I like to think I’m hardcore.
But sometimes, I need to be pushed.
Not out of a plane, necessarily, but in general. Especially when it comes to running.
I will always feel incredibly grateful for being able to train with Coach Cane leading up to my first marathon. I don’t know much about running, but I know more now than I did back in April.
I followed Coach Cane’s training plan exactly. The most I ever strayed was doing a 3-mile shakeout run instead of a 4-mile one on a random Sunday because I had a massage to get to. Sorry, Coach.
But now Coach Cane is a little busy raising a child and stuff, so I’ve tried not to pester him with too many emails regarding my training for the Las Vegas Half Marathon in December.
Luckily I have speedy runner friends who are happy to step in temporarily, drop what they’re doing mid-day and email me speed workouts. Thank you, Coach Kretz.
Here’s the deal: I’d love to PR at the Vegas Half, which means beating my National Half Marathon time of 1:44:48. There’s a tiny piece of my brain saying, “You can totally do it, Ali, you beast,” and there’s a much larger piece of my brain saying, “You’re insane. Hahaha. Idiot. Running that fast in March was a fluke. You haven’t run that fast since then, and you’ve had a nasty Crohn’s flare-up since you finished the marathon back in September. You think you’re going to PR that race? Why don’t you focus on another type of personal record, like ice cream eating or something you know you’ll dominate.”
My brain sucks.
I’ve doubted myself and my racing performances a lot since March. I really do feel like I just had a great day in D.C., got lucky and banged out a nice race. I worry that I will never do that again.
But other people disagree. One person, especially, seems to think that I can, in fact, go fast again. And he’s made it his mission to push me to a PR in December.
Oh hey, Coach Brian. Doesn’t he look mean?
When I was working with Coach Cane, I got weekly training plans emailed to me, including speed workouts, distance workouts and other things that I had a lot of questions about. I would email Coach Cane after most of my runs letting him know how they went and telling him if I hit my splits or not. Usually I did. Sometimes I didn’t. I never obsessed over it too much.
But I also did all of my speed workouts alone — just me, the Central Park Reservoir (completely flat and perfect for speed training) and my trusty Garmin. We made an OK team.
Today I realized what I was missing during those speed workouts: a mean, motivating, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer running mate to have by my side and to push me when I want to stop.
Because when I ran alone and wanted to stop, I would stop. Sometimes for water, sometimes to shake out my legs, whatever. Today there was no stopping.
Brian and I headed to Central Park to cover six miles of speed: a two-mile warm-up, then three progressively faster miles, followed by a one-mile cool-down.
The catch: I didn’t get to wear my Garmin. Brian confiscated it. I called him so many awful names this morning and it’s amazing we’re still dating. (Brian, please shoot me an email to confirm that we are still dating. Thanks.)
So he wore my watch to track our time and I went out clueless. He told me to just stay with him. He’d keep us on pace.
Naturally I hated relinquishing control. Have I mentioned that I really like being in control? I never knew what our mileage was or what our pace was. I just ran next to him, cursing him for wearing my watch and running fast and pushing me. How dare he?!
I know this is a good strategy, though. I focus so much on what my watch says all the time, and if I see a certain pace pop up I freak out. I never really push myself I guess.
Coach Cane once included a note in a training plan. It said that my Wednesday recovery run should be done no faster than a 9:30 pace. “If you can go any faster than that, it means you didn’t work hard enough the day before.” I remember hitting 9:30s, and faster, no problem. I guess I hadn’t worked hard enough the day before. I didn’t push it.
Now I’m ready to push it.
Brian and I got through the warm-up — my stomach kicked into overdrive at one point and I made a pit stop, but was happy I needed to stop during that point, and not later in the run — and then we picked up the pace.
I listened to music and focused on staying next to Brian. He wouldn’t tell me what pace we were doing, which was annoying. I refused to trust him and I yelled some stuff. “Just tell me how fast we’re going!!!!” He wouldn’t though. I’m sure our fellow Reservoir runners could tell we’re in love.
Finally, when I thought we must be just about done because my legs were feeling the workout, Coach Brian The Pusher said, “OK, we’re going to pick it up for the last mile. Ready?”
I’m fairly certain my response was something along the lines of, “What??? We haven’t been ‘picking it up’ this entire time? Why are you ruining my life? How fast are we going? TELL ME. I hate you. I love you. Let’s go. Don’t talk to me.”
I started to trail behind him just a bit, but I stayed on pace, still having no clue what our speed was. Brian kept yelling, “half a mile to go,” “quarter mile to go,” “two tenths of a mile to go,” and I was like “I hate you now, I hate you more now, this is awesome.”
And then we were done. It was time to cool down.
Brian high-fived me, and was all proud and stuff.
Speed workout complete.
So now I just need to be able to hang on to those paces for 13.1 miles. Daunting? Yes. Doable? Probably. Maybe. I don’t know.
Fred Lebow thinks I can do it.
I cursed Brian throughout the run for keeping our pace a secret. I told him I wanted to know how fast I was going so I would know whether that was a sustainable target for a half marathon. But he told me during the cool-down that he just wanted to push me a little to convince me that I can actually run a 7:12 mile. Maybe not 13.1 of them, but he seems to think I am capable of getting faster.
And then we sweat-hugged.
And now I will admit that I kind of can’t wait to do it all again.