“If you don’t ask the question, the answer will always be no.“ – Kristin Armstrong
My hubby Bill and I were going to the rec center yesterday to begin our normal Thursday morning run. Bill requested that we keep it short since my cold from last week is now firmly planted in his chest. I agreed; yesterday was a Meals on Wheels delivery day and our time was limited.
As we pulled into a parking space, Bill’s phone rang. It was a deliveryman telling us the patio furniture we ordered would be delivered to our house in half an hour. “There goes our run,” I said. Someone had to be home to accept delivery.
Bill offered to drop me off while he went home to receive the furniture. “You’re sure you don’t mind?” I questioned. He assured me that missing a day of running, especially with his chest cold, would not be a hardship.
I hopped out of the car and went into the rec center, while he went home to meet the deliveryman.
As I hung up my coat in a locker, I considered which route to run. I knew I had to keep it short. I tried to think of a route I liked, and then it hit me – I’ll do a track workout.
Bill and I love to run together, but Bill is not a fan of speed workouts. I, on the other hand, love to push myself on the track. Call it latent masochism. I run marathons but I am not really a good marathon runner. Speed, rather than endurance, is more my style.
It has been a year since my last track workout due to the hamstring injury that wouldn’t heal. Even when I was running intervals last year, they were a half-hearted affair. My hip and leg hurt, my stride was off, and I was constantly frustrated. Could I return to speed work at my age (speed being a relative term)?
I decided to give it a try. There was enough time for me to do a warmup, two one-mile intervals on the track, then a cooldown.
As I jogged my warmup mile, I considered what speed to aim for in my one-mile interval runs. I decided on a modest goal of a nine-minute mile. I am still coming back from an injury, I have not done any recent track work, and all of my recent miles have been easy miles.
As I stepped onto the track, I was, for some reason, nervous. “This is silly,” I admonished myself. “There is no penalty if I can’t do nine minutes per mile. No one is here but me. I will just slow down if I feel any pain or start to struggle.”
With my little pep talk to myself completed, I started running, pushed the button on my watch, and said a little prayer.
After what seemed like a slow start, I fell into the rhythm of running at a speedier pace. As I completed my first lap, it felt good to step on the gas a little bit. I usually glance at my watch after the first lap to be sure I am close to my goal time but yesterday I didn’t glance; I didn’t want the pressure of thinking I had to catch up if my pace was too slow.
The third lap is usually the toughest for me, but I completed my third lap without feeling stressed. As I rounded the final turn of my fourth lap, I momentarily thought to speed up for the final 100 meters but resisted the urge. After maintaining a constant pace for the final steps, I crossed the finish and stopped my watch.
Yes, I had done the mile in eight minutes and five seconds. I was pleasantly surprised by the time but worried. I don’t want to jeopardize my recovery by doing something dumb. “Slow down,” I told myself as I walked back to the start for my second interval.
“OK, this time I will shoot for nine minutes per mile,” I thought. Again, the mile flew by. I had to check my watch after the third circuit because I actually lost count of the laps. “Was that the second or third lap?” I wondered. I often get lost in my thoughts as I run, even on the track, and forget where I am in the workout. Whenever I am not sure which lap I am on, it’s always the lower number. This time, however, it was indeed the higher number. That never happens. 8:34.
My grin stretched from ear to ear. Running felt so good I hated to quit. Sometimes I get carried away and do too much of a good thing.
I decided to do one last 400-meter lap to attempt an under-two-minutes time. I could always take an abbreviated shower, I reasoned. As I rounded the track one final time, my legs felt great, my stride felt natural, and I finished in 1:55.
As I stood under the shower in the locker room, I thought about my track workout. I was inordinately happy about the speed at which I had traveled around the track nine times. The quote by Kristen Armstrong came to mind and I was glad I had the courage to ask the question “Am I still able to do speedwork?”
Then another quote, this one from friend and training partner Neil came to mind: “Train to your weaknesses.”
No, I had to admit, I did not train to my weakness. If it comes to a choice between speedwork and a long run to build endurance, I will take the speedwork every time. Speed is my strength, not my weakness. This is not a tale of vindication and redemption; this is a story about perception and strength.
Both quotes are valid, both are true. I had asked the wrong question. Yes, it takes courage to ask the question, but first, we must determine what the proper question is. In my case, the question about my ability to still do intervals is the easy question. A more relevant and difficult question is whether I have the ability to slowly and patiently build endurance.
This question cannot be answered in nine quick trips around the track, it will take months to answer as I add a slightly longer run each week and evaluate how my hamstring is behaving.
Having the courage to ask the question is important, but having the insight to ask the right question is paramount. In the coming months, I will focus on asking the correct question, the tough one, the one that takes patience, strength and nerve to answer.
How about you? What is the right question for you to ask of yourself?
I am linking up with Running on the Fly and Confessions of a Mother Runner for their Weekly Rundown, Jenn @ Runswithpugs, Brandi @ Funnerrunner, Anna Louise @ Graciouswarriorprincess, Briana @ Matsmilesmedals, Meghan @ Meghanonthemove, and Elizabeth @ Trainwithbainfor RIOTS(running is our therapy), Kooky Runner for Tuesday Topics, Esme Salon for Senior Salon, Random-osity for The Good, The Random, The Fun, Shank You Very Much for Dream Team and Global Blogging, The Ched Curtain for Say Cheese, Purposeful Faith for RaRa, Mary Geisen Tell His Story, Bethere2day for Wordless Wednesday on a Tuesday, and My Random Musings for Anything Goes.