Just keep running, just keep running, running, running…

I’m getting stronger. Slowly, agonizingly slowly, but I’m undeniably getting stronger.

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A few weeks ago, I recorded a weekly mileage of 38.07. That may not seem all that amazing, but I haven’t hit a 1-week mileage in excess of 38 miles since my Big Sur marathon training in late March 2015, nearly 2 years ago. It’s been a long. damn. time.

Last October, I ran the Ath Half in 1:48:52, a 5.5-minute improvement over the previous year. Just this past week, I ran the Albany Half in 1:48:24, the fastest half marathon I’ve run since the GA Publix Half almost two years ago, also in March 2015. It’s been a long. damn. time.

As has been a regular mantra here of late, I still have a long, long way to go. I’m still barely within sight of my half marathon PR of 1:41–set back in May 2014–and I haven’t done speed work in so long I have to actually sit down to think about what a 7-minute mile would translate to on a per-lap basis.

My mental game is also an utter disaster. I seem to have completely forgotten how to push when I’m entering the pain cave; I mentally cringe and try to hold the pain at bay (which, of course, does nothing except exacerbate it) instead of accepting it and feeding off it. My brain runs at a million miles an hour, just like it does at work, which all but keeps me from settling into a rhythm and letting the miles just tick by.

And holy crap, I can NOT give myself a break. Remember just a few paragraphs ago when I mentioned this year’s Albany Half? By all objective measures, and especially in my specific context, I performed extremely well. Intellectually I understand that, but emotionally I just cannot convince myself I ran a good race, that I’m improving, and that I should be proud of my performance. All that registers on an emotional level is that I’m still 7+ minutes away from taking another crack at my PR, and jfc my mental game is shit.

I know at least some of this is, as always, the fault of the crazy stress levels I’m feeling from work. I’m 300% overextended with no end in sight until at least July; every week is a new version of finding a way to squeeze 100 hours of work into 60, which invariably means dropping the ball on some things, pushing off others, and outright sucking at whatever’s left. Running may be an escape, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it’s still a function of everything else that’s going on.

One of the few reasons I’ve managed to stick with it is because everything else is also a function of running.

It’s March already, and I still haven’t outlined a concrete set of 2017 resolutions. Or, as of last week, Lenten resolutions.

There are definitely some things I want to do that I know would help across the board. For instance, yoga 5x/week: I did this back in grad school for several months, and the results were absurdly awesome. The problem is when the debate inevitably arises between sleep and yoga, guess which one wins 95% of the time.

I also want to start regularly incorporating core work and weights. For the latter, I’ve already been semi-successfully bringing back “DropAndGiveMe.” But core work has been nonexistent, as allocating time for it has largely run into the same conundrum as yoga.

Speed and tempo work are things I’d like to do regularly, but as long as I’m getting the miles in, these won’t be too difficult to mix in.

Finally, I need to get my diet back on track. Through January and half of February it was pretty good, but I fell off the bandwagon. Stress snacking is one of my less-healthy coping mechanisms, but definitely something I can work on without a huge additional time investment.

As I’ve said, I don’t really know how I’m going to implement some of these. But I suppose it’s a lot like my running. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to get back to making runs at my PRs, but somehow, I’ve kept plugging away when I’ve had no desire to. As a result, every measure says it’s been paying off. Progress has been agonizingly slow, but undeniably measurable. Maybe that’s a good way to approach these resolutions: even when it isn’t pretty, even when it feels like it isn’t working or I would be better served by forgetting about it this time and trying again tomorrow: just keep plugging away.

Just keep running!


Finish chute photo!


MCM Weeks 1-5: Whirlwind

H’ok, so: now that thesis proposing is over and done with, regular updating can now resume!

Or so the theory goes, anyway. But first: a quick and boring summary of how my training has gone so far. Or, in other words, the breakdown of the first 5 weeks of training.

Workouts: 19
Average pace: 8:50
Total miles: 120.88
Elevation gain: 5,020 feet
Calories: 20,951

Normally I try to avoid these sorts of summaries, but since over a month of training has gone by with nary a peep on my part, I figured it’d be a good place to start.

The overall numbers have been pretty good. For the month of July I more or less stuck things in neutral while I weathered the beast that was my thesis proposal. Now that it’s over and done with, and now that I’ve pretty much had a full 10 days completely off from anything remotely work-related, I was hoping that I’m immediately pick up where I left off and resume becoming absurdly speedy absurdly quickly.

Especially after writing that out just now, it’s pretty clear how naive that line of thinking was.

I’m certainly not doing badly; particularly given my struggles with IT band problems earlier this year, I’m eternally grateful that I’m still healthy and kicking. Further, while I’ve been missing my upper-end paces on tempo and track workouts, I haven’t been missing by much. To wit, the last tempo run (just last Thursday, the 8th)

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and the last track workout (quite awhile ago, on July 18)

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My current goal tempo pace is flat 7:00/mile, and my goal speed pace is 6:20/mile. Stress levels have a huge impact on athletic performance, so given that my last track workout was barely 12 days out from my thesis proposal, and the last tempo workout was barely a week after it, I can’t really look at these paces and say I was doing a terrible job. Of course, we’re always our own worst judges: if anyone else was in my exact  position and explained it to me, I would unequivocally praise their ability to juggle an incredibly stressful occupational deadline with such strenuous workouts in a way that seemed to be working.

That being said, I did have one ugly implosion: this 12-mile long run from July 20. In order of mildly annoying to rage-inducing, these are the running miscues that set me off:

  1. Feeling run down
  2. Missing my goal paces
  3. Stopping

The rationality of each of these aside, stopping for any length of time–either for a breather or to walk–is the single biggest way for me to become angry with myself. This particular long run featured plenty of all three: I felt run down starting from about mile 4, I wasn’t able to churn out half-marathon goal pace (7:15) for the last two miles, and the “Time” is about 18 minutes shorter than the “Elapsed Time”, indicating the extent of the stops I made. Though I have to correct my description text: this felt quite a bit worse than Philly.

The point here, though, isn’t that I had a bad run; that’s bound to happen, something I understand both as a student of the sciences (hello, statistics!) and as a human being. The point here is that I let it get to me. I was angry as I finished this run, angry for each of the three reasons listed above. Which, of course, accomplishes nothing except to sap more of what precious little energy one has left during a bad run and make it feel even worse.

It’s a lesson I’ll probably have to re-teach myself many times over the coming years. Life happens, and it’s going to impact the quality of my runs. They can’t all be 16 miles at an 8:30 pace while feeling like a million bucks the whole time (as we’ll see in my next post: a race report on the Run for Gold 26.2K!). Part of embracing running is accepting that it’s going to follow the same cyclical pattern of life: namely, that there will be both good days and bad ones, and in general, those bad days don’t really care if you’re planning to have a good day.

All things considered, I can’t really be anything but pleased with my performances over the month of July, given what else was going on.