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running basics, Training

I Coulda Run Faster

(But Chose Not To)

By Alix Shutello

So I go to the track to meet up with my Sunday evening Mechanics of Running class with Potomac River Running. I step onto a cushy track and was seriously too cold to be that nervous about our mile time trials today. One woman in the class, Danny, a svelt 50-something year-old, brought her 18-20-something year-old son, Alec, to the class. It was easy to tell this guy was a runner and after he announced he ran the steeple chase for Slippery Rock University, I figured this guy was probably a 5:30-6:00 miler.

All of us ran a warm up and performed some drills. Alec frolicked along in the class and was having fun. When it was time for the time trial to gage out fitness for the 8-week class I immediately went to lane 1.   Alec, who agreed to be the rabbit, went down the line asking us what our anticipated times would be for the mile. We got a few shout outs and when he got to me I said, 8 minutes or so.

Alec lined up right next to me.

Off we went with Alec trotting up (yeah, he was trotting) in front of me and we chatted a little and I told him at around 100 meters that I wanted to run about a 7:40 minute mile in this trial. I looked down and noticed we were going a 6:47 pace and I told Alec that while the pace felt easy, that I’d slow down a bit.  Reality check? I also myself to get real and cool it with the machismo running at a sub 7 minute pace or I’d be walking the last lap when my heart fell out of my chest.

I took this class for several reasons. My calf injury which caused me to pull out the Marine Corps Marathon was haunting me, therefore I wanted someone to watch my form.  I also wanted someone who’d help me work on my running mechanics (hence the name of the course), so that I’d build strength and do what I set out to do every year, which is to get faster.  Since I had my second child I’ve brought my half marathon pace from a 9:40 to an 8:52. This year, it needs to get down to an 8:20 or so if I’m going to hit some of my long term goals.

Kelly, our coach was yelling our splits, She yelled 3:42 as I completed the 800. Alec was egging me on.

“You are not breathing hard and you sound great. You got this, keep going.”

Having him there was very encouraging (it was also very nice of him to keep pace). Meanwhile, Danny was about 20-30 seconds back. I didn’t realize she was so fast, but when Alec turned and yelled to Danny (he said “go mom” or something like that), I freaked….his mom was on my tail!

So we start the 3rd quarter and I didn’t know what Kelly said to me because Alec was telling me to step it up. I knew I could catch him but I started to tense up. The stress of finishing a race or even an interval can cause a lot of stress for me because I want to finish fast but I get nervous.

As is normal in this situation, I started to get nauseous…sorta. It’s hard to explain but it’s like by diaphram seizes up and I feel like I want to throw up.  My arms start to stiffen, and that affects your pace, speed, and everything else. So knowing Danny was back there made me move, but I wasn’t pulling any Usain Bolt moves in the last 200 meters of the trial.

Alec kept encouraging me to go faster so I kept pace and finished in a 7:44 knowing full well I didn’t go all out. I wasn’t even breathing that hard when we finished but I felt that tension in my diaphram so I was uncomfortable.

Kelly commented that I looked stiff in my last lap, which made perfect sense given what I just experienced.   I told her when I was done with this course I wanted to get down to a 7 minute pace in the mile. She said I’d be doing a 6:45 by the end of the class so I went into mental la la land and then was frustrated that I didn’t run a 7:30 when I had it in me to. Danny came in at 8:05.

We finished a warm down, did a set of drills and then Alec bid us good bye to run home to his mom’s house.  After he left Danny turned to me and told me he said I was sandbagging in the end and that he knew I could run faster.

He was right, but the fact that I ran a 7:44 and it felt easy was good enough for me today. Now, I have Kelly on me to help with this nervousness problem so that I can work on overcoming it and smoking some 5Ks this spring.

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