Saturday, November 21, 2009

Through the Rough Patch

I hit a rough patch about three weeks before Berlin. "The run was f'd up," I wrote in my log regarding a 14-miler that was supposed to be 15. "Little energy. Cut it short." That was 19 days before the race. Two days later I ran 10 and wrote, "Still not good. Very heavy legs. Tired. Very tired. Tough run. Slept afterward, conking out."

I began to come out of this slump within a few days—with short runs, nothing long, just stuff that was fun and reawakened the pep in my step—and the rest of my taper was fine. I never felt super-energized, but the aches and pains receded and I knew my muscles were getting the deep rest they had missed for several months, and on race day I was ready.

Am I seeing a repeat in the run-up to CIM? Last Monday, 20 days before the race, I did 18 and wanted at least part of the run to be near marathon pace. That happened, but it was hard. I really had to work for it. Now maybe this was because I was running on wet and squishy wood-chip trail that, while it didn't have any real climbs, was loaded with ripples and turns. Very different than running on the roads, where you can practically flick on the cruise control and conserve physical and mental fuel. I ran eight miles on each of the next two days, recovery runs, and I still felt sluggish. On Thursday, I finally got around to getting the Computrainer set up, for the first time since before IMCDA in June, and had tons of fun spinning against the silver digital guy for 90 minutes.

After that break from running, I was a new man yesterday, warming up with a couple of miles at well over 8:00/mile, then taking it down gradually and finishing under 6:50/mile on a 10-miler. That last mile was pure fun; I could have continued at that pace for three or four more miles, easily.

My thought going into the weekend was to take it easy on Saturday and then do something pretty long—say, 12-14 miles—on Sunday. That, coming two weeks before CIM, would be my last run over 10 miles. Today I was just going to muddle through 6-8 miles, but then saw that the Clark County Running Club would be holding its Turkey Trot 5K at the reasonable hour of 10 a.m. and at the even more reasonable cost of $2. Plus there was the lure of the turkey raffle—frozen birds going out to 20 lucky runners. I wanted some of that action.

Cold (low 40s), wet, breezy morning—late November in the Northwest. This was a small race, entirely day-of registration, out at Marine Park, along the Columbia. Neither of the two bathrooms at park was open. There was a sign on one of them that blamed the closure on budget cuts. Clark County—kind of like the more famous Clark County in Nevada— boomed with construction during most of the decade, then went bust in a big, ugly way. Its unemployment rate of 13.7 percent is the highest in the state of Washington. Pity, no stimulus money for cleaning bathrooms.

Desperate to take care of some serious business, I grabbed a handful of tissues and headed for the wooded gully on the edge of the park. Enough said about that.

The run was an out-and-back on a concrete pathway, wider than your normal bike path by a few feet. There were maybe 150 runners, a dozen or so who appeared capable of cracking 20 minutes. Finally I was confident enough to station myself up front at the start. Without slower runners to wend my way past, I ran 5:59 for the first mile and although that was at least 10 seconds faster than my usual 5K first mile, it didn't feel completely stupid. I had no idea where this circuitous path was taking us, but during the second mile we emerged right along the Columbia, providing a nice view and some intermittent strong headwinds. The pavement was wet with plenty of leaves littered about, but it wasn't raining. I was wearing just shorts and a short-sleeve technical shirt, while most others were in tights and jackets or long-sleeved shirts, but the cold felt good, invigorating. The turnaround was a tight 180, which of course requires virtually a complete stop, not exactly what you're looking to do in the middle of a 5K. That might have been the hardest part of the race for me, gearing back up after the turnaround slowdown.

I chased a young kid for a lot of the second half of the race, caught him and just tried to stay strong from there. Running marathons, I think, helps makes 5Ks easier from a mental perspective. It hurts, but so what? You only need to endure for nine or five or whatever small number of minutes more. I endured, not heroically, but reasonably, running the second mile in 6:16 and the third one in 6:08 and crossing the line in 18:23, according to my Garmin 305.

Now 18:23, for me, is freaking fast. My best 5K coming in was a 19:19. But there's a hitch in running this time up the PR pole: the course might have been short. I'm going to check in with the race director and see how certain they are of the distance before I count it as official. That said, even if the course was a tenth short, adding 25-30 seconds to my time, I still would have busted my old PR by a goodly margin. Officially, my time was 18:26. And despite the fact it was advertised as a 5K, the race was measured and run as 3 miles—precisely the distance my Garmin had it at.

Afterword they hauled out the turkeys. I didn't get one. Eh, if I had to make a choice, I'd rather have a PR and the exciting sense that with two weeks to go until CIM, my legs are in fine fettle.

One more race before CIM: The Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10K on Thanksgiving. Hell, yeah, I'll be going for it!

No comments:

Post a Comment