Last weekend I had my first really disappointing run. Even though it was a lower-mileage week, I found myself five miles into what I had planned to be a 9-10 mile run, completely wiped out. One of the things I have loved about running thus far is the freedom it gives me - I can go out, pay attention to my route only enough to stay on it, and just tune in to my breathing, the rhythm of the ice clunking in my water bottles, and my feet. After a mile or two, I tend to hit a steady pace where I feel like a train, just chugging along with a solid rhythm, and I can check out for a while. But not Saturday. I haven't really paid attention to pace, because my pace was pretty much just slow. My focus was on making sure I got my mileage in, keeping my form strong to prevent injuries, and to enjoy myself. And up to this point, I've been pretty successful in all three.
After my first big breakthrough last month, I have thrown myself into the next phase of my training - hills. Instead of letting myself get intimidated by the challenge of hills, I've taken them head-on. Instead of doing any sort of run-walk with my shorter weekday runs, I've been pushing myself to run the whole way, first two, then three or four or five miles at a time. It's been a tremendous breakthrough for me both mentally and physically. But as I have gotten stronger and my overall fitness has improved, I've found myself not knowing what to do on my long runs. All of a sudden, I have different paces, and I feel strong and I'm chomping at the bit to do more, go faster, and push myself - because all of a sudden I can. It's an exciting feeling. But it's significantly less exciting when I my legs feel like lead and I haven't even hit six miles. Ever since I finally realized that I can actually do this marathon, my excitement has reached a fever pitch. But this weekend, for the first time in many weeks, some of those doubts started creeping back in. I feel so much less confident now than I did a week ago, and can't help but wonder if maybe I took on more than I can handle. I feel like I'm in limbo - I'm reticent to give up that amazing feeling where I let my legs just go, but I know that I need to reel myself in big time, and get back on track - figure out my pacing and stick to my schedule. I keep reminding myself that I'm training for a marathon - I have a very specific training plan to reach a very specific goal. Yet I just can't shake that nagging feeling from the past weekend. I know I've made tremendous improvements in the past three months but I can't help but feel like my path to my goal has gotten a little rocker, both mentally and physically.