And just like that, it was race week.
This has been a weird “training cycle,” and the air quotes should indicate how I feel about even calling it that. Yes, I did do five weeks of concentrated training, in fact following more of a routine and pace plan than I did for Berlin. But really — five weeks? How much can one person change, how much speed can one gain, in barely more than a month?
I guess I’ll find out, because Walnut Creek is Saturday, and damn, I want a PR. Partly because I want the PR; partly because I’m less than 100% sure my heart is in it to keep training hard all the way to Kaiser.
I started this plan because I wanted to see what I could do after Berlin, to own my feelings of selling myself short and not pushing my hardest. A couple of bloggers I read have written recently about the hunger required to train to race a race — that deep wanting every time you lace up your shoes, that knowledge that all of those moments of burning legs and lungs are leading up to something. I felt that when I made my training schedule and searched for my goal races. I was ready to fight.
And then last week that hunger just — poof — disappeared. I did the three runs on my schedule, but that was the only thing I did. I didn’t swim. I didn’t get back on my bike. And even those three runs were draggy — a gross track workout, an OK tempo, and a “long” run that felt like more work than the pace should have been.
I think my body finally started craving the reset that I didn’t really take after Berlin. I mean, I took a week off all exercise except hoisting liters of beer and walking around Munich, but travel — much as I love it — isn’t restful for me. I came back, and I could run, and I was so damn proud of that, and I wanted to run, so I ran. But I suppose it’s not surprising that I’d crash sometime.
On Monday, I woke up and felt mostly back. I even lifted weights (…this one time), and I had a good, long-for-these-days swim and one of the better track workouts of the five weeks. After last week’s gloominess, I modified this week of Run Less, Run Faster to be somewhere in between taper and training, and I think that was the right call. I’ve had some confidence-boosting runs these past few days, and I’m ready to wake up way too early and stand on my last start line of 2012 and see what I can do.
My goals are really pretty obvious: A – sub-2. B – PR. C – hurt, push, fight, work, try. This course is a mystery to me, given that it’s a second-year race and a first-year route; all I really know is that there’s a 400-foot hill smack in the middle, which we’ll go up from miles 4-7 or so and then down from 7-10. The climb compares pretty closely to one I tackle regularly on my long runs; I even made myself run it twice a couple of weeks ago (and on those runs, I don’t get to run back down). But it’s still a significant damn hill at a precarious point in the race, the point when I’d probably plan to start picking it up on a flatter course. So I’m not sure how to pace myself, and I don’t think I’ll really know till I’m on the course and get that hill under my feet.
That said, I do have a theory. In general, track workouts have felt tough for the last five weeks, and long runs have felt doable but harder than expected, given the distances I was tackling in August and September. (And, uh, likely because of the distances I was tackling in August in September.) My tempos, though, have felt universally good. I had a sweet 5-miler a couple of weeks ago that was one of the better-executed runs I’ve ever done, and I’ve had a couple of 2-miles-on, 1-mile-off-, 2-miles-on tempos that show that I can, in fact, find some speed again even after slowing down.
I haven’t run more than 5 total tempo miles, and 5 is a long way from 13, but my current plan is to pretend like this is a tempo with a big hill in the middle. Warm-up, two miles on, three miles off, seven miles on. If I blow up, I blow up. Averages are my friend. I’m planning to keep my watch set to average pace; I’ve got to run better than a 9:42 pace to PR, and I’ve done that on every long run this cycle, so I know I can, on the right day and with my head in the right place. Deep down I think it’s too soon to sub-2, that that would be better saved for February, but I want to give it a shot.
And after that, I’ll see how I feel about 2013. Maybe I’ll be hungry for more speed, more challenges, another PR chance at Kaiser on a course I know inside and out.
Or maybe I’ll just be hungry for cookies. That would be OK too.