Getting over the hump

27 Jul

I have a mantra that I use during difficult runs. I cannot repeat it here, because I’m in polite company and the mantra involves a curse word starting with the letter “F”.  It also involves the name of a politician who I intensely dislike.  When I’m having a hard time during a run, I chant the mantra in time to my pace.  The opportunity to vent about the politican, combined with the steady rhythm of the mantra, helps soothe and distract me.  Interestingly enough, I used the identical mantra, but with a different politician’s name, when I was in labour with my first child.

When the run is going well, I don’t need a mantra.  When the run is going well, I can simply enjoy it.  I needed the mantra two and a half weeks ago, when I ran a ten-mile race in Toronto’s Distillery District. It was a hard race.  It happened on the worst day of my monthly cycle so I felt awful.  I was running in new shoes that I hadn’t broken in properly.  It was hot and there was virtually no shade on-course.  One stretch of the race – the Leslie Street Spit – was mentally challenging because it went on for so damned long.

The biggest problem, though, was my training leading up to the race.  Or rather, my lack of training leading up to the race. For about a month, I struggled with my running.  I couldn’t get the weekday runs in: the kids were going through a phase of not sleeping, so I couldn’t summon up the energy to get up at five in the morning to go running.  And in the evenings, Gerard was working hard to meet a deadline, so there was no-one to watch the kids while I hit the road.  I was able to get out for my long runs on Sundays, but lack of training during the week made the long runs painful. I had to cut a couple of them short because I just couldn’t do it, and I had to skip a couple of them altogether due to scheduling conflicts.

That I managed to finish that ten-miler at all is a miracle.  As soon as I crossed the finish line and retrieved my very hard-earned finisher’s medal, I resolved to get my training back on track.  And so I allowed myself two days of rest followed by a short easy run, then I jumped right back into it.

Two weeks ago, I started a dedicated half-marathon training schedule.  In addition to the obligatory Sunday long runs, it includes tempo runs and hill training.  I have been following the schedule and not skipping any runs. No matter how tired I am, I get up at five in the morning when the schedule calls for it – a painful process, but once I am on the road I am always glad to be there.

In two weeks, I have already noticed a phenomenal difference.  The two sessions of hill training that I have done have started strengthening my legs, and this Sunday past, I went for a long run that was the best I’ve had in weeks. I paced myself right, and felt strong throughout.  I even managed to negative split the run – meaning that I ran the second half faster than the first.  Best of all, when I was done with the run, I felt as if I had enough juice in me to continue had I so chosen. I am also noticing a difference to my pace in my tempo runs. When I was coming out of my injury earlier this year, I would have been lucky to maintain a pace of 7:30 minutes per kilometre.  Now, I aim for 6:30 minutes – this morning, I kept up 6:06 minutes and felt good doing it.

There are eight and a half weeks remaining until my half-marathon.  I am starting to think that if I keep up this progress in my training, the 2:15 time I am aiming for will be well within my reach.

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