So I know based on my work-outs and my racing progression just about what kind of shape I am in for 10 km, pretty much down to +/- 10 seconds. Yet nonetheless on the start line I find myself thinking about "the good old days" when a "bad" race meant 37:50 and breaking 37:30 was pretty much a given. Sigh. So I'm cruising along, I have a decent first 2 km (3:50, 3:51) and then settle into a 3:53-3:56 pace. As I am running along, I wonder why I can't seem to comfortably go any faster. It occurs to me that it might be my asthma - there is a strong smell of fertilizer in the air coming from the south shore farms and perhaps that is somehow triggering my airways. Perhaps it is the persistent lack of sleep that is holding me back; nighttime continues to be a challenge. Then again it could be the sleeping pill I took at 1 am that has not worn off and is preventing me from turning over my legs faster. Or, perhaps it is because I am about to get my period and the accompanying heaviness and sluggishness that is enforcing this pace in the high 3:50s rather than the 3:40-3:45 I ran "back in the day". As I move between 4 and 5 km, another hypothesis occurs to me and I know in my gut it is the right one. I am running 39 minute pace because THAT IS THE SHAPE I AM IN. It's not the air quality, the sleep deprivation, my menstrual cycle or even the irritation caused by the "I'm sexy and I know it" sign on the back of the runner in front of me (really) nor any of the other dozens of excuses runners seem to search for... it is truly the simplest possible explanation. I am running 39 minute pace because I am in 39 minute shape. Period.
Nonetheless I do manage a final km of 3:41 which is enough to put me in lactic acid severe enough that the final three steps of the race were done on extremely shaky legs (and I am quite proud that I was able to go to the bottom of the barrel like that) good for 38:53... my first sub-39 minute 10 km in a year.
So I guess I have a choice, I can celebrate the fact that I ran to my current level of fitness, broke 39 minutes and generally ran a mentally tough race with a huge kick. I can be grateful that despite working full time and having two children I get to run about 60-75 km per week. Or I can whine and moan about how I used to be 2 minutes faster and many of the women who I used to regularly beat are already starting their cool down runs when I cross the finish line. I chose the former. I have to chose the former. Though it might be "settling", what the point of doing this if I am continually dissatisfied and mourning days gone by? Case in point, one of the women I beat today WON this race in the year it served as national championships in a time 6 minutes faster than she ran today and yet, on she runs, enjoying the effort, the comradeship and the sport. That is what I chose.