I think I’m going through a mid life running crisis this summer. You might have noticed an uptick in posts talking about age and PR’s and Wilford Brimley and cane shaking anger at inanimate objects. The other day I stopped mid run to chew out a sapling tree for having its branches hang so low. The thing just seemed to smirk at me and tauntingly twist its low flung branches gently towards me in the wind. Smarmy sonofa…Trees these days! I shook my head disgustedly at the full grown Oak behind it. Nice parenting.*
I’m in the dog days of the Summer of Speed 2. I’m eyeing two more 5k’s within the next 10 days. Then, it’s probably time to go full throttle in training for my half marathon goal. The 5k goal (sub 18) will need to go on the back burner for awhile. I may revisit it later this summer/early fall. Or I might not. My race calendar is as spotted right now as Wilford Brimley’s livered hands.
I’m a busy dude. I’m a Man About Town. Kids need raising. Jobs need worked. Lawns need cutted. Trees need berated. Lakes need swam. Boats need boated. Play along: (subject noun) needs (predicate nouned). Though I’ve never been formally asked, I assume the mall, local eateries and my running store want me to stop by for informal, charitable (apparently) appearances. Basically, the summer of running goes by in a 1x 400m interval blink of an eye.
Like most, it’s hard to work the runs into the schedule sometimes. My needy kids want love and affection - or,so they tell me, “a simple ‘hello’ would be nice” – but neither of those things shave off valuable seconds in a 5k. Who’s got time for playing baseball? Or giving hugs? Or picking them up after soccer practice? Or calling them by their given names? Daddy’s training very hard with the limited time he has and unless you are going to help him run or show TV shows (like my new favorite Intervention) on your forehead or turn into a bottle of rum so that he can drink you, there’s really no point in having you stand there and cry in front of me with that sad, pathetic little anguished face. After all, ‘Tears are just neglect leaving the body.’** That’s the correct saying right?
Since I’m only able to get out about 3 times per week, each run tends to be a hard, heart pounding effort. No time for wasted miles. I haven’t enjoyed a leisurely stop-and-berate-the-roadside-brush run very often. And it has got me thinking a bit. How much longer do I want to push this hard just to edge down my PRs a few seconds here and there? Every runner has that bell shaped progress curve. The PRs come fast and furious at first. Huge leaps and bounds in time and distance inflate your pride like so many enlarged prostates at a nursing home as you work your way through the fat part of the bell curve.
But then, like Sylvia Plath, you find yourself on the down slope. Trapped underneath a bell jar of PRs. Confronted with the question: How fast is fast enough?
Have you ever finished a particularly strong race – set a PR – and asked yourself subconsciously if you could be happy with that for the rest of your life? Do you really need to go faster? Do you have Lifetime PR goals in mind?
This is where envy comes in. I’ve always admired on some level the folks who are non-competitive. They just run, enjoy themselves, barely concerned with the clock. That’s not me. The hunt for the PR is the fun. At least, a strong motivator. But I feel like I’m on the other side of the bell curve now. PRs aren’t set without a ton of hard work. The Law of Diminishing Returns has kicked in with regards to the training. The PRs are harder to come by. Can I be content with them after this year? Do I need to go lower? Will there be a SOS3? What Would Sylvia Plath Do?(WWSPD)***
I guess this is a question all of us face at some point. How low can we grow our branches? How long can I grow my mustache? How big can I enlarge my prostrate?
How fast is fast enough?
I’m not ready to answer that question yet. I’m still in the chase. But the question is starting to dance around in the back of my head. Sooner or later, it’s going to smack me in the forehead like a low hanging oak branch.
* You remember in the Lord of the Rings movies (you saw them, don’t lie) how the trees came to life and started hurling huge rocks at the bad guys? This oak looked so wimpy it couldn’t even drop its acorn straight. No wonder its sapling was such a mess.
** Copyright Nitmos, 2009.
*** Copyright Nitmos, 2009.