Friday, December 23, 2016

Mojo Lost and Found - From Philly to Turkey Trotting

Since October I've been feeling a little burnt out. Runs just weren't feeling as good as usual. Speed wasn't showing up when invited. I think I was tired. The disappointing RNR half on 10/30 confirmed it, so I cut back and took it easy for 3 weeks. No speed work. No tempos. Trying to recapture my mojo before a gauntlet of three more races in three weeks.

Then the election happened. And a friend died. And the runs weren't getting any better. I was solidly depressed. (Not clinically, but, you know, blue)

But Philly was coming up, and I was hoping for some loopfest magic to spark me. However by the time I got to Philly, I had talked myself out of trying to race hard and get a good time. Originally I hoped to beat last year's 1:37 from Rehoboth. But I think the last race sapped my confidence, and with everything else bumming me out, I decided to not go for it and risk another disappointment. Instead I would take the opportunity to run with Loopsters!

So I dropped back one corral to start with Dave and Gwen and Caitlin. But first I had to hug this guy in the fast corral.
By mile one it was just me and Gwen, and I ran with her the rest of the way. I knew her goal. I knew her training. I knew her strengths and weaknesses. So I did my best to help her reach her goal of NYC qualifying. It was close, but a balky hammy cost her just enough.
But pacing was lots of fun. Of course we got the good weather on Saturday. The course was pretty. I got to run at a pace that didn't kill me, but was still fast enough to be a solid workout - I was working out there too. But I was enjoying the race atmosphere. And I had someone to talk to! Pacing is fun!

The rest of the weekend was great too. I loved seeing some old friends and meeting new ones. Cheering for the marathon was cold, but we had each other. And watching runners reach for their goals never gets old. It was a fun day and very inspiring.
But I was still a bit depressed. Partly because almost everyone had disappointing races and some big goals were missed. Partly because Philly 2016, while fun, was not like Philly 2011. That was a peak experience from a different time - meeting SO MANY people for the first time, and the energy level was insane. And it was more of a party atmosphere that year. So being in Philly seeing the same sites made me miss that lost Loop era, and many of the friends I made that I haven't seen for years now.

Oh well.

So I got home still blue, not to mention tired and jet-lagged after 4 long flights in a week. But then things started to turn around this past week. I had a positive meeting Tuesday on a family thing that I'll go into at a later date that had me feeling better. I ran Tuesday night, and while it was only 4.3 miles, the legs felt pretty good considering I just did a half on Saturday.

Then Thursday was Thanksgiving and the day dawned warm and sunny. A perfect day for the local 3 mile Turkey Trot - my 11th time for this one. Again I went in with low expectations, and just wanted to see what I had. But I did think if things went well, that I still had a shot at my 3-mile PR from last year of 20:10. The "A" goal was sub-20. (If I can't do it for a 5K, maybe I can do it for 3 miles anyway) That's 6:40 pace.
Two mile warmup felt good, so I lined up near the start and aimed to go out at 6:40 and see if I could hang. The race is not timed (it's a fun run), so I would have to trust my Garmin. It is dead flat and mostly straight. No excuses.

I ran all of mile one with one of my gal pals from track club. She kept me honest and helped push me. First peak at pace showed 6:50 so I pushed a little bit more. Went through one in 6:38. It hurt. But like it's supposed to hurt. 5K hurt. System check was good so I kept pushing. Maybe I could do this!

My pace buddy dropped back in mile two, but I pressed on. Pace was slipping a little, but not too bad, and I felt a little energy still in the tank, despite the pain. I hit mile two in 6:45. I wanted to slow down, as we always do at the start of mile 3, because, well, it hurts. But the legs were still working, and I realized I wasn't REALLY working that hard. Not 5K PR hard. So I pushed it.

Mile 3 brought the grimace, and a little stomach discomfort. But some timely pressure releases took care of that. I picked some people to chase down and persisted through the pain. I figured I had a good shot at the PR, and maybe even sub-20 if I pushed hard. So I did.

I didn't even look at my watch the last half mile. Just tried to hang on as the lactic acid built up. As I crossed the finish I tapped my Garmin and looked down. 20:00.8

Last mile was 6:36. So close. Sure it's not 5K PR pace, but on this day I will take the 3-mile PR and be thankful. Besides I really wasn't working that hard...(he says afterward)

It had a miraculous effect on my mood. Wow, I guess I've still got some speed left in me. It was a beautiful day in sunny So Cal, and I had a lot to be thankful for later at the feast (at a friend's house). I've been feeling loads better ever since.

To top things off, Saturday morning I joined my speedy club for an 11-mile run over giant hills. And the legs responded wonderfully to the challenge. I felt strong powering up the hills, and fast gliding down. I guess the downtime helped out because I feel like I am back and ready to train. Still, I am going to keep December moderate, since I am traveling a lot, and will really start ramping up in January for Boston.
I'm back. Life is good.

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