Friday, October 31, 2014

A Thin Line

So far, I’m having the best season of my life.

Here’s the problem: I’m scared I’ll lose it at any moment.

Of course it is always more enjoyable to be running well than running poorly. I cannot/will not/am not complaining about running well. But… I’m stressed nonetheless.

After Philly, things clicked and then took off. I snapped out of the either self-induced (overtraining?) or DC-induced (the swamp of humidity?) funk I had been in since late August. I gained some confidence from my workouts, used that to set a big PR at Army, and have kept rolling ever since.

But I’m scared.

Scared I’ll run one mile too many, tweak an old injury, create a new one. Overstretch, under-stretch. Over-train, undertrain.

In the midst of my August Funk, I slashed my miles. Now I’m feeling good—better than ever—should I ease the mileage back up to my early season hopes? Or I am feeling good because of the lower mileage? I’ve opted for some in-between mileage purgatory; but is that still too high or too low?

Will I peak too soon? Am I peaking now?

Will my stress about hips and injuries and other imminent disasters hold me back? I thrive off high mileage and gain confidence from logging it, but I’d rather be cautious than hurt something. Will playing it safe backfire? If I never push myself, how will I get anywhere?

A week ago, I flipped through last season’s running log. I thought it would prove how much better this season is going (I’m doing everything right this time! I’m crushing every workout! Fall 2014 Teal could kick Spring 2014 Teal’s butt!) The problem with that seemingly innocent—albeit cocky—tactic? I was in better shape last spring than I remembered. I ran some of my best workouts to date and was feeling great going into Boston. But the marathon was a disaster. Am I setting myself up for the same disappointment? I continue to blame dehydration and not appreciating a warm day, but maybe it was peaking too early? Overtraining? Too much, too soon after the injury? Undertraining? Too cautious after the injury? Being overly ambitious? Will I make the same mistakes?

Despite this inner game of flip-flop, my workouts continue to improve. Fall 2014 Teal could kick Spring 2014 Teal’s butt. But, of course, my ambitions are higher, too. So the mental battle continues.

Maybe I just need something to worry about. Isn’t this the challenge of running and racing well? Pushing our limits is an experiment. Finding the perfect balance is part of the process. It’s a thin line between agony and glory. And we won’t know which side of the line we’re on until race day.

So all these questions will remain questions until December 7th. Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day for some, but D-Day for me. On that day I’ll know where I stand, if I’m going to win the war. I’ll get the answer to all these questions… too late to do anything about them.
It's not until we get to this line--the finish line--that we
know which side of the thin line we're on. 
But, first things first: this weekend, I’m shutting down the questions of over or under. Instead, I’ll focus on running the Raleigh Half Marathon, where I hope to set another big PR, suppressing all negativity as I go. Hopefully the result will prove that Fall 2014 Teal is better than ever and ready for battle on December 7th. 

Dream big,


  1. THIS!!! "Pushing our limits is an experiment. Finding the perfect balance is part of the process. It’s a thin line between agony and glory. And we won’t know which side of the line we’re on until race day."

    I'm a 48 year old female Masters marathoner, age grouper, who's BQ'd and PR'd in both the marathons I've run this year - Shamrock in March (3:49:25, 5:35 faster than BQ) and Baystate two weeks ago (3:42:47, 12:13 faster than BQ). I'm only about half as nuts as I sound below.

    I'm trying to figure out how to approach the Richmond Marathon 11/15 (2 wks from now). I ran Baystate 2 wks ago and PR'd and BQ'd for 2016 - cut 6:38 off my March 2015 PR/BQ! Originally Richmond was to be an "easy" (as in take it easy, not it will be easy!) training run for my ultra 12/28 - 50k, so I can Marathon Maniac. Then, I started thinking that really, everything after Baystate is actually training for Boston, and less important on its own than for what it gives me in that regard. (I want to finish Richmond and the 50k well and may have a goal time for each - and then will submit Maniac forms.) I want to do as well as I possibly can at Boston to honor the race and what it's taken me to get there. (2015 will be my first after years of injury, cancer, and then really pushing my training - I've dreamed of Boston for decades.)

    DH thinks I could do better at Richmond than at Baystate, suggested I go out w/ a faster pace group & see how it felt, see how long I could hold it. If I feel good, maybe I do better. If I'm not feeling it, drop back & finish. And my chiro agrees w/ him! Says I should use all races between now & Boston as learning experiences & experiments, physically & mentally learn about myself, my fitness, etc. (and I've been reading a book called Older, Faster, Stronger where the woman used a similar strategy to good results). Chiro also said to DH that I "don't know how flippin' fast" I can be. I've never used races as training before.

