Definition of dissonance
1a : lack of agreement
- the dissonance between the truth and what people want to believe; especially : inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one’s actions and one’s beliefs — compare cognitive dissonance
This story started years ago, before I started running, but it’s only grown and changed shape over the years. I’ve talked about it before, it’s hardly new (see this post and this post among who knows how many others) but it’s the internal struggle I keep coming back to, and I think I’m making some headway after this weekend.
I’ve been training. Hard. Part of why I haven’t been writing as much, I suppose. Speed work, cross training, strength training, core work, tempo runs, long runs, recovery work…I love every minute of it, but the grind isn’t that exciting (if you follow my Instagram at all, I’m sure you probably realize this). My hard work is paying off though–I’m stronger, fitter, faster–all the things I wanted.
The Pittsburgh Half Marathon was my second big goal race for the year. I wanted to break 2:15–a steep goal, considering my previous PR (on this same course) was 2:26:49. Pittsburgh has always been my PR course. I’ve run 19 half marathons as of this weekend and all of my PRs have come at Pittsburgh. It’s not an easy course, but I love it. I prefer challenging courses. And I put in the work. I felt confident going into the race. And it started off great. No pacers in sight, but I managed to hold back for the first mile and not sprint out of the gate like an idiot. I felt good, I felt strong. Then I hit the back half of the course. My second gel sat in my stomach like a rock. The humidity was suffocating and I wished the rain we were anticipating would just come along already. I struggled through the south side and Birmingham bridge (which feels less like a bridge and more like you’re running on the parkway). I saw my goal slipping away. I fought but couldn’t keep my pace. Mile 11 was the worst. Then I saw the sign for Mile 12. I looked at my watch. It was a long shot. Super long. I accepted it was probably not going to happen. But I wanted to see how close I could get. So I dug in. While it helps that the last mile is mostly downhill, I still grunted and groaned and I worked to get there. My goal slipped away but I kept pushing until I got across the finish line. 2:17:44. Not my goal, but a 9-minute PR.
And that last mile is where our story really begins.
That decision to dig in and go for it is where it starts. Last year I wouldn’t have done that. Last year I *didn’t* do that. I would see I wasn’t going to hit my goal and I would half-ass the rest of the race. I’d manage a PR but not what I could’ve done. But I didn’t do that. I didn’t back off–I dug in. My last mile was my fastest of the whole race because as much as I struggled before that, I wasn’t ready to give up on myself and phone it in. And when I think about this race, that is what I’m most proud of. I didn’t hit my goal, but that doesn’t matter. The 9-minute PR is awesome, but it’s a side-effect of the larger point–I DIDN’T QUIT. I dug deep and I fought and I EARNED that. That’s what brings me to tears–the fact I could’ve given up, the way I have so many times before, and I didn’t. I cried a couple of times on my way home from the race, and in fact, I’m tearing up now.
Which brings me back to the start of this post–dissonance. I have been wrestling with it hardcore lately. My BRF asked me this morning how I felt. Physically? A little sore. Not too bad, but enough to remind me that I didn’t just run yesterday, but I actually *raced*. Emotionally? Wrecked. Somewhere between really proud of how it all went down and pissed at myself for missing my goal. He told me to stop, to be proud of myself and proceeded with a fantastic pep talk that did in fact leave me in tears before I went into work. I wish I could’ve taken today off. Races have become so emotional for me lately and it’s all because of the dissonance–as my BRF said, it’s the war between my heart that wants to be happy and proud of my accomplishments, and my brain that doesn’t want to accept it. Your heart, he said, is winning.
He’s right. I’m struggling so much because I still haven’t been able to let go of who I’ve always told myself I am, and who I think of myself as. The more evidence I have that that person *isn’t* actually me, the harder it gets. My brain doesn’t want to be wrong, so it fights. You’re fat, you’re lazy, you’re weak, you’re slow. Built for distance, not for speed. You don’t look like a runner. The cacophony echoes in my head, as it has for years, listing the reasons why I’m not good enough, and never will be.
Actual evidence suggests that none of that is true. Some of it *might* have been at one point in time, but it isn’t true now. The arguments of my brain have less and less to stand on because the evidence contradicts. And I still have a lot of emotional work to do to release the baggage of who I thought myself to be, but a big hurdle was not quitting on myself yesterday and how incredibly proud of that I am. I met with my coach tonight, and moving into this next training cycle I’m chasing big scary goals I never gave myself permission to consider before. Things I would’ve written off as impossible–but they aren’t. Easy? No, but nothing worth having ever is. Will I reach them? Eventually. Maybe not in the original time line, but maybe I will…I won’t know if I don’t go for it. What I do know is that I’m so excited to try. I’m still trying to figure out who this person is, the one I’ve never given myself permission to be, but so far I kind of dig her and I’m excited to see what she can do.