It's a milder day today. Above zero, with the patches of thin snow melting into thin streams. No wind, no rain. Nice.
I set out to do the same neighbourhood loop that I've already done twice this week. I'll get bored of it soon enough, but for now, it's close, convenient, and comfortable.
I felt good right from the start. Knowing that I could and would back off the pace tomorrow, I let myself go, trying to keep pushing the whole way. It felt good blowing my by fake first kilometer marker (I really have no idea how far into the run it is) in 4:55. But before too long, the pace started to get tough. Specifically, it got tough mentally.
I kept thinking about my 5km race back in September. "How did I go that fast?" alternated with "Man, I was strong back then!" I was pretty sure that I was going much slower than in that race, but holding up the pace felt five times harder. We forget quickly, of course, about the physical challenges of a race. Mentally, though, I knew I was miles from where I was a couple of months ago. Back then, I had my eyes on the runners in front of me, had a plan to pick it up in the second half, and the confidence that my plan would work. Today, all I wanted to do was back off until my breathing was more comfortable.
Sure, this was a workout and not a race, but I found myself marvelling at the difference. Am I really that much tougher in a race? Or was it just a really, really good day for me?
I walked for 15-20 seconds at the turnaround, something I've been doing the last couple of weeks. It's far too early in the season to be pushing pace for 25 minutes non-stop, and besides this will help me recover from pacing errors. Or something like that. Maybe I just like catching my breath. ;)
Coming back, I focused on my turnover/cadence. I wasn't going to pieces in the second half like I had in September, but concentrating was getting harder and harder. Into the "last kilometer" (again, true distance unknown) I picked up my knees and heels a bit, and tried to extract a bit of extra speed. I paid the price, but limited myself to a price I was willing to pay. I was short of race effort. Or should I saw I was short of race mentality.
I finished up in 24:32 for 5.4km, which I was surprised to see was the second fastest I've run that route. I knew sub-25 was fast, but I'd forgotten just how long it had been since I'd done it. I guess I'm pretty pleased with the run - it's more than I thought I had in me, and I explored the cushy, softer edges of my mental toughness. All too soon, my distances will start to increase, and I'll need to be living in my "tough" zone.