Training: July 31-Aug 13

After the past year I am so gun shy with regard to injury that I shouldn’t even say this. But I will: I am finally training consistently, and having consistently good workouts. Keys to this are, I believe:

  • Taking days off fairly frequently — and by that I mean completely off; no cross-training, no nothing.
  • Maxing out at two hard workouts per week, with rare exception.
  • Skipping strides if my legs are too tired.
  • Cutting down a workout (but not abandoning it completely) if I’m tired, the weather’s bad, etc.
  • Adding volume slowly and with great caution.


Here’s something else I shouldn’t say: I think I’m getting faster. First I had a ridiculously (for me) fast 10 miler on a miserably hot and humid day on July 31. Then I had an okay race, also on a miserably hot day. I’ve also had some very good speed sessions. Especially Friday’s. That was a good one. It was fairly low humidity, although windy. I tempted fate by going to the track, the scene of a horrible calf strain in early June that created a pause in training for a month.

But all was well on Friday. Better than well. I ripped through the workout at paces that were around 10-15 seconds faster per mile than previous editions. Did I run them too hard? I’m not sure. I don’t think so.

I am trying to get weight work in at least once per week. Next week I’ll add in some pylometrics (leaping up onto platforms, mostly) in anticipation that this will help with mile racing. Speaking of mile racing, there’s a series of track miles being run up at the stadium in Van Cortlandt Park this month and next. They are being organized by the Metropolitan Milers. I will probably run the one on September 9th as a time trial for the Fifth Avenue Mile.

But before that I have the Percy Sutton 5K, which runs through the streets of Harlem, in about two weeks. I have no idea what to expect from myself in a 5K given the focus on mile training right now. But, you know, it’s only 3.1 miles. It’s not a marathon.

Training: July 10-30

Yes, I am training for a speed(y) mile. Here's what it looks like.

It’s a Super Deluxe Three Week Edition. I wish I could give you a funny fold-in picture like they used to do in the back of MAD Magazine, but I do not have such a thing, nor time to make one.

Let’s get cracking.

Now I am training for a mile race. Someone at work the other day said, “What are you training for, a half or a full marathon?” To which I replied, “I’m training for the mile.” He paused, then asked, “You mean a speed mile?” I knew what he meant.

It’s been dreadfully hot over the past few weeks. We had a few days in which the heat index was over 110. That’s with humidity. Not good days for training. So it’s been the rare day I’ve run outside. But I have done a few faster runs outside so I can stay reasonably acclimated, since I have at least two more races this summer.

As you can see by the pink days, the mile training varies wildly between shorter speedy stuff and longer speedy stuff, but not that long. In Daniels’ parlance, “T” stands for Tempo pace and “I” stands for Interval pace. My Tempo pace these days seems to be around 7:05-7:15. Interval pace is obviously faster, but I don’t really pay attention to it. I’m running everything by effort.

Mid-July featured a decent 4 mile race, which is good because I have a 5 mile race on Saturday and am happier going in knowing that I can still run reasonably fast for farther than a couple of miles.

The following week included two speed sessions. I am beginning to think that two workouts most weeks is the way to go for me. I feel completely ready for the next hard session and I’m running them well. No shitty workouts so far, knock wood.

On Thursday of last week I did an interesting workout outside: 1200s followed by 400s followed by a mile. I did not go to the track for this but decided to just use my Garmin and run on the running path. I like doing my workouts on normal terrain since it’s closer to road racing than running around a track is. Plus, the last time I ran anything fast on a track I pulled a calf muscle and was then sidelined for a month. So I am a little track shy these days.

Splits showed a little jump in fitness, since it was hot: 7:05-7:15 for the 1200s, 91-99 for the 400s and the last mile at 7:14. I was extremely happy with these times. And extremely tired later on.

The most surprising workout came this past Sunday, on the 31st (the day after this set concludes). I’d scheduled a 10 miler and thought I’d either do it at recovery pace or as a long run. But for some reason I was just flying. I started the first couple of miles at 9:20 and kept picking it up. I was not wearing a Garmin, so I don’t have the mile splits. But I averaged 8:03 a mile for the entire run, so I must have been running a few miles well under 8:00. Again, I was really happy with this  — so much so that I wondered if shelving the marathon is the right idea; I perished that thought quickly — my eye is on the mile and 5K for the rest of this year. Gotta stay focused.

