Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fall Freestyle

Fun or frustrating.  When I started my long journey toward regaining fitness I was at a fork in the road.  I could look at it as having to do all the work I did two years ago over again, or as a chance to do some workouts, races and rave runs I wouldn't do if I were in the midst of serious training.  I obviously chose the latter or I wouldn't be writing right now.  I'd be analyzing my last run trying to figure out why my easy run pace was five seconds slower than I had hoped or scrolling through splits from Tuesday's speed session on my Garmin in an effort to formulate a plan to do the next workout better.

But I'm not even wearing a Garmin except for on tempos and long runs.  I'm wearing the most simple/durable Timex the company makes.  I bought this watch four years ago when I was working in a running store and recently found it in the bottom of my running drawer amidst widowed socks, still ticking, correct date and time give or take three minutes.

Registration for the Boston Marathon has opened and probably closed.  I don't know.  I haven't checked.  I had a fleeting thought or two of signing up, but in the grand scheme of things, the marathon is not the goal.  The goal is getting fit and mixing it up in some local races.  The goal is taking my running seriously, but taking Lauren's running more seriously as she ramps up to run her first marathon, one that has much more meaning in it its 26.2 miles than any of mine ever have.  I run marathons for me.  She's running for a cause.  This sport is a selfish one 99% of the time.  Sorry Occupy Wall Street, but in this case Lauren is the 1%.

With Lauren's marathon high atop the priority list and her field placement keeping her occupied on Sunday mornings, we were tasked with finding a half marathon on a Saturday morning.  The only one we could find was a tiny race in Rockaway Beach, Queens.  The Ramones famously sang about hitching a ride to this beach front community.  I hope they got one, because the subway takes forever to get there!

We boarded the A train at 4:45am.  That's roughly the same time people who stayed at the bars until closing time are stumbling on board for their rides back to the outer boroughs.  Other than a luggage-carrying couple likely headed to JFK, I reckon Lauren and I were the only people in the train car for which it was Saturday morning and not still Friday night.  During a ride that long, you can watch people go through the many phases of intoxication.  It starts at obnoxiously loud and ends with silently drooling.

The race itself was a rarity for New York City.  There were maybe 150 people on the starting line, including me who at the time had not run farther than 12.5 miles post-injury and planned to run 6:30s. The duration of the 13.1 miles were run on a boardwalk feet from the Atlantic Ocean and instead of corals and a starter's horn, there was a line drawn on the ground and a guy who yelled "go".

My run isn't worth recapping.  I did the workout I set out to do in hopes that it would help me climb back up the fitness ladder.  I was battling a bout of food poisoning which made things interesting, but other than that, it was a run that happened to end with me sitting on my butt in the ocean.  I had reminded Lauren that this was not her goal race and to keep it controlled, and even without going 100% she would PR.  PR she did, by four minutes!  You may think running on a flat boardwalk is easy, but it is actually killer.  Your legs absorb all the energy and by the end, they feel pretty shot. Boardwalks are no cakewalks.

Lauren continues to progress.  She has run 20 miles for the first time and did it in stifling humidity.  As I write this, she has just walked in the door from a 15 miler. She is impressing all the Urban Athletics coaches at her weekly speed sessions. She is diligent about doing the ancillary work it takes to fend of the ever-present threat of injury every marathoner fights. Most importantly, she has achieved her goal of raising $5,000 for Get Your Rear In Gear and there are still 7 weeks until the race. 

As for me, well I am having a blast.  I just got back from one of those runs where you finish thankful that you can run.  I'm running about 60 miles a week.  Thursday night, I won a 5K.  Wait, that requires a little explanation.  I crashed what I am pretty sure was supposed to be a fun run for charity in Riverside Park because I had a three mile tempo on my calendar and saw the opportunity to run on a marked course and drink free beer.  My goal was to tempo at 5:25 pace and I did 5:22 pace.  Three weeks ago, I did my first three mile tempo since coming back  and ran 5:35 pace.  So, things are on track.  I have some goals for the fall, but I am not worried about them.  This unorthodox, freestyle plan seems to be getting the job done.  I've never been a math guy, so maybe fewer numbers, formulas and calendars is the trick for now.  I'm a pretty regimented person though, so rest assured I'll go back to my old ways soon. What's important is that running is a whole lot of fun right now for me, and being the proud husband of a first time marathoner...that's just plain cool.

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