Yesterday, I went to the pool for the coached swim session. I hadn't been sure about even going, since my body was sore. I decided to go anyways. I figured it is way easier on my legs then biking or running would be and it might be nice to move those muscles a bit, in a low impact fashion. I could always go a bit easy on some of the sets, if need be.
Prior to the swim, I was chatting with Cindy and Carla, two of the ironmen I often see at the pool, who I've always gotten good advice from. I was recounting my race and celebrating (*ahem* or perhaps bragging) about my THIRTY minute personal record.
Cindy asked a simple question: what changed?
I listed off a bunch of things: better training, better race day conditions, easier course, weight loss, being stronger mentally and pushing through...
And, those were all factors. There's also the fact that I am still a relatively new runner and triathlete. Being new means I get the chance to see big improvements. But fact is, 30 minutes on a half marathon distance is a big difference. Had I run the police half in the time I expected to, I would have finished in 2:30, rather then 2:40, and I would still have a 20 minute PR.
So, what really changed?
I think the biggest thing that changed for me is I let go of my identity as a "slow runner". Now, let's recognize that "fast" and "slow" are both very relative things. For me, I considered my long run/race pace of about 7:00/km to be slow. I also thought that I simply was a slow runner and I was willing to embrace it.
It can be mentally tough to be bottom of the pack. Once you know that you are bottom of the pack, you can either quit out of frustration, or you can accept it and embrace it. You can take pride in the fact that you keep going even though you are one of the slowest ones out there. In some ways, I honestly think it's harder for slower runners. The top runners finish a half marathon in less then an hour and a half. The slowest ones can take over 3 hours. That's a long time to be plugging along.
The only problem in taking pride in your slowness is if you let it limit you. Here's the thing I realized at some point: I am not destined to be a "slow" runner. That was simply my starting point. When I stopped pulling back my pace because my head said it was too fast, my body found it was able to speed up.
Right now, I don't know what my potential is, but that is what I am trying to work towards. Will I ever break a 2 hour half marathon? Yes. Will I ever place in my age group? Who knows. What I do know is that there is a lot of potential there. More then I realized. There is potential to go faster, and longer. I just have to let myself tri for it.