Life has been blessedly full. I say this not to make you jealous (don’t hate me because I’m beautiful) but as explanation as to why I’ve been an absentee blogger. Hear me: I haven’t wanted to stay away. I love writing, and even more than that I love writing for you, in this space. What’s kept me from chronicling my training and racing for you? 2011 has been a year of massive change, restructuring, and obligation. The restructuring has been slow, and largely invisible. Here is one of the many metaphors I wish I could have woven into a blog post for you: what’s happened in my heart and mind this year has been just like the electric work in my kitchen renovation. It was the most time-consuming part of the process, taking weeks of chopping, channeling, careful rewiring and finally smooth patchwork so that by the time the paint was applied, I would never believe the work that lies beneath if I hadn’t seen it done with my own eyes.
Dearests, I want to keep up the trust you have in me, yet I fear that if I start setting PRs you will not believe me (or even worse, it will not move you), since I have kept you from witnessing the rewiring I’ve experienced in my training.
My Twitter followers will have a vague notion. I’ve been doing a lot of chopping and channeling at Astoria Park Track, over hilly Route 940 in the Poconos, and through the streets of Queens, mostly in the bike lanes of 34th and 31st Avenues around Jackson Heights. (Occasionally I get a little shock when I circle the Great Lawn in Central Park—what a different world surrounds that green pasture. 7 AM Manhattanites, with purebred dogs, designer camp jackets and Starbucks in hand are quite another crowd from the 6 AM Latino carpenters and custodians heading to work on their bicycles in denim and fleece with their lunches packed on their backs. I love them equally, my city would not be the same if one set were missing.)
Here’s something: over the last few weeks, nearly all my workouts are either specifically designed to have me run 7 miles, or they end up that way (excepting my long runs, of course). Two months ago, I was lucky if a workout neared 6 miles. Without a doubt, 7 is the new 5, and I love that. Eleven will always be my favorite number, but seven is special, too. I’ve been waiting practically all year to get my weekly mileage above 30; now it’s there, and it’s all because of these thrice-weekly 7-milers. Seven, seven—Amen!
I’ll say Amen again, because not only is my mileage at the level where I’ve seen breakthroughs come in the past, but I have also been injury-free for months now. My training was interrupted in early October for nearly two weeks because I had a cold that leveled me, clogged up my lungs and drained all my energy; but Betty, and the phantom knife that has twice stuck itself into my heel (it’s a pinched nerve) simply haven’t been. Consistency in training is the gift of their absence, and my gratitude to them is so great it compels me to run until I get a cramp in my side. That pain I do not mind.
So speed—or something approximating speed—has been filling the void left by Betty and the Knife. Coach Meg has me running some sort of Fast about three days a week, sometimes more. Maria’s Monday is always recovery; necessarily, since I usually have three hard workouts Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I take Tuesdays and Thursdays or Fridays as my rest days. The other days are filled with track workouts (ladders, or 800’s), interval runs like 5 x 1k, progression runs, and fast-finish runs. Some days Meg just says, “7 miles, HARD.” What does “HARD” mean when I wake up at 5:15, am out the door by 5:45 (panting over my bridge in the dark, admiring the glint of the river and the skyline) churning towards Midtown? The incentive to beat the sun is meager, since that’s more a game of timing than speed. I usually determine that “HARD” means “faster than my last attempt at 7 miles.” Faster, TK, faster. And not just plain old faster, but faster when it matters most: at the end, in the final miles and meters.
I love this shit. Let us pray: God, If I may not succeed, may I at least crash and burn. I will take the smash and the flame to mean that I was giving it everything I had.
PRs would be nice; PRs would be just. While I do not expect to be first female again, I would like to beat my time from two years ago in the Duck Trot 8k in Eisenhower State Park this Sunday. After that, I would like to beat my time in the Ted Corbitt 15k, again from two years ago. And finally, I am aiming to break 1:45 at the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon in January. I want that time so badly the thought of it is a spur in my flank when I would otherwise relent in an interval, or dial back on a day’s measure of “HARD.”
All things considered, 1:45 is only slightly faster than average for women my age in the half-marathon. I think it’s about the sixtieth percentile.* But for me, for me it would be the flick of the switch that turned the lights on. Only those who knew the work that had gone into rewiring would marvel at the shine. Yet marvel or not, the shine would be irrefutable.
*when looking at the 2011 NYC Half results for women 35-39, 1:44:58 is an AG% of 63.33 (or 84th in my age group); when looking at the 2011 Aramco Houston Half-Marathon results for the same group, I would have finished 15th.