It has been quite a while since I’ve raced. I have run at races, but I primarily showed up to survive the distance. I had no hope of placing, in the top three or even my age group. What I paid for was the t-shirt, medal, and support along the way to make sure there was something to eat and someone to drag me off the trail if I couldn’t cut it. Ever since my knee surgery, my races haven’t been about speed. They’ve been about surviving. A marathon. A marathon plus nine miles. A 50 miler.
For whatever reason as I recovered from surgery, I had lost whatever amount of speed I once had. So I adapted and did what felt good. I ran for a long time. It helped that I had a great support network of fellow runners who like to run long distance. They were there for me and we could pass the training miles together.
In October I got a new job that led me to move my family to Colorado. Finding anything like the running group I had been part of back home proved to be a difficult task. There are plenty of runners, but I just couldn’t find that perfect mix. Perhaps I was a little too picky, or little too crazy. I found myself running alone a lot. With the lack of oxygen near the mile-high city, running was even more difficult for a while. With all those factors in mind, I decided that maybe I should train for something shorter. Improve my speed, spend less time alone on the road, and let my body adapt to the environment. So I signed up for an online, semi-customized, group training program for the 1-mile distance. (www.milermethod.com)
The week the program started was full of irony. Through Strava I connected with a connected with a couple runners who were about my pace, met regularly, and met at a convenient time for my schedule (which is at the butt-crack of pre-dawn if you’re wondering). We’ve gotten together for a few runs when my schedule allows and it’s great to have the company and the accountability again.
At the start of the training cycle, I had to go out for a 1-mile time trial to find my baseline and something to compare my final time with. The day it worked out for me to do that turned out to be 3 degrees Fahrenheit. I ran a slow 2-mile warm up. By the half way through the time trial, my breath was forming as ice on my mask, making breathing very difficult. I pulled the fabric down only to expose my skin to the blistering cold. 7 minutes and 31 seconds.
What I didn’t realize going into the training was just how much distance would be involved in training for the mile. With warm ups and cool downs peppered with track, tempo, and hill work, it all added up. Some weeks I still logged 35-40 miles. Some days when I was running easy or long I was able to meet up with the local runners.
That first day was the coldest of the training cycle, but I battled snow, ice, and rain. One day on the track there was only one clear lane. The rest were covered in ice. Once morning the weather app read 45 degrees. Overjoyed, I hurried out the door without my gloves. I ran down the trail along a creek bed where it was much colder. My fingers ached and swelled from the cold. This last week of the training has been almost tropical in comparison with lows staying above freezing and highs setting records for the month.
This has been a fascinating and fun training cycle. The online, group coaching program I used integrated a partially customized program as well as an interactive online community aspect. The added camaraderie and accountability was a definite bonus.
The race is tomorrow. I have a similar feeling in my gut as I did when I last lined up to test my mettle at a 50 miler. I’ve put in the training and I’m ready to push the limits, to find my edge. That, to me, is what racing is about. Whether it’s 13.1 or 50 miles or a single, short mile. They each have their own strategy, and the joy is in finding that edge, in fine tuning your effort and knowing that you showed up and left everything on the course. My chances of placing or medaling are still slim. I know my limits. But I’ve come to put those limits to the test.