When I wrote Part One of this bloggy mini-series, I really only envisioned it having two parts – the discussion of my very first training plan and then a dissection of my current one, sort of a “Then vs. Now” thing. But as I
cringed with embarrassment reminisced about my naïveté in those early years, I realized that there was a critical piece missing in between: FAILURE.
Yep, I just dropped an ugly F-bomb. My first few years of running were, in fact, spiced quite heavily with failure, from missing time goals, mojo-draining injuries, and a big fat DNF at my first marathon. Looking back on it now, I can see that a lot of these problems were related to my training plans (or the lack thereof).
Case(s) in point:
- My first half-marathon. I had the rather lofty goal of going sub-two hours, based on…well, nothing, really. I hadn’t run that far before and I don’t have any record of using a training plan for that race. Apparently, I felt that running five days a week with random distances that got progressively longer was going to carry me across the finish line at my then-5K pace.
BTW, I don’t for one second mean to imply that a 2:06 is a fail time-wise! It was only a fail because I set a goal I couldn’t/didn’t achieve.
- About a year and a half later, I set the goal to go sub-25 minutes at a 5K. I printed out a training plan from Runner’s World and followed it
about as religiously as I follow any training planto a “T.” This was my first introduction to speedwork and it was truly love at first run. I saw paces that started with a 7 for the first time ever, but standing on the starting line I was still somehow plagued with doubts.
- That same year, 2009, I endured the mother of all failures – DNF. Can I be honest? It still hurts to write about this race! There are so many hopes and dreams tied into your first marathon and to have that experience turn out so poorly is a bitter pill even years later. Anyhoo, the plan. I printed it out from Runner’s World and did exactly what it said, even though I didn’t like it. Running slower than even my very slowest pace was hard for me. Rather than filling me with confidence that I could spend that many hours on my feet, it sucked the will to run fast right out of me. I followed all the conventional wisdom about pre-long run and mid-run fueling and spent all of my long runs chucking-up at the side of the road. I never successfully completed a 20-miler. Self-doubt was a constant companion during that training cycle. The day of the race, non-stop barfing landed me in the med tent at Mile 20.
“My goodness, P,” you might be thinking to yourself right about now, “this is a really depressing post!” Yeah, sorry about that. But it has a happy ending, I promise! Because here’s what I’ve learned from all those failures:
- Failing at reaching a goal doesn’t make you (and by “you” I mean “me”) a failure.
- When you fail once, you can either try again or re-adjust your goal. Or both.
- Better yet, you can re-adjust your goal, try again AND make some smart changes to your training and your plan!
Coming up next: Part Three, where I put all that failure to work for me.