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.
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!