“nasty ridgewood girls nj julie threlkeld”
This is something I like to say to Jonathan right before races. There are enough gaps between races that it continues to be funny. I like to think it takes him out of his nervousness for just a few nanoseconds and gets the happy chemicals flowing in his brain right before the horn blows.
So here we have a joke with pretty good staying power. I’ve been dragging it out to the start line for a few years now. The joke is like the accordion that travels the U.S. continent, witnessing (or perhaps causing, through some kind of curse) death and mayhem, in E. Annie Proulx’s novel Accordian Crimes. Except instead of passing through the hands of hapless owners, it passes through years of hapless training and racing.
Lest I get too tangled up in this comparison and paint myself into a corner (to mix metaphors… Ack! Escape! Escape!), here’s where I’m going with this: while I may be using the same musty pre-race jokes, the pre-race training is getting some new material. Or at least a new mental approach. I hate to tarnish it with something as touchy-feely as “mindfulness,” but the way I approach workouts today is quite different than it was even a year ago.
In essence, here’s the Great Truth: I am where I am on any given day, and sometimes it’s not where I want to be. But that’s almost always because I’m not fully recovered, which means that I’m tired. Being tired is real. It’s not a weakness, nor is it something to ignore and “push through.” That’s how you get overtrained and, possibly, also injured.
Here’s an illustration: I was scheduled to do a bunch of 1K repeats yesterday on the track. It was pouring buckets of rain all day, so I moved them to the treadmill. My legs were still aching and fatigued from Sunday’s race followed by a windy 8 mile progression run on Tuesday.
So I was tired yesterday. I knew this to be true. But I decided to try the workout. That’s what you do. You try it. You don’t drop it altogether because you’re tired. But you don’t bludgeon your way through it either, for the same reason. You can get some work done, but it needs to be the appropriate amount of work, done at the appropriate effort.
The first couple of repeats went okay, although I was deliberately running them slightly slower than last time. The next two featured a rapid cratering in performance. On both, my legs died at the 800m mark and I knew I was running way too hard for the last 200m. Done! Doing more 1K repeats at too high an effort would be counterproductive: I would be doing the workout at too high an effort to gain the intended benefits, plus I’d feel like a shitty runner for the rest of the day. Who needs that?
Did I have to stop working though? Could I still do something productive? Sure. My legs were dying at 800m. So why not try a couple of 400m repeats and see how they go? I did those and they were fine. But two were obviously enough, if my labored breathing was anything to go by. I was done for the day, having logged 3 miles at high effort. I jogged my recovery miles and came away feeling okay about the workout. And about me, the runner.
To review: Sometimes the best thing to do is just run to your capability on that day and, rather than viewing the experience as a compromised workout, instead declare it a major attitudinal victory, and a minor physical one. You can also just defer the workout to a later day, although for practical reasons I opted not to shuffle workouts this week and next. But a few smart runners I know, especially those with some grey in their pelts, do this on a regular basis.
So there’s your training widsom tidbit.
I am getting a media credential for the NYC Half, although now it’s looking iffy if I’ll have time to use it. Some new freelance work has landed, two projects that start next week. But I am hoping to at least get over to the press conferences on Friday and do a few interviews. As usual, I am most interested in talking to the Media “B list”: Jo Pavey, Serena Burla, Jessica Augusto, Madai Perez (although language might be an issue with those two).
I also learned from my NYRR contact that there are no planned press events for the More Half next month. This is specifically because of Sally Meyerhoff’s death, as she was the headliner. So that’s a disappointment. If I’m free I may go loiter at the expo anyway to see if anyone interesting is there.
Sally Meyerhoff, one of this country’s fastest female marathoners, died yesterday. I never interviewed or met her, although I was hoping she’d be running the More Half again this year (which she won last year while setting a new course record, in pouring rain no less), so that I might have a chance to.
Meyerhoff was no waif, which is one reason why I found her inspiring. Solid girls like me can run fast too. She proved that. I also liked how she was no shrinking violet, at least not from a sartorial standpoint. Lately she’d taken to wearing fuscia compression socks with banana yellow racing flats. An adventurous racer, she not only raced on the roads, but on trails as well, and was moving into a dominant spot in triathlon.
You can find links to the news reports easily enough. Instead, in a nod to a life well lived, here’s a link to her blog.
But only because I’ve invested 45 minutes in watching The Girl Who Played With Fire and am bored out of my skull, yet not quite ready to go to bed. Hokay.
Age: 45, turning 46 next month. Oh my fucking god. How did I get here already?
Bed size: King, baby. We’re not big people, but we do like our space. Also, I tend to punch, kick and claw in my sleep.
Chore you hate the most: Cleaning the litter box.
