Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Ghost of Me

I went out today to run for two hours. It was my first long run in three weeks, and my first long run since November that was alone. I've been doing my long Saturday runs with a friend who was getting ready for the New Orleans marathon- great job, Michael, by the way- so it's allowed me to go out, keep my base in tact, but still go at a managed pace.

My first long run coming back after a break of time, especially when alone, is always a little bit more of a challenge, and to be honest, every long run by myself is a challenge, not so much to do the distance, but to keep the intensity down to where it's supposed to be. Eric had actually given me a run on my schedule with Michael, not knowing he was out of town. It told me where my intensity should be.

Why ? Well, it's not uncommon for many of us when we do our long runs to struggle a little bit with pacing, and I think most endurance athletes struggle more often to keep he pace down than to keep the pace up.

I call this 'the ghost of me.' The ghost of me is a few years younger, a little bit faster, and a LOT better looking than I am. He's also very quick to remind me, as soon as I start to flag a little, about how I didn't keep up the pace on the second loop in Florida last November and that cost me a sub-ten, or how I walked in Arizona. As Jon Stewart would say, he's kind of a dick.

I'll get out there and I start chasing the ghost. I start thinking I'm not quite pushing hard enough. I'll start to fatigue and instead of moderating I'll push harder because 'in a race you have to push past the fatigue.' The funny thing is, on my good days racing, it's my steady approach more than my modicum of skill that gets me to the finish line in a reasonable amount of time.

And so, I'll run for two hours and run closer to my hour run pace. As I often hear when doing Spinervals, 'you should be going hard enough that you want to slow down, but you don't have to'. And that's what my long run feels like when I'm pushing just a little bit too hard. I can run my hour training run pace for two hours, but it's not comfortable and it's not my goal.

About 90 minutes in, right after my second gel I really started to feel like I wasn't putting out a great effort any more. I'd gone just a little too hard and now, I was having that same thought I have every long run that doesn't go perfectly- 'what if this happens at (fill in the blank with name of next IM race) ?' I was running up a steep hill and maybe berating myself a little bit.

Then I had a little run-in with a pissed off SUV driver that was more concerned about having to drive two miles an hour under the speed limit than the safety of a seventy-year old man. I know this because after I'd run up the hill and turned towards the POYCC the driver reversed direction, came back, and told me I should have told the old man to cross to the correct side of the road so there wouldn't have been two pedestrians in the same spot forcing him to reduce speed.

Long story short- I should never let drivers aggravate me. I should stay inside myself, focus on my workout, not let anyone take any energy away from me.

If you're shaking your head or laughing, it's because you know me.

But you know what- the adrenaline rush made me feel better. I also was no longer thinking about the ghost of me. I ws running well, I was no longer fatigued and- my mind was actually clear. What should have been stressful and irritating actually was calming and liberating.

Whatever works- but don't let the ghost of you affect your workouts. Those old races where you let yourself down ? History. The fact that you are older, and perhaps slower than the ghost ? You certainly are older- every workout you are older/ Slower ? Don't be sure about that- and even if your are there's no shame in that unless you are Benjamin Button.

Which would be curious indeed...

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