I'm standing in the dark at 4:30am pulling on my running gear. I quietly tiptoe downstairs, lace up my shoes and grab my headlamp from the kitchen counter. Watch on, water bottle in hand, I open the door and step out into the dark, quiet morning. For a moment I pause - close my eyes and give myself a silent pep talk. You can DO this, I tell myself. Don't be afraid of the pace. Your body can do it. Take it one mile at a time. One more deep breath and off I go - heading into my warm up and towards the start of a 4-mile tempo run that has me shaking in my running shoes at the thought of completing. That's pretty much how the start of each of my tempos went last season. I was running somewhat scared each time - scared of the pace, and of maintaining that pace for the distance my schedule (from Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning) suggested. The paces written on the page looked menacing in black and white: 6:22-6:31. I didn't know if I could do it. Later I'd discover that I'd run that whole season with tempos only averaging 6:40s - but still have a race that resulted in a significant PR. The work was there and my body was absorbing it, even if I wasn't nailing the paces.
As I look ahead, I will work this season to "level up" - to take my running to the next level as best I can. And that means...(wait for it)...faster paces. Those tempos will only get faster, more challenging. And I'll have a new set of tempo ranges that I'll try to hit. (McMillan's calculator tells me that I now should be aiming for 6:15-6:24...gulp)
Gotta be honest - those paces scare me just as much as the previous season's paces scared me. But I know I need to get over that fear. To believe that I can do it, that my body can manage those paces and that the speed is IN me somewhere, I just need to unlock it. I'm working on changing my mindset and trying hard not to get freaked out by paces that I think of as "too fast for me". How many of you have looked at paces and immediately deemed them as out of your league? I know I have. Over and over again throughout my running journey I've had to try and readjust my thinking and convince myself that a sub-9 minute, sub-8 minute, and now a sub-7 minute pace is NOT too fast for me. Sometimes it takes a while to turn me into a believer, but I keep working at it. We limit ourselves when we deem paces "too fast" for us at first glance. There's a leap of faith that has to be taken somewhere along that way that YES - we CAN run those paces.
I've contemplated running with a heart rate monitor for the tempos and just trying to keep it in an appropriate range - but I'm not sure of my maximum heart rate. I can calculate it with the formula (207 - 0.7*age) and get 183, but I'm fairly certain mine's a bit higher than that. I've also considered running with my watch screen turned off to not show the pace and just FEEL my way through the tempos. That may ease some of the pressure I feel to hit the paces, but I have a feeling I'll be disappointed when I get home and see my splits are closer to marathon pace than tempo pace. (since that seems to be where I default to when I'm not paying close attention on tempo runs)
I want to work this season to BELIEVE that I can do it - that the paces aren't too fast, and that I can run that quickly. It's going to require a leap of faith on my part, and determination to put it all out there and give it my best, knowing that there will be days where I don't hit the numbers, but there may be days that I WILL. I will work on daily affirmations (as cheesy as that is) to try and help wrap my head around running those paces in hopes that my body will follow. And when it's time to lace up my shoes again and tackle that dreaded tempo run, I'll just have to go out there and get it done.
How do you wrap your head around running paces that feel out of your league?