More of the massive rethink:
One of the things that always bothers me, for reasons inexplicable, are people who never truly challenge themselves. There are runners who have long successful careers, who never find out what they're capable of doing, because they've never pushed themselves to the limit. As early as 1980, Track and Field news was considering abandoning their rankings of marathoners, because no two competed against each other; being known as the winner of some marathon was more valuable than running a personal best second place in a prestigious race. Locally, age class competitors choose their races by their competition and everyone wins their trophies with a minimum of effort, beating their nearest rival by a minute per mile or more.
That ain't me.
A few years ago, I wanted to run a 5K to see what kind of shape I was in and so entered one held in my back yard. I ran 18-something, not bad for my condition, the course and the weather, and the second finisher was three minutes back. I was embarassed - I should've been running some other race with better competition. Sometimes such races are understandable; the Minnesota Distance Runner of the Year competition is based upon races at a variety of distances and some races have few options and thus some runners needing a good time at an odd distance run a small race and blow the competition away. Still, it just seems wrong. I do races to, well, race.
I like to push myself to the breaking point... and so I'm broken.
A couple of years ago, the day after the Superior Trail 50K, Julie Berg ran 20 miles of hill repeats and I just shook my head in wonder: why didn't she use that energy in her race? I, on the other hand, was so beat up that I couldn't run a step for days, causing Julie to shake her head, wondering why I didn't just run the race more easily. I can't do it. The week after finishing a 100 mile race for the first time, I ran the Trail Mix 50K in 5:00:41 and Matt Patten, knowing I had another 50K the next week, said "You don't have to do every 50K in 5 hours." Ultrarunners often use races as training runs, but I can't not race them (and I was thinking, "but I ran 3:48 here last time, 5:00 isn't racing!")
I had a reputation early on for leaving my best races on the workout track. I can still recall the day I ran 25 times 400 meters in 72 seconds, with a one minute recovery, but I can't remember the time of the 10K I used that as training for (34 something, I think). My thought had always been that, "if you don't push yourself in training, you won't push yourself in races."
I'm rethinking that.
I'd do a workout, say hill repeats, and after reaching a point where it became difficult, tell myself that I had to push to do more, or I'd quit when it got hard in a race. I'd do another repeat, a bit slower, with my form falling apart, thinking "so-and-so could do 9 repeats, but he couldn't do 10. I'm doing 10." I thought I was training myself to push through discomfort, but I was teaching myself to fall apart and then run inefficiently afterward. Plus, I was exhausting myself, so that it interfered with the next few workouts or the next race.
That's not the way I coach others, so why do I do it to myself? If you do a variety of workouts and improve at doing them, bit by bit, you know you should be able to race a little better as well. I need to convince myself that I don't need "warm-up" races to see where I am in training (especially as I'll do them too hard) and I don't need to push quite so hard when I'm training.
One thing I learned about myself many years ago was that, if I don't have a goal to strive for, I don't run at all. My first "retirement" was about age 30 and the time I usually spent training instead got spent drinking and I gained 30 pounds. There has to be something for me to shoot for, but I can't have anything planned soon, or I'll ramp up my training too fast, get hurt, recover, see the date of the race looming, train harder to get ready in the shortened time, get hurt, etc.
I have a goal. It's in 2013. I'll undoubtedly race before then... I mean, look at the title of this blog... but I'll try to be low-key about races. Try.