Saturday is the 5 mile Club Championships race in Central Park. Last year I got badly injured during this race, but up until that happened I liked it a lot. It’s tiny compared to your average NYRR race, so you have some room. But it’s very competitive. Best of both worlds.

Mileage has been low but since my commute-requiring freelance engagement is winding down I should be able to run a bit more. I will probably top out at around 50 MPW.

In late August I’ll run a 5K through the streets of Harlem. Then it’s just a month until the goal mile race down Fifth Avenue. The work gets faster and harder between now and then. I’m still enjoying it. The speed mile.

Training: July 3-9

It may look like I’m still injured. But I’m not.

That’s more than I can say for my training log, however. Google Docs inexplicably barfed all over it and upon exporting it out to my Mac to try to save the file, I couldn’t open it. So now I have to work with it on Jonathan’s Windows machine, which creates the hideousness you see at right. Damn you, Google. You’re not worth $528.94 a share.

I ran every day last week. And, more important, I ran pain free every day. It was good.

But.

It was also hot.

So I did lots of running inside on the treadmill.

Which was fine.

Not ideal.

But fine.

Highlights of the week included my first Jack Daniels-assigned speed session. That went well. I did not run too hard. I did my strides on a few outside runs and realized that unlike in training cycles past, I was not too tired to do the strides. Good sign.

Then I tore up Suicide Hill in Van Cordlandt and won a muffin. With help from Jonathan.

On Saturday I got some culture and some miles in Prospect Park.

And that was that.

This week’s gone well too. I ran faster than previously on some treadmill speedy stuff. On Saturday I have a 4 mile race in Central Park. I love the bizarre 4 mile distance.

On Sunday I’ll meet some long-admired kindred spirits for the first time (and reconnect with a few regulars) for lunch, one from Philadelphia and one all the way from Australia. That should be fun. I hope he doesn’t make fun of our accents.

I ordered some flamboyantly awful-looking new racing flats.

But you’ll have to wait until the weekend to hear all about those things.

How happy am I not to be injured?

Do you really have to ask?

New plan. New rules.

Back in May, after my debacle in the Long Island Half, I put together a plan that consisted of 10K-specific training to get me to the NYRR Club Championships in early August, prepared to race my best 5 miler. Then both life and injury got in the way and I ended up with severely compromised training until about a week ago. So here I am, back at square one again, sort of.

Over the weekend I looked at that original well-laid plan, and at the races scheduled over the coming few months, and decided that if I was going to try something new (again), now was the time. I have a few races scheduled between now and the championships. But there’s one beyond that — the Fifth Avenue Mile — that intrigues me more than any other. Ever since I ran a decent 1500 last summer (~5:46) on no short-distance training to speak of, I’ve wondered if I could improve at distances in the mile range. I originally thought I’d skip the Fifth Avenue race, since I’m guessing NYRR will screw up the start and I didn’t want to get stuck in a crowd clog. But now I’m thinking that if I train properly then I have a perfect right to start up front. So I will. Train. And start up front.

I’ve thrown out the 10K plan. Between now and the Club Champs, I’ve got three races: a 2 miler, a 4 miler and a 5K, respectively. I could continue to do 10K training, but I’m going to go ahead and start training for that mile race. I believe I have enough endurance that those races will take care of themselves, if not be stellar ones. That’s okay. I want to focus on the mile race in late September. I have 12 weeks. (I was originally going to give myself 6 weeks.) I want to be as ready as I can be.

I’ve owned Jack Daniels’ training book, Daniels’ Running Formula, for a few years, but have never looked to it for training guidance. For one thing, his plans looked really hard and complex. Upon closer inspection, while they are still hard, they are not as complicated as they seem. Perhaps more importantly, they are quite flexible. Right now, flexibility is the name of the game for me. So I’m going to use Daniels’ 1500-3000 training plan (shortened a bit) to get me to my goal mile race.

