Sometimes one of the best things you can do as a runner is put yourself out there and test your limits. If you’re always running workouts and races in your comfort zone you may never set a new PR or discover how good you can be. Sometimes you have to allow yourself to get in a position to fail in order to succeed. One of the best quotes that a former coach told me was: “In order to succeed your desire for success must be greater than your fear of failure.”
For the last few weeks I have had February 10th circled in pencil on my calendar with a note next to it that said “3k Time Trial” and I spent the nights leading up to it dreaming about how it would go. As I was heading to the track I realized that one of my biggest fears was running the 3k and realizing I wasn’t as fit as I thought. I have big goals this season (PRs on the track in the 5k and the 10k) and I feel like I am making progress towards them, but at the same time I can’t be sure until I test it. The morning of the time trial started out like any other – an alarm before 5:00 AM, scarfing down a banana with a spoonful of peanut butter, doing pushups and an ab workout, and scrambling to get my gear together to bike to the track. I had a case of the nerves and the weather wasn’t the greatest – a little windy with rain showers. My legs were still tired from a long run with a tempo on Sunday, a fartlek on Tuesday, and new exercises in the weight room. Nevertheless, the workout would go on.
I felt better as I warmed up and I even put on my fast shoes (Brooks Asteria – lightweight, yet supportive) to do some drills and strides followed by the time trial. The first 1k felt pretty solid and smooth and I found myself in that comfort zone where I knew I could hold the pace to finish. After the first mile, I realized that the workout was going by pretty quickly and it would be over before I knew it. With 1k to go it started to get harder – I hadn’t done a workout of that intensity for quite some time. With around 600 meters to go I remember making a weird noise (maybe a grunt, maybe a whimper) as I tried to pick up the pace to close.
After I finished I went from happy to disappointed in the span of less than one second. I saw a time on my watch that read about seven seconds slower than I was hoping and seven seconds slower than I expected to see. I heard my splits with every 400 and thought I was right on pace to meet my goal time or even be slightly faster (mental math is not my forte – I had done a calculation error. Face palm.) I changed my shoes and jogged around on the turf contemplating what happened. Luckily, I had a workout buddy (husband) who ran with me this morning and was there to help me process and he was able to add some perspective, which was helpful. We came to several conclusions:
- This was my second fastest 3k ever.
- It was 6 AM, windy, rainy, and mostly dark.
- No matter how hard you try, time trial efforts and mentalities are different than race efforts and mentalities.
- Today I got better.
After jogging around and talking for about 5 minutes, I got right back down to business. I had planned on doing 4x300 meters (aiming for mile pace) to finish the workout. My first 300 rep was slower than I wanted but still manageable. The second rep was slower than the first. I felt pretty good for the first 150 meters of both reps but then hit the wall hard. I could feel it in my quads. We decided to do 3x200 meters next instead of 2x300 meters. It ended up working much better for me and I was able to run the 200s pretty fast and have a higher quality of workout. I came away from the day feeling a little more encouraged, determined, and motivated. I ran a 3k on the track for the first time in two years. I climbed out of my comfort zone. I allowed myself to “fail” and ended up feeling successful.
Tips for a Successful Time Trial:
- Set a goal that you hope to be able to achieve.
- Treat the day like you would a race day (breakfast, warm up, clothing/shoes that you wear).
- After you recover, do an additional hard effort, mini-workout (example: today I did 2x300 and 3x200). This will help your body learn how to run fast while tired, which is helpful for the later stages of races.
- Use the results as a way to build your training (example: my new goal is to be able to run about the same pace, or slightly slower, for a 5K next month).