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November 2, 2005

Back in the Saddle (Sort Of)

Against my better judgment, last week I decided to sign up for this weekend’s Big Sur Half-Marathon on Monterey Bay. Normally, this is right up my alley – a long distance road race through spectacular scenery, testing the limits of my fitness.

This year, however, will be different. I’m not nearly in good enough shape to attempt this race.

My two primary races of the year were August’s Pikes Peak Marathon, which took me 6 hours to complete, and October’s Firetrails 50, my first 50-miler, which took almost 9 hours. Training for these races entailed a lot of long, steady distance running, but almost no speed work.

As a result, my body is very accustomed to a slow pace, multiple walking breaks, and negotiating steep hills over treacherous terrain. On the other hand, my fast twitch muscle fibers have long since gone into hibernation.

So last week, I tried to wake them up.

On Thursday I showed up for my first track workout in months, and ran 5x1000m. On Saturday, I did a 4-mile tempo run as close to my lactate threshold as I could tolerate.

Both workouts felt miserable. But as I was laboring through them, I had a similar thought each day: I missed this.

There’s an entirely different dynamic to running when you are pushing the limits of your engine, struggling to keep pace with fellow runners when your natural inclination is to slow down. Compared to training for ultras, it’s really a whole different sport.

Although I love the ultras, I’m not quite ready to give up the road racing yet.

Sunday’s race will definitely be difficult and painful – both in a physical sense (dealing with the shortness of breath in my chest and lactic acid in my legs) and an emotional one (watching countless runners that I beat last year pass me by).

But despite the difficulty, I already know what my overriding sentiment for the day will be: I missed this.

Then I’ll spend the winter on the roads, building up to the high mileage weeks, and come back ready to roar in the springtime.


Downhillnut 11/6/05, 6:49 AM  

Hope you're having a great race! Nothing like going back to a distance/course you've enjoyed, to inspire yourself in your training.

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