Weekends are for “long” runs, especially when you are building up for a race. It was about 30 F this morning when we left for our exercise, but clear and promising to become warmer. Today’s course was out and back on an asphalt bike path. Pretty flat but trending upwards from start to turn around, rising about 600 feet. You might not think of a 600 foot rise as flat, but I live in mountains, and I think that 100 feet per mile is dead flat, so 600 feet in a little over 4 miles is “pretty flat.”

I do everything in metric distances, which works out great for a half marathon (21k). The half is easily thought of as 4 x 5k plus a 1 k finish. I don’t really pay attention to the 5k splits, but I do pay attention to the 8k splits because 8k is 5 miles and my 8k time is just about an hour. So the half is 2 x 8k plus 5k. I’ve slowed down as I age, and my pattern today is run-walk with a walk break every 2k (1.25 miles). My times would be better, of course, if I didn’t take the walk breaks, but not much. After a break I start running again at a pace that is faster than when I stopped, so I tend to make up the lost time. The walk breaks at the end of the race are the expensive ones, so I’ll try to eliminate at least one in the final 5k.

The program today was a 2k every 15 minutes (12 minute miles), so 14k comes at 1:45. I was a couple of minutes behind that, so not too bad. The idea of writing the running plan and putting every outing on the calendar seems to be working, too. I do a lot of calculating while I run: am I ahead or behind? can I make up what I just lost? if I keep this up, what is my time for the next 5k? 8k? 10K? half? Even if you are slow, you can still have a lot of fun and get a sense of accomplishment doing this. My head knows that. My heart is still a little off the pace.


Race Prep

I recently mentioned in the post My Daughter…Again that we were planning to do a half marathon together in March. A half is not something that most people can do without preparation, and certainly not at my age (73 on race day). By now, I know what has to be done—I’ve been doing this for many years. But, somehow, more important things always seem to get in the way of the training dates I pick out, and I get to the race under-prepared. So, this time I decided to try something different. I put all the training distances on my calendar, just like any other appointment. It’s pretty daunting when you see it all written down.

I’m pretty slow these days. Six years ago, before abdominal surgery, I was running 2:10 for a half (yes, I know how slow that is) and looking for ways to get under 2 hours. I don’t think my running ever really recovered after the surgery, and lately I’ve been looking for ways to get under 2:40. That is made more difficult by me being more ornery than I was before, and unwilling to do some of the things I know would improve my speed. For example, I never did like interval training—a proven way to get faster. So, I’ve retired from that: I won’t do it any more. I’ll still do pace runs, but in truth, I run pretty much at the pace I’m going to run (in the race) all of the time—unless, of course, I slow down. I can feel serious runners cringing at this attitude, but that’s the way it is.

When I was around 40, and a relative neophyte at running (25 or so years experience), I realized that longevity was more valuable to me than winning races. I decided that I wanted to still be running when I was 80, and if that was going to happen I had to have a different attitude toward injury prevention. My style changed. I stopped doing other activities where injury would prevent running and poured my athletic energy into the pleasures of the road. So far it has worked. When I’m 80, I’ll have 65 years experience running and I’ll have covered 75 or 80,000 miles. No regrets about the decision, and I’m proud of how much I’ve run even if I’m very slow. The good side of getting older is that a lot of the wimps have dropped out, and I now often win my age group.

So far I’ve held to my training schedule, except for a change I had to make this morning because of too much snow where I planned to go, and I don’t have any trips planned before the race, so I should get there ready to go. My daughter and I ran together just after Christmas, and her grace and beautiful style were an inspiration. Even after being sick for a year, she’s still a lot faster than I am, so I hope to see her long enough in the race to be inspired again. In any case, her older sister is going with us also to do the race. Her brother lives in DC, and a step-brother from New Jersey may join us, so we will have a grand family weekend.

My Daughter…Again

2014 was a busy year. It had some fun times like our weeks spent in Wales and Ireland and our annual jaunt to Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico. But tempering all of the happiness was the fear and concern caused by my daughter’s breast cancer. It was a year of surgery, chemo, radiation, feeling somewhere between bad and awful, no energy, not being able to work, not being able to play with her children, fear of what was going on and what was to come. She lives far from us, but we were with her at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the year; always frustrated that we couldn’t do more, that we couldn’t do what parents are supposed to be able to do–fix any problem.

After Christmas, we were together again to see her bouncing back. She is back at work; integrated back into her family. We did yoga together. We ran together. We hiked together. When we run, she is, once again, faster than I am. She once again has that long, easy stride that is so beautifully smooth and graceful. It takes me back to when I was her age and ran like that, and I wonder why I now feel so choppy. What is it about aging that forces you to adopt a shorter stride. Sigh.

We are going to celebrate her return to health by doing a half marathon together in DC in March. Her older sister is going with us. Her brother lives in DC, and our other son may join us from New Jersey. O frabjous day! It will be a joyous occasion.