Friday, January 1, 2010

2010: Here I come!

All in all, 2009 was a good running year for me.  I set lifetime PRs in every distance I ran.  I ran approximately 3400 injury-free miles.  I had 3 great marathon experiences.  Despite the year's successes, I have to say I was happy to ring in the new year and leave 2009, December 2009 to be more specific, behind.

December was a tough month for me as a runner and a human being in general.  I tend to get into a bit of a funk this time of year, anyway, and this year was a doozie.  I want to believe it's some kind of sinusoidal hormonal cycle I go through that has valleys (or maybe they're peaks) mid-summer and mid-winter.  Whatever the cause, these down cycles are no fun.  They do, however, serve a purpose.  For me, that purpose is to experience emotional diversity.  This diversity of ups and downs, happy and sad adds richness to my life.  I don't believe that I have to endure the lows to appreciate the highs.  I just think the lows come with the territory.

Wanting to just be left alone when the lows hit can be a challenge sometimes.  Our society has become preoccupied with happiness to the extent that, if you're not giddy as a loon, you need to be fixed with pills, therapy, or watched to make sure you don't do something drastic.  I'm not belittling depression here.  I do recognize that it is a legitimate syndrome/disorder.  But, while there may be a fine line, I think sometimes people just get the blues and that's okay.

My blue mood certainly affects my running.  I think that non-runners get the impression that runners are on some sort of constant runner's high from all of the endorphins being pumped into our bloodstream.  A run can definitely help boost your mood, but you first have to be motivated enough to get out there and run in the first place.  That's been a challenge these last couple of weeks: getting out the door.  While I always feel better after I've completed my workout, I don't feel any more motivated to do it again the next day.  Don't get me wrong.  I've done every workout as prescribed, but it has been a sincere struggle to get out the door to do them.

I could sit around and try to figure out why this happens, but I don't think that's useful.  It is a cycle, and it will pass.  Actually, in just the last 2 days, I've started to feel the benefits of this recovery week that I'm currently in.  I love the recovery week, because I swear I can actually feel my legs, rather my whole body, get stronger as it absorbs the hard training from the weeks prior.  My mood is also improving, and I'm rapidly approaching "normal".

I completed my first 4 hard weeks of training in December running 72, 75, 82, and 84 miles per week.  I did progressively harder workouts each week and focused on lactate threshold effort/pace.  By the end of the cycle, I was starting to get a good feel for 6:00 pace.  In fact, I like 6:00 pace so much that I plan to focus on it in 2010.  This isn't any kind of New Year's resolution.  It's just something I want to pay attention to.

Two years ago, I did this with 2:47 marathon pace which is 6:22/mile.  That was the pace that I knew I had to run to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials.  When I set that goal, I hadn't yet run a 5k at that pace.  So, I just slowly worked on running successively longer distances at or close to 6:22 pace.  I ran my first:

  • 5k at 6:24 pace in April 2006
  • 4 miler at 6:20 pace in February 2007
  • 8k at 6:19 pace in June 2007
  • 10k at 6:21 pace in September 2007
  • 10-miler at 6:23 pace in September 2008
  • half marathon at 6:25 pace in October 2008.  
Of course, I finally ran a marathon at 6:20 pace in October 2009.  I just chip, chip, chipped away until I got there.

So, now I've set my sights on 6:00 pace.  My goal is pretty basic: to feel easier training and racing at that pace for longer and longer distances.  This last month, I have spent a lot of time with my 6:00-pace friend, running up to 9 (not necessarily continuous) miles in a workout at or faster than that pace.  It is starting to feel more and more doable.  Of course, I have yet to race a 10k at 6:00 pace, so I will start there.

I won't see lactate threshold workouts again until the end of January, so it will be interesting to see how 6:00 pace feels then.  I also have a wealth of heart rate data to geek out over as a check up on my fitness.  Now, that's something to look forward to!

So, here's to a happy (with appropriately spaced cycles of emotional diversity) and healthy 2010!            


  1. Sorry to hear about your blues and getting out the door difficulties, though it sounds like you're energy is storing right back up, thanks to that recovery week. It's true, the downs are necessary to get those highs, just wish it wasn't such a pain in the ass when they come.

    I love your idea of focusing on a pace and gradually being able to extend the distance, that sounds like a really smart way of progressing! And to see your timetable with the 6:22s is excellent.

    Funny, as I started doing that with MP today, just did a few MP miles and will extend it each week so by the time I have to string 26 together, it won't be a huge surprise. But I'll definitely be stealing this idea for faster paces, too.

