Going into this weekend I had a very specific plan in mind, one that required strict adherence. The plan was simple: 25 miles from Friday through Sunday (5 easy miles Friday, push through a 5K race Saturday, 18 easy miles Sunday) . Not too difficult, right? Pretty straight forward. But, there is always that game of degrees that we runners like to play where we are constantly redefining and altering our own perception of "easy" or "light" or "comfortable." It is a glorious game with very few rules, but a lot of penalties that can be accrued during its practice. Personally, I am a vicious offender when playing this game, but I am recovering. What are the steps to recovery, you may ask? Well, there aren't steps per se, but I have found a great way to curb this behavior without causing any irreparable damage, which, in the end, helped me actually stick to my game plan.
Friday night, after another glorious work day I was looking forward to getting out and relieving myself of some unwanted stress, but because of my experience during speed work earlier in the week - uh, I had no speed and couldn't push myself at all - I knew that I really needed to tone down all of my recovery and maintenance runs and bring the speed way down. I have been a little gung ho about my training this Winter and it has taken its toll on my body and the time has come to be much more shrewd about my approach. So, how did I manage that for this particular run? 1) I kept reminding myself that I would be racing a 5K in approximately 15 hours and that any sort of pace tonight would adversely affect my performance. 2) I set my Polar watch, which I have the foot pod for, to beep at me whenever I went faster than an 8:20 pace - Ah, the beauty of technology! 3) Selected a nice slow jam to get stuck in my head and just let my feet synch with the beat - this is something that is not as easy to find and apply as you may think. That's quite a bit, huh? It really is, but for whatever my mind works in mysterious ways and this appeared to work.
Saturday morning was perhaps as frustrating a race as I have run over this past year. For this one I had to trek to Brooklyn, which wasn't too terrible on the train this particular morning as I was thoroughly entertained by my book, "Fool" by Christopher Moore, and was wearing enough layers that I wasn't instantly frost bitten by the arctic gusts of wind that seemed to follow me wherever I went.The exciting part of this race was that I was reunited with my running partner from last year, Speedy Elf, which was excellent, because I haven't run with him in a long, long time. Anyway, the two of us were shooting for a sub-6 pace, but were unsuccessful by a mere 5 seconds! Honestly though, it was a race I hope to erase from memory rather quickly. What I came to understand during this race was that ALL of my fast twitch muscles are on strike, or have committed suicide, and that my legs are now honed in on longer distance runs and my finishing kick is now about as impressive as an Ewok running the 100-year dash ... Pathetic, yes! Cute, fuzzy and amusing, Yes, but Pathethic! It was a completely humbling experience, one that knocked me down a few pegs and reminded me that I need to start to have shorter more specific workouts to aid in the development of that speed and to take it easy on maintenance, recovery and longer runs that don't have a race specific purpose.
So, in continuing with the nice ebb and flow of things we've reached Sunday, where I planned on doing 18-miles (from my UWS apartment on 107th, down the West Side Highway via Riverside Park, over the Brooklyn Bridge to Prospect Park and then two loops of the park). Now, for those unfamiliar with Race With Purpose from last Fall, this run is also known as the "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn" run. What made this run in particular so effective was that I met up with two fellow RwPers along the way and they helped make this rather lengthy journey simply outstanding. When you run the majority of your training runs solo you forget how wonderful it is to run in a group and it has been one of the things that I have missed most this Winter, but when I do have the company it does make everything so much simpler and more enjoyable. I take my time, my pace is never an issue, I relax more, and when it comes time to turn on the jets I can and with greater confidence. All in all, the workout benefit is so much greater when with a group and I hope to either be racing or with a group for the rest of my long runs this season. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, I was unable to resist the temptation to go beyond my prescribed distance, only by 1.65 miles, thanks to another friend I bumped into in Prospect Park who convinced me to keep going, but I can't be too upset because I did prove to myself that I have the endurance for this while hitting a nice 6:40 pace for the last couple of miles. You can only imagine the big smile on my face after that!
What have we learned? I'm slow over short distances, so muggers and pick pockets should be fine. Recovery and maintenance runs NEED to be just that and the pace needs to take a back seat for nothing more than the health of your body. Lastly, LSD is best done in good company!