#40: Success is so relative…..and that’s what keeps us in the game

This week was a good one although a little unusual for me.  Coming off a solid effort at NJ State Oly, I felt good, but not great about my performance there.  I tend to be from that “your own toughest critic” mentality a lot of the time, and so every time I didn’t do what it takes to be first (which is every time in this relatively new world of endurance sports for me) I find myself thinking through all of the different what-if scenarios that could’ve been.  I seem to have a few reoccurring post what-if conclusions:
  1. I need to continue to find ways at increasing my training volume…..the best (and therefore those who I’m chasing) are a good 20-40% higher than I am from a training volume perspective….so I can’t really expect “A” performances with “B or C” training efforts.
  2. I need to continue to learn and gain experience in all 3 disciplines……so many of the competitors have one if not two anchor sports, that they grew up on, and therefore have years of experience on me…..and whereas my fitness can make up for this some…..it’ll never be enough to close the gap entirely.  Having grown up in short-burst power-sports (i.e. 30 seconds of hard effort), I really need to make up ground here.  I’m coming to terms that I may be in my 40’s before I’m really “experienced”……and this is a little troubling to me (see item 3).
  3. I need to exercise the patience of an endurance athlete.  The longer the event the more pacing and timing comes into play…..not only on race day but by pushing personal limits hard enough to grow, but not so hard I blow up in the process.  So far, I’ve been pretty resilient to outright injury, but I seem to have a few nagging aches that can rear their ugly head at any point……L knee, R shoulder, R hip-flexor……know your limits.
But even though this is an energy consuming post-race ritual, it’s stimulating as well…..it helps me to refocus my efforts and puts more gas in the tank for the next round of hard training. 
So let’s get cracking…..but not yet.
Normally, I would have taken a day off (Monday) and then hit training hard for the rest of the week launching back into full-out training mode (after all stop 3 in the redemption tour, VA Beach ½ marathon is only 6 weeks away)…..however for the first time (the unusual part) I had my 3rd of three weekend races in a row.  2 weeks ago it was Teterboro 5K, last weekend it was NJ State Tri and this weekend it was the 90 mile River to Sea relay from Milford NJ to the beach in Manasquan.  I was pulled near the last minute onto a team from Hunterdon County who has run it for several years but was looking for one more spot.  Eric, who had already been pulled on, recruited me and it was a good time.  The gist of it is that each person of the 7 person team runs 2 legs.  For me it was about 12 miles on the day.  I was assigned the rolling-hills from Montgomery Twp NJ to Princeton and ½ of the “wildcard” section somewhere in Freehold Twp.
The race was a good reality check for me.  We had a couple of college kids who could really run (their pace was sub 6min most of the time even on their 8 & 9 mile hilly stages), and a couple of seasoned runners who had plenty of strength to push out the miles.  Eric is generally a stronger runner than I……and then there was me.  I’ve never considered myself a “strong” runner…..but always better than average.  So after the first 3 legs (which had our average pace somewhere around 6:15/mile in high 80’s, low 90’s temp), I was getting pretty nervous that I was going to drag the team down.  I did a little.  My 7:04’s on the 6-ish mile rolling hills section was fair…..but certainly not strong by comparison.  My wildcard 7:00’s x 3mile and then 6:40’s x 2.5-ish also pretty solid…..but not strong by comparison…..it was humbling for me……but then, after hearing the stories of my fellow teammates:  miles per week (one of the college kids had put in 70 miles this week) and years of experience especially (even the youngest on our team had more than double my years under his belt), I took some solace in knowing that although I’m battling the clock some (being “young” in a sport after one’s physiological peak of 25-ish isn’t the best scenario) I can continue to improve if I can stay patient.  So, even after clocking considerable improvements the last 2 weekends, by the end of the day, depending on how you slice it, I’d put myself as the #5 or #6 (of 7) runner…..which isn’t a super comfortable spot for me…..but it will definitely drive me to keep working hard.
Why would anyone want to spend an entire day racing +/- 90 miles?
OK, they weren’t there, but pretty sure
