Coming off the plateau

It’s been a slow year. Not a far as the calendar goes, but as far as running goes. Everything from training runs to races. And I’ve come to a conclusion: It’s not because I’m getting older (although I am – have been since the minute I was born). It’s because I’m nowhere near the shape I was in 3-4 years ago. It just took awhile for it to show up. Just as it took awhile for me to get into the shape I was in during 2006-07 in order to run times I never thought were possible. The whole experience has actually been more interesting than frustrating. It all began last year, when my legs felt dead. I took my running down to two days a week and raced very little. By the end of the summer, I felt like I was “coming back.” In other words, feeling good. But this year, even though I was feeling better, my race times were way off from where there were a couple of years ago. I felt like I was putting out the same effort, but when I finished a 10K in June and looked at my watch, I could hardly believe it. I couldn’t even break 39 minutes. In 2006, I was down to running sub-37 minutes. I hadn’t run over 39 since my first 10K in Salem, N.Y., a long time ago when I lived in Vermont. My time was 40:30, I’m pretty sure. In fact I know it was. A runner never forgets his/her times, no matter how mundane they are. This August, I ran another 10K (the Bozeman Classic) and was under 39, but not by much. I remember how Dani Shahan ran right past me going up Highland Avenue and I never saw her again. I thought, “wow, she must have set a course record.” Well, she didn’t. It was more about me running slow, though Dani did have a good race. My first thought after running these times was: “I’m getting old.” Well, it’s easy to compare times from years ago to current ones. But the big thing for me is that it took years for me to build up to the times I ran in 2006-07. And in those years, I was running mountain trails and faithfully went to the track to do speed work each week. I’ve done neither since. The common denominator in all of this is fatherhood. I just don’t have the time to drive a half an hour each way to run Sypes Canyon or Sourdough. Or to get to the track. I do have 90 minutes or so here and there. And I take advantage of it with easy runs. Before our wonderful Nina came to us, I could sleep until 8:30 and run as long as I desired before lunch. I was eating five meals a day and just “eating” up the running. Now things are different. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m simply running slower because I’m not training as hard. I think my body needs the rest anyhow. Again, it took time to run at a high level. It took time for me to begin slowing down. So now I’m just running for the pure enjoyment of running. My ITB bothers me a bit from a marathon I ran a month ago and I’m in no shape to do a lot of training for specific races. But maybe sometime (i.e. when my daughter’s in school full-time), when there’s more time to run in the mountains and get back to the track, I can turn things around and start putting up some of those times I ran four years ago. Or maybe not. I hit my plateau a lot later than I ever thought. If I can get anywhere near that again is probably the best I can hope for. If not, there’s always the 9:30-pace jog whenever an hour or so opens up.


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September 2010
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