Having spent most of the day taking care of things around the house and running errands, it was evening before I headed over to the park for my run. As I pulled in, I saw one of my friends just wrapping things up for the day and winding down. Taking this opportunity to get caught up before my run, I spent a few moments chatting with him and another runner.
He had had a pretty productive day, running one mile under an eight minute pace and the remaining miles at around an eight minute pace. I was really happy for him, he has worked hard and is very committed to his training. On those icy cold days when the rest of us refused to venture outside, he was right there hammering out the miles, even after a long and full day of physical work 'at the office'. He is an inspiration in another important way as well. At one point in his life, he had gotten very heavy and without any help, decided he'd had enough and took off 100 pounds and never looked back.
As we said our goodbyes for the evening, I headed out for my run. I assessed myself head to toe as I began running, and realized I was feeling heavy, and had a faint feeling of negativity niggling at the back of my mind. What was going on? This felt terrible. I was on the main road, the weather was beautiful and there were quite a few people out today. Normally, the people weren't an issue, but apparently I needed something different today. I turned off onto a less traveled route where I was the only one around. I felt myself relaxing immediately and realized without even thinking about it, I had inadvertently compared my current progress to my friend's.
With his eight minute pace, I had made a non-committal mental note that I would be thrilled with double that pace today. My current pace ranges from 10's - 18's, that's some range. It depends on whether I'm climbing uphill, flying downhill, working on speed intervals or a long slow run. But, without being aware, I had made a mental comparison in the back of my mind, a negative one. This is not something anyone needs to be doing, nor is it something I make a habit of doing. Once I zeroed in on my problem, I was able to move past it and be proud of where I was on my journey.
I mentally mapped out my route for the five miles and felt good about it. Ticking off each mile, I felt the big smile inside of me rising up. I was doing it, it had been so long since I had run five miles! I'm really going to do it.....TODAY!
When I was running an average 12 minute pace and training for half marathons, I always felt my best entering my fifth mile. I had warmed up, gotten into a nice rhythm and was running strong. I was eager to see if mile five was still my strongest. I was feeling stronger the longer I ran and with each mile, my legs were building their endurance. Here it came, mile five! And yes, absolutely YES, it felt awesome! I was tired, I did ache, but I kept checking my Garmin, and my pace was consistently higher for the entire mile. I didn't know if it was because I knew I was almost done and wasn't concerned about using up the last of my energy, or if it was because mile five has always been my strongest, but for whatever reason, it was again and it felt great!
This coming week will be dedicated to continue working on my fast twitch muscles. To put it simply, fast twitch muscles are where you draw your speed, slow twitch muscles are your endurance. That may be oversimplifying it a little, but those are the major take-aways. I had been primarily working on my endurance, but was unable to increase my pace. I've added speed intervals to my weekdays to help with this. One run is dedicated to alternating three minute short jogs with two minute short speed runs. Another day I mix it up, including all training variations of hills, speed intervals, long race pace. And a third day through the week doing whatever I'm in the mood to do at the time. Next weekend, the goal is for a long slow six mile run and I'll take a day or two the following week before the race to do some interval training.
Today was a wonderful day, beautiful and productive with lessons learned and hopefully lessons shared. It is important to never compare yourself to anyone else and if you catch yourself doing so, put it in check immediately! You're wonderful just the way you are and you're right where you need to be to take the next step in your journey! Now get out there and be YOUR best!