Last week’s runs were humbling. I mean really humbling.
I had three scheduled runs – Tuesday, Thursday and a long run scheduled for Saturday. Tuesday’s run on the treadmill went well enough. I started out conservative and gradually increased the pace, and the runner’s high stayed with me all day.
Thursday was a better emotional run than a physical run. I didn’t feel weak as I was looping around my apartment complex and trying to spot any deer, but I also wasn’t running at my old race pace. Actually, I wasn’t running anywhere near my race pace. I was almost pulling a 12- minute mile, which is something that has been more common.
For frame of reference, my “standard” race pace used to be about 10:00 minutes/mile. My PR pace from the Columbus Half in 2018 was 9:00 minutes/mile. So comparing those two figures to last week, I was getting lapped by the speed of smell.
The all-day runner’s high was nice though.
My long run didn’t happen Saturday. I woke up, had no juice, and decided it was high time to get all of my Christmas decorations and the tree down. At this point we were 15 days into the new year and I didn’t want to remember the holidays of 2021 any more than necessary. So instead of running I decided to tackle that behemoth chore instead. I was serious about it too – I even uninstalled Instagram from my phone so I wouldn’t be tempted to get on there and procrastinate.
As I was putting away Christmas and thinking ahead to spring racing, I had to have an honest chat with myself about running and my expectations of myself.
If you think about it, running is a great metaphor for life. It’s never a sprint, always a marathon – going on and on until the very end, with plenty of high moments, low moments, refreshing times and the thought of “how the hell can I even do this?” sprinkled in there from time to time. Or maybe all the time if you’re going through a rough patch.
2020 was upside down, but manageable. 2021 straight up sucked. Unemployment, trying to find new work, getting screwed over by a small business I tried to work for (I’m not saying this to be disrespectful to small business owners who are lovely and humble, but I’m starting to notice the crossover between small business owners and egomaniacs who don’t play well with others is a damn near perfect circle), ending my relationship, getting back to work and then boom! – Grandma going to the hospital, coming home, Grandpa collapsing and the final blow of him passing away.
Consequently, spending a year in survival mode with a handful of breaks in between sent running to the back burner. My endurance is still there and my general baseline is solid. But speed? That’s kaput. Lifting has also been nonexistent, as has cross training.
Y’all don’t even want to know about the diet. Remember a year or two ago when I wrote about winter fluffies? Yeah … I’m past fluffy.
Forget Coke bottle. Thicc Allison looks like a damn Campbell’s soup can.
I’m done digressing. Back to my running revelation.
This past weekend I had to have a frank talk with myself about where I’m really at. I’m not in the shape I want to be. I don’t have the speed I need if I want to have a great spring racing season. I don’t want a repeat of the Indy Monumental back in November.
So this training cycle is getting stripped down back to basics, like I first did in 2016 when I started running.
I’m calling it Mr. Miyagi-ing myself.
Remember the scene in The Karate Kid when Daniel LaRusso is taking lessons from Mr. Miyagi, and Mr. Miyagi has him cleaning his windows in the left, right, left, right motions? Daniel eventually gets frustrated and asks why he’s even washing the windows, what that has to do with karate. Mr. Miyagi shows him that the washing motions are really the basics of karate and makes a point that if Daniel wants to be great at karate, he needs to learn the basics first.
So that’s how I’m training. Starting very slowly on the treadmill, getting back to basics. This past Tuesday and this morning were my running days. Instead of doing my usual of gradually increasing the pace and then having to hang on to the treadmill so I don’t lose my footing, I set the speed at 5.5 MPH, which comes to a 10:54 pace.
The three miles on Tuesday were a bit of a challenge. Even though I struggled to maintain the pace, a part of me wanted to go faster. I had to tell myself no – we’re only doing 5.5 for three miles today. My calves didn’t hurt, but they were definitely shaking the next day.
Then this morning I added another mile, running four total at the same 5.5 pace. Compared to Tuesday, even with an extra mile added on, it felt a little easier. Around 3.6 miles I was ready to be done and thought about turning the speed up so I could finish sooner. However, I told my inner toddler no, we’re not done yet and we’re going to take our time.
So I did. And I made myself sustain a pace.
I made myself complete a basic task. I was my own Mr. Miyagi, and I’ve got a long way to go before I’m my own Karate Kid. But I’m looking forward to reclaiming those foundational skills and letting the work that was done in the dark (literally) be seen in the light in April and May.
So friends, when in doubt and trying to master something new – or get back in the saddle – rely on the guidance of Mr. Miyagi. And don’t forget to make today yours.
Yours in writing and running,