Monday, November 7, 2011

What's your speed limit?

Yesterday, I went for a run with a few friends.  Deon, Garry, and Heather.  Now, from my viewpoint, the boys, Deon and Garry run fast, and Heather runs at a comfortable pace.  Now, that's taking into account that "fast" is very relative.  One person's fast is another person's recovery run, which is another person's sprint.

So, how do I define fast?  Well, for a very long time, I've considered fast to be anything faster then 6:00/km (9:40/mi).  For me to hold a pace faster then that, I figured I had to be working very hard, even unsustainably hard.  The boys run faster then that, so I've never considered running with them.  They go off and I run with Heather, or Jen, who run at a comfortable pace for me.  Everybody gets to run with somebody and I don't have to work too hard.  Win, win, right?

So, today, as we started the run, we were all running together.  Heather, like me, figures she has a speed limit and was setting the pace at about 6:00/km.  She figures her limit is about 6:30/km, but she was running without a garmin and didn't realize how fast she was going until she asked someone.  Too fast.  Must slow down.

Somehow, I ended up running with Deon while Garry was running with Heather.  How did that happen?  I'm not fast enough to run with Deon!  He's the fastest of the group.  He tried running with Jen and I once, and found the slow pace too awkward to even sustain.  Having said that, I've been trying to challenge my self imposed limits lately.  After running my last 10k at a pace that I wouldn't have though myself capable of maintaining for 10km, I've realized that I don't have nearly as much of a speed limit as I thought I do.

Having said that, when I looked at my garmin, we were going about 5:45/km (9:15/mi).  Slow for Deon, fast for me.  (Remember, "fast" is relative.)  I had to work very hard to hold a similar pace during my recent race, and in the past, I've never been able to achieve the same paces in training that I can in races.

Then I realized something.  I was having a conversation while running this speed.  I'm not talking about a few gasped words here and there while Deon kept talking.  I couldn't have sung a song, but I was actually talking in full sentences.  I did not feel like I was dying.  I was working, but it wasn't a full out effort.  That pace was not as hard as I thought it was.  I stopped looking at my garmin.

After a couple kilometers, Garry caught up with us, and then we all went back and joined Heather.  The boys ran together, and I ran and chatted with Heather.  I really enjoy getting to know people while running.  Heather and I have only ran together a couple of times, but I see a lot of similarities between us.  One of them is imposing a speed limit on ourselves.

So, when we were nearing the end of the run (we were doing 14km), I asked her how fast she thought she could run the final kilometer.  We'd run most of our kilometers together at about 6:30/km, but were currently going about 6:15.  She told me 6:30.  I called bullsh*t and said we were already going faster.  So, she suggested 6:15.  I nodded and when we started the final km, we picked up the pace a little.  I tried to pick it up gradually, but I think I did it a bit fast at first.

"6:10", I calmly lied, as my garmin ticked down to 5:50.

"We're going a bit faster," Heather commented.

We kept going, at a speed, which, just a few months ago, I thought was really fast, but now knew I could handle, because I had before.  It was also a speed that I didn't think Heather thought herself capable of (particularly at the end of a run), but she didn't know how fast we were going.  (I am sure she knew we were going faster then we had been, just didn't know how much.)

We ran past the bridge that we needed to cross to get to our cars.  I wanted to finish the run on flat ground so that we could hold the speed.  I gave distance updates as we got closer.  Almost there...

The garmin beeped, the kilometer was finished.  We did it in 5:44, faster then both of us used to have as our speed limits.

The more I train my body, the more I realize that most of it is in my head.  Don't get me wrong, none of us can get anywhere by just lying on a bed imagining ourselves winning races.  We still have to physically train.  BUT, no matter how much we physically train, if we continue to believe that we have limits, those limits will be there.  If we let go of the self imposed limits, we might just find out how much we're actually capable of.

Do you have a speed limit?  Has it changed with time?  Or have you learned to let go of it?


  1. I SO SO SO loved this post! Hooray for getting speedier!!!

  2. Love this! I don't know if I have a speed limit, but mine seems to be more about stopping and walking, something I most certianly do not need to do, but find myself doing anyway!

    You are such an inspiration!

  3. Sometimes you need to push through, then suddenly what was hard becomes routine. Half the battle is the physical issue, the other half is in your mind. Congrats on the speed increase!

  4. Yup- you are faster now!!

    My speed limit pre-preg seemed to be around 6:15. I will be faster post-pregnancy though (maybe not right away but soon after!). I hope that having less time to get my runs in will force me to be faster!