I don’t know what I don’t know

I don’t know what I don’t know. It is on this premise that I may also conclude: I cannot be certain of what I am capable of. 

I’m getting faster. Slowly.

When I crossed the finish line of my first marathon almost a year ago with a time of 4:53:22, I felt sufficiently put in my place. Having run my 20 miler a few weeks before in under 3 hours and 30 minutes, I was sure I had 4:30 in the bag, no problem. After all, the last 6-7 miles of that run were all under 10 minutes, many under 9:30–I was going to push through those extra 6.2 miles and finish just as strong at the main event.

Race day was different. The wall was real. The rain was real. The pain was real.

The more distance I have from that race, the more proud I am of it. I gutted it out. I kept going through indescribable physical and mental anguish. When I crossed that finish line, I proved to myself what I feared might not be true: that I am a person who doesn’t give up on her dreams.

With all that, still, I wasn’t thrilled with my time. But my race experience was so that I doubted I’d ever be able to improve upon it much. This year, with zero desire to run another marathon anytime soon, or to have my life revolve around running, I set out to try and better my times in the shorter distances.

You can imagine my frustration as I’ve come to realize that forgoing distance for speed has it’s own challenges. As I’ve made some gains (although not as much as I’d like) in the the 5 and 10k distances this year, the work to achieve them has left me completely in awe of people who run marathons in 4 hours and under. Rest assured, I am in awe of everyone who runs marathons–especially those who run more than one. But as I, a fairly athletic person, have tried to get faster, I’m blown away by the fitness required to run at these paces for miles and miles.

There have been moments this year where I’ve felt very limited. When I finished my 10k averaging a 9 minute mile (my goal was to finish in the 8s), I shook my head and thought, God just made some people fast–you aren’t one of them!

To some degree, I do believe this is true. I’m not naturally speedy. It takes a lot of work for me to run consistently at a pace that others might consider a jog.

But so what? If something is in our hearts–if we feel compelled to do it, but it’s hard–does that mean we weren’t meant to try? I don’t think so. I think it’s that pull in our gut to try something we should listen to. The ease of completion is secondary and far less telling.

I’ll admit, after my last “failed” 10k I did think, why do you do this? Why do you care? Just run. If you’re never going to be really fast, why try so hard to be “average”?

That pessimistic voice left pretty quickly–shortly after I got something in my stomach following the race. I know myself. I know why I try to improve. I like to be challenged. I like pushing myself to do things I find difficult. I don’t mind “failing”. I’ve done it so often in my life, I’ve learned to welcome it, knowing it has been and will undoubtedly remain one of my greatest teachers. I think when I try for things that don’t necessarily come naturally to me, I learn more about who I am, and what I’m made of. As I peel back the layers, through these challenges, these qualities are not just revealed to me, they become real tools that are available as new obstacles arise. I learned through training and completing 26.2 miles that I’m gritty as f*$%. Now, as I attempt to create a business for myself, and it’s hard, and I’ve yet to procure any clients, I reach for that grit, day in and day out. I keep at the work of building. I take steps without certainty of where they will lead. I believe I’m moving forward, even when the finish line is nowhere in sight.

As I began thinking about closing out this year and putting a positive spin on what I’ve largely concluded to be mediocre athletic gains, a couple of things have happened. About a month ago, I ran for two minutes straight at a pace of 6:40. Since then, I’ve run for three minutes straight at a 6:33 pace. That was at the end of my run, and then I cooled down for several minutes at an 8:50 pace. I hadn’t done that before. I’d never been able to hold a pace like that for more than a minute or so. And I’ve never been able to “cool down” at my goal race pace.

On a whim the other day, I decided to poke around in my Garmin stats. Since my most recent 10k was slower than my last, I figured I’d punish myself a bit by looking at the numbers. However when I looked over all my runs over the past couple months, I was shocked by a different stat. Although my times weren’t always improving, my heart rate was getting lower. Although it doesn’t always feel like it, my body is not having to work quite as hard to get close to those goal times as it was before. My fitness is in fact improving.

These two little things is all it’s taken–running a few fast laps and achieving a steadier hear rate. All of the sudden, I’m curious again. What can I do? What am I actually capable of? If I can manage to add a little patience to my work ethic–how might I be running a year from now? It’s exciting to wonder.

Now, in this moment, my old 10k goal feels almost constricting. What if I just do the work? I’ll run hard, rest hard, eat well, take care of my body, maintain my spirituality–and then just trust in what’s always been true: that some day, I’ll look back in retrospect, and be blown away at the progress, the growth…the life. What if I just carry on–pausing at my failures only briefly–like road stops, ones I can expect because life has taught me about the need to refuel and even reconfirm or change my direction from time to time.

