The wind’s in my face right now

I’m 10 weeks away from the London marathon.  I’ve done just over a month of consistent marathon training after taking 3 weeks off at Christmas.  Before that I worked on a decent build-up to marathon fitness.  But oh – the wind has been in my face this past month, figuratively and literally, when it comes to running.

No surprises here but the weather has not been amazing.  The cold is not so bad, though ice and snow have slowed my pace.  As soon as the temps rise a bit round here, the wind starts blowing.  It’s been so windy I have literally been blown off the road recently and again, this has made paced work difficult.

More than that though, I have been mentally feeling the wind in my face about running recently.  I have been so determined to be consistent with my training and I would say I am getting about 90% of my runs in.  But ugh.  They are slow.  I am slow.  I keep thinking back to what has become, in my head, the season of my life – 2009, when I trained with the Pfitzinger / Douglas book for the first time and PRed by 25 minutes in the London Marathon and then BQed, despite spending time in the medical tent, at Berlin.  I didn’t start that season off superfit and so, at the beginning of this month, I assuaged my doubts about starting the season off a 3 week break by telling myself I could easily get back in shape.  But I don’t feel I am making much progress.  I am slow.  My longer runs are hard.  I don’t feel my pace picking up – at all.  And to top things off – and I really am feeling sorry for myself now – I’ve got the flu.  I tried to ignore it yesterday and go out for a 15 miler but had to concede at 8 miles when I felt the chills and the pounding headache – I ran home and got into bed.  Where I have been ever since.  I am doping myself up, giving myself plenty of rest and fluids and hoping that I will be well enough to run the Stamford St. Valentine’s 30km race next Saturday.

But my head is filled with gremlins right now.  I think “how am I going to run 30km?  The longest I’ve run this cycle is 13M and that was painfully slow?”.  I think “I’m never going to get another PR”.  What has been eating away at me for some time now is a conversation I had with another runner.  We met a mutual friend’s party and got talking about running.  She asked me about my PB and when I told her she turned to me and said “I’m going to have to beat that time now”.  In all seriousness.  I really don’t think she meant this in any way as a challenge to me – I think this is just the kind of person she is – competitive.  She is very successful in her field and clearly wants to do well in everything she does.  Admirable stuff.  But I’m really uncomfortable with competition.  Really uncomfortable.  Maybe it is because I never competed as a child.  In any sport.  I took part, sure, but never ever was in the running.  Those type A competitive girls didn’t even register my presence.  My honest instinct, when somebody is openly competitive like that?  Is to pull out. Which I know is a crappy response.  I should either rise to the challenge, or not care.

I want to not care.  I want to not care that my runs are so slow.  And in a sense, I don’t.  When I’m out there running on my own, I’m happy.  I’m enjoying just running, haven’t missed the bike and am happy with my once weekly swimming lessons.  But when I start talking to others, I do care.  I feel enormous pressure to PR and to be constantly better than before.

So my wise running friends – help me.  Send me some words of wisdom. I don’t usually end my blogs with a question but I genuinely want to know from you all – how do you cope with not getting PRs?  What do you do when you’re just slow? How do you cope with competition?  How do you handle this and maintain a sense of enjoyment away from your times and paces? 


12 thoughts on “The wind’s in my face right now

  1. First thing that jumps to mind – that woman surely is lacking social skills. I don’t see that as competitiveness in the way I define competitiveness (e.g., trying to win a race, be the best that you can be, etc), I see it as immaturity, ha!
    Anyway, back to you. I have been putting a lot of thought into getting faster, meaning of running, age and running, seasons of running, etc. For me, I am at the point where I really try to focus on the process, on doing the runs, on overcoming the challenge of the winds snow, etc, on problem solving these challenges, on being flexible and changing runs around. I hope I have PRs coming up, but who knows? I need to be happy with my running now, so I have worked hard at not getting attached to goals, the “old me”, what others are doing. Blogs can be really bad this way, but also really good bc you can clearly see how many bloggers have running as one of the top things in their lives. That’s not me. Is that you? If not, then you can relax about the goals. Paradoxically, this mental shift allows for improvement in running pace, eventually. You’ve had some challenges, and the flu is going to take a lot out of you, as it typically does. Your body will need a week, maybe 2 to feel strong again. It’s OK.
    So for the specific questions?
    1. I am still getting PRs, but am ALWAYS prepared to not get one. I am 39. I don’t care about PRs as much as I used to. I do love to run fast though:)
    2. Being slow is painful. When I returned to running after a couple of months off, I was very slow for me. My average pace for my weekly runs was about 1 min and 15 seconds slower than it is now. My motivation was low bc who likes being slow? But, I picked up a training plan and just did it, first focusing on how great it was to get my muscle tone back, and next by seeing my pace slowly drop at the same HR.
    3. I used to be more competitive than I am now. I am mostly competing with myself now. Sometimes in a race, I use faster runners to pace me, etc, but I am never dissapointed or upset for not passing someone in a race, or for being passed. This is different than how I used to be in my younger years.
    4. I focus on the process. I run some without a watch. I try to run in pretty places. I remind myself that I am not payed to run, and that really, noone but myself “really” cares about whether I PR or not, or what my pace is. I mean, people are supportive and all, but I am/was the one who put the pressure on myself.
    Hope this helps:) Feel better!

