A brain dump about pace and time and inferiority

I’ve been playing around with this post for nearly a week now, not exactly sure what I’m writing or where it’s going.  So I’m just going to do a brain dump and leave it at that.

I’ve had a pretty good trend with my running as of late.  I’ve had some major improvements and some amazing races.  Last weekend, I had a blast running with Betsy during the Cherry Blossom Almost Ten Miler and we kept up a really solid pace.

But emotionally, my slow pace is just getting to me.  I’ve gotten so much faster over the past few months thanks to a coach who is pushing me just the right amount, but the harder I work, the more I notice that I’m still one of the slow ones, and it bothers me.  It doesn’t make me want to quit, but it’s not been good for my motivation either.

This is tough to put out there because I am such a big fan of the slower runners and the slower triathletes.  I have friends who are faster than me and I have friends who are slower than me, and I couldn’t care less about their finish times.  I’m so proud of everyone who gets out there.  Your finish time doesn’t matter.  It shouldn’t matter.  And yet suddenly, I’m finding that my finish times do matter to me.

I’m not sure what it is.  I am a proud Galloway runner.  I run/walk.  And yet so many times, I hear “Come on, stop walking!”  Or “With time, you’ll end up running longer and longer intervals and won’t need to walk anymore.”  As if there’s something wrong with my run/walk.  It’s gotten a lot of people out there, and honestly, I wouldn’t be able to run if I weren’t running intervals.

I was chatting with someone from a local triathlon group at the Cherry Blossom expo, and I asked about the time limit.  “Oh, you’ll be fine.  No one ever gets cut, and if they do, they deserved it.”  As I chatted with this guy more, I realized how down he was on the slower triathletes.  Another woman walked up to chat with us and commented that she was an Athena, and felt the need to say “I’m faster than I look.”  As if there’s something wrong with being a larger woman in triathlon.  (Note, this woman was not what I would call large.  She was tall with broad shoulders that made her look like a scary good swimmer though.)

As I was dumping this all on my coach, she made a good point.  I do have a physical limitation that will always keep me slower, and it’s tough because that limitation is invisible.  I always downplay my heart rate issues, because they’re not that big of a deal in the whole scheme of things.  I can still do everything I want to do, just maybe not at the level I want to.  In short, my heart rate likes to skyrocket when I workout.  If I push too hard during that one minute run interval, my heart rate easily reaches over 185.  I do my best to keep it under 185, and have my Garmin set to alert me when it hits that point.  I usually try to keep my heart rate in the upper 170’s.

(Note that the common equation for recommended heart rate during exercise puts me at under 160.  So this is still a higher heart rate than many people are working at.)

The problem is that when my (or your) heart rate gets too high, your heart isn’t pumping efficiently.  I’m not an expert in biology by any means, but from what I understand, the chambers don’t have time to fill completely.  Ultimately, this just means that my body won’t be able to keep up the pace I’ve set and I will naturally slow down.  But if I push this limit too much, I feel awful after my run.  It can’t be good for me.  Before I was diagnosed, I caught a stomach bug and just couldn’t bounce back.  I was exhausted all the time and really not in a good place physically.  I think it was all related to completely running down my body.  I never want to be in that position again.

But just writing this out makes it feel like an excuse.  Like I have to explain why I’m so slow.  It shouldn’t matter to me or anyone!  Maybe it’s just frustration because I am working so hard and I’m realizing that I will never be fast.  My fastest 10 mile race was around a 1:50.  Pretty slow.  And I remember feeling awful afterwards.  But I don’t know that I’ll ever get back to that.

You know what?  It sucks.  It sucks to have this limitation.  It sucks to know that no matter how hard I work, I will never be fast.  It sucks to hear people saying “Oh, a 5:30 marathon?  That’s nothing to brag about,” and knowing that I will never run a 5:30 marathon.  Yes, I’m getting faster, but physically, there’s a limit for me.  And I don’t like it.

I guess I don’t have to like it though.  I just have to accept it.

Of course, I’m glad to know why I was feeling so wrecked after my races.  Who knows what kind of damage I would have done to my body if I had kept it up.  More likely, I would have given up completely.  I would have never even thought about doing triathlons.

Admittedly, I’m in pretty good shape right now thanks to all my training.  My legs look fabulous, to the point where I’m actually excited to show them off in cute summer skirts.  And while I haven’t taken measurements or gotten on the scale, I feel pretty confident in how I look. My body is far from perfect, but right now, I just don’t care.  So not only am I seeing improvement in my running, but my self confidence has increased and my legs look amazing.

I’d love to be able to come up with some great lesson here.  Something about not worrying about other people and just doing your thing.  And I guess that’s true.  But maybe this is also about how sometimes the doubts creep in and you just need to accept them sometimes and know that you don’t always have to be positive.  But you do have to keep going.