Goals are fabulous. But I have a feeling if I stick to them rigidly, I’ll be limiting myself. The universe’s imagination is far greater than mine. The more often I can remember to run it’s course–not my own, the better off I’ll be.

 

 

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Hey there, thanks for reading! I’m so glad we’ve found each other in the blogosphere, let’s connect on Instagram  as well! I’m entering a new phase so while I’ll post here every so often, this site is a bit under construction. However I am up and “running” on IG daily ; ).  Please come find me! x

 

 

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33 thoughts on “I don’t know what I don’t know

  1. Gritty as ever Cat. Your ‘slow’ is beyond my comprehension as my fast is 6 minutes a km. On this journey of life and running, our pace quickens and sometimes slows, but the main thing is the commitment to the run and life. Your run in life has taken you to so many amazing places – leaving behind alcohol, finding your hubs – who always sounds so lovely btw, improving your physicality and mentality, maintaining a level of calmness and let’s not forget the reinvention of your career. The runs you’ve done are giving you the building blocks for your new life. And as to pace – you’ll kick that one – we all know it – your courage shines out on every word.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww thanks Jan. Grit. I love grit. Best word, right? I love how it sounds and what it means!

      Commitment to the run and life. That is so beautifully put. I think the run is the life. The life is the run. It’s perfect.

      You know I’m lucky–my hubs is pretty lovely. I am often not sure if I deserve him but i thank the universe for sticking us together anyway ;). He is very different from me! (Less self centered ;)).

      Your message touches me so much–only a runner could deliver it how you have. You get it. You get that thing about running that teaches you and gives you life and represents everything else. You’re a runner. You get it. ❤
      Thanks Jan. I have no words for how great it is to hear from you. x

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  2. This was my train of thought while reading this post. Hey a 630. Wow. I just happen to be looking at the treadmill pace/mph conversation chart, so that’s 9.2. I did that for my intervals this morning too. Small world. But as I read to the right on the conversion chart, a 10% incline is a 5:02 pace. Hey, I bet Desi and Shalane do that pace. So we almost did the same thing, right? (Okay, not really. Just dreaming.) But I can’t wait to see them do their thing in NY on Sunday. And so many other things I agree with you about (like usual)- “I should listen to my gut,” “I am actually improving,” (even when not feel like it), and “what if I did the work?” Congrats on improving and setting new goals when you find the old ones constrictive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Watching the women on Sunday was so inspiring. In the morning we watched the pros on TV, then went to the race in the afternoon and cheered on the normies. It was such a wonderful day–inspiration up the wazoo!

      Yes, 9.2 :). Can you FUCKING believe that there are people running FASTER than that (like way faster) for 26.2 miles in a ROW? Head just can’t even wrap around–humans are amazing.

      Glad I could remind you to listen to you gut ;). Do it C–it’s always telling us something! Always fun to relate to you–thanks for chiming in! x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The marathon is simply amazing. I tell people it’s more exciting than the Super Bowl. (Not many people agree with me though 😉 ) Aiming for a 9.3 for a full minute on my next interval/speed day. One step at a time.

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      2. I didn’t. Wasn’t “feeling it”- intervals- once I got to gym. Been focusing on covering distance past couple days. I’m fluctuating between I want to cover distance (time on feet, get long runs back in), but also get faster over that distance, but yet also get stronger (hills, inclines) so can get faster. Oh can’t I just do it all? 😉 I’m heading off to gym early today and ok… I guess today is going to be intervals and going for 9.3. Thanks for the accountability. “high five”. Congrats on your 9.1 min! Okay, I have to admit, and not sure if you feel this way, but I kind of feel like a badass and smile internally/mischievously when I see it hit 9.0. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. “Goals are fabulous. But I have a feeling if I stick to them rigidly, I’ll be limiting myself. The universe’s imagination is far greater than mine. The more often I can remember to run it’s course–not my own, the better off I’ll be.” – yes, indeed. I used to be all hung up about being a slow runner, but when I think of the people I’ve inspired to believe they could do what I’ve done, then that’s all that matters to me. If I’d done my marathons in 3 hours, would so many people have done theirs? I’m not sure. If I’d been “good” at cross country or talented on the track, would I now be giving back so much and getting so much out of being a licensed official? I don’t think so.