  2. Hi Petra – poor thing you sound quite deflated ! Do what you tell your students – listen to nobody else other that yourself and believe in you ! I think your trip abroad and the month of January has just rushed by – and of course you now have this illness but you havent got an injury !!! Your amazing Petra – so focused on doing so well that you beat yourself up when you really dont need to. The weather has been against us and I too felt I wasnt up to where I was before Xmas but guess what – the next great run you have will feel amazing and you will be back as motivated if not more so than before. You have just lost your mojo and dont worry because she is coming back to you ! Rest and sleep well and you will be back to Petra mode ! Anyway – you should take it as a compliment that someone is trying to beat your time – I bet they dont !! xxx

  3. Oh Petra, I do remember the pressure building up with the London Marathon looming ahead, and the fear of failure…. sleepless nights and insidious self-doubt. All you can do is your best on the day, and I really think that you’re the ONLY one that really cares about your PR, (even that lady with the competitive streak really doesn’t care, she was just thumping her chest). Unless you’re an elite with money on the line, a little faster or slower is just a number, it doesn’t matter.

    You’re a brave one and when you get over the flu you’ll be back out training, an inspiration to the rest of us.

    Thanks for the kind words about my Mom. I’m really looking forward to seeing my siblings and sharing stories about her.

    Sunny days ahead, really!

  4. When I know I’m slow, I just put away the garmin and enjoy the ride. Enjoy the people, the fun and just enjoy knowing that I’ve done something 99% of the population has never done. Most important thing is to get better. Hugs and Kisses!

  5. Register ASAP for a HM and race it. Let me know how it goes. I run the bulk of my miles (~75%) at about 12:30 min/mile, sometimes 13, and that doesn’t mean anything. Then I go and race as you know I do, and you see my paces. Between 7:20ish to 7:45 for 5K-10K and between 8 and 9 min/mile for long distances. A lot of slow miles have proven to me to be the backbone of my marathon.training. The wind in your face is good for you. It makes you tougher.

  6. I think you need to ask yourself one question: what do I want to accomplish at London? You are certainly capable of finishing, even at this moment. If you want a new PR… hop to it! But if you don’t want to face all that entails at the moment (and it certainly consumes one’s life to ready oneself for a PR), then just run the race. Simple as that. Miss “Gotta Beat Petra” can just jump in the lake. Sometimes we simply must just run.

  7. I’m ultra competitive, so being the slowest person I know sucks. Yes, I meet some awesome people at the back of the pack. But sometimes I just want to be fast. What I do is remind myself that I’m still going. As long as I keep moving, I might get faster. As long as I keep moving, I am not where I was before. Just. Keep. Going. Things have a way of working out, even if not in the way we expect.

    Also, I’d have said something nasty to that girl, because that response was unacceptable. I can sometimes think that I want to beat someone, but it’s not about beating them. It’s about beating me. And sometimes winning has nothing to do with how long it takes me to finish.

    You rock. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

  8. Ah Petra, you have me thinking. Reflecting. Wish I had something to say right this second. Wish we could have coffee together because I have plenty to say…just not quite in comment for just yet. Such REAL and vulnerable thoughts here…thank you for sharing as it comes. I learn from things like this and I’ll have this post in my head this week for sure. Thank you for you Petra.

  9. Please run round here and have a coffee with me. I can’t bear to read how you are beating yourself up. You are not a professional. You are doing it because you love it. Something has gone wrong if you feel like this. Also, I am concerned that you are poorly again. I want to start by saying listen to your body. You inspire me everytime we meet up !
    Let’s talk properly. xx

  10. Petra,
    First off…that girl was not just a competitive person, she was beyond that and someone I could not be around either. hell, I’m a competitive person. I find someone in a race and I try to beat them (Sometimes it doesn’t work). But I would never say that to anyone. If anything, I would have said, “Oh, that’s a time I need to look at hitting or strive to hit.” So, I would ignore her and not let her statement get in to your head at all. s for the other stuff, so what if you don’t PR. You have PR’d before, but maybe this marathon is to get you back in to, to have fun. And who knows, you make get on in the process.
    Coming form someone that has to restart ALOT in 2012 and already doing it in 2013, it’s okay to be slow. I was sick again adn out for a week. So, Iran yesterday and I had a 15 min mile. A 15 MINUTE MILE. I was felt ugh and grrr, but oh well, I know I”m coming off of being sick. So, keep your chin up

    And you can always PR at the Yorkshire marathon with me…leaving me in the dust of course.

  11. hi petra – i hope you are getting over the flu. allow yourself the time to get over it properly and ease back with a few slow/short/easy runs. be guided by your hr.

    i wouldn’t worry too much about being ‘slow’ at this stage. consider it the end of base building. from my experience – i normally start picking up the pace about 8 weeks before my target marathon, so no worries there.

    as for the gremlins – we all go through this. i was thinking the same just 4/5 weeks ago with zero 30km runs on the board, and now i feel well prepared after doing what was needed during that period and including a race. the fact you are thinking about running 30km/faster means that you will do it when it needs to be done.

    as i said earlier, there is no pressure to run fast just yet and the long runs will fall into place because you have the experience, you have the guts, you have the talent and you will pull through. no ifs, no buts….

    as for the competitive – those people are out there. all that matters is petra. next.

    do feel free to to email if you want to discuss training.

    get well soon. no doubt in my mind that you will be ready for london.

    best wishes

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