The Failed Hunt

4.9.11, 9:00 a.m.: My Garmin 110 is set. I ran at least a mile warm-up before the start and had 8 minutes to shake out any last minute anxiety. I chomped on a handful of Mini-wheats before I left for the Tavern to Tavern 5k...

Last Sunday, at 9:00 a.m., the dinner bell rang in Central Square. And we started the hunt for any rival runner within our sight (and, of course, for personal victory). My plan was to run hard after a sedate first mile clocking in somewhere between 8:30 and 8:50. So, I targeted 2 people who were running at this pace. I kept close to them but let them go when they sped up. "I'll see them  later," I thought. Even if I didn't see them later in the race, I wanted to maintain a certain pace for the first mile before I increased speed in the second and third. I wasn't going to let anyone force me to tire out early.

And then...I don't know what happened. It happened after the first mile, which I ran in 8:49. All those thoughts...came so fast, I didn't know what was going on with my head. My goal for the first mile was met...so, what the hell was my problem?  I felt mediocre. I felt like I couldn't finish in the time I set for myself, not because of any lack of fitness to run it. I was fit enough to run an 8:49 pace for the first mile without it feeling like it was taxing me, but I just had that overwhelming sense of, "What if...?"

I sat on some steps and put my head in my hands.  I looked around twice to see if I felt like I could salvage my race at all. But at that point, in my mind, just finishing was as bad as DNFing. I don't run to just finish anymore. As a matter of fact, even when I didn't run competitively in an official way, I still never ran to just finish. I was always pushing myself to beat the people near me. But back then, I was alright with a 9 minute pace and would have been elated to run a 5k at 8:49 pace.

Now, it's different. An 8:49 pace for me, is what I consider a baseline that my coach and I can work with to become a much stronger and faster athlete. Yes, athlete. Not just any runner anymore.

Anyway, I couldn't believe I was just giving up like that. But it happened. I kept analysing why.  I could chalk it up to feeling nervous about not using the Port-A-John before the race, or the fact that I didn't feel like I had warmed-up enough because I had arrived too late which sent me into a tizzy all throughout the check-in process. But these are all excuses...

The real issue lies with me. I need to train like I'm supposed to: log the weekly mileage that my body can handle for the next 3 weeks - 30 miles (before increasing it to 40 and so on), sleep on time (10 p.m.) and get enough nutrition. And just as importantly, I need to learn to compete without analysing myself and just do it, as my coach told me after he heard about what happened, "DON'T THINK. JUST DO IT." He told me, "Analyse yourself after the race, not during."

I may have to incorporate this "no thinking" into my daily training runs so that I can do it in races. Be a machine and JUST DO IT.