Yesterday I had a 9.5 mile run planned. It was a regular run; no pick-ups, no tempo pace, just running in zone 2/3 and chilling out.
I got up at 5:15 am and lingered a long time before I headed out. This has become a general practice of mine. Before I became a triathlete and was still just a plain old runner, I used to roll out of bed, put on my running stuff and just leave--maybe taking a gel on the way out, maybe not. But this spring Jen kept asking me to have my regular pre-race breakfast and race nutrition during my rides as I got ready for IMLP. I was like, pre-race breakfast? Race nutrition? Do you mean like when I have a gel before I leave and a peanut butter mini-bagel on the ride?
So I started getting up 15 minutes early and eating a bowl of cereal and drinking a cup of coffee before I left for the workout. That didn't work out well. You can imagine why.
Milk + Leave immediately for a run = OMG kill me now I need to stop.
So I started getting up a 1/2 hour early and having toast and coffee and maybe some sports drink.
Then I started getting up 45 minutes early.
Now I'm up to an hour.
The problem is that I like the a.m. pre-run chill time so much I have a really hard time getting my ass out of the door at the prescribed time. Coffee, breakfast treats, quiet house, reading blogs or a magazine or a (gasp) book with no children in the background screaming MOMMY!!!! I POOPED! (Do any of the rest of you get that? WTF? My 7-year-old still calls me!) My delay wouldn't matter so much except that generally I am on borrowed time--somebody must deal with the kiddos when they wake up. Usually that's Andy. When I'm in Maine it's my mom or Alina. No matter who it is I have this sense of urgency--get home get home get home--constantly paranoid that the person in charge will freak and decide never to help me out again.
You moms (and some dads) out there know what I'm saying.
I digress. In fact, I'm way off topic. I did have an idea where I wanted this to go.
So I had my java, my toast, a banana, and my hour of reading and making obnoxious comments on blogs. And then I forced myself to get out there.
And I was slow.
Oh my God was I slow.
I looked at my Garmin five minutes into the run and noted that I was going 9:25 pace.
My first thought was, well, clearly there is something wrong with the Garmin. I can't be going that slowly. Then I looked at my shadow. She was shuffling. She looked like a grandma.
And I thought, Imagine that--my Garmin is not working and I have someone else's shadow this morning.
That is truly bizarre.
I tried really hard not to care. But of course I DID care. So I picked up the pace. A little. Then a little more. In 15 more minutes I was down to an average of 8:45 pace. I did a few pick-ups so the number would go down. 8:35 pace. I decided to end my run with two marathon pace miles at 7:40. Down to an average of 8:20 pace. Okay. Acceptable. I don't have to hate myself. I can live with 8:20s.
This morning during my oh-so-lovely pre-workout hour I read Matt Fizgerald's newest post.
He had just gone a ride with Eneko Llanos. Right. That Eneko Llanos. Anyway, he had expected he would have to kill himself to keep up; that it would be amazing to just keep on the wheel of such an accomplished pro. But it turned out that Llanos wasn't interested in keeping an unreasonably fast pace. He was out for a long ride, and the pace, (which, btw, would have still been next to impossible for someone like me to keep) was simply fine for Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald was complimentary of Llanos in general, but his central compliment stood out to me. (Probably because it was like, central. ) Anyway. Llanos seemed like "he had nothing to prove." He was "not tempted to put me in my place."
Llanos leaves his ego at the door.
Except --he doesn't.
The fact that he has nothing to prove is proof that his ego and his id are aligned. His id (or his instinctual self) wants to be good, and his ego (his organized, realistic self) knows he's good, so his whole psychic apparatus is like, cool. He is so confident in his ability that he doesn't have to worry that Fitzgerald will think he's a putz by going only 19 mph on a long ride. The guy's one race away from World Champ. What the fuck does he have to prove to anyone?
(And furthermore, did you notice his name ALMOST anagrams to EL-Kona-No-Lose?)
In the expression "to check the ego by the door" the word ego doesn't, of course, refer to Freud's concept of the word. It is a word used in common parlance as having to do with inflated pride and an assuredness that one is superior to others. Llanos, at least according to Fitzgerald, doesn't project that outwardly, so in that sense he does leave his ego at that door when riding. However, I would argue that he is likely so assured of his superiority that he simply does not need or want to project it. He knows who he is. He knows what he is. He knows he can kick everyone else's ass even if he DOES have milk for breakfast.
No, Llanos's ego is not at the door. It's tucked neatly into his Bento Box and comes along for the ride every time. It's people like me--and you, and maybe Fitzgerald, I don't know--who leave our egos at the door. If we had them with us then we wouldn't have to constantly prove to ourselves that we are good enough to go slow--by going fast enough.
Llanos may be able to run 9:25s. He can do this because he knows damn well what 9:25s are to him.
I'm not so sure what they are to me, though.
See, 9:25s may mean that my body is still feeling a little sleepy. They may mean I am having a nice, slow recovery run. They may mean I'm tired, and it's time to just go slow and enjoy being a turtle.
or they may mean I SUCK.
They may mean that though I think I can pull out a 3:20 marathon this fall, there is no way in hell I actually will.
They may mean that all those times I have run 8:10 min. pace in zone 2 for hours on end were all a big joke played on me by the GOD OF RUNNING and he has now put me back into my proper place--at the back o' the pack.
My Freudian ego--the one who is realistic, and worried, and aware--knows I'm no Llanos.
Likewise, my common parlance ego has always had a bit of a limp. If it didn't, I surely wouldn't leave it at the door. No, quite the opposite. If my ego could run fast I would take it with me on every run, and I would let it run slowly.
And then, like Llanos will surely do, I would go to Kona and kick some serious ego-carrying ass.