It's not the physical preparation for races that gets me, nor the intellectual planning. It's getting ready emotionally.
This morning, I was writing up my planned workouts through early March and thinking, "These are tough, but doable. I'm pretty much there already, except for low mileage due to bad weather (it's -25, Celsius or, with wind chill, Fahrenheit). Then I saw that I'd somehow miscounted how many weeks there were until race time! Panic sets in. "I'm four weeks behind where I'm supposed to be!" Then I see that pages of my training log have stuck together and I was right all along. 12 weeks and counting.
My first race each year is usually my best, because it's low-key preparation for what I'm really aiming to do; when the big race comes, I haven't slept for days and I'm so jittery that, when the gun goes off, nerves propel me out too fast.
Last fall, I was saying that I was in horrible condition and could probably run the Chippewa 50K in 7 hours and that reasonable training would get me to 5:30. A month ago, after training seemed to be going well, I appeared to be in 5:00 shape. Now, after a number of good weeks of training, I'm at... 5:00. Not improving. All that work and I'm getting nowhere. Then it occurs to me that I'm increasing the odds of finishing under 5:00, though not improving my expected finish time - so not exactly spinning my wheels, after all.
Then I start thinking about how 5:00 at Chippewa is about like running a marathon at 8 minutes per mile (3:30 finish). And a 3:30 marathon for me is about like a 6:30 mile; and my training says I could be running a mile well under 6:00. That 6 minutes, working back the other way, puts me at 4:30 for Chippewa, which is in contention for winning my age division. When the weather improves, I should be able to improve that extra one minute per mile. Except... running indoors, I'm running 10 miles at 8 minutes per mile and it feels like marathon pace, not an easy training pace. So... I'm back to 5:00.
That's how you go crazy trying to prepare. 5:00 is excellent - better than I could've hoped just a few months ago. 5:00 is terrible - a pace not worth doing. 5:00 is great - faster than I've ever run on that course. 5:00 is awful - more than an hour behind the leaders and where I was 5 years ago.
It looks like the cold weather may be coming to an early close, starting this weekend. Tomorrow, I have a hard long run planned, which I have to do late in the afternoon to take advantage of a 20 degree warm-up. I'm worried about how it will go - on Tuesday, I stopped early during a hard workout, where I'd planned to run 6x1200 and only did 4. But then again, the last time I did that workout, I only did 3... so I'm improving.
So it goes. I need the weather to improve so I can run, rather than fret.