After training for increasingly longer and more difficult races over the past 16 months, I’ve finally reached the point I knew was coming – the inevitable denouement as things start to ramp down. I’ve had a bit of an empty feeling this week as it’s really hit home that I don’t have another big athletic event to look forward to.
Training for a triathlon or marathon is so much more than logging the miles each week – it becomes a prism through which we see the rest of our lives. It affects the food we eat, the books we read and podcasts we listen to, the entire family schedule. And, honestly, when the big race is finally over, things can get ugly in the mind of an athlete.
But even though my marquee events are done, I’ve made sure to line up some smaller goals for the coming months, with the intention of maintaining some training discipline and tying up some loose ends on my running resume before our next child arrives in June. These goals almost feel like a consolation compared to a marathon, but something is always better than nothing when running is involved. So here’s a look at what I hope to accomplish between now and June 22:
Get serious about my 10k PR: Out of the four major race distances (5k, 10k, 13.1, 26.2), my 10k PR is probably the softest. I shaved 2 minutes off my PR at last year’s Monument Avenue race, and then almost another minute off that at the crazy-hilly Turkey Trot in November. But I feel like my potential is still about 2.5 to 3 minutes faster. To reach this goal I have two races on my radar – this year’s Monument Avenue race, which is next Saturday, and the Carytown 10k in May. Since Monument is only two weeks after the marathon I don’t expect to reach my full potential at that race, although I’m not ruling out the possibility of squeaking by with a small PR. My big focus will be on the Carytown race, where I hope to break 40 minutes for the first time.
Keep up the mid-distance runs: In the past I’ve shown a remarkable ability to immediately cease any kind of longer-distance training after a big race. It usually happens after my fall marathon or half-marathon – the winter comes along and I retreat to a diet of 3-mile jaunts until March. But I’ve had so much fun with runs of 10-12 miles during marathon training and I really don’t want to let my fitness slide. So my goal is to log at least one double-digit run every week until the baby arrives. (I will allow exceptions for any week that includes a race.)
Go long one more time: I’ve talked a lot about how much stress I put on myself to perform well at Shamrock and to achieve a BQ (which I didn’t, in case you missed it). In the back of my mind I told myself that, after the marathon, I’d still like to run long but without all the added pressure of a race. Because I really do love the very long runs. I came up with two ideas, although I probably will only choose one.
The first option is to run my own marathon. To make it more “official” I could run the route of the Richmond Marathon, parts of which I often incorporate into my long runs anyway. The point of this would be to aim for a slightly faster time – I wouldn’t be racing it but I’d like to see if I could hold a pace slightly slower than my goal pace last weekend. In other words – I attempted to run 7:15 at Shamrock, but after crashing I ended up with an overall pace of 7:46. Could I run this distance on my own, more comfortably, at around 7:30? Obviously I realize this wouldn’t be official – who would know I didn’t stop for lunch halfway through? – but I’m interested in the experiment.
The second option would be to run my age when my 35th birthday comes along in May. The only point here would be the distance and not the time. I don’t think it would be feasible to combine the two long-distance options because, well, running 9 more miles after running a marathon at a 7:30 pace would be ridiculous. My birthday is the day before the Carytown 10k that I mentioned above, so this feat wouldn’t take place on the actual day. But look for one of these two options to happen sometime before mid-May.
Hit the trails: If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a runner say, “I need to run on trails more often,” well, I’d probably have a couple bucks. I really missed running on trails during the past winter. However, my workouts were so specific and targeted that I wanted to get them done on the road, and I didn’t want to risk twisting an ankle on a root and jeopardizing my training. Now that I don’t have any specific schedule or major goal race, there’s no reason I can’t go for the occasional trail run.
Longer term: Once I get past the next few months, things start to become a little unclear. I’m signed up for the Richmond Half-Marathon in November, and my ultimate goal is to break 1:30 at that distance (my current PR is 1:30:46). I think I could do that now but I don’t have an opportunity to race a 13.1 in the near future. We’ll just have to see how my training holds up in the months after the baby’s birth before deciding if I’ll aim for a PR at the Richmond half or just make it a more low-key race.
As for the marathon, I’m stepping away from that distance for now. I know better than to say “never again,” but after my recent experience I just need some time away from that goal. If I were to race another marathon I would be pushing for a BQ, and that’s the kind of stress that I can do without for a while. Also, training for a marathon consumes more time than I’m going to have available once the new baby comes along. I won’t be able to devote 3-4 hours every Saturday to a long run, or even several hours a week for the other, shorter runs. The only reason I’ve been able to train this year is that my daughter is in preschool and I can use those few hours a week. Who knows what will happen in a couple years when the next kid is old enough for preschool. Despite my initial refusal to ever consider the distance again in the aftermath of Sunday’s race, I can see myself contemplating a return in four or five years (maybe around the time I age up to a slower bracket…).
Even though it’s a bit of a let-down to not be training for a marathon anymore, particularly at a time when most other athletes are coming out of their winter dormancy and ramping up for big races over the next 7 months, I still have some meaningful goals on my plate. And that’s really the only way to move forward.Bike: 0/334.5 miles Run: 3.4/450.2 miles