Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How Fast is Fast Enough?

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.

Happy trails.

* 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.

34 comments:

Sun Runner said...

"Lawns need cutted."

Well, you know who to contact for that service.

Al's CL Reviews said...

Sylvia Plath would turn the gas on the oven and stick her head in.


*Is it too early for that?*

David said...

Two words: age grading.

PR's forever for everyone.

So put an end to your existential funk and self examination. Call someone an idiot, you'll feel better.

nwgdc said...

Those kids, after the way they embarrassed you last soccer season, should be thankful you still provide them room and board.
Well, not you, but Mrs. Nitmos. Same difference.

B.o.B. said...

NERD ALERT: Those weren't trees in LOTR, they were Ents. That's why they kicked so much arse.

Also, don't rush to enlarge that prostate. It's going to happen for you. I promise.

Viper said...

Yes, please do as Sylvia Plath would do: PR or kill yourself trying. That's the effort we expect from you.

Xenia said...

You better hope you never find out the answer to your question. Because that's when your family can legitimately set you adrift on an ice floe.

Sucks to live so near to Canada now, huh?

Jeri said...

I'm definitely similar to you, I keep wondering what's going to happen to my running once I inevitably slow down. I don't run for fun, I run to see how FAST I can go, and that, in turn is fun. Hopefully I have another 10-15 years in me, and by then I can find some other obsession to throw my time and energy at. Competitive eating perhaps.

Also, I used to looove watching Intervention. Except for the time I was drinking glass after glass of wine while doing it. Just seemed a little oxymoronical. Didn't stop me though. :)

Marcus Grimm said...

Idea:
Mount TV on back of child's bike. Have child ride fast. Chase child.

Outcome:
More intervention. More training. More of what passes for quality time w/ dear old Dad.

Crabby McSlacker said...

Damn, I can't believe you already copyrighted WWSPD! I was so gonna steal it!

The great thing about being a Slacker is I don't give a crap how fast I run unless I'm about to miss a train or I'm chasing an ice cream truck.

But you keep killin' yourself and neglecting your offspring, it's very, very entertaining!

Mike said...

Wow. Soldier up, dude. Wait until you're my age and you're trying not to get run down by little girls.

Rural Runner E said...

I feel your pain, brother.

Vava said...

Start using those age-graded percentage type tables and such and you will NEVER have to stop chasing PRs. (Can I copyright that? It's not catchy, but...)

Marlene said...

When the time comes, you'll just no. Til then.. keep chasing those PRs!

Some events have wheelchair categories...

NY Wolve said...

If you figure out that question, et me know the answer. I suppose for me fast enough is to BQ, which I have never done

Running and living said...

David stole my line! Age grading is nice! Ana-Maria

Vanilla said...

The answer is that there is no such thing as fast enough, but I'll enjoy watching you wrestle with diminishing returns. It will make it easier for me to deal with mine.

Marci said...

I think whatever time I achieve, it will never be "fast" enough, but that is part of the allure of running.

JennyMac said...

Please concoct a feasible answer and share it with me. I ran a 10K in July, will run another in September and want to run a 1/2 marathon. I dont know if I have it in me. You are obviously a much better run than I..do impart some wisdom!

Kristina said...

I'm sure that if Sylvia Plath were alive, she'd copyright What Would Nitmos Do (WWND) and go kick a llama instead of offing herself. Too bad she predated blogging.

Julia said...

How fast is enough? To me, speed is not the only thing that's "not enough" for me. Career wise, life wise, athletics wise, I'm always trying to do/get/strive for more. My boyfriend once told me "you're never going to be happy, are you?" oops. I don't know... but there is a fine line between pursuing excellence and feeling too pressured to achieve them.
Maybe I have too many lifetime PR goals. who knows?

Beth said...

The reason why some of us are non-competitive is because we are SLOW! Trust me, if I was as fast as you I would be obsessed with my time. I hope you SOS2 is a success.

joyRuN said...

I thought myself fast enough for the longest time. Then I started reading blogs & stalking athlinks.

runnerinsight said...

Great Post! Me too I cant answer the question. Life is always changing and challenging and every day that passes seems a new expectation, a new challenge. I guess if the day comes that I made it home and I feel that I've done enough then that is the day I believe that I can answer this question.

theloosemoose said...

I, for one, LOVE that you are going through a midlife running crisis. Mean, but true. 'Cause I'm 40 now and wrestling with the same demons myself, only with much less eloquence. I just plaintively (Plath-fully?) whine,
"But I'd reallly like to be faaaaster."

My recommendation: Ship those rugrats off to boarding school so you can devote more time to training. Visit them only on their birthdays and only then if there happens to be a good race in close proximity. If you still are no closer to the sub 18 5K, THEN consider Platherizing a llama just to make yourself feel better, and call it a day.

Jamoosh said...

Wait a minute - kids don't raise themselves?

Spike said...

"songs need songing???" did I get it right? how about, "PRs need breaking?"

they say it takes a village, so why not make the village do its fair share by raising your kids during the SoSII

Velma said...

Not matter how old you are - butts need kicking. I am type A, and I will never run fast enough. I do take some solace when I beat another shlub.

Roisin said...

That brought a tear of neglect to my eye...

Katie A. said...

Been reading/lurking your blog for a bit and finally had to make a comment!
Thank you for this post! I nearly fell off my chair at work while reading this! I am not sure when I will be happy with my running level, but I do agree now is not the time. Life tends to get busy around us, but we always have the race to look forward to and I can't imagine not looking at a race as a potential PR.

aron said...

lietime PRs.... thats a good question. i dont think i do, but i am sure it will just get faster after each PR :)

Scott said...

Who the heck runs to just enjoy themselves? I sure don't. I run because I'm too dumb to realize I hate running. I do wish I could run faster though..

sRod said...

I'd be careful with WWSPD. I think we all know what she would do and would all agree it's a bit drastic.

Adam said...

Man, reading this post makes my birthday a week back all the more bridge-jumping awesome. You need to man up, take those feelings of self loathing, and push them into a little ball in the pit of your stomach. And then run a 17:30 5k.