Running Off of the Performance Plateau

Anyone who actually reads what I post on here will remember that I've been stuck on a weight-loss plateau for the past 2 months (and counting). After losing 104 lbs, the scale hasn't budged, although my clothes are still getting looser. I've also added weight lifting to my routine, and added muscle adds weight, so that's probably a factor as well.

However, as a runner, there's another type of plateau I've had experience with, and that's what I like to call the Performance Plateau. Basically, I've had a few cases during my months of running where my performance improves to a point and then it seems that, no matter how many additional times I run, it never changes.  Then, suddenly, I'll improve dramatically and begin another upward trajectory toward better running performance.

Case in point: around the end of June/early July, I was stuck running about 2.75 miles per run, and about an 11:30/mi pace. It seemed that no matter how many times I ran, and no matter how good I felt, I could never break through either of these barriers. This went on for weeks, and then ones day, I went for my usual run and noticed that everything seemed easier. I breezed through almost 3.50 miles that day at did it under 11 minutes/mile!  From that moment on, I had broken through that performance plateau and went on to continue to post gradual improvements in my distance and times. 

All of this brings me to my latest breakthrough, which really occurred last night. I had been stuck over the last several weeks running ~5.25 mi each run and at about a 9:20/mi pace (although I had broken 6 miles a couple of runs over the last week and a half).  Four days ago, I had a run where I was able to post a couple of miles during a run that were barely under 9:00/mi, which I was really excited about. I was knocking on the door...

But last night's run, I think, was me busting through the wall and embarking on another upward curve. I ran 5.85 miles last night, but more importantly, I posted an OVERALL PACE under 9:00/mi (8:53/mi to be exact), and apart from my last 2 miles (which were just barely over 9:00/mi), every mile was between 8:30 and 8:50/mile. I felt fantastic and definitely could've run another mile (or more) had it not been getting kind of late (and I hadn't even eaten dinner was 8:45pm by the time I finished the run!).  But what excited me even more than the way I felt and my performance was the fact that I know now that I'll continue to improve and continue on making myself a better runner.

The only person I'm competing with during any of my runs is myself, but every time out, I want to beat that guy so badly. It's what keeps me motivated and makes me want to keep going out to run (that, and the incredible way I feel, both physically and due to the great natural adrenaline high I get out of it).

As of last night's run, I'm at 314 total miles run since I started on May goal is to be over 1000 miles run by this time next year, and at an 8:00/mi clip.  But before that, I plan to finish off 2011 strong and get to 375 miles by the New Year, winter be damned!