Here are some of the characteristics I like about Daniels’ plan:

  • He provides either two or three quality workouts a week, but they are prioritized so that if you need to cut back, you can. You just make sure you do the first workout that week at least and preferably the second one as well. Since I plan to just do two quality workouts most weeks (or one plus a race), it’s pretty easy for me to spot which one to drop from week to week.
  • Speaking of races, there are lots of opportunities to fit races in as part of training. Almost every week features an option to use a race as quality workout.
  • He offers two plans: the A plan is more structured in terms of distances to run; the B plan is a little looser and gives you time-based goals rather than distance- or paced-based ones. I like this because it allows me to do workouts on the roads if the track won’t work out for some reason, plus it allows me to train purely by effort rather than obsessing about distance/pace. I’ve struggled with this tendency in the past (and have trained too hard as a result), plus it’s tempting to discount the effect of training in heat and humidity when you have set times to run. I can throw those out and just focus on effort now.
  • Within the workouts themselves there is latitude to make adjustments based on energy level, what distances are working best, etc. For example, today I had a bunch of varying repeats to do. I could do anywhere from 1000-1600 repeats. Since I was tired, I chose to do 1200s.
  • Maybe this is true of most 1-2 mile programs, but there are lots of shorter, faster intervals and fartlek segments. I love running 200s and 400s, and mixing those up with longer repeats. I’ll get to do a lot of ladder-type workouts.
  • The rest of the week is not regimented at all. The mileage I run from day to day, and how I distribute it, is up to me. As long as I take my easy days easy, do strides 4x a week and keep my weekly long run to under 25% of total mileage, I can do whatever I like.
  • Finally, there’s a ton of variety in terms of workout types and how they are structured: fartleks, tempos, track sessions…it’s all there and there’s lots of variation. This will keep me from getting bored and, I hope, be a good stimulus for improvement.

My rules are pretty simple:

  • As stated above, maximum of two hard runs a week, with little exception.
  • I will take a day off when I need to, and will do so anyway every two weeks at least.
  • If I feel injury coming on, I won’t run through it.
  • I won’t run my workouts too hard. I may even hold back a little in races.
  • If I’m unsure about how to adjust a workout, I’ll err on the side of caution and cut things down more so than less so.

So that’s my plan from here until September 24. After that I’ll probably take a week off, or just to do easy running. Then, if Daniels worked for me for the mile, I’ll go into his 5K-15K training plan for the El Paso 5K in Houston over Olympic Marathon Trials weekend. That will be a 15 week plan. But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself…

Training: June 5-18

The patient slog through injury continues.

Nothing happened June 5-11. My log that week is a wall of yellow that says “INJURED.” I do credit myself for sticking to my plan to do core work twice a week, and I managed to keep that up this week as well. Guess what I’m doing this evening? That’s right: core work!

I have a set of exercises I do (around 12) for my core. The current print issue of Running Times has a few other good ones, so I’ve added in another 4-5. I also do some arm/shoulder work with dumbbells, since I have the weakest biceps known to man. I know I don’t need bulging biceps to run well, but I would like to one day do at least one pull-up. A girl can dream.

All of this takes me about an hour. I watch “Locked Up Abroad” or “My Strange Addiction” while doing my routine. Both of these shows always make me feel a lot better about my life than I did before I watched them.

There’s some light on the horizon, at least compared to earlier in the month. I was able to at least start jogging again this week, although my right calf does not like to go faster than 9:00 pace. It doesn’t like uphill either. Nor does it like flat bits. It loves downhill sections, which comprise around 3% of the terrain I run on.

But, you know, I ran 18 miles. That’s a start. See? Positive attitude. The new me. I can run. That’s more than I could do the previous week. The pain is now just a dull ache, and I’m encouraged by the fact that it doesn’t get worse over the course of a run. If I stop every mile or so and stretch my calf, it seems better by the end of the run. I’ll keep doing that.

I’m throwing out the 10K plan for now. It’s still there in my log, but I don’t look at it. What’s the point? I don’t dare do any faster running until the pain is totally gone. When I get back to the training, I may experiment with a 9 or 10 day training cycle, since I don’t think my body tolerates doing three hard workouts a week.