Dogs: Grew up with them and loved them. But not ready for the responsibility or the strange, constant “ham smell.” You know what I’m talking about.
Essential start to your day: P.G. Tips tea, Frosted Mini Wheats and WeatherBug.
Favorite color: What are you, five? No. There are too many mindblowingly great colors out there to commit to just one.
Gold or silver: I will accept either one gladly.
Height: 5′ 5.5″
Instruments you play: If we use the term “play” loosely, then I will claim guitar and banjo. I have always wanted to play the drums. I will probably eventually buy an electric bass to supplement my bad electric guitar playing.
Job title: Freelance writer, content strategist, “journalist”
Kids: Let’s just say I’m glad my sister popped out a few so the pressure was off.
Live: I don’t understand this one.
Mom’s name: Sharon.
Nicknames: Real: Jules, Juliekins, Juki, Threlly. Fake: Cupcakes, Wowzy, The Brick
Overnight hospital stays: Adenoid removal at an early age; five years ago when one side of my face mysteriously exploded into full on Ted Kennedyosity.
Pet peeve: Drivers who do not use their turn signals. I experience several episodes of rage per week due to this problem. Also, telemarketers with autodialers who greet you with, “Hello? Hello?” Sometimes I like to fuck with them by saying, “Hello? Dad? Is that you?”
Quote from a movie: “This dress exacerbates the genetic betrayal that is my legacy.”
Righty or lefty: Righty, except when I eat.
Siblings: One. Sister. Older. She used to subject me to ritual humiliation. I used to beat the daylights out of her. I could also give her piggyback rides when I was in kindergarten and she was in the third grade. We get along really well now.
Time you wake up: Whenever the Zolpidem Tartrate wears off.
Vegetables you dislike: Okra. An abomination. It’s like snot encased in frog skin.
What makes you run late: I get in the car. I’ve forgotten my glasses. I go inside. I’ve forgotten where I left my glasses. Half the time they’re in the car.
X-Rays: Lots. Mostly for dental work.
Yummy food that you make: Everything I make is yummy.
Zoo animal favorite: The last time I went to a zoo was during a visit to an awful “animal park” called “Paws and Claws” in Florida in 1988. I ran out through the gift shop, with tears streaming down my face, as a result of seeing the sorry state of the animals in that place. I don’t go to zoos anymore.
I was really keyed up after the previous week’s long run in Central Park. I ran what was supposed to be a 5 mile recovery run way too hard, in wind and on hills, around my local streets in the Crestwood neighborhood. My adductor started hurting, so I cut it short and took the next day off.
Determined to stay off the treadmill, on Tuesday I headed up to Scarsdale for what was supposed to be a progression run with 2 fast miles at the end. But I was really beat, plus it was incredibly windy again. So I made do with a run at decent effort, dropping the faster stuff. I knew I had a speed session and a race coming up, so there was no point in pushing things.
Wednesday featured a horrible track workout. That was unhelpful.
I spent the next few days focusing on getting mentally ready to race a 5K, since my body was not doing its fair share. One of the Harriers’ coaches sent round a “Racing Coogan’s for Dummies” document and I studied up. Then I did some race visualization. I know it sounds hokey, but I’ll try anything at this point.
That race went pretty well, although I was a minute off my PR. But I was not expecting miracles. Nor did I get them.
And there you have it. I ran a measly 31 miles, but given my performance on Sunday, that is okay. I’m becoming convinced that less is more when it comes to pre-race mileage, provided you keep the quality up.
This week I’m back up to 50 mpw, with the staples: progression, speed, long. With the exception of one fartlek session featuring Billat surges, all of my speedier stuff between now and April 10th’s Scotland 10K race is track torture. While it’s not 10K training per se, the variety of shorter track stuff mixed with progression work over hills is bound to help when I line up for that race five weeks from now. Or at least I hope so.
I still hate 5Ks. But I hate them a little less after this race. Maybe the Gridiron 4 Miler a month ago helped to prepare me for this. Or maybe it’s the fact that I still have no real race endurance (meaning I know that trying to race, say, a 15K would be infinitely more painful and embarrassing than any 5K at this point). But this was okay.
Fun stuff: This was my first race wearing a New York Harriers shirt. There were unexpected benefits. Well, at least one, which was getting acknowledgments (running the gamut from staid nods to frenetic thumbs up) from fellow Harriers. It also meant I could tap a fellow Harrier (as I did today) and say, “Good luck!” without the action being confusing.
Also, I started the race a few feet away from Gary Muhrcke, known by marathon history nerds as the winner of the inaugural New York City Marathon, and by watchers of the YES! Network as the enthusiastic man on the commercials for Super Runners Shop, which Muhrcke founded.
