Following another so-so performance at the MEC Half Marathon, in which I was passed by four (FOUR!) runners in the last mile (MILE!) of the race, I was done. Mentally and physically pooped. Figuratively and metaphorically pooped. The one positive aspect I could take from this race was that I executed the race as I had planned: to go out at 4:10 pace and hold it for as long as I could. Unfortunately “as long as I could” was not “as long as the race” and I ended up averaging around 4:35 after the 12k mark.
Sure, there were some external factors involved in the blow-up. It was a hot day, on a completely unshaded course, without many runners around my pace to work off of, but the fact remained clear (to me) that I was just not in great shape for that distance. It was about a month after I had raced in Brooklyn and I was hoping for a better result based on the few weeks more of training and with a more aggressive race plan. Not so much.
With my nagging leg injury, I hadn’t been able to increase mileage without discomfort, niggling pain that would get in my head and on the bike, instead of on the roads and the track, busting out workouts and gaining fitness. After the MEC race, it became ever more apparent that I wasn’t getting better.
So, I started doing the math.
The original plan for this summer was to build a base, which would lead up to a fall marathon. Possible races included Scotiabank in October, Hamilton in November, and Philly, also in November. I had done both Scotiabank and Philly before; my preference was for Scotiabank, since it would be on home soil and the cheaper option. Initially when I was planning for the fall with my coach, we agreed that Scotiabank would be a hair too early for the kind of mileage I had been putting in so far. It made sense. I was barely doing 60k weeks and in constant yet manageable pain. Hamilton, which was a few weeks later, would also be a good option, since it would be cheap and since I’d been told the course is fast.
I started getting excited about training for a marathon and also getting excited to have a nice, neat little training schedule, well-organised and leading up to a specific race.
After a few more workouts and maintaining the same kind of volume I had been doing leading up to both halfs, my leg still hurt. Not to the point where it had been earlier this winter and not to the point where I was limping around, but it still did not feel “right”. What I had to decide now was whether or not I wanted to start the marathon training program, get through the workouts, and likely end up racing a sub-par result. The other option would be to scrap the plan for a fall marathon altogether and train for some shorter races so I wouldn’t have the pressure of increasing my mileage and being okay with taking off-days when my leg would need them.
With recent sub-par results, my decision was to flip the marathon the big ol’ bird (for now). It’s not particularly enjoyable to run poorer than you know you can when you’re in great shape. At this point, I don’t want to run a marathon simply to finish it; I want to run a marathon with the assurance that I’m in freakin’ fantastic shape and I’m going to crush the balls out of it. The training season is far too long for a marathon to put your half-assed eggs into one basket.
Anyways, a bit of a bummer to let go of that fall marathon plan but in the meantime I’ve decided to focus on the 5k. Or the 5000m. Or twelve and a half laps. Since I’ve pretty much thrown out any plan of increasing my mileage, I’ve also noticed that my leg has been feeling better, which is great, and yeah, so obvious to most people, and which softens the sting of missing the high mileage (which I did and I do). My first race is this weekend at the OMA Championships in Toronto and as I haven’t raced on an outdoor track since I was a thirteen-year-old dork in glasses, I am feeling pret-ty nervous. I’ve spoken with several people about a possible race strategy and pacing based on recent workouts, and this is my plan for the race:
1k @ 3:56-3:58
1mile @ 6:16
2k @ 7:50
3k @ 11:45
2miles @ 12:32
And then the last kilometer, I’ll try to go as hard as I can.
For the remainder of the summer and fall, I’ll continue to work on my 5k speed and try to build strength through cross-country. I’m not saying goodbye to the marathon forever –at least, that is not my intention. I just needed a break from it, get some space, and start to feel good about running again.
I’ll start with twelve and a half laps and go from there.