Finally. I finally had a GOOD 10 miler. It was the 4th one I've done since Eloise was born and the other three were just... well, hard. I mean I got them done but they were hard fought and when I finished I wondered how in the world I was going to suffer through a half-marathon that was steadily drawing closer. One thing that encouraged me was that each one was 2 minutes faster than the previous 10 miler. That showed some improvement despite the fact that they didn't actually feel any easier.
The first 10 was run on New Year's day and I finished in 1:37 (9:41 pace). I was excited to have done my first 10 miler since having Eloise and the fact that it was under 10 minute pace made me happy too.
The next 10 miler was nine days later and I ran the first 5 miles with Katie. I debated cutting it short when I was running my second 5 solo, but I'd told Katie I was shooting for 10 and sometimes just telling someone what I'm planning to do holds me accountable. I finished that 10 miler in 1:35 (9:30 pace) and attributed the 2 minute difference to having Katie with me for the first half.
I ran my third 10 miler over 2 weeks later and it too was tough even though it was another 2 minutes faster than the previous one. I finished in 1:33 (9:19 pace) and again, while I was pleased that my time was coming down, I was not pleased with how it felt. Tough. Again.
Throughout my post-pregnancy running, I have hit highs and lows. I had to work hard to get passed the 3 mile mark and then it seemed easy to get up to 6. Then it got hard again when I tried some 8 milers, and then eventually those became easier. It didn't take me long to jump up to 10 miles from there, but when I did they weren't easy. Before becoming pregnant with Eloise, 10 milers were just a regular weekly run, usually on Mondays with my girls. So I knew it was possible to get back to that, I just didn't know how long it was going to take and there were little moments of discouragement and doubt as I trained.
I attributed a lot of the struggle to my sleeping habits. Having a baby girl who starts teething as soon as she seems to get the sleeping at night thing down can be hard on one's training schedule. We had a lot of nasty, wet and cold weather for days on end and that made things a bit more challenging too. I had to often remind myself to be patient and just keep running. I preach consistency to my clients and I had to remind myself that my body would adapt to what I was asking it to do as long as I stuck with it.
Then this week I had a breakthrough. Last week, somehow, I ran every day. It was a terrible week for sleep and I was extremely busy with clients and health fairs, but it happened and despite feeling hard, it was a good training week. It continued on into this week until I decided I needed a rest day. I took one on a stormy Wednesday when I'd spent most of the morning at a health fair. The next day I ran 8 miles and it was... easier. Much easier. In fact, my last 4 miles were under 9 minute pace and while I was focusing on holding the pace there, it didn't feel like I was working terribly hard to do so.
Friday I worked another health fair in Fayetteville and instead of running at my parents' house like I'd planned, I dozed on their couch while Eloise slept. We got home with only an hour of daylight left and Jason encouraged me to get out and run a little. I didn't want to go far so I opted for short and fast. I made myself stay under 9 minute pace for 3 miles, running an 8:42, 8:30, and 8:07.
The next day was Saturday and I needed another 10 miler. It was cold and rainy, but I didn't want to push it to Sunday, so I set out (telling myself I could just run 6 if that was all I felt like doing. That's a little game I often play with myself when I have a longer run before me). I thought I started out slower, but the first mile was an 8:43. My route is fairly hilly so I didn't expect that to remain my pace throughout. But it sort of did anyway.
My splits were:
Mile 1 - 8:43
Mile 2 - 8:53
Mile 3 - 8:47
Mile 4 - 9:05
Mile 5 - 9:22
Mile 6 - 8:41
Mile 7 - 9:14
Mile 8 - 8:29 (it started raining harder at this point)
Mile 9 - 8:18
Mile 10 - 8:33
They are kind of all over the place, but they are also significantly faster than they have ever been, especially for a 10 miler. As I finished my run and saw my 1:28:12 finish time, I smiled. As I walked back to the house with the cold rain still falling on my face, I grinned like a goofball. I felt good and it had been a long time since I'd felt that way after a 10 miler. Part of me couldn't believe I'd done it and the other part reminded me that I'd worked hard to get there. And that felt good too! To push and push and push and have hard run after hard run after hard run... and then finally, a breakthrough!
I don't write this to pat myself on the back and say "look how awesome I am." I say this to show my readers that consistency WORKS despite how it feels and despite the time it sometimes takes to get there. Now, I am by no means "there" and where I want to be, but I am closer. I'll have a few good weeks and then it will get tough again as I drive my pace down further, but that is just part of this lovely journey that is being a runner.