It wasn’t too long ago that I was starting my official training with Coach Matt, running an initial 30 mile week just to see how my body might react to the consistent pounding. I was just fine. In the midst of that first week I remember some moments of jubilation where I put down some 6:00/mile runs, which although are routine and easy for me most of the time, they were cause for celebration at the time because it meant I was finally putting in some effort. Of course, now I look back on those 6:00/mile runs and feel a little embarrassed at the effort I had to expend just to get there. My legs felt like sand and my breathing was that of an overweight smoker taking the stairs to the 13th floor. But I had patience.
The more weeks I put in of Matt’s coaching, the more mileage I continued to log. It didn’t really seem like much was changing, but the mileage continued to climb and with minimal aches and pains. It was just a matter of time before some sort of breakthrough. Then at some point he through a 15 mile progression run my way, where I had to drop my pace about 10 seconds every five miles. That is NOT an easy run….it never is really, no matter where you are at in training. Still, I figured I’d start at 5:40 and drop it to 5:20 for the last 5 miles. It was something of a long shot, but knowing what I need to run for Chicago and what I want to run for the Mini, I thought I better get to speeding things up. Turns out, my mind was getting a little ahead of the body. I put down the first mile at 5:50 and even that was an effort, then I dropped it to 5:40, but instinctively knew I wasn’t going to be able to sustain or continue dropping miles where I wanted to. When I got to 5:30’s ahead of the last 5 miles, I suddenly couldn’t hold on and had to cut everything short. It was a bit demoralizing if also a good check where I was fitness-wise at the time. But I had patience.
Matt continued throwing a variety of workouts my way and as the days grew longer and the cold started to subside, I made plans with a teammate to meet up for a rekindling of the Tuesday Night Terror runs, the workouts that comprise the basis of my speed and progression. These benefit of these group workouts is immeasurable. Matt had us doing a few quick miles with various rests in between, but the second we started in on the first mile Jesse was already blasting out ahead of me. It was terrible to watch him continue to fade down the trail as I tried to push harder and harder. Admittedly, I started to question my abilities and if I was going to be able to progress back to the point where I was last year and move on further from there. I just didn’t have it in me. But as frustrating as it was to feel slow, I still had some patience….even if it was wearing a touch thin.
Then the weather changed and something inside of me as well. I can’t explain what happened, but as soon as the temperatures rose over 20 I was able to shed my tights and my legs started to respond immediately. All of a sudden my easy runs were truly easy, even though they had picked up in pace considerably. I wasn’t straining at any point in the run, but I was running faster than ever. And I started knocking out the workouts Matt was throwing at me on my Saturday long runs, putting in good quality without fail..well, save slipping and smashing my head on the ground. Now, running 5:30’s was a breeze and with the most minimal of effort I was running even quicker. Something had finally changed. Then, to really solidify the transition, I had a Tuesday Night Terror workout with a larger group and suddenly I was running right with Jesse and Poray, but this time not getting dropped. I was now running sub 5:00 miles with, dare I say it, relative ease. My patience had finally paid off. And I’m not even close to being done.
Last year at this time I was still running completely solo, my sights set on the Mini-marathon, but without any sort of guidance. Just throwing in some random workouts here and there, putting in long runs without any sort of quality….just running, just hoping I was putting in more work than the months prior. And I still had a good showing at the Mini. This year though, I’m far ahead of where I was last year at this time. I’m putting in specifically guided work. I’m putting in significantly more mileage. I’m putting in intense quality three times a week. I’m also eating better than I ever have. And I’ve still got over a month and a half to go until the race. This has me terribly excited, anxious even to see what I can do at the 1/2 distance, to see where I am fitness-wise in my buildup to the Chicago Marathon. If everything goes as planned, this 1/2 will be a good indicator of where I stand right now and where I need to be come October 10th. All I can definitively say now is that training is going smashingly. I’m more psyched than I’ve ever been at my progression, concrete and recognizeable, instead of just hoping for the best come race day. This time I’ll be going in with a greater sense of confidence and of my abilities than I ever have before. This gives me inspiration for the runs I take each and every day.
Speaking of race day, this weekend is my first race back since the Tecumseh Trail Marathon (please, let’s not mention that debacle ever again…it’s truly embarrassing), the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago. Now, normally I wouldn’t travel all the way to Chicago to run a race just a hair under 5 miles, but this one is different. This is one of the most competitive fields in the midwest short of a high-profile professional race. There will be numerous professional runners on the start line, which means those of us coming up from Indy will not only be able to see where we stand amongst this caliber of runner, but also have enough fast competition to pull us to, hopefully, our fastest time at this distance yet. I’ve got some numbers in my head of what I want to shoot for, but it’s too early in the game to make any sort of prediction. I don’t wanna cross the finish line with my foot in my mouth. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Until then, I’ll keep tuning the body as machine and see how fast we can make this thing go.
Speaking of tuning the body as machine….I’ve been obsessed with studying nutrition lately and have been really stoked to read study after study that confirms my dietary choices from a health standpoint. Each and every day I learn more that leads me to believe that not only is the herbivore diet a proper way in which to eat, but also THE healthiest diet for the human species. I’ve strayed from making that statement for quite some time, recognizing the contextual (environment, economic, cultural, etc.) dynamics of our eating habits, but all that aside I still think a plant-based diet is the best choice for quality of life. Even more so, we’ve been making changes in our household to eat more and more whole foods and less processed foodstuffs. And to prove we’re walking the talk….
That’s $116 dollars worth of groceries, primarily whole fruits and vegetables, whole wheat pasta, soy milk, tofu, frozen vegetables, nuts, oats, tea, coffee, etc. This is the fuel that makes us fast. Plant Strong!