Thursday, June 28, 2012

Where I've Been and Where I'm Going

Yes, friends, I know what it's come to. You've been sitting captive at your computer screen, impatiently hitting "refresh" day after day, hour after hour, wanting nothing more than an update from yours truly. Great news! Despair no more, because today is your lucky day. Not only am I here to present a real, for real, legitimate update on my training and racing (or woeful lack thereof), but I am also offering my humble pledge to return to the prolific posting and witty musings that have so endeared you to Green Lightning Running.

First, to acknowledge and ever so kindly address the elephant in the room, I did not triumphantly return to form in the US Half-Marathon Championships a few weeks ago. On the contrary, I dropped out. It seems as though barely training for a month and running on a semi-injury that isn't 100% does not facilitate race-day success. I started the race with Caitlin, Alana, Allison and a substantial pack of women, but our 5:40 uphill split for the first mile delivered a shock to my system. It was a pace I'd barely touched over the past month, and it was one I was well aware would be unable to maintain for another 70 minutes. I slipped helplessly off the back of the group a few minutes later, and despite splitting a very respectable, still-on-goal-pace 18:00 for 5k I knew things were about to get real. The harder I tried, the slower I ran and the worse my leg felt. After limping through 10k in over 37 minutes, I knew that to push further would yield nothing but further disappointment at best, further injury at worst.

But wasn't dropping out disappointing in itself? Of course. It wasn't entirely unexpected, but it still stung. And pulling out of a rinky dink local race is one thing, but to do so at a national championship is an unspoken taboo. (Interestingly, this same sentiment did not seem to prevail at the Olympic Trials marathon, when something like 1/4 of the field did not finish.) To be sure, I spent a good portion of the morning wallowing in my own feelings of discouragement, of failure, of not being good enough to belong at a race like this so why did I even come. But it's hard to wallow, at least visibly, when you're sitting at breakfast with one of your best friends in the world watching her order six eggs as a side dish and planning how early in the afternoon you could start drinking in order to be sober and in bed by 9pm. And, honestly, it's hard to wallow at an event as special as Grandma's. As I said in my previous post, the city of Duluth and everyone involved with the half-marathon championships did an astounding job of making every single athlete feel like a rock star. This only continued at the post-race dinner and awards ceremony, which took place in an old train depot museum that had been completely reserved for our party. I had a blast hanging out with Caitlin and Allison and other Charlotte friends Pezz, Alana and Mark. (Shout out to Pezz and Karhu-supported athlete Joe Moore for their podium finishes!) It was a wonderfully buzzed night capping off what truly was a fun and memorable weekend, disastrous race itself notwithstanding. If they'll have me, I'm already making plans to return to Duluth next year to experience this unparalleled race hospitality again. 

Immediately afterward, despite an ailing right leg and bruised pride--or, truth be told, likely because of it--I made the totally nonsensical decision to enter the following weekend's BAA 10k back home in Boston. In his dual roles both as coach and boyfriend, Jordan emphatically denounced this as a terrible idea. I wasn't totally healthy, and I would "get my doors blown off by practically everyone." (Here's to seeing that ringing endorsement on a Hallmark "good luck" card sometime in the near future.) In the end, I guess my body decided that if common sense wouldn't prevail, it would have to resort to desperate measures. And so that's how I found myself, a mere 48 hours after my half-marathon debacle, stricken with what I can honestly describe as the worst sickness I've had the good fortune of enduring in the last five years. While this would be less than ideal under any conditions, it was particularly unfortunate given that I was preparing to board yet another jet plane, this time bound for Washington DC and the Fleet Feet Summer Conference, at which I would be required to run early, socialize late and stand on my feet presenting our lines for two full days. Normally I love these class reunions of sorts, as they present an opportunity to reconnect with far-flung friends and colleagues within the running industry. This time, I spent the entire trip exhausted and drugged and struggling to find my voice. (I'm being literal about that last part--at one point I had to ask Jordan to stand in for one of my presentations because I kept opening my mouth but was unable to force out any words. It must've been a dream come true for him on many levels.) I still dragged myself through a handful of runs throughout the trip, equally because I absolutely love training in DC but also because running was the only brief period of the day during which I could actually breathe. Outside, the mercury spiked to nearly 100 degrees, but I welcomed the heat. It warmed my cold, achy body from the inside out. Needless to say, the BAA 10k didn't happen.

At this point, still recovering from illness and injury, you'd probably think I'd be planning to take a nice, long summer break from training. Maybe take up a more civilized sport like badminton or spend my free time decorating our new condo. On the contrary, since Monday I've taken a surprising turn for the better on all physical fronts. I've regained air flow through both nostrils and my legs feel springy and light. And, though I will admit to not enjoying every minute of every run, for the most part I genuinely enjoy lacing 'em up and getting out the door every day for a few miles. On days when I don't run, even when these days are planned, I find myself feeling sluggish, grumpy and out-of-sorts. Mentally, having basically hovered in the 50-60 mile per week range for over a month, I don't feel burnt out or overtrained in the least. So, while there will almost certainly come a time in my life when I can no longer run for one reason or another, today is not that day. Neither, hopefully, is tomorrow. Which brings me to...

 ...summer training! Simply put, I plan on running. A lot. I've heard it called a "Kenyan Summer" and referenced on the LetsRun message boards countless times as the "Summer of Malmo." I plan to run in the morning and, most days, run in the evening. Strides 2-4 times per week. An occasional tempo. An occasional fartlek. But, mostly, just running. If I need a down week, I'll take one. If I need a day off, I'll rest. But if I'm just tired...well, then I'll put on my big girl pants and run some more. I'm not sure what this will mean in weekly numerical terms. 100 has a nice ring to it, but I've never been able to maintain that level consistently. 80-90 seems to be my sweet spot and where I'll most likely settle. Regardless of the math, the goal is to spend the next 8-10 weeks between now and the end of August getting ridiculously strong. Not fit, necessarily, though that will come. Just strong and healthy and ready to begin fall marathon training. By that point I'll have Caitlin to keep me accountable from afar and my partner in crime Emily to keep me trucking along day to day. In the end, it just might be crazy enough to work.

Awards dinner in the old train depot

Caitlin and me along the water behind our hotel

Duluth sits right on Lake Superior--who knew?!

Caitlin, me, Allison. First the Trials, now here, next up...Philly!

Kara Goucher's baby meets the mayor of Duluth's baby at the train depot. Kara and the mayor were teammates in high you can guess who ran faster.


mfranks said...

Yay! Back from the dead! Good luck logging mega miles this summer!

Caitlin Chrisman said...

Go meagan.I don't think we realize the beauty of down time enough...a week of lower milage usually follows with a blissful week full of fabulous runs, full of euphoria. It was probably good you got look at how fab you felt this week. keep it up!!!

Anonymous said...

"Here's to seeing that ringing endorsement on a Hallmark "good luck" card sometime in the near future." Haha - awesome, literal laugh-out-loud moment! Glad to see you're back at blogging!