Minor annoyances: NYRR was not enforcing its corral system today. I started the race surrounded by people in bibs with numbers 5,000 and above. They should have been two or three corrals back. I spent the first third of a mile fighting my way through slower runners. Boo. Also, they started the race three minutes early. Bizarre. Finally, the finish line was not marked with a banner. So what I thought was the finish mat was actually the final start mat. I hit Stop and started jogging after hitting it. Later, my results would reflect this: I lost about 6 seconds due to not knowing where the finish actually was. Grr.
The deets: Allowing for the initial crowding problem (and my theory that the course is slightly harder than the 4 miler course in Central Park), I think I’ve improved slightly since last month. I was careful not to kill myself in the first mile, and I was good about motoring on the downhills, as I passed a lot of people.
The big hill from 1.9-2.6 was not that terrible. Once I crested it, I recovered pretty quickly and was able to roll pretty well through the last half mile. Although that was a treacherous stretch, as it was Pothole City, especially under the bridge. Although I am told by Amy, who calls Washington Heights home, that they did a lot of work to fill those holes before the race, so I should be grateful.
I have no memory whatsoever of the bands or the actual scenery on the course.
Also, it was raining steadily and there were numerous puddles. My favorite racing shoes — the Asics Hyperspeeds — are equipped with drainage holes in the bottom. These are great when it’s pouring rain because it’s like wearing colanders on your feet — the water drains right out. On a day like today it just means your socks get wet during the warmup. But it’s a 5K. It’s not a marathon. Wet feet: not an issue.
The stats: 22:13 (to my watch’s 22:06, dammit), 11th in my AG, 2nd F40+ Harrier. Yay.
The whole point: I know why you join a club now. For the post-race drinks! Think about it. Go drinking at 11AM alone and you’re a sad lush. Go drinking with other people at 11AM and you’re being sociable and festive. I met up with around 30 of my black-clad teammates at Amsterdam Ale House (they wisely avoided the clusterfuck at Coogan’s; I knew there was a reason I joined this club) for Newcastle and chitchat. Urp.
Tomorrow is my first 5K race in nearly a year. That last one in April was difficult physically (bad wind in mile 2) and mentally (because I gave up; see “bad wind in mile 2”). I had wanted to break 21:00 that day but it was not to be. It’s an important milestone that I’d like to pass, but I don’t know that it will happen this year, not because I don’t think I can get fast enough but because I think tomorrow’s race will probably be one of two or three 5K races I do this year. So I will lack opportunity.
Tomorrow’s race is hilly. We may get wind. We probably will get rain. I can’t figure out whether to wear tights or shorts, since we’ll be right on the edge in terms of temperatures. If I stand around in the cold in shorts for too long then my legs will stiffen up. But if I wear tights and it’s warm, I’ll get overheated. Decisions, decisions.
I did a track workout on Wednesday that was a total disaster. First we got kicked off the Bronxville HS track, so I was pissy and freaked out. We drove over to the track at Roosevelt HS (Yonkers), which was empty. The wind was a steady 25 mph with gusts at 40+ mph. First track workout since the summer. I had no idea how hard to run anyway, but I was constantly getting…er…winded from the stupid wind. It was like a rude bar bouncer (not that I’d know), pushing me, pushing me, back in the wrong direction. It was getting dark. My hands were about to freeze off. I emerged from that 45 minute experience more of a pre-race head case than usual.
Today I did a 4 miler, again into ridiculous wind, with five strides. I did a few short ones (10 seconds) and a few longer ones (20 seconds). While doing those I thought, “How the hell am I going to run fast tomorrow?” My legs didn’t feel up to running fast until I was on the last one. Then I felt some measure of confidence. Roll. Rest. Relax. It’s just a stupid race.
Since I don’t train for or race many “short” races, it’s always a mystery, how to set the effort. I am very good at dialing into the right effort for a 5M – 13.1M race. (Don’t ask about marathons. That’s a nut I’ve only cracked once.) With the shorter stuff…I guess I just need to be extremely uncomfortable, verging on unacceptably so, after the first two minutes or so. That’s the right effort, usually. Since tomorrow’s race will be crowded, it may take a little longer than two minutes to reach the desired level of awfulness.
I have one word in my head in a short race: “Push! Push! Push!” It’s a relentless mental whip. Running that hard hurts, but it’s over with quickly, which makes it bearable. That’s the theory. Yet, still, 20+ minutes is a long time to be screaming at yourself and willing your legs and arms to keep pumping even though it feels like someone’s beating them with hammers.
I tend to lag mentally (and the body follows) at somewhere in the beginning of that third mile. I am determined to not do that tomorrow.
It’s a downhill finish. Those are fun. If you don’t die before you get there.