Figuring Things Out.
You know, this running thing…I let it get to me sometimes a bit too much I’m thinking. It gets under my skin like nothing else can. I’m constantly trying to figure it out, retaining information from other people’s experiences, thoughts and ideas. I have spent the better part of the last 4 years trying to understand all the different philosophies out there on running. Not really saying much, just kind of sitting in the background taking it all in, the few times I have said anything about it, I always seems to come up against those who know it all (no, they truly do) or those who like to *think* they know it all because they have been running a long time, but their running knowledge really amounts to shit. Sorry, did my last comment sound too harsh? Come on, we all know those few people out there who like to talk about how much they know about this and that, and maybe they do know something, but in the grand scope of things, their knowledge really amounts to a whole lot of nothing, as they are trying to navigate their way as well; the difference is, I choose to not talk about what I really don’t know.
I ran a 10 miler this weekend, and I have not decided whether I want to call it a race in my book or not yet- technically it was a race, but whether I ran it as a race is yet to be determined. My coach says to consider it a training run “I bet if you went out and ran another 10-miler in a couple of weeks from now you would PR.” Really? Would I really? I’m not really sure about that. You see I ran a race in November of last year and at the 10 mile mark I was very excited at the fact that had it been a 10 miler I very well would have pr’d at that juncture, alas, it was not, therefore it was not to be counted. So running this weekend was slower than that time, yet different course, different circumstances, weather, wind, no wind, sun, no sun…see where I am going with that? No 2 races are ever the same, EVEN if you run the same course every year. The race is a fickle beast, it needs to be coddled and understood and approached just so for the proper return. No time for foreplay in the race, you go in and you get the job done. I have not yet been able to take away the foreplay from the race yet. I’m trying to learn how to get past that.
I have a coach and I have the tools to do what I need to be successful. Yet, I find myself in a funk of sorts. I tend to do this at least twice a year, and I’m not exactly sure why. Running and I get into a lover’s quarrel of sorts, I want to be talked nicely to, I want to be coddled and mostly I want to feel as if running loves me as much as I love it. Truth is, sometimes our relationship is a love/hate one. I love how running makes me feel, I feel free when I run, time passes effortlessly when I hit the road (que in Bittersweet Symphony from the Verve right now). It’s just me and the pavement, sometimes I run in silence and sometimes I run with my music. Either way, it’s all good. However, some days running just decides it won’t have anything to do with me and running is harder than normal and time seems as if it’s standing still. That is when my running becomes a day on a training log vs just a run. I seem to be having a lot of days like the latter lately. I’m on my second day off in the span of 3 days. Not good for someone like me, but I’m okay with it right now. Sometimes you just need to kick back and put things into perspective. I’m a very dedicated runner, rarely take a lot of days off unless I’m sick or have family obligations (even with the latter, I find a way to get my run in).
I realize there are some people out there who the thought of taking a day off will send them screaming in the other direction at the horror of such a thought. I say relax. Honestly, freaking relax. A few days off and you may even come back stronger, I know, I know, some people swear that if they even take one day off they lose fitness- lies, is what I say. It’s psychological. Get back to me when you are sick and have not been able to run in a couple of weeks or months, then we can talk about losing fitness. A few days? Hardly. Those are the people where I think, “Dude, you really need to find other things in your life to fill that void”.
Anyway, while I was talking to my coach today he said something that made me take a personal inventory on myself. He said “I can tell your very competitive.” I never used to be that way, OR, maybe I have always been that way but never had any real reason to show that side of me until now. Either way, he is right..I have become extremely competitive and honestly, it is not my best attribute nor am I proud of it. I don’t enjoy being this way because it eats at me, and it keeps me constantly thinking about numbers and paces and races and ages groups and OA’s and blah blah blah. I really don’t know what is happening with me, but I’m not a super fast runner by any stretch and not sure I’ll ever be as fast as I aspire to be- I’m not sure I have the TIME to invest to get to that point. My coach seems to think I’m a *strong* runner- I’ll get back to you when I figure out exactly what that means, we have been working together for about 3 months now and this is what he has gathered over that time, just from my training runs. I went out and did that 10 this weekend and flopped, yet, he does not see it that way, apparently, he sees something in me that I don’t see just yet.
Let’s go back to this past weekend, or the week leading up to better yet. So, I’m told with a daily text that week what I’m supposed to do that particular day. True to myself I don’t always do it in the order I’m supposed to, I get the job done, just not ..well..yea.. Unconventional me- get used to it. Anyhow, so I have a bunch of easy 30-45 minute runs, with a day of fartleks and a day of a warm up, mile at 5k race pace and cool down, the day before the race I’m supposed to do a very easy 30-45 minute *jog* that is IT. I decided it would be ok to do the Fartlek on Thursday and do the mile at 5k the evening before the race. Need I say that I only committed to the race 2 weeks prior. I did not train for it by any stretch of the imagination, I have been training for something else entirely different. However, my coach says to go ahead and do it, if anything use it as a training run (yes he said this even before I raced.. use it as a training run).
So, I do my thing and wake up race morning. Like typical me, I drink my coffee and barely eat a drop because, well, there really is just not a good excuse to why I don’t eat other than I’m not hungry. I get dressed, gather my shit and get my packet, come back home and head out for my warm-up..”Don’t do your warm up too soon, you want to come back about 5 minutes before the start time”(I’m also trying to figure out what the proper warm-up is for me- everybody has their own idea of how long or how short a warm-up should be depending on the race distance, to each his own body is what I say) Check! My timing could not have been anymore perfect. I probably stood about midway in the pack, but a little closer to the front. The signal goes for us to start and I already knew In that first mile that It just might not be my day. I just felt it, I did not really feel all that strong, but not horrible and so I just went with it. It was a tough course, the hills were steep (the kind of steep where you have to wonder if you walked it, would your pace be the same as you trying to run it) and I spend the whole time trying to figure out how to run it properly. I was told to keep my effort level the same on the uphill but drop my pace a bit, and then pick it back up on the downhill. The problem was there was really no flat stretches, it may have appeared to be flatter in some areas, but the truth is those so-called flats were actually gradual inclines…so it was difficult. I did not *feel* tired aerobically, my legs felt tired from the hills but nothing major, again I did this course comfortably hard. This is the part that pisses me off. Anyway, I finished and medaled for 2nd in my Age Group. Fine enough, I was happy about that I guess, but what I was not happy about was the fact that I felt like I never really raced about 10 minutes after I was done. The only tell-tale of me racing was my headache which is normal and some soreness in my hamstrings from the downhills. My coach says for him it isn’t about my time but how I felt during and after the race. So, of course I told him and go on to tell him that this is how it always is for me and that it frustrates me to no end. He just chuckles and goes on to say that he thinks part of the problem is that I may not be tapering properly for my races.
On the surface it may seem silly, but if you really think about what he is saying and then I go back and really look at my log, there just may be some truth to that. He talked about my legs not being as fresh as they could be etc..etc.. This whole thing is a learning process and I really am thankful for the opportunity to be learning from one of the better coaches right now. I think one of the other biggest things I am learning right now is that NO two races are the same and what you ran a year ago or two years ago is really NO indicator of what you can run right now. I’d like to see some gains this year and I guess it’s up to me to see what I have and to put it all on the table. I figure I have the rest of my life to hobby jog, but only a few years to really train and race hard before I peak out. I’d like to think I’m far from peaking and I still have a lot left in me. I guess only time and patience will tell.