That nagging voice. The one that says "Slow down already," or just "Quit." It has many names, but I like The Oatmeal's: The Blerch. I hear it pretty much every race I do. I actually have a little saying that if I don't hear it, I'm not going hard enough. It says "You can't possibly hold this pace, so just slow down now." I know this isn't true. I've been from extremes of intensity (namely stair racing, especially the Willis.Sears Tower) to extremes of endurance (14+ hours moving during an Ironman). A typical 5K or 10K is nowhere near that level.
But there's another voice. Its mantra is "Just for one mile," a runner's corollary to Alcoholics Anonymous's "Just for today." Just for one mile, I can run this pace. Don't worry so much about the mile after that. At least keep going until the Garmin clicks off this mile. Usually in a race, this voice (I don't have a name for it) wins. Most of the time, at least in road races up to half marathon distance (marathons and tris are a different story), when I do finish the mile I find I can keep going at that pace.
Today, I feel the Blerch won. Usually it waits until I'm a mile or so into the race before it starts telling me to slow down. Today it didn't even want me to leave the house. I defied the Blerch and went to the race. It was pretty quiet until about 50 feet into the race, and I thought I might puke. Nope, just a burp. My time for mile one was slightly slower than my goal, but it was at least in the ballpark. Shortly into mile 2 there was a water station. My mouth was parched, so I grabbed a cup. It went down wrong. I pulled to the side, coughed, got a sip down the correct pipe, and carried on running. I was sure the walk had ruined my chances of hitting my goal, but when the mile 2 time clicked off, it was only a few seconds slower than mile one. The Blerch had not won yet. Mile 3 was okay, a few seconds slower still. I may not be able to set a new PR, but I can still have a decent race. The Blerch took over on mile 4. I got to the water station and hit the brakes. When I did start running again, it was at a much slower pace. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't that slow (I know plenty of people who would like their 'fast' pace to be my 'slow' pace), but it felt slow to me; more than a few people passed me. Really I had no desire at that point to chase or resume my earlier pace. The Blerch had already won.
Now, I do have legitimate excuses, such as racing a half ironman last Sunday, being a touch ill after getting a flu shot Tuesday, and resuming hard workouts too soon after a big race (speed work Thursday and stairs Friday). Maybe my body wasn't capable of a PR today, but it was capable of more. The mind got in the way.
Is anyone capable of performing an exorcism on my Blerch?