On pacing

Most runners have their own favorite mantra. Anything from “you can do it!” to “stay strong!” or “believe.” I have mantras like that too. However, I also have a rather different mantra tucked away for when I need it. That is: “don’t be an a-hole.”

You see, when it comes to speedwork, tempo runs and ok, also to races, I have a tendency to want to go out too fast. I was reminded of this cardinal sin twice in the course of this week — reminders that also caused me to resurrect the aforementioned mantra.

Now, the manta itself varies. It can be anything from “slow down, a-hole” to “if you go out this fast you’re really going to look like an a-hole” or, “don’t be such an a-hole, Caroline”. At any rate, you get the idea.

Now what, you might ask, prompted me to bring back this motivational mantra?

The first incident was a review of some of the recently released photos from my latest race, the Lake Hodges Trail Fest 50k. In it, I can clearly see a lovely image from the start line. My feet, suspended in the air, determined glint in my eye, and — oh, yes indeedy — there’s me, out in front of the entire pack of my fellow racers. Yep, the whole darn field. Now, it’s true that I’ve been working on my speed these last months, and I’m thrilled to have seen significant improvements. However, it’s at times like this that that I need to remind myself ahead of time that when, inevitably, I am passed by any number of runners, I really should have pulled out that old “don’t be an a-hole” chestnut right from the start.

Out in Front Lake Hodges

I know I am not the only one. We are all flawed humans, muddling along and doing our best in this world, in all of our flawed-messy-ness. I take comfort from the fact that as runners, most of us can say: been there, done that. As runner obstacles go, though, this one seems especially tough for me, at least, to learn from.

Which brings me to the second reminder I had of the need to always keep the “don’t be an a-hole, stupid” mantra close in mind. Yesterday I ran a simple workout designed by my coaches: 2 x 3 miles (with warm up, drills, strides and a cool down, of course). The prescribed pace: 6:08-6:15.

Now, it’s been a while since I did a workout like this, and I darn well know that my fitness has improved. In fact, I know that I can crush this workout! Yep, this workout is going to be effortless! No effing problemo people! Just wait ’til you see what I got!

Yes. It’s at this point, going in to the workout, that the “don’t be an a-hole” mantra can be particularly effective. It might even prevent you from opening with a 5:55 mile. And ending the workout with a 6:32 mile.

Reporting workouts like this to your coach can be embarrassing. At this stage, I certainly have enough experience under my belt to know better. My bad.

Don’t let this happen to you, folks. Next time you’re tempted to go out too fast, just remember: you’re probably going to end up looking like a … Well, you know.

Ps. In the spirit of fun and great love for the amazing job my awesome coaches do, I’ll end with this video. It helps to illustrate the point that, yes, we can all be guilty of the going-out-a-wee-bit-punchy pacing sin. Respect.


One thought on “On pacing

  1. Reblogged this on The Suffolk Strider and commented:
    Being someone who regularly runs the first mile of the race as if being chased by the Pamplona Bulls & then detonating half way through a race, this post by UltraRunnerMama really resonated with me.

    Now I’m not as fast as she is, and I don’t have coaches to report back to but I think all runners that can relate to this post should have the mantra “Slow down A-hole!!”

    Have a read, can you see yourself??

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