Saturday, September 29, 2012

Some Reflection

 "Though we live in trying times, we're the ones who have to try. Though we know that time has wings, we're the ones who have to fly" - Neal Peart

Although I consider myself a very youthful 65, it would be OK with me if you wanted to take 10-20 years off my age, but that ain't gonna happen. Yeah, each time the Earth spins it's wheel once, that's 24 hours I won't get get back, but I don't dwell on that. I've been running marathons and ultramarathons since 1979, and still don't plan to stop, because I just love The Long Run. There is one advantage to the aging process, however, and that is that for most with age comes the attainment of a certain amount of wisdom that's gained from your life experiences. For those of us who have running as a major aspect of our being and have been at it for years, we've learned many things about running and training. With me, when I think about some of the things I once did and thought in regards to running, training and racing, I just shake my head. Much of what I did wrong was done either in ignorance or because I allowed myself to get so neurotic about trying to be a better runner. Back in the day, as "they" say, most of our training was done with the old tried and true trial & error. I ran a lot, I raced a lot. And I loved it a lot. We ran hard, we ran long, and much of the time, we ran stupid. I'm not regretful of it - I'm sure the Wright Brothers did a lot of stupid flying before they traveled 120 feet above Kitty Hawk. 

But, with increasing age comes a drop off in not only racing performance, but there is also a change in your ability to train hard and recover from workouts. Everyone has a different age where they reach that drop off. For me, it seemed like my times fell off the Continental Shelf about 7-8 years ago (my late 50's). I didn't slowly lose seconds...I rapidly lost minutes! Consistently! Every experienced runner who is at least mildly in tune with their body recognizes when that point is. It's foolish to recognize this point and continue to train as you once did, but you're going to try to keep it at a level that at least resembles the runner you were (and believe you still are). Injuries may be a catalyst to this decline, as it was in my case, but that's just another variable added to the aging process. Do you just throw your hands up and say "I quit"? Well, if you're an ultramarathoner, you know you don't quit unless there is bone showing through the skin. You're like the GPS in your recalculate! You slow down, you go shorter, you take more days off, you change shoes, and see if all that works. My running is better than it was 2-3 years ago, and I am thankful for it. As a once somewhat fast runner who is coming to grips with where I am and doing more than his fair share of pitifully slow running, I can assure you that nothing makes you feel more like a runner than the Long Run. I run most Saturdays on the trails around Birmingham and the trail technicality forces me to run at a slower pace, but I am going long and I am doing it better. After several years of fits and starts, I feel somewhat like a runner again, and have no regrets that I am nowhere like the "old" Al, but am now the new OLD Al.

I still look at race results these days and say "Man, I would've finished up there in that race". Of course, I'm plugging in my PR from 20 years ago! I'll quickly add that this doesn't mean you shouldn't try and want to race faster, but you have to be realistic as to what your body can handle now, not compared to eons ago. Hard training and racing month in and month out is not conducive to a long, healthy running life, and a long, healthy running life is one thing I sure want.
Yes, I had a good, long run today up at the Ruffner MT trails with my buddy, Moha, and that's probably why I'm in a positive reflective mood...maybe if I have a rotten run next week I'll write a blog about how much aging and running sucks. But for now, All is good and Al is good. I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

1 comment:

Karla said...

Al, thanks for the insight. I love the GPS analogy. You recalculate! Brilliant and a great way to look at. I love your positive spin as always.