In the aftermath of Saturday's race, I've been thinking quite a lot about speed - speed as it relates to racing, speed as it relates to me, and speed as it relates to everybody else. One thing I took away from my performance that day is that I'm completely uncomfortable taking the lead in a race situation. What I mean by that is when I overtook the leader of our mini-pack at mile 5, I remember peeking back a few times within the first quarter mile to see whether he was going to take back his lead. (So maybe getting lost by mile 6 was bound to happen anyway!) Similarly, when I was running by myself, alone on an island, in the last 3-4 miles of the race, I couldn't help myself from peeking every so often to see if someone was coming to chase me down. The easy excuse is that I've never found myself in a similar situation before and so could not have been expected to know how I was supposed to act. But if I were to be honest with myself, I've watched enough telecasts of races to know that checking your backside as often as I did is not appropriate race strategy (if it was, they'd find some way to incorporate a rearview mirror to your running attire!) Yet, I couldn't help myself from doing that mid-race because I was so nervous and awkward to be where I was - alone and in the top ten, for at least a portion of the race. For once, I was more "the hunted" than "the hunter" which isn't quite as easy a role reversal to play as I'd imagine it'd be. I was unsure of my place (do I belong with the top dogs?), my pace (am I running too fast or too slow?), my time (can I get a PR? Can I come close?) and my threshold for pain. Most of all though, I lacked confidence in my own speed.
Looking back into my archived past, it's a bit ironic that I've blogged about my thoughts on speed during early April in each of the past two years. While I've always iterated that speed is extremely personal and interpretative and relative, I've never yet regarded myself as the speedy one. Maybe it's because I've never been considered an athlete growing up or maybe it's because I've yet to win an award of any significance, but my mind just lacks confidence whenever I'm asked to talk about or showcase my speed. It's almost like I don't take myself seriously enough when similarly fast people are around. It's a bit sad that I give myself every reason to FAIL before the race even begins. No wonder I grabbed 4th AG and missed out on an award...I never even truly believed I could win!
Based on what transpired Saturday, I've been having long serious discussions with myself to convince me that I'm a good runner. I seriously can't believe that I use to badger the cyclists and race the kids up hills just because I could. Now, just a couple years later, despite being slightly faster overall, I am for some reason afraid to close the deal on a race that I'm already leading in. I think it's ridiculous and a minor travesty. I have to get this aspect of my mental game in order before NJM.
Any advice, suggestions, and insights you might have, please throw them my way. If you can find me a cure, I'd be your indentured servant forever...if only they allow that sort of thing. Would you settle for my eternal gratitude instead?
Have a great rest of the week, everyone. Cherry Blossom 10 Miler for me in D.C. this weekend. It should be fun. Details to come.