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.