A wasted summer filled with frustrating injuries left me 20 pounds heavier and in the worst running shape of my life. That's saying a lot considering I've had four separate surgeries in the last eight years, a couple of which were pretty debilitating. I think the struggle to return this time is due largely to one thing and one thing only, age.
Getting older sucks. My body just doesn't seem to respond the way it used to after a few weeks of running. It used to be the pounds would melt away quickly and the spring in my step would soon follow. It hasn't happened this time. I started back to training in earnest by late September and it was a grind. My training runs were slow and stayed slow even a month, two months into my return to almost daily running.
I had planned to start my racing season in November put running more than 8 minute pace for a 5K holds little attraction. I know with a sustained healthy period of training I could return to running close to sub-7 pace for a 5K. So I pondered the possibilities and decided to delay my return to racing my running a half marathon with the idea of using it more as a long tempo run than a real race.
I've always wanted to run the Naples Daily News Half Marathon. It hits at the end of January and would give me plenty of time to build up some endurance. It's the top competitive race in Southwest Florida which attracts a field of world class distance runners. I've always wanted to run it but I'm not a big fan of half marathons. They tend to beat me up.
The last half I ran was in the summer of 2010 in Modesto where I ran about 1:43. I was in the middle of a marathon training build up at that time so I was in very good shape. There's no way in hell I'll approach that. I know I can break 2 hours, but the question is, by how much? If I'm true to making it a tempo effort something under 1:55 should be realistic. But if I allow myself to "race" I might be able to break 1:50.
The problem with racing is the suffering that will come with it and right now the idea of suffering for 5 to 6 miles over the last part of the race just doesn't sound very inviting. I want to use this race as a building block to the series of 5K races that will follow this winter and early spring. I figure I'll run at least 4 to 5 more races between Naples and the end of April.
I doubt that I can come close to running a 5K in the low 22's as I did last spring. If I hadn't gotten injured for five months I'd be ready to run low 21's. But right now if I hit the mid 22's this spring it would be a major moral victory. I know it's possible because the running over the last 2 weeks has certainly taken a turn for the better. My weight has finally started to melt away after four months of training. I'm consistently topping 40 miles per week and most importantly my training pace is beginning to return to a speed more consistent with what I was putting in last winter
The big thing is going to be to resist the urge to do speed work. It was undoing last spring. I think I've got to make myself focus on more tempo runs and more 2 hour runs on the weekends. Easy to write about, difficult to executive. The first step comes on January 20th in Naples.