    May the low feelings slither out the door asap and 2010 kick off to a grand start for you.

  2. Ugh, I hate that "you're" in my first line. I'm not illiterate, I swear.

  3. Thanks, Flo. You're sweet. The blues are the blues and come and go as they please. They are on their way out, though. Sounds like you're back at it and going strong too. Nice job with the MP miles. You have the right idea--just string them together.

    I'm glad the pace focus interests you. You definitely picked up on the key--it takes a long-term focus. The cool thing is that you watch yourself making these seemingly small, incremental improvements and then, wham. Two years later, you lay it all out and there it is: 6:22 pace from the 5k to the marathon.

    I totally missed "you're" misspelling until you pointed it out. But, if I had done it (and noticed it), I would have commented on my own mistake too:)

  4. You've chipped away well over the years. No reason it can't continue. 6:00 pace for the marathon would be something. Go for it!

  5. as you become a more seasoned distance runner, you're bound to experience highs and lows. it's simply not humanly possible to always have that crazy intense fire in the belly to train day after day, week after week, month after month. sometimes it takes a setback or long term break to really fuel the fire. i have found that pregnancy has been great for that. want to have a baby? ;) JK. but as you've discovered, the lows can go away as fast as they come. this is a funny time of year to train anyway, because so many people did CIM... and the cold/rain can be unmotivating. i've actually been cross training this past week rather then running because i have a sore hamstring... and to be honest it hasn't been that bad at all. guess i needed a mental break, too! anyway, you don't want to go too crazy too early anyway.... you/we will need all that intensity and desire in feb/march/april.

  6. oops... didn't mean to use "anyway" twice in the same sentence. duh.

  7. Ewen, if I make it to 6:00 pace for a 10 miler, I'll be happy. Running that pace for a half would be amazing. Running that pace for a marathon is highly improbable for me, I recognize, but maybe I can go 30k or 20 miles?

    T-Meat, No babies in my future. Actually, I think the idea of taking a long break to recharge the batteries is generally a good one. But there is a little matter of age to consider. I feel compelled to keep pushing myself because that point where age will catch up to me and naturally slow me down is right around the corner. I want to challenge myself to become the best runner I can before that point hits and then ride it out for as many years as I can.

  8. I'm still waiting for those endolphins (as Annette Benning called them in "Postcards from the Edge") to kick in. And I envy your dedication.

    Your thoughts sound like the mind-training approach that Matt Fitzgerald outlines in his "Brain Training for Runners" book.

    As to aging, it'll happen, you'll get used to it, you'll adjust.

  9. Joe, is that book worth the read? I've not heard anything about it.

  10. i totally know what you mean... about kind of being in a race against time (no pun intended). ever since i turned 40, i have been very aware of the slow down that you hear strikes all masters runners at some point. in some ways it can work to our advantage because it lights a fire under our asses to be the best we can be while we still can. then you look at someone like linda sommers, who is 48 and just ran 16:14 (probably almost as good as her open 5k PR), and it makes you think... hmmm... maybe i do have a lot of good years left! all of us masters chicks are kind of mavericks in that regard. many years ago, they told us that being 40+ was a death knell to your competitive running career. now we're finding out that we can not only run damned good, but maybe even PR or get close to previous PRs. i suppose a lot of it has to do with how you age, genetics, and how long you've been running; for the lucky ones, the sky is the limit. but yes, we should appreciate these fun years of great running while they are here.

  11. Hello "J"

    came across your blog via Ewens. You have an interesting goal and I'd like to follow along to see how you go with it. I have a few goals of my own and think that we my be able to help eachother.

    Bye for now

    Scott Brown


  12. You're very healthy with your outlook on the blues... they really are just a fact of life and everybody gets them. Some more than others. Glad you recovery week has been helpful! That's what it's all about, right? We are only as good as our recoveries. :)

  13. I've been following along for a while (after hearing your name repeatedly mentioned on Joe, Julie, and Flo's blogs) and am really impressed by your running. It's good to hear that you were able to fight the funk and get out the door even when you weren't feeling it. Anyone can run when it feels good, it's takes a warrior to go out there when it doesn't.

  14. RJR,

    Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you've been there before. I suppose every runner has. Not sure about the warrior designation. I feel a little like a wuss for complaining about a low flame when I don't feel like I have a legitimate reason for it (injury, illness, etc.). But, I write about the good and the bad, even if it's not particularly flattering.