Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Prove You Can't

Tuesday's scheduled run was as follows:


Question: How much did I not want to do this run today?

Answer: Like, soooo much. So, so much. If you don't do them often, you may not think that intervals measured in very small numbers of K's are that big of a deal. Don't let them fool you, though; 1 and 2Ks are the pirhanas of speed work.

who, meee? harmless little ol' meeeee????


I jogged my two warm up miles with tight, painful Achilles tendons & all-around dead-feeling legs. By 1.5, I had pretty much already decided to abort my original assignment & just get in as many easy miles as I could manage up to 11.

There is no way I can run a 7:25 right now, I though to myself. No freaking way. I didn't know why, but I knew it was true. And hey, getting in some easy miles was better than no miles at all.

But then, as I approached the end of my warm up, one of my unofficial 2013 resolutions came back to me: Prove you can't do it.

To be honest, my body is a little bit of a pessimist. It worries a lot. It wrings its hands & swears up and down that it just can't, not today, not that, not that many sets, not at that pace, not in this weather. It CAN'T. *Trust* it.

So sometimes I have to go along a little. Even when I'm pretty sure it's full of shit. "Alright then," I will tell it. "If you can't, that's fine. So show me how you can't."

This has been one of my tricks this year for eliminating days when I feel like crap & as a result decide to skip, cut short, or water down my run in the name of "listening to my body" (GOD, I can't even tell you how much I hate that phrase, but that's another blog post). If I really, truly, honestly can't do whatever it is that's on the schedule without causing myself injury/significant pain or working at an effort level totally disproportionate to the purpose of the workout (ie, marathon pace feels like 5K race effort), it is totally fine to ratchet down a bit in terms of pace/ distance/number of intervals/etc. to something that is doable but still challenging. BUT, I have to prove I can't do it -- I have to actually suit up & go out there & give the scheduled run an honest effort, and only when I have proven that I can't that day (or shouldn't), for whatever reason, is it acceptable to back off.

Fine, I remember sighing to myself. I'll try.

My first interval was mostly heading west through the Panhandle. If you're familiar with that route, you know it's slightly uphill--not enough to make you hate your life, but enough to be detectable and require a little more effort than usual, and it goes on for close to a mile. Most of the time I can still muscle up that stretch at whatever my prescribed pace is, knowing I'm probably working just a touch harder than intended. That day, though, there was also a massive headwind, and even seeing paces mostly in the high sevens, I still felt like I was running more at 10K effort than half marathon effort. My first 2K ticked off in 9:37, which is a 7:42 pace, and I cannot tell you how sad I was that I had to do that four more times.

You have to do the intervals, I just kept telling myself. You have to try. If the pace is shit, then you do it by effort & don't worry about pace. But you can't just quit.


Again, people who don't routinely do 1 or 2K intervals as speed work may not fully appreciate the experience. I mean, it's less than half a 5K, which is like barely a real distance! (Kidding. I love 5Ks.) But when you're running them as speed intervals, they are WAY longer than you think they should be. I'd be like, "Well this has been going on for a while, I'm getting kind of tired...This one must be nearly over by now. JESUS CHRIST OVER HALF A MILE LEFT?!?!?" Really. 2Ks just seem kind of ridiculously long. Like *way* longer than 1.24 miles.

But I kept plugging away at them. The second one got a little easier, once I was no longer going uphill (9:23 / 7:31 pace), and easier still once I was no longer running into the wind (9:19 / 7:28 pace for #3, though that one still had a big hill in it, and 9:17 / 7:26 pace for #4). By the time I hit #5 I was headed downhill with a tail-wind (9:01 / 7:14 pace). But saying they gradually got easier is not by any means to say that they ever felt easy. My effort level probably was higher than it should've been the whole time, but not higher enough that I could legitimately say I couldn't do it.

Which is the whole point. Because any time I'm like, "Ugh, I am *really* not up for this today," all I have to tell myself is "No problem! Just go prove it." And 95% of the time I end up proving that while it may suck a whole lot, I actual can do it. Without killing myself, even.

So. If you're looking for strategies to help get you up & out the door when you just aren't feeling it, give that one a try. Agree with yourself that if you really really aren't up for whatever it is today, then doing something easier or taking a rest day is A-okay -- but you have to prove it first.


  1. wait, who are these people who think 2K as a speed interval sounds short? Because I think it sounds like forever, and also, doing five of them? Five times two equals a 10K, and there ain't no 1-minute jog that's gonna make a fast 10K feel easy! Way to get it done.

  2. This is so great. I kind of collect mantras from blogs and book and magazines, and I'm definitely adding this to my rotation. "Prove it first!" Ahh, I love it! Things like what you describe pass through my mind constantly when I'm doing speedwork. It happens during races, too--sadly. I really have to muster up a lot of courage and discipline to push through. I'm glad I'm not the only one!

  3. Prove you can't do it- LOVE that. I need to start telling myself that when I think that a workout is impossible before I even start it. I bagged a workout on Monday because it wasn't going as planned, however, I probably could have just stuck it out. Sure, my paces wouldn't have been on target but I technically could have finished with more miles. Oh well. Love your attitude times a million. You did great with those pesky 2Ks!

  4. Great post!! I know I'm going to have to borrow this phrase, especially for speed workouts. It's too easy to talk myself out of hard tasks sometimes and try to justify it. Anyway - 2K repeats sound hellish!! Good for you for getting it done!