On Going Out Fast

I’ve been off the grid for a while. I haven’t been blogging much, or in social media much, but I have been running. Part of the reason I haven’t been blogging is that I’ve been busy. But that isn’t all the reason. I just wasn’t sure what to say. I’ve done some fun things – the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon relay (post coming) for one – and tried new things (coconut oil for cooking; post coming there, too). But what I’ve really wanted to do is improve my running speed.

I’m three years out from surgery. The weight of that anniversary has been on my mind. It’s starting to get to the point that I think I can’t use “I had knee surgery” as an excuse any longer. I also desperately want to return to my pre-surgery pace per mile before it becomes out of reach. Three years is a long time. Yep. Three years is a long time.

So I’ve been working on my speed. Doing some speed work, but mostly just increasing mileage and doing a tempo run every week. And it’s working. I am getting a little faster, slowly but surely. The heat and humidity are no friends of mine and I’ve had some trouble with a change in my asthma medication. But, despite those setbacks, I’m getting faster. A few weeks ago I had a glorious moment. During a tempo run, I hit my pre-surgery 5k pace. And I held it for a mile. It felt amazing. My legs hit their stride and I was in the perfect rhythm for running. It felt like coming home.

The danger of this improvement is that I can’t manage it. I can get to my old long run pace for three or four miles. Five if conditions are great, but I can’t maintain it. Feeling that feeling of running at my pace is addicting. It’s like a bad relationship. I know it isn’t good for me in long runs, but I can’t stay away. It just feels so good. And, as a result, I’ve had two disastrous half marathons in the last month. Honestly, I didn’t know what I would say about them, so I haven’t written about them. This weekend, during bad half #2, I had an epiphany. I was walking at mile 9 (sigh) after having had a great first five miles. And that’s when it hit me – I had gone out too fast. I haven’t gone out too fast in so many years I nearly forgot what it felt like. My old pace is just so close that it lures me in and I find myself in a familiar rhythm, home. But I can’t hold it and inevitably end up burning out and slowing, walking and shuffling, dejected, to the finish line.

I think it’s time to stop half marathons for a bit. I need to find my rhythm at this new speed. I want to see if I can find my pace again. Then maybe I can learn to control it. Maybe three years isn’t so long…