Tuesday, December 28, 2010

16 Weeks to Boston & Needing Every One

One more cup of tea. One more knee-ice pack session. One more day staring (and longing) at my running shoes. It’s been a most unceremonious start to my Boston training program. Hampered by a sinus infection and a nagging knee injury (thank you floor hockey) that I just can’t seem to shake, my Boston training can be summed up in one word: thud!

I hoped just two weeks ago that some good old R&R would leave me fresh to embrace the 16 weeks ahead with renewed vigor. Tortuously, I paged through my summer and Army 10-miler training – which ultimately was geared toward getting stronger and faster for Boston – and admired the neat, colorful peaks that rose and fell depending on distance and workout. The only breaks in the range came on scheduled rest days.

Then I compared it to the last month, even six weeks, and shuddered at the gaps, the low weekly mileage, and the monthly totals that don’t even come close to scraping 100.

I feel heavy. I feel dull (i.e. the opposite of racing sharp). I feel unfit. I feel like crying out, “Do you know who I used to be?”

I long for those satisfying evenings when the first mile sheds the weight of work day toil, then you settle in for the night to enjoy that physical exhaustion that wraps like a blanket.

My friend Sarah (who has a fabulous blog called Sarah Finding Fit) and I recently discussed the notion of muscle memory: the theory that your muscles can recall the fitness level that they once performed at. I’m hoping that my muscles don’t forget what it’s like to turn 75 second quarters 16 times over with ease, fly through the woods on a late afternoon tempo run, and accelerate through the final miles of a long run.

I had a previous experience with this, an epiphany if you will, that’s made me a believer, or perhaps heightened my faith. I spent most of summer 2009 nursing an IT band injury. The calendar days flipped by and the Army Ten Miler got closer and closer. I channeled that pent up energy by going to the gym and *gasp* swimming. Since I didn’t drown, I resumed training by hitting the trails and building up distance slowly.

After being at it for two weeks, I took an ambitious seven miler on the road. I suffered. The IT band was fine, but the pace felt terrible, my body felt out-of-whack, and I had to fight for every step. I’d taken the “downhill” version of this loop and fought back frustration that arose because I couldn’t even run downhill efficiently.

But nearing the halfway mark, I ran out of the last major downhill and made a sharp turn onto the main road. On it for only a quarter mile, something started to change. Picture Forrest Gump being chased by the kids on the bike, braking free of his leg braces, and suddenly finding his stride (Yes, the infamous "Run Forrest Run" scene that has probably been screamed at us by a passing car at one point or another). I turned onto the trail from the main road and darted through the trees.

The malaise had lifted. I shrugged off any lingering injury doubts and just flew.

From there, training went well and I experienced similar days to that one. But I’d been waiting for that one switch to flip.

While I haven’t gone out yet (stupid sinus infection, stupid knee), I’m on the mend and tapping the gas to get the bus started and point it toward Boston.

I have a race scheduled for New Years Eve, the Fairfax Four Miler. However, PR’ing is on the shelf for this as well, keeping with my “run to run” theme. I knew going into this that resting was going to be hard, that times were going to suffer, and frustration would most likely reign.

I’m just waiting for that switch.

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