I have rough plans to do the 2-Person Relay (with Jonathan) in Van Cortlandt Park, a 4 mile XC race (it would be my first XC effort) on Thursday July 7, assuming there isn’t a fire drill on my current freelance project that requires I stay late; if there is, I might swap that for the Women’s Distance Festival 5K two days after that on Saturday the 9th. But this is assuming I can even run fast and free of pain soon. That’s a big question mark.

I still hope to compete in the Run for Central Park 4 miler in a month. If I’m not running fast by then…well, let’s not go there.

Here are some good things that are happening:

The summer has been pretty nice so far. Or maybe it just seems that way because I’m not out running much, or when I am it’s about 5:30 in the morning. Aside from a few scorchers, it’s been in the upper-70s to mid-80s most days. So I’m appreciating the season.

I’m able to get home at a reasonable hour most days and have been throwing food on an outdoor Weber I got for my birthday. I find the process of preparing the grill extremely relaxing and gratifying. I sit outside while the bricquets heat up, staring at the fire. I clean the grill later on. I research new grill recipes. I think I might actually be a guy.

My stepmother is on the road to recovery after her near-death, then near-permanently-fucked-up experience over the past two months. She sounds completely back to herself on the phone and she’s been told not to worry about doing any physical therapy, just walk a lot, lift things, etc. I’m still awestruck by her luck and resilience.

Jonathan ran his second race in a year today, and ran fairly well considering the lack of conditioning. He’s not happy with his time, of course, but that will improve. His foot is still stiff and he suspects that will always be the case. But he’s racing without foot pain for the first time in about 16 months. This is a good thing.

Finally, I’m losing poundage in the form of fat. I’ve been holding off on posting about it because the effort is ongoing and has involved quite a bit of experimentation (and deprivation). But I’ll have a full accounting of the good, the bad and the ugly once I reach my target weight of 125.

Here’s some video of the Portugal/Father’s Day run this morning. Jonathan flits through at the 7:35 mark (small, full head of grey hair, glasses, plain blue singlet, stopping watch). That’s NYRR head honcho Mary Wittenberg off to the left. There was some noise about her leaving NYRR to head up USATF awhile back, but, honestly, I can’t see her ever leaving this job. She so obviously enjoys interacting with the runners — all of them, not just the elites — as they come over the line. Much of that action is off camera, but I thought it worth noting since I was so struck by it this morning.

Training: May 29-June 4

This week featured: a holiday Monday, a new gig that requires a 3 hour round trip commute, weather with wild mood swings, and a late-week injury. It wasn’t a very good week.

I took Sunday off so I could move the speedwork back from Tuesday (effectively, my first day at work) to the holiday Monday. The heat was brutal that day. I was scheduled to do 3 x 1 mile repeats, but couldn’t handle the heat. I cut the repeats down to 1200 and instead of jogging 800 between just sat in the shade for three minutes. Even so, on the third one I started to feel dizzy, so that was that. It would be one of two speed sessions cut down in its prime this week. Later, at the gym, I made up the work with two faster bits of running on the treadmill.

Over the next few days I got the hang of getting up very early to run (around 4:45 am most days), although I did one run after work.

Then on Friday disaster struck. The weather had cooled off. It was a beautiful morning to do some track work. I got there and did a decent warmup — about 9 minutes of easy running followed by 4 x 100m sprints on grass — and went into my first 800 repeat. 600 metres in it felt like someone was tasering my leg. A lightning bolt of pain started in my achilles, hit my calf and shot up midway through my hamstring in all of half a second. It hurt like a mother.

I’d pulled something. But the intense pain was gone as quickly as it came, leaving behind a dull shadow of itself. Could I still run? Should I still run? It’s so hard to answer this question. If you let every little issue cut short a run you’d never get any quality work in. So I decided to try doing the rest of the workout. My calf was complaining, but it wasn’t altering my stride, so I ignored it.

The 800 repeats were fine, the 200s not so much. I made it through two (at the appropriate speed) and then on the third one my calf was really beginning to bray at me. So I stopped running fast and headed into 10 minutes of easy running. But my leg was not done with me yet. Three minutes into that it went “Boing!” again and I could run no more. Walking was iffy now.