    DH has always had more confidence than I have in my abilities, and so far, he's been proven right. I've been able to do things I thought were only dreams, and I'm dreaming bigger (well, faster) now. Why NOT go for it, being willing to pull the plug at the first sign of any physical discomfort that might cause me problems in maintaining consistent, healthy training for Boston?

    I don't have any experience running two marathons this close together, so I can't tell if my recovery will be good enough for me to try for speed or not. I guess the bod will be the final decision-maker...if it won't play, it ain't happening.

    Thoughts, ideas - from someone fast and close to elite like you who has raced many more times? I still think of myself as a runner, not a racer as I'm only ever competing with myself. (so impressed with your progress over the years!) Any tips, etc. much appreciated. Thanks for listening anyway.

    I hope you have a terrific half this weekend!

    1. First of all, congrats on the new PR! I ran Baystate back in 2008, got my first BQ there (so thrilled!), and have only fond memories of that race. And congrats on Boston this spring! It will be everything you dreamed of! (Sounds corny, I know, but it’s true.)

      Now about your questions: I went back and forth on this as well and chatted with some teammates about it, too. (Hope that’s okay!) I’m all for going big and seeing what happens, but the worry is the short time between two hard marathons (just four weeks, right?) I would think it would be really hard to pull off another PR so soon, and you don’t want to be unfairly discouraged. (I.e. You don’t want to look back on Richmond and say, “I went big and couldn’t do it,” if maybe the real problem was lingering fatigue from Baystate.) You also certainly don’t want to compromise training for Boston in any way, and the double effort might not catch up to you until after the race.

      I’ve also never tried running two marathons so close together, so I’m certainly no expert! But what about trying to run an all out half marathon and seeing what you can do there? You might be able to look to that and estimate what that equates to for a full (although I know it’s not an exact science).

      Of course, you (and your DH) know your body best, so if Baystate felt more like a training run, than you might surprise yourself! You’ve got the right mindset, to be cautious and pull the plug if necessary, but also make sure your recovery afterwards is top-notch.

      Let me know how it goes! I hope these ramblings were semi-useful…

  2. LOVE this post. I battle the same things quite often - it's such a fine line between pushing yourself and bumping up that top limit and injuring yourself and being out once again. I'm coming back from injury (sfx/reaction in tibia) and I'm so scared to push myself again for fear that I'll re-injure myself in some way yet again. I worked all summer to slllooowly build up my mileage base back into the 70s where I was comfortable, then two weeks into my training...boom. Injured. So I'm cautious. And while I'm targeting a spring marathon now and am once again slowly on my way to building up mileage, I'm very nervous about what it will mean when I'm finally adding back in speed work and tempos and starting to really train hard. I ask myself the same questions - should I do less mileage this season in an attempt to remain injury free? Should I run less intense runs (fewer speed/tempos) since that's what I think may have contributed to the injury (vs. mileage)? And if I do that, will I still be able to achieve the (ambitious) goal I've set for myself? Ugh. It's a constant battle in my mind.

    In any case, it appears you have figured it out since I saw that you COMPLETELY ROCKED your half marathon with a 1:19!! That's WICKED FAST! I am very much looking forward to reading a race recap on that one if you decide to write and post one!! Huge congrats to you - what a great time and confidence boost!!

    1. Thanks, Jenn! I'm glad to hear you're on the way back!

      A couple things I've tweaked to be a little easier on myself post-injury:

      1) I go REALLY slow on easy days; my pace is totally pedestrian and probably shocks anyone that sees me on those days. But those days are purely for recovery so the slower, the better, I think. (I've been meaning to do a post on this, actually. Matt Fitzgerald recently wrote a book about it, which I honestly haven't read, and the Kenyans go crazy slow on easy days. Like we could keep up with them, despite their ability to run sub-5 minute miles for a marathon.)

      2) At most, I do 2 workouts a week. I used to sometimes do 3, but those days are no more. I either do a track workout (Wednesday) and long marathon pace run (Sunday) or track (Wed) and tempo (Friday). Some weeks are just one, and this week--post half--I have zero workout days.

      I think the trick is to making the quality days really quality, and cutting yourself some slack on the other days. Obviously, we will always be debating all these questions, but I think those two things have helped me.

      I am working on a race report, it's coming soon!