5K into my 6K run this morning, I knew I had it in me to try again for a new 10K PR. Or so I thought. I had a decision to make: ignore the data or use the date to make another attempt at it? I have tried a couple of different times on my training runs to make the PR I wanted, but so far had failed to reach the goal I had set for myself. Would I reach my mark this time?

I have been working on breaking into the 42:00s for months, steadily whittling away at my pacing. I do keep my goals realistic but also just challenging enough to keep me hungry. Why? Because for me the point of this grand adventure of living is to keep testing and pushing myself, searching out my limits, getting to know myself, and reminding myself how elemental it is to my happiness to keep striving every day to make myself better than I was the day before. Runners know: no amount of work is about racing other people. We race only ourselves. What is it like to want to beat the person you were yesterday, at being your best? To me, the act of challenging myself IS the enjoyment. There are other parts of running I appreciate very much, too, but the conquering of myself through goal-achievement is the big reward for me. I want to see what my best is.

After the Run Through the Vineyards 10K in April, which I won for the females but in which I did not PR (my 10K PR happened on the 15K course back in March), I approached my training with renewed vigor. I am consistently diligent, but I asked my coach-husband to push me harder. Time to break through some boundaries. There is no doubt that as I approach the upward swing to my 40s (I am 34 right now) that I will start encountering physical boundaries, but for now I am finding that most of my boundaries are still in my mind and therefore conquerable with hard work and discipline.

And with a willingness to go get some pain. The body must go through controlled and careful pain in order to shift into the next gear: I am understanding that more every day. It has been one of my discoveries these past two years.

This morning was a triumph. I have been working and working and working and working for the time I reached this morning. And of course, as happy as I am, I am still not satisfied. Now I want sub-42:00. But for now I will celebrate: I ran a 10K this morning in 42:02. After going the first 5K all sub-6:50 up and down hills, I knew I had a shot at racing it in. I took mile 4 over to the track and decided to run the rest in as even and fierce as I could, keeping a steady pace. I didn’t want to deal with stoplights, wet sidewalks, or twisty miles. Let’s just do this thing, I thought, once and for all.

I went 6:46 per mile pace for the whole thing. Can I do better? I do know that I am looking forward to the flat Disneyland run I have coming up in a few months. I have a couple of other 10Ks scheduled before that one, and we will see what happens.

Last week, training was heck. I have been pushing myself as much as possible to get as many miles in sub-7:00 as possible. Last week, quality over quantity was our training theme. I did 33.81 miles, and my pre-long-run pace was 7:03 for the week. When I added a long 9 miler on Saturday, my pace average for the week changed to 7:09. The week before that, all of my miles averaged out to 7:09, as well, but this was an improvement from the 7:12:59 average for a 26.07 mi week in mid-April, and a bigger gain from the 35 mi week at 7:21 pace around the week ending on April 9th. So, steady improvement.

To break through the wall, I raced every run last week. I didn’t go full, full out, but I approached each one with a racing mindset and a racer’s heart. It was crazy. Every run last week was SO INTENSE. I would wake up in the morning feeling some pressure, and it was a good pressure, but still: last week was not about running for the sheer enjoyment. Sustaining that for days helped to train my mind a bit more, and it made me really appreciate my long run (9 mi) on Saturday at a more comfortable pace of 7:24. Coach-husband and I agreed that I needed my long run to focus on the joy of running and the joy of clearing out the mental spaces, just to enjoy the morning.

Then something strange happened. I had a short week this week, missing my Sunday start (my training weeks start on Sunday, I rest Tuesday, and run through Friday) due to a charity 5K walk event with Katie and a friend of mine. I still managed to get 25.05 miles, though, and my pace for the entire week was 6:59:21…my first sub-7:00 week! I find this pretty wild, since Bill and I agreed that my runs this week should focus more on mental happiness and letting my legs just do their thing, to see what their “thing” might be at this point. I have paid just a bit of attention to my Garmin Forerunner this week, after watching every mile last week. After breaking my body into the new gear last week, my legs naturally found their new pace this week and went without so much of the mental strain. My body has felt the new pace, and, I hope, continues to like it.

So last week’s crazy intensity paid off. I raced myself in every run, and I finally, finally, finally got my body to a new place. I am very much hoping to sustain—and then improve. That Long Beach Half is out there this fall… I ran it in 1:43:06 last year and am striving for something in the 1:30s this year.

My motto, clearly, is: always want more of yourself.

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This morning, post-run: a10K in 42:02! Now, let’s make that official in a race…

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Katie and I have been loving our time at the track. The first year that I ran, yes, sheer mileage increased my fitness and dropped my pacing. Sheer mileage can do that… But this year? I am a convert to the track. Deliberate speed work is, in my thoughtful opinion, the only way to break through the barriers we think we have. Speed work on the track is all about the pain. I did some 880s not too long ago, and they hurt. You know before you go that you are intentionally going to seek out the hurt. I try to think of each round of speed work as the forge in which my mind and legs become more like steel. When we are given the chance to forge ourselves, do we take it?

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