Unfortunately, I had to walk a lot in the city that day, as part of my gig involves running around town and interviewing people. Three ibuprofen, 20 minutes of icing and a slathering of Voltaren later, I was in reasonable shape to walk. The leg got a bit better over the course of the day, as I think walking helped stretch out the knotted calf muscle(s). But I was in no shape to run on Saturday, as walking was still painful.

Yesterday I tried a run on the treadmill at the gym. That really hurt. So I spent 45 minutes on the elliptical, which didn’t.

I hope I can get this cleared up by Saturday. I have a race that day.

Training: May 22-28

Yeah, so I’m back to into it, officially doing 10K-specific training now. I am also back to self-coaching at the moment, not owing to any displeasure with what Coach Sandra had me doing, but because we’ve not been in much contact lately and I couldn’t really afford to wait around for guidance.

I looked around for a 10K plan and settled on this one from RunningPlanet.com. A few others I looked at didn’t seem to have a lot of variation in the track work. I like all the different workouts here — short repeats, mile repeats, ladder workouts, plus lots of tempo running and a smidgen of hill work — as well as the fact that I could easily slot in several races as logical replacements for certain workouts. Clearly, it was meant to be. So this is my plan.

Since I started my new gig in Manhattan on Friday, I had to do my first Ungodly Hour workout. I was at the Bronxville track at 5:00 am sharp. Amazingly, there was a guy (he looked bulky, like a sprinter) just leaving as I was arriving. Then I had the place to myself until about 5:45, at which point I was finishing up. It was nice to be there alone, save for one rabbit who raced me for about 20 metres along the backstretch.

I was able to function well for the rest of the day. I think the key to getting runs in early is going to be getting to bed early. Easier said than done. Or, rather, I can go to bed as early as I like; it’s getting to sleep that’s the challenge.

The workout went pretty well considering the extremely high humidity and that fact that I had no idea what kind of shape I’m in. 800s were in the 3:30 range and 200s in the 00:42 range. That’s about where I was in cooler weather a couple of months ago, so I have not lost any appreciable level of fitness, at least at the shorter distances. I think doing some faster stuff every week has helped maintain speed.

But I’m gonna get faster. I have some very aggressive goals for the year, although I will not share them.

The schedule’s pretty easy for the first month — just two workouts a week. After the Mink 10K on June 11, things start to heat up and I’ll be moving to three hard runs a week. I’ve modified the schedule for race weeks, usually, putting in a mini taper. I’ll be able to run the Mini, a Central Park 4 miler, a Van Cortlandt Park 2 miler (or a 5K up in Rockland, depending on work shedule) and, to cap off this cycle, the Team Championship 5 miler in August. Then I go into around 6 weeks of training for the mile.

Mileage will average in the high-30s to mid-40s, increasing just as my current project commitment (and need to commute) should end. I suspect I’ll have a lot of treadmill running in my future, but that’s fine. I’m doing core work at home, on the living room floor, twice a week. I will work in at least one weight session at the gym on weekends (another mid-week if time permits).

I think this is doable.

Training: Meh

My last training update was in mid-April. In the five or so weeks since then I have taken no less than 18 DAYS OFF. That should have been more like 4 DAYS OFF. Between slight injury, familial medical emergencies, travel and minor rebellions by my house and car, it’s not been a great time for running. If I’ve done little running, I’ve done absolutely no weight work and I’ve completely neglected stretching and rolling. Bad runner. BAD RUNNER!

I’m turning over a new leaf this week. Today I went to the gym — after an interview for a new project in Manhattan — yes, to the gym, all the way the hell up in Briarcliff Manor. There, I discovered the extent to which entropy has set in. Someone traded my upper body for that of an anemic tree frog, because I couldn’t lift anything. I had to lower all my weights by at least 25% in order to do 20 reps. I will do weights at least once per week.