their shorts attended.
It’s a fair question……it’s a very long day.  But these kinds of events draw out a different kind of enthusiast……and R2C did not disappoint…..a good portion of the 700+ entrants were what I would call “authentic runners”.  These are a relatively rare breed, even by running standards and if you’ve ever come across this species you know them…… ½ of them (often the younger ones) look like high-school or college kids who could probably use a few burgers so they don’t get lifted away by the next crosswind……the other ½ are what happens to these college kids after college……often (within 10 years of graduation) they are bronzed by the sun, a little scraggly at times but look generally relaxed in otherwise ill-fitting shorts that no other human-sub-species would dare walk, let alone run in…..but in general they’re looking fit…..and really quite fast.  They tend to evolve into (possibly 20 years after graduation) one of 2 types from there……the free spirit runner who seems to be “about” running……they work in/on/around the sport and live for the chase….more of a lifestyle than a sport really…..let’s call this the Forrest track……and then the others…..who chased corporate jobs or business ownership and a financially “grounded” future……these are the runners who, secretly wishing they had had the courage to get on the Forrest track 10 years ago, thoroughly enjoy the thrill of the event.  They see friends and competitors at these events…..they know the stats and the game quite well…..these are a weekend warrior of a different kind…..they savor the chase, hoping it will last……only to be back in an entirely different race on Monday, quietly planning the next adventure, just waiting to drop it on their colleagues. 
Ken Bob Saxton….yeah, that’s what I’m talking about
10-20 years later it seems that the 2 tracks converge into what I call the grizzled-road-warriors.  Almost impossible to tell apart (except that those on the forrest track have gone from bronze to leathery and those on the other are doing everything they can to combat that big hot cancer-causing thing in the sky), they have a certain racing wisdom about them…..and get my respect just for being there.  With rare exception, they’re less concerned with speed and more about how many miles they have “left in them”.  They are selective-warriors picking only their favorite chases to be involved in but still deep in the game…..and then there’s the final segment….the silver-back…..perhaps as many as 40-50 years past the fit-graduate stage, and now just happy to be around the scene.  Perhaps they run now and again…..but they rarely race……it’s about the personal challenge; long gone are the days of going for the win…..but never gone is their stake in the game itself….they are most concerned about passing on all of the goodness that comes with the competitive spirit and the thrill of the chase.
At R2C there were all of these and more…..plenty of fleet-footed college types to remind me of how old I’m getting and slow I already am…..plenty of hippie-runners and success-chasers….a good crop of road-warriors and even a handful of silver backs.  And the best part is, that although many are in direct competition …..there’s a sense of camaraderie……sure there are tactics and strategies….but it’s not cut-throat…..it’s friendly competition…..something more folks would benefit experiencing now and again.
So NOW are we ready to get serious…back on the redemption track?
YES enough fun and games (well almost….one more relay next weekend)……..I have roughly six weeks to hit a relative peak……this means I have a 3-2-1 ahead of me.  3 build, 2 peak, 1 taper…..and then redemption ½ marry style.
So what’s on the agenda? 

1. Need to get some new (speedy) shoes…….my last pair of brooks are pretty much obliterated making it very clear that I am a lateral-midfoot striker.  I’m torn here on whether I should continue to evolve toward the no-sock triathlon style shoes or stick with trainers.  Given my need to shave time off in transition which was so painfully obvious last weekend, learning to go sockless may be a very good, albeit stinky, idea

2. Need to put a training plan down on paper…..or in this case on the training interface we use through www.pro-activity.com …..of course, like most things, if it’s written down, I’ll stick to it more closely.  I’m thinking my build weeks will be 1 long, 1 tempo and 1 speed workout with bikes and swims mixed in for recovery and cross training.  I’m thinking 20-30 miles running per week and another 2-5 hours of cross-training and recovery workouts…..but that’s just high level.

Roll up the sleeves kids, it’s time to get to work….
Mike E.