Saturday, November 29, 2008

Blood, Sweat, but No Tears . . Yet

As my 40th birthday and the 40-mile run approach, I'm feeling slightly more stressed and burdened than joyful and excited. I don't know if I'm ready to be 40, but I am having that sense of wishing I'd accomplished more by now, both personally and professionally. I'll spare you the self-analytical soul-searching and stick to the topic at hand: running. The last few days have been marked by a disappointing PR in a 4-mile Thanksgiving Day race, a couple of 5-mile recovery/easy runs and a tough 15.5-miler on Sunday.


I ran a two-loop 4-mile race in Maine, billed as a "fast course". During warm-up (where I was feeling cold and tired), my Garmin acted very strange, and told me that I set a new world record by running at about a 2-minute per mile pace. Needless to say, that pace felt very easy, so I ignored the watch and finished my warm-up. I was running the race with my 13 year-old godson, who's an excellent swimmer and very good soccer player, but who hasn't done much running lately. He had no interest in a warm-up (or in running the race, really, but his mom "talked" him into it) and we agreed that - assuming I finished ahead of him - I'd wait for him at the finish.

The race field was large, with close to 1500 runners. I started a little ahead of the middle of the pack, less than 15 seconds behind the front row. The plan was to shoot for something in the low 26:xx range, by going out at 6:40 for the first mile, accelerating to 6:30 pace and holding on to the finish. yet again, I learned about how not knowing the course is a significant disadvantage. The first mile was flat, and I clocked low 6:20's. The second mile had two substantial uphills (a short one and then a long one, totaling probably 2/3 of the mile) and I hit the 2-mile marker in 13:00 flat. Based on how I felt, I knew I was in trouble. I hunkered down and just tried to keep a rhythm, though I slowed notably. I missed the 3-mile marker, but I slogged through the final uphill mile before cresting it for a slight - but very welcome - downhill for the final 0.3 or so, passing a few folks along the way.

There was only gun time, which was over 27:00, but my watch said 26:54, though it came up over 0.2 mile short for the course as a whole (which is attributable to the surrounding downtown buildings). I'll credit myself the faster time and will take the new PR. A bit disappointing to have lost it like that, but a PR is a PR, and now I have more room to improve in my next 4-miler.

Thanksgiving Day was very fun (my favorite holiday), with wiffle-ball golf (a family tradition) and almost 30 people eating together. The kids enjoyed their time with their cousins, and it was nice for all of us to be together. I ate less than I normally do, for no reason other than not being THAT hungry.


Friday's 5-miler was just a plain ol' vanilla run, with a little bit of nice scenery along the Saco River thrown in. It was hilly, but not bad, and started raining pretty hard about a mile in, also not so bad, as I was dressed for it. Still, I was glad to be done and back in a warm dry house afterwards.

On Saturday, we drove home and then I went on another 5-mile recovery run on the trails near my house. It was brisk, but pleasant, about 38 degrees and sunny. I wore a winter UnderArmour-style shirt, shorts and an orange Asics vest, with light gloves and a headband. I got through over 4 miles with nothing more notable than a slight pain from last Sunday's under-the-tongue blister on my left foot, which turned out not to be the blister at all, but the bandage pulling weirdly on my skin.

Then, at about 4.25 miles, a "teenaged" black lab bounds towards me, jumps up and hangs around. I don't know the dog or its people, but the woman assures me the dog is friendly (too friendly, in my estimation). I continue running (as the dog follows me, but finally peels off back to her family), and I feel some pain and wetness on my left leg. You can see why on the right.

It turned out not to be as bad as it looked, but it is still a little tender. I will likely be able to keep the leg. ;-)


So, on Sunday I set out to run 15-16 miles as my last long run before the 40-miler. It was supposed to start snowing at any minute, so I actually got dressed, changed my mind and got into more "precipitation-proof" gear. I left the house at about 9:45 a.m., and I was cold from the outset, thinking I'd warm up. I never did really, and I simply endured the run along some of the first loop I'll do during the 40-miler. I walked the longest, steepest parts of the uphills, and I did drop three faster miles in on a flat stretch, along with a final mile of about 8:10, but the overall totals for the run was 15.5 miles at about a 9:15 pace. By the time I got home, my face was semi-frozen and my fingers hurt. My legs and torso were mostly fine, but I was tired of the wet feeling under my lightweight rain jacket.
No I have to make myself take it easy in the days leading up to the 40-miler. I need to eat well, but not too much. I need to sleep more, but there simply doesn't seem to be enough time. I feel like there's a huge weight on my shoulders (completely self-imposed, of course), exacerbated by the fact that there's been some ramped media coverage of this endeavor in our sleepy little corner of the world. You can see that there has been blood and sweat this past week, and - I'm guessing - tears will be inevitable.
I can also tell that the whole thing is weighing on my wife, who's trying to be supportive of an effort she doesn't completely value (or understand) amidst a hectic pre-holiday schedule that involves a holiday concert by one of our kids, hockey practices and an away game for my wife (she's an assistant coach), a swim meet for all three kids, my office's holiday party and a post-run gathering on Sunday. She's planning to cook at least two big meals, make a cake (or - better yet - Peanut Butter Pie) and otherwise play gracious hostess. I suppose she will extract her vengeance on me at some later time.
This may be my last post as a thirty-something. I'll be in touch again when I'm more mature.


Marathon Maritza said...

So the dog scratched you? Yikes!

That's kind of my pet peeve...a dog may be 'friendly' but animals are instinctual by nature and you just never know. Plus, what if I'm scared to death of dogs? Ugh.

I'm sorry you are feeling apprehensive about the big 4-0 (miles AND bday) but don't forget to think about all the GREAT things that you HAVE accomplished. Like the new world record on the mile! ;-)

debbie said...

Hi, I am a RW forumite but I pretty much never comment on the forums. I just wanted to let you know that I am touched by your efforts and I donated $10. Sorry it's not much at all - we are in grad school with two kids!