I’m only 31. An older man this weekend thought I couldn’t be much older than 21. Yet at a recent NYU event full of undergrads, I wasn’t IDed while getting an adult beverage (even though others had been). I’m actually not too concerned about getting old – as the “baby” in my family – I realize that isn’t possible. I’ll always be young, right?
Yet, as it turns out, that may not be true. In 2015, a few months after my 29th birthday, I had my first serious running injury – a femoral neck stress fracture – which sidelined me for about 6 months and left me wondering if I’d have to say goodbye to distance running by age 30.
I realized a lifetime of poor form had did me in, and made attempts to correct my form and start strength training. Admittedly, I haven’t been consistent with either, and am still trying to figure out how to be more disciplined on both fronts. On the positive side, I did recover and run a solid NYC Marathon in 2016.
This year, I decided I was going to finally PR in the marathon after peaking during my first in 2012. I noticed I had no problem with quantity when it comes to training, but it was quality I was lacking. Each run was the same. That’s why I decided to pay $50 this year for NYRR’s Virtual Trainer – I figured it was a small price to pay for additional guidance in helping me achieve my goal. With that, I gained accessed to a Facebook group with other people attempting similar workouts to me and a community to share my highs and lows with. Rather than just doing a 9mi run, this plan gives me details on how to turn it into a tempo or interval run. For example, this week I will do a 2mi warm up, 10x800m repeats with a 30-second jog in between each, and a 2mi cool down. By varying my pace and attempting more speedwork, I would hopefully have a better shot at improving.
What have I discovered?
My times have been all over the place. I’m running well, but I’m not beating my best. This past weekend, I ran an 18mi race at 8:23 pace (8:16 if we go by my watch). It’s certainly within the range I hoped for (well, a minute or two faster overall would have been nice), and very welcome given that I had no idea what to expect thanks to my inconsistency as of late and the humidity. Two days later, I went out for a 5mi run and cut it short at 1.5mi at 10:30 minute pace. I figured it just wasn’t worth it and hopped on a Citibike home instead. The next day I attempted a 7mi tempo run– where I would take it easy the first couple of miles and then speed it up around 8min pace for the next two, and then repeat. Last year, I easily ran 8mi runs sub 8 minute pace. And yet at this run, I struggled to break 8:40 during my “fast” miles. The 18mi race days earlier wiped me out. I checked my training runs from previous years and that was never the case before– I was running fast and freely in the days after that race the 3 previous times I ran it.
So what is different this year?
I used to be able to do as many activities as I could fit in a day. Run 10mi, go for a long leisurely bike ride, romp around the city. Now I run, and I want to lay on the couch for a while and then crawl where ever I’m going next. Maybe my workouts have gotten tougher from last year, but still– I’m fit, I’m young, I’m childless, I’m healthy. Sure, I could be doing more – better nutrition, more sleep. But still– there was a clear shift in my energy and ability in the last year. And how will this continue to shift as I age, and I become a mother and try to figure out how to continue running while balancing all that comes with kids, work, and having a life.
For now, I’m gearing up for my 20mi run this weekend. Always a special one in the training process. And after that, a half marathon. I used to think fall halves were the perfect time to PR, but am less hopeful since that hasn’t happened since 2013 and last year’s was a real struggle (it was a cold, rainy day).
At the very least, I hope/expect to be in my typical marathon range for 2017.
Six weeks to go. Let’s see how it goes.