Then I ran 5 miles on one of their treadmills. I have a treadmill at home, but I was there anyway, so I might as well get it done. It was a long five miles, since, after I started, I looked up to see what was showing on the television right above me and it was Oprah’s Surprise Spectacular. What a surprise! Like a bad car accident, I couldn’t look. But I couldn’t look away. There was her BFF Tom Cruise, in the special seat right next to Oafrah! There was Madonna! There was Dakota Fanning! There were unfamous people talking about their dead kids or something! There were hot-panted dancers shaking their asses along with Beyonce to something that the obviously overwhelmed closed caption transcriber kept referring to as a “motha.” I kept misreading it as “mothra,” which gave it a TRIPLE BIZARRENESS SCORE!!!

Oh my god. What a celebration of megalomania!* I enjoyed every second of it. And this was just Part 1!

I know someone who briefly worked for Oprah. Have you gotten the impression that she’s a really nice person? Well, guess what? She’s not! She is actually insane.

Establishing forward momentum

I have a plan for the next 11 weeks, one that will take me up to the NYRR Club Championships in early August. I’ll be doing 10K race training even though the club champs distance is 5 miles. Close enough. It’s interesting stuff: lots of track work, longer repeats, hill repeats. Repeats, repeats, repeats. Run, rinse, and repeat. Plus a little tempo work. And only two runs over 10 miles. That’s gonna feel a little weird. I’ll recommit to doing weight work at least once a week, preferably twice.

I’ve slotted in several races along the way: the Mini 10K next month; a 4 mile cross-country relay race (2 miles each) in Van Cortlandt Park in early July, for which I hope to enlist Jonathan as my partner; the Central Park 4 Miler about a week after that; and then goal race — Club Champs! Where I busted my pelvis in two a year ago! — two weeks after that.

Then I’ll do 6 weeks of mile-specific training for the Fifth Ave Mile. Then another 10 week cycle of 10K training for the Joe Kleinerman race in early December. I’ll find some shorter races up in my neck of the woods to do during October and November. And, finally, six weeks of 5K training for the El Paso 5K in Houston over Olympic Trials weekend in January.

Phew.

But.

I am excited to get started tomorrow.

Now, as I prepare to interview tomorrow morning for a rather intensive 2+ month freelance engagement, much of it onsite in Manhattan, I find myself wondering how I will fit the training in. But I take heart: I’ll be running around 40 mpw most weeks, and that’s with 1 rest day every week. I should be able to fit it all in between getting up early or using the treadmill in the evenings. And, if I don’t get the gig then I’ll have plenty of time for training. It’s a win-win either way.

Going short

I ran a horrible half marathon this morning on Long Island. So horrible that I’m not going to write an official race report, although I’ll give a summary in a bit. But I’m glad I ran this race because I had something resembling an epiphany during the final 4.1 miles of Gallowalking. That epiphany was that I think it’s time I gave up on the marathon. It might seem strange that this thought came to mind while struggling through a race that’s half that distance, but maybe with some explanation it will make sense.

The race started out extremely well. I’d gone in with low expectations, figuring I would just run a comfortable pace for the first few miles and see what I got. I figured I’d be running 7:25s or so. I had a great warmup, a mile around a little lake and then two 90 second segments at faster pace. For those I’d been shooting for around 7:30 but found myself easily running 6:50-7:00.

The race started and I was running at 7:08 pace and feeling like I was doing a general aerobic run. Mile 2 was 7:12 and I still felt good. Then for mile 3 we turned into a slight wind and my pace dropped to 7:17. Mile 4 featured more wind and I slowed to 7:40. The wind was becoming a problem fast, but I kept working. I came through the 10K point in the 46:40 range but was aware that I was starting to work way too hard while at the same time people were starting to pass me. The effort wasn’t sustainable. The wind was particularly bad along Jericho Turnpike, a full on headwind. My pace kept dropping and dropping and I felt more and more exhausted.

Just before the mile 9 mark we had to ascend a short, slight hill. At the top of that it was like someone turned a switch off. I bonked and suddenly felt like you do when you have the flu. I had no energy left. I pulled over and started walking a bit. My average pace at that point was in the 8:30 range.