9 thoughts on “A brain dump about pace and time and inferiority

  1. Megan – You are a huge inspiration for a lot of runners, me especially. I’ve always admired the way that you handle (what I would consider) a serious health issue head on, you DON’T make excuses and you are honest about your limits. You’re also ridiculously kind to and about all other women in the sport which I find wildly important and settling at a time when it feels like snark and competition are at an all time high online.
    Fast, to me, is a state of mind. And in my mind, you are fast 🙂
    <3 <3

  2. Thank you, Lauren! That’s really sweet of you to say. I hate that women’s running (well, really all women’s sports) are so filled with hate and snark. Didn’t we all deal with that enough in junior high? I’d rather be positive and celebrate our accomplishments. Heck, it wasn’t that long ago that we weren’t even allowed to compete!

  3. Sometimes you just need a brain dump. I’m here to tell you that you’re always an inspiration to me= how you get out there weekend after weekend and race, and week in week out to train. As they tell us in yoga, showing up on your mat is 90% of the battle- the rest is the easy part- and you show up in spades. Chin up, young person. You do you, and forget all the naysayers! They suck anyway.
    Chrissy recently posted…Deep Thoughts: UNDISCOVEREDMy Profile

  4. Depending on the distance (and health), I am a top third/midpack/bottom quarter of a runner (so all over the place). I guess most of the time, I appear to end up in the top 30-40% of all finishers, as we all come rolling across the finish line in a metaphorical mass. It freaking mortifies and disgusts me when people take such an elitist tone towards pace.

    Here’s the thing finish times DO matter — YOURS. As in, your finish times matter, because they’re YOURS. Maybe even the same race’s finish times matter year to year. But another person’s finish time essentially is as relevant to me as their shoe size. I want runners/triathletes to complete the course, to beat it. If they don’t it sure as hell isn’t because they didn’t “deserve” it. I wonder if people like that are so insecure that they need to know they’re faster than SOMEbody. Lame.

    I guess I’ll just end with the Teddy Roosevelt quote — “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Go do your thing. Run your pace. Walk when it’s called for. Go forward. And Eff the elitist with a rake. Sideways.

  5. This post speaks to me Megan! I feel you. I understand. I have no great words of wisdom to impart. Just that I get it. And to that guy from the CB expo – my friend got swept. She didn’t “deserve” it. She worked as hard as she could for it. She handled it with dignity and grace and I am thrilled that the lovely women on the sweep bus dropped her off to run the last 2 miles of the race and cross the finish line with her head held high. Because that’s what she deserved.
    Kim Westrich recently posted…What’s Next? The Big One.My Profile

  6. So I was sort of thinking these thoughts (and then some) when I wrote up my CUCB recap post because I was all WHO CARES IF I’M SLOW? I RAN 10* MILES! EFF YEAH! And then at the same time I was really proud not to have finished last and to have passed people who, earlier in the race, passed me. I know that’re more about their/my/your training rather than anything else and, even if it wasn’t, it shouldn’t matter that I was passing them because, in theory, I’m totally fine with my speed and pace, but it really did make me feel good when I looked around and realized we were in an actual pack by mile 8 and not just trailing the back of the back.

    Basically: I bet everyone’s in two minds about this sort of thing.

    And: you inspire me, no matter the speed or distance.
    Betsy Transatlantically recently posted…The Sunday Currently XXIIMy Profile

  7. I will never forget the time I finished last in a race. LAST. It was a tough ten-miler, at least for me; you basically ran up a mountain and back down. I will always remember at mile 2 I passed a volunteer and heard him say on his radio “last runner – 24 …” At first my heart sank. Last? I mean, I know I’m not exactly fast, but last? And to hear that 1/5 of the way in was not exactly motivating. But then I got annoyed. I was running twelve minute miles! That’s a totally respectable pace! In the end, I guess I just picked a race that faster, more serious runners tend to choose. It was hard running completely on my own for the entire race and knowing I was going to come in last from the start, but I’m still proud of my finish and my time!
    Mary Beth recently posted…How to Replace Leg Elastic in bumGenius FreetimesMy Profile

  8. You just need to get into ultras. 😉 Seriously, I remember you saying you weren’t that interested in doing more marathons, but…well, there’s a real mental difference. The only folks who run the whole things are usually those guys who are “in it to win it”; for most of the rest of us, it’s more like a traveling party with a buffet. Pick some trail one, not a road one, and just do your thing. Actually, a timed ultra might be even better; those are loop courses, and after a few loops, you can’t even tell who’s ahead of you and who’s behind. No chance of getting cut in those, either! 🙂 I can’t remember your marathon time, but a 6-hour race might be just the ticket to start.

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