    Lovely to see you in my feed, too – I’ve missed you. I ought to make more of an effort with Instagram. My husband’s got really into it with his photography and I need to support him too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Liz, 100%! No way you would have inspired the people you have if you were a 3 hour marathon runner. I’m actually keeping this in my head–the idea that there is something special about being imperfect and more human and less fast and more of a “normal” person. We really get to inspire the masses. I believe the type of things i can achieve are far more attainable to the average person than say the professional athlete. There’s some value to that!

      And yes! OMG Yes! Please get on IG- that would be so fun! I miss you too! x (sorry i am not on here more–not enough hours in the day! x)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “I don’t know what I don’t know. It is on this premise that I may also conclude: I cannot be certain of what I am capable of. ”

    This just blew my mind. I’ve never ever looked at it from this point of view. I just see my limits…but seeing it like this, what limits are there really? I won’t know until I’ve tried… and tried…and tried again…because I don’t know what I am capable of. Such a freeing thought!
    Esto me ha dado que pensar (y cambiar en mi manera de pensar) ¡Gracias Cat! 😘🌺

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t it freakin’ crazy when someone says something and your mind is just like “holy shit, that changes everything!.” Pretty much everything like that happens for me in AA meetings or in yoga. Anything wise i get is never from me–always from one of those two places!
      You just breaking down this concept put the biggest smile on my face cause i can see the “click”–you get it and the concept affects you the same way it has affected me! Like holy shit–I have no fucking idea what i can do! Go for broke! De nada Lorena <3. x

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  5. Gritty. Finishing a full marathon. Changing your career path. Sticking with your training. You got it going on. There is something different about overall fitness and race specific training. Yes, they are complimentary, but different. Cycles come and go and long term gains will come. Some physical, some mental. Don’t listen to the lies. Do the work. Find the joy. Feed the beast inside. You can tear up that 6.2!

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    1. Thank you Denny! Ah man, Idk if I got “it” going on but it feels like I’ve always got somethin’ going on, lol! Just trying to keep doing the next right thing–it’s been interesting to see where that leads me!

      “Do the work. Find the joy. Feed the beast inside.” I took this from you and put it in my notepad today. Simple–but really perfect, just what i need to see and remember. Complicating that really does nothing for me. It’s all i need. Thank you for that. x

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  6. What a great reminder to periodically take the long view of reflection! I, too, get frustrated by my day-to-day physical endeavors or especially, my day-to-day creative writing. For me, about six things take priority on any given day over my writing. I get frustrated when I’m not writing as much as I should. But then I’ll take a look at what I’ve accomplished in my writing over the past few months and I do see improvements and gains and successes. What’s going on in the short term doesn’t always reflect what’s going on in the long term. It’s great that you’re excited again because you’ve seen real progress!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is quite something to look at what you have accomplished in retrospect, right? I think the key might be to remember that in the present–in the little moments that feel frustrating. I try to remember that “success” or accomplishing what i want to almost never feels like i imagine it will. So trying to just take in things as they are–and feel them, and remember them, creates an imprint that strengthens my next round of endeavors and maybe even keeps me from quitting when things feel especially frustrating!
      Congrats again on that last marathon–so inspired and impressed by your running and yoga endeavors–glad to have found a runner/yogi/writer kindred spirit! x

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    1. Keep learning and paying attention. Love that Steph. The paying attention part is key for me I think– i can miss some subtleties that actually create quite an impact. So good to hear from you Steph-hope all is well! x

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  7. Cat. You’ve run a sub-2:00 half marathon, something many runners will only ever dream of achieving. Youre in a bit of a lull with your performance lately – these valleys happen to everyone, even the pros – but that doesn’t mean you’re not fast or capable of impressive times. You’ve done it before! I think as runners we can be a little short-sighted sometimes. We’re so focused on how things are going right now that we forget to look at the bigger picture of what we can accomplish, and have accomplished, with time.

    I have had a LOT of disappointing and frustrating races in the past couple years. I too began to think the running gods had just forgotten me. After a lot of soul searching (and, ok, a positive big life change that reinvigorated by drive to train), I realized that I just need to go back to what works. Think back to your training for your sub-2:00 – clearly, something was working there! Why not try that again? 10k and half training are really similar so I bet you’d start to see some great progress! Remember, the 10k is an endurance event. While a lot shorter than a half or full marathon, you’re still holding a fast pace for almost an hour and that requires a strong aerobic base. Could you incorporate more mileage and easy/long running into your training and see if that helps?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I swear girl–I’ve got to like walk away from your comments–think for a while, and then come back-always ;). I also think whenever I read them–“Whoa, I must come off much more negative and hard on myself than I realize!” lol. I generally think of myself as a pretty optimistic person but I guess that doesn’t always come out in my writing.

