It has been so long since I've run a 10K where I actually thought I had a chance at a good race. I mean, it will not be a PR race; after all I've only got 3 weeks of speed work in the legs and won't really be tapering. BUT, I've been lifting a LOT (which I feel like makes a big difference for me at the 5K-10K distance) and I feel like I've built up a pretty strong base. So I'm feeling fairly confident that I've got a solid 6.2 miles in these legs. (As RunnersConnect reminded me recently, the 10K is still 90% aerobic, so there's that.)
The main thing I'm trying to make sure I have a handle on is the mental piece. I ran my first 10K post-stress fracture last February knowing that I wasn't going to set any records, but I still thought I could probably pull out a fairly respectable race. Instead my legs felt like lead and I proceeded to completely lose it mentally within the first mile, spent most of the rest of the race alternating between panic and grumbling to myself, & finished just fast enough to tie my personal worst.
In retrospect I think I went into that race afraid to truly run hard and suffer. It's true that I didn't have the fitness to run a great time no matter what, but I think if I'd gone into it more mentally prepared and braced for it, I wouldn't have fallen apart so easily. To quote triathlon legend Chris McCormack, "The common theme in every battle with pain I have ever won was my mind-set. It was only those times when I allowed the fear of the moment to manifest big enough in my own head—-when I didn’t think I could fully beat the problem with my self-talk and my checklist—-that the battle was lost."
So, here's the mental pep talk I'm giving myself for this weekend:
- Running fast is so, so, so much fun. Through all the marathon training & base training over the last few months, I have really, really missed the heart-pounding excitement of short, hard races. Yes, marathons hold a certain appeal for me, but there's nothing that makes me feel like a runner, like a competitive athlete, than going hard start to finish. I'm trying hard to hold onto my excitement about that.
- Running fast also hurts. A lot. Chris McCormack again: "As I began to think about it more, I realized that no matter how much I loved racing or how hard I trained, at some point a race is going to really suck. It is how I reacted to this moment that determined everything." (In case it isn't clear, I love that article.) The pain isn't your enemy; it's an indicator that you're pushing yourself hard and getting closer to your goal. "Pain is my friend, and I treat it that way. As it presents itself, I smile and say things like 'OK, here you are. I have been waiting for you.'"
- BUT, you're pretty good at coping with it. I really think that the last six or so miles at the Eugene Marathon helped me get my head back on straight about this. Those miles truly, truly sucked, but I had decided ahead of time that a) I was not going to back away from the pain and b) I was not going to let myself get into a negativity spiral about how awful it was or how slow I was going. Instead, I just kept reminding myself that "Baddasses embrace the suck. Are you a baddass or a weenie?" Afterward, I remember thinking, "Wow, that was truly, epically awful & you handled it fine," which was exactly what I needed.
According to the forecast it will probably be around 60° during the race (8:00am) & full sun, so I am mentally preparing for an uncomfortably warm race (not because I think 60° is hot, but in my experience that's the number where my performance starts to actively go downhill & full sun makes everything 10x worse, especially on pavement).
(Update, they're now saying partly cloudy/high 50°s, WOO-HOO!!)
On the other hand, it is a pretty flat course with almost no real turns, so--**provided I can get some good sleep & rest up sufficiently between now & then**--it should be a decent indicator of where my current fitness is.
So yeah--we'll see how it goes! :)