Monday, June 20, 2016

Post-marathon reflections

Its three weeks since I ran the Calgary Marathon and I'm still processing the experience. There's nothing unusual about that. The weeks following a marathon are always challenging since I'm physically tired and busier than usual catching up on the chores left undone while I trained. This time around, I'm contending with disappointment as well. I really thought I was ready to run the race in something like 4:40 so it was frustrating and discouraging to take more than 5 hours to get to the finish line.

Another thing that's different this time is that I'm not sure I'll ever attempt another marathon.

The weekend before last, I tackled my first longish run post-marathon - a 10k that felt okay all in all. The other runs I did last week (on Wednesday and Friday mornings) felt good too - though my hamstrings and hips were much tighter than usual. This past Saturday is when it finally hit me that I really might not have another marathon in me.

Two or three minutes after I left the house, I sensed my body had no interest in running. I'd had a good long sleep the night before and woke up refreshed (or so I thought) but, once on the road, it was clear my body was fully engaged in repair work and had no energy left for running. Within a kilometre and a half, I knew for sure the run was going to be a bust, so gave up and headed home.

In the 14 years I've been running, I've only given up on a run like that a few times - almost always due to bad weather or injury - so my decision to quit seemed ominous, like it might mean my marathoning days were really behind me.

Fortunately, yesterday's 14k run went much better.  As I left the house, I promised myself I'd listen to my body and cut the run short if need be, and started more slowly than usual to give my body a good chance to wake up. Four kilometres in, I stopped to stretch my hamstrings, adductors and hip flexors throughly before continuing upriver to my turnaround point at the Cookville Bridge. I was able to run in shade for much of the time, which was nice, and arrived back at the house feeling good - as if I could have run another 5k if I'd needed to.

I spent most of yesterday afternoon stretched out on a lounge on the back deck - writing, reading and stalking the bird feeder in an effort to capture pics of these little guys, amongst others. (Other birds at the feeder yesterday included a dove, a blue jay and a downy woodpecker but, unfortunately, they didn't stay long enough for me to get photos.)

In addition, I spent time examining various marathon options and trying to figure out whether I really want to run another marathon and, if so, how much. On the one hand, for a type A person like me, there's nothing more motivating than an failed attempt to achieve a goal, and I still think I could run a 4:30 if I were properly trained and had a good day. On the hand, jumping back into training right away isn't especially appealing, and, given how sore and tired I've felt these past few weeks, it might not be smart either.

By suppertime last night, I realized I needed more information in order to make a final decision. Partly, it will depend on how well my recovery goes over the next few weeks and whether I'm able to resolve the stubborn tightness in my hips and hamstrings. I also want to take a hard look at my summer schedule to figure out whether it's realistic to think I can train properly with everything else on my plate. Finally, I want to spend time thinking about my true motivations for pursuing another marathon finish. Sure, it would be nice to hit 10 before my 55th birthday next year but at what cost? I could almost certainly achieve my fitness goals by training for a half instead of a full marathon so why am I so reluctant to do so? Good question. I'll let you know when/if I come up with an answer.

In the meantime, my current plan is to run four times a week, and increase my long slow runs by 2-3kms per week. That way, if I decide to go for it, I'll have a solid base upon which to build.

What about you? How do you decide when/whether to run a goal race? Do you find it as satisfying to train for shorter distances as for longer ones?  What is it about longer distances that appeals to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time, happy writing and running!

1 comment:

  1. Something I discovered is that sometime between my Ironman at 52, and my current age, my ability to recover from tough workouts went all to pot. It still happens, just slower. You might not yet be fully recovered; and not feeling the run love, or not having gas in the tank despite feeling well rested are big indicators in my books. I'm not sure I've ever run 4 days a week, even right now when I'm in HARD-CORE training (at least by my standards). Part of the recovery thing is to actually recover. That might help the stubborn hips and hamstring tightness.
    Longer distances (running, biking, swimming) gives me more time to be alone with my thoughts. Part of it is keeping track of the activity, but part of it is thinking about stuff. I think it's good for the body to be active and yet the brain is essentially in idle. Too many people do the opposite. Or both brain and body idle...