We would turn out of the wind after that but my race was over. I accepted it pretty easily. The hard part was realizing that I still had so far to go. I alternated strolling and running, mostly running at a recovery pace, waiting to hit the entrance to Eisenhower Park, where I knew it would be just a little over a mile until the finish. I ripped off my D-tags  shortly after my meltdown, but Long Island seems to have no trash cans anywhere, so I had to carry them for miles. I finally realized that I could just toss them among the cups at a water stop, and I did so at the 12 mile mark. I think the wind must have blown them, or perhaps a little bird picked them up, because my sister tracked me as far as the 99.17% point (that would be, what, about 200m from the finish?) before I disappeared.

That was a longer summary than I’d wanted to write, but I can’t help myself. It took a long time to jog-walk 4.1 miles. I had a lot of time to think. First I thought about why I might be racing this badly. I have a couple of theories.

For one, this past week was one of the most stressful in recent memory, as a member of my immediate family nearly died on Monday morning and remains in a Manhattan ICU with several aspects of her physical and cognitive prognoses still unknown. I didn’t eat or sleep properly for much of the week. I barely ran. I spent a lot of time worrying, absorbing, doing and crying. I stood at the start this morning already feeling tired.

I may have gone out too fast, but that’s not a problem I’ve ever had, so I doubt it. If  only I’d been racing a 5K today — I probably could have gotten a PR. I think the cumulative exhaustion + windy run is what did me in. I’ve had a few very good races lately, so I’m not reading too much into this one.

Next, I realized that the last time I’d felt this way was in December 2009 in the California International Marathon. In that race, I bonked at mile 15, managed to make it another 3 miles on one engine and then Gallowalked around 8 miles. That was painful. Bad races are always a drag, but a bad marathon is a huge drag. I know people who ran bad races in Boston this year, a year that featured weather so favorable that a man ran a 2:03:02. These are people who prepared and know how to race and felt fine and had a 20-30mph tailwind. And still they had a shitty race. While I’ve realized in the past that you can’t control everything when it comes to the marathon, what I’ve observed recently is that you can do everything right and be handed excellent conditions and still fail for not apparent reason.

The marathon is starting to feel like a sucker’s game, the Three-Card Monte of racing. You prepare for four to six months, turn up, hope to get decent weather, and start running. You have no idea what will happen. In six tries I’ve run what I consider to be a good marathon exactly once. The other five ranged from okay to disastrous. Most of them were disastrous. I’m sick of spinning the roulette wheel year after year, because it’s preventing me from actually enjoying the experience of running my “goal” races. And if I’m not enjoying any aspect of the races I’m training for, then why on earth am I training for and running them? That was the epiphany.

I said to my sister yesterday that at this point I’m feeling grateful to be able to train and race free of injury. I truly am. Today I realized that I’ve had a few good races so far this year, the best being the Scotland 10K a few weeks back. The others were a 5K and a 4 miler. I hate the 10K distance. But perhaps that’s only because I don’t train for it.

What would happen if I trained for the 10K distance and focused on that for awhile? It could be very useful, the way I see it. Joining a team has been a good experience, and I am motivated to run as many team points races as possible. Of the 12 points races in the NYRR series, eight of them are between 5K and 10K. There are other opportunities opening up to score outside of the NYRR milieu. There’s also the Icahn track series, in which I can race anything from the 1500 to 3200. There are some great shorter XC races, like the Van Cortlandt summer series. And boatloads of shorter road races here in Westchester and in Rockland and Connecticut.

Since late 2008 I have wanted to run an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier. That’s not going to happen. Aside from the numerous setbacks I’ve had over the past few years, there’s the matter of stark reality to grapple with. Namely, there are masters women younger and more talented than I who are nonetheless struggling mightily to achieve this dream. If they can’t get there, then I certainly can’t. I could keep trying, but time’s rapidly running out for 2012. I’m 46 years old. I think I need to recalibrate my expectations of what I can reasonably achieve.

Since 2007 I’ve been in relentless pursuit of the marathon. I’ve enjoyed the half marathon too, and I’d still like to run those, today’s performance notwithstanding. But I’ve never seriously focused on anything shorter.

Who knows? Maybe I’d be good at it.

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