53, 7:06 -- then I subsequently dropped to under seven minute miles at Mile 10 with my last mile being my fastest at 6:21.

Sunday's 10K: Miles 2-finish: 6:59, 7:04, 6:49, 6:44, 6:42, last .28 - 5:58 pace).

While I'm not saying I could have run much faster this weekend, I certainly raced differently than I have in the past. Usually after the first mile, I find that "uncomfortably hard" pace (you know the one where you want to stop, but you don't have to) and try to hang on. This weekend, I felt scared to make a push until the final 2-3 miles - which I think I felt was my safe zone. I knew if I could make it safely to the point in the race where I only had few miles left, there was no chance of me DNFing.

So, I've got some work to do on my mental game. While perhaps racing a little cautiously was the smart thing to do this weekend, I don't want to make a habit of it. I don't want to get in the habit of not racing to my ability and just float along with no intention of doing anything but finish. That's just not me. The point, for me, is to execute. Period. Just make it happen. I think the challenge will be finding the balance. How hard can I push myself without injury?

If I go out there and give what I have on race day, it's a good day; no matter the result I end up with. Knowing that I put myself out there to see what I'm made of IS the challenge.

I thought the following quote that came through my inbox this morning was quite appropriate:

Success is a state of mind. If you want success, start thinking of yourself as a success.
-Dr. Joyce Brothers, psychologist, television personality and advice columnist


  1. I guess I felt the same way this last weekend. Didn't want to push it for fear of failure or pain.
    You are strong though Erin, and I think your mental game is going to come back really fast. I think these 2 races were a great confidence booster, and the more races you do the more you will be back to your old self.
    Being injured is scary, and I think you should hold on to a little of that from now on, I know I am going to, just so I am smart and don't re-injure myself again.

  2. I think the further you move away from the injury/DNF experience, the more you'll return to your normal.

    You're too competitive to play it scared/safe forever. :)