Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Restarting the Engine

It's time to run.

This ranks as my best marathon recovery. Since the Eugene Marathon there's been no running whatsoever for one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and today makes it nine straight days. I told myself I'd go two weeks without lacing them up, but that was just a ploy to ensure I lasted at least one week. Mission accomplished, then some. And not only did I not run, I didn't do anything remotely strenuous. Every day I walked a bit—anywhere from a mile to four miles—and on all except one of the days I burned 200 to 400 calories spinning at low-resistance on the bike. I decided upon this intense effort at avoiding intensity based on my Berlin and CIM recoveries. Or, better put, non-recoveries. Berlin left me relatively unscathed and there were cross-country races and 10Ks fast approaching so I figured what the hell, go, man, go. And go I did, with fair results, but a vague, background sense of fatigue developed and carried through to CIM in early December. After that race, I felt like I'd been mugged by a fierce gang of very small people. Shins, calves, Achilles, plantar fascia … pretty much everything below the knee was achy. Come to think of it, I had an achy knee, too. Again, however, races lured me back out there too soon. Six weeks after CIM I ran the Cascade Half. A week later I ran the Vancouver Lake Half. Yeah, two hard half marathons within two months after my second marathon in three months—no wonder the Eugene training block was equal parts piling up miles and soothing pains and strains. A deep taper is what saved me, I think, and I felt surprisingly fresh on race day. It went pretty well. Except for the stupid blister thing I talked about earlier, it was dang fun. I was reminded that I love marathons.

So 10 days later, tomorrow, Wednesday, May 12, 2010, I'll run. Something short, mostly slow but maybe a few little burst here or there, all on the grass, under the promised sun. It'll be a new beginning. I love these new beginnings. I'm setting out to run another marathon, to make a go at three hours again, on the 4th of July. You heard me right. Less than two months from now! Look, I’m not getting any younger. I'm running New York in the fall for fun—no way I'd get three there—so when am I supposed to crank it up for a fast one? Next year? Get out. It's now or never. Not only am I creeping toward the half-century mark, which is hardly PR territory, I just don't have it in me to do a full 16-, 20- or 24-week program to get ready for a marathon. And actually, I think those programs, at this point, end up beating me up a bit more than is good for me. So the quick turnaround might, by objective analysis, be the best strategy. I've given myself a nice rest. There's a great base of fitness that can be summoned and, one hopes, nudged forward even more. I like running in warmer weather and even Portland at 6:30 a.m. on July 4th is bound to be warm by marathon-running standards. Flat course? Flat except for two hills, each a climb of about 50 feet. Yeah, it's flat.

Last thing to say is that I learned something at Eugene, or in the aftermath of Eugene, I guess. As I thought about my race, I realized that I hadn't pushed through the fatigue and distress. Not that I crumbled. I stayed steady. But I didn't fight. I didn't fight for sub-three. I conceded and began to think that 3:02 wouldn't be bad, or even 3:04, or anything at all under my previous best of 3:06:16. And I think that was partly because I didn't believe I could run sub-three. Without the belief that the effort might be rewarded why would I endure the pain? I said I was going to go for it, but I really wasn't ready to. I think I am now.