      Thank you for what you said about the half. I have almost completely forgotten about that as am accomplishment. Thanks to your suggestion, I have gone back to some of the training i was doing for that–and it is feeling GOOD! It might sound crazy but I am going even longer interval runs–doing 8 miles right now and planning on going up to 10. I know that sounds long for intervals, but it really helped me get that under 2 half. I think it’s because I constantly build speed throughout so by the middle/end of the run, my “slow” interval is at or below my overall goal pace. I think it’s really helping my heart rate get steadier and just my overall fitness. It’s feeling good! It does mean I’ve given up my long slow run with the hubs on Sundays–but it was time for that anyway–I head indoors in the winter nowadays (I’ve decide to prove how tough i am in other ways. lol).

      And yes–you are so right- the 10k is an endurance event–that is something i do forget! Guess what? I ran 8 miles yesterday at an avg 8:57 pace–and i couldn’t fucking get that 10k a few weeks ago! Argh!!!

      Glad work is slowing down–I’ll have a bit more time for things I love–like catching up with my favorite bloggers. I know i’ve got a few to read from you–can’t wait. (for now at least I get mini updates on IG ;)). Thanks for your insight lady-as always! x

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      1. Nooo you are not negative! I was just trying to give you a pep talk lol!

        And yes isn’t it annoying when we can pull off our goal on some random training day but not in the race??

        Glad to hear you’re feeling stronger again!! Sometimes these things just come out of nowhere lol. See, the hard work you did this summer was not for nothing!!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. You run. You run hard. You succeed where most would give up or never try at all. In my running years I never got past the 14mile mark, so you are a champion in my eyes. You do have grit Cat and thats what keeps you reaching and growing and setting higher standards and goals for yourself. I love what Derek said…..”grit is what pearls are made from” and you are a pearl for sure girl! Keep doing whats in your heart. It won’t steer you wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have not been past that 14 mile mark–or even to it–since the marathon, lol! Going to watch it though this Sunday and i am sure i will be inspired all over again. I love people–i draw so much inspiration from the will and determination of others.
      “My heart won’t steer me wrong.” Thank you for saying that Maggie. I needed to hear that today. It takes me having courage over and over again to keep following my heart–you would think it would get easier–but my rational and fearful brain is always weighing in!
      Always inspired by you Maggie–thank you! x

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  9. Another honest and uplifting post, Cat, reflecting some of my own thinking about performance and the demands we put on ourselves. What is a “failed” run?? We learn from everything. And grit? It is what pearls are made from! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You see why often put the word “failed” or “failure” in quotes when i write? Really–what does that mean? Still, i use the word because i think it’s the best representation of that nagging voice/fear that lingers in my brain so often. It’s lost it’s power over me cause now i work with it–i think of it more as a tool than anything else. So much to learn from, just as you say.
      I’m gonna keep your pearl comment–forever. Thank you for that. So good to hear from you Derek! x

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  10. Woah !!! 6:30s ?! Girl, you have way more room to grow. Keep at it! I know you will. 😉 BTW, I am in super slow mode right now , but I ran a 4:21 marathon last December! Yes, this old slow poke! And that was even with the race being improperly marked and slightly long ( supposed to be a BQ course, so many people were very upset). For now, you could go win a few 5ks. 😀 Sign up for a Turkey Trot!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Alright, I was running on the treadmill on tuesday and i could only hold that pace for a minute–so i may be getting ahead of myself! I will never be able to run at that pace consistently (yeah, i said never–i know we are not supposed to say that but that is just not realistic for me!). I will never run any races either, but i would be really happy if i could get to a place where i was running multiple 8 minute miles.
      4:21 is f-ing AMAZING PK! Seriously, mouth open over here–that’s an amazing time. So strong lady! x

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  11. I recently realized I probably wasn’t going to make too many gains in the speed department as well… but once I made my peace with that, my times sort of dropped. I think we have to get out of our own way sometimes.

    Someone this weekend mentioned the NY marathon was coming up, and I realized you’ve been a ‘fan’ and an encouragement for at/around/a bit over a year now. I don’t always comment, but I do appreciate you Cat!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Isn’t it funny Matt how when you make peace with something, sometimes it sort of comes to you. I often think of it as loosening my grip–I’ve got to let go of old ideas and and even beliefs in order to grab onto something that might be even bigger and better for me. I can’t get it though if I’ve got a stranglehold on the old thing!

      I am super excited that someone thought of me when the NY marathon was mentioned. What an incredible thing to be associated with ;). I appreciate you as well Matt–you are such a special part of a community whose engagement means so much to me. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

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