When we left off with my story, I had taken over a year away from training or racing after showing symptoms of overtraining, but had tried a half marathon for fun and felt ready to try a comeback. I had a job working on a TV show and signed up for NYC, hoping I could balance marathon training with a full time production schedule, something I’ve never done before.
Newsflash: It wasn’t easy. The 65 hour weeks, early mornings and late nights made running tough. Luckily my department was led by an awesome group of ride-to-work cyclists who never once complained or minded my running to work or changing clothes on the truck. In fact, I don’t even think I was the one who was changing my sweaty clothes on the truck the most! We had lots of locations that were 5-7 miles away, a perfect 1 hour commuting run, and, while we shot into the night often, there were very few true overnight shoots. I managed to squeeze my long runs in on Sundays and got a few speed workouts here and there, mostly by hitting up the treadmill at good old Planet Fitness in the wee hours of the morning, 2, 3, 4 a.m. Since I have so much experience with the Hanson’s plan, I trained with that; those long marathon-pace tempo runs were the hardest. Somehow, though, I managed, with my crew cheering me on the whole way.
The marathon fell a few weeks after the job had ended and half my crew had returned to the West Coast. I was so grateful to them for supporting me in my training! And I wanted to do well – my only goal was to break 4 hours. The conditions were right and I was happy and ready on the day. I hammed with my friend Juan in the Athlete Village and my friend Sam got me all hyped up while we were in the start corrals – I was feeling really really great! But once I started, I just never clicked into the rhythm I’ve had during my best races.
I got caught up with a pace group early (and Scott Jurek, randomly), but they were going a little fast for me. I worried over it, but held on just a bit too long anyway and wasn’t able to recover my energy. Then, in spite of Immodium, I had tummy troubles and had to wait in a line—A LINE!—for a port-a-potty around Mile 10. I spent the rest of the race playing catch-up and aaalllmost thought I could pull it out around mile 18 when I still hadn’t fallen into The Dark Place. But then I fell, late and hard, right around 20.5.
The stress of trying to make up time means fear and disappointment and anxiety, and when you add in glycogen depletion … well, by the time I reached the hashers’ beer station at Mile 23, I collapsed in tears and easily spent at least the 2 minutes that blew it. I chugged almost a full pint of my poor friend Dave’s beer … and then Mr. Honey’s beer, too … and my sweet friend Amalea ran with me for a couple hundred meters to get me going again, thank goodness. With an earlier Dark Place experience and a full recovery, I might have skipped the hashers (or at least spent less time) and squeaked through under four, but that’s not how it went. I didn’t manage to rescue anything and finished in 4:01:52.
I don’t usually do this, but I broke down my splits for each 5k and I can see just how it went. I went out too hard, I was all over the place, I had at least a 5 minute stop and about a 3 minute stop and pushed too hard to hustle to make it all up. Comparing that to Erie in 2016, the 5k splits broke down to an incredibly consistent 8:46 pace in the first half and 8:43 in the second half. For anyone interested in the breakdown, here ya go.
At Erie, my consistency alone is admirable, and the sustained effort is pretty amazing. How do I get back there? What am I missing now that I was doing then?
My job, most likely, is the answer. I was incredibly, woefully unemployed for most of 2016. Not for a lack of ability, but because of self sabotage and imposter syndrome. I interrupted a career that was moseying along pretty well and went to coding school, thought I might get out of the business, developed some hubris about our ability to make Salty Running my main career, then floundered around not knowing what the right path was, moved to Cleveland, put all my faith into a doomed relationship, got my heart broken to nobody’s surprise but my own and fell into the worst depression of my life… But, all the while, I was running and kicking ass, probably because I wasn’t spending 12-15 hours a day on my feet chasing a cameraman around and snacking at craft service every day.
So how to balance the job I love with the sport I love? Well, now, not every poor race result is a failure!
What I learned from my experience getting a 4:01:54 in NYC is volumes more than what I learned from my experience getting a 3:48:38 in Erie! It’s easy to train for a marathon when you’re unemployed. It’s much, much harder to train when you’re employed at an alarming rate of energy expenditure. But I did it! So I learned that I can do it! Given the circumstances, I’m calling the race a wild success. My goal was 4 hours and I ran 4:01 and change with a couple of stops on the way. That’s fucking great!
Since I spent over a year not ever doing speedwork, I done got slow. Adding in speed training and focusing on building up my inner cheetah will help me if I decide to do another marathon. Plus, I’ve been saying I need to train for shorter races for years.
Wait, did I just say if? Yeah! If! Yes, I have wanted to qualify for Boston basically forever, but the hell with that. That Boston goal hanging over my head has left me disappointed and angry with some reasonably good race results. Over the last couple years I’ve learned to focus on my values first, before I make goals. What’s the value behind the Boston goal? Am I a better person if I go to Boston? Will that finally make me good enough? What if I qualify but can’t go because of the stupid time-based registration business? Am I good enough then, or do I have to actually go?
I don’t run because I want to qualify for Boston, I run because it’s fun, empowering and makes me happy. So how about I take a break from that nasty hanging-over-my-head goal and try for something else for a while? Maybe I should try trail racing! Maybe just shorter races. Maybe a mix? The half seems to be my forté (I’ve run several at 1:45, but can’t seem to get to that level in the marathon). What if I work toward a half PR?
Training for 10ks and halfs, might help me speed the F up!
So I signed up for this year’s Brooklyn Half. I know it well; I’ve run it 4 times and since I live two blocks from the start, I regularly train on the course. It’s been my PR race 2 times over, that 1:45 I just can’t break.
The way training has been going, I am not hopeful that this time will be even close to a PR; I am just not as strong as I was two years ago and I’m not hitting my paces in my speed work. But I am having a lot of fun! I’m back to enjoying training, which makes me really hopeful that I’ll get back to where I was soon, and that’s a really big deal to me.
A goal race is just one day in the process, just an hour, or two, or four. Sure, it’s the time during which you test yourself, but all the hours that go into training are the ones that really matter, the process itself. And if I can enjoy all that time, then you know what? I’m gonna say that’s one hell of a successful comeback.
Training logs to follow!