Former 2:24 marathoner, now in my late 40s and hoping to maximally flatten the curve of my slide into senescence and mediocrity • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on the sport of distance running since 1999 • Adviser and confidant of other perambulators • Paradoxical hater of exercise fanatics • Chihuahua whisperer Sentence-fragment impresario

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Training, week of July 3 through July 9 (Chinese buffet edition)

Whenever I visit a Chinese buffet, I resolve to assemble a plate of food unlike any of the countless others I've created over the past 30 or so years all over the U.S. (and in Brampton, Ontario in 1995 -- this was easily the best and largest Chinese buffet restaurant I've ever patronize). My instincts compel me to go heavy on the General Tso's chicken, lo mein, and stir-fried vegetables, and less heavy on beef and other fried forms of chicken; I'm also inclined to mix in colossal amounts of sweet and sour sauce. So in my desire to buck this all-to-comfortable trend, I start with a half-hearted dollop of some other shit, maybe even a forkful or two of seafood (which I hate)  But in the end, while I may switch up the order, I always wind up with essentially the same pile of overly saccharine, fat-and-protein-rich warm chunks of goop.

My running week of 60 miles was like that. It was going to include a 3K race on the track and maybe a legitimate long run, but in the end, despite going to some lengths to fulfill this inner promise, I ended up piecing together another typical pile of token distance runs with enough faster stuff thrown in to justify not striking myself repeatedly in the face with a tire iron, alternating sides until I was either too tired or bleeding too profusely to continue.

I screwed myself in advance of the week by wearing a pair of well-loved, well-worn and still-comfortable racing shoes on consecutive days last weekend. These, despite providing a nice sense of speed on roads, tracks and trails in real time, are always a bad idea because wearing them almost always causes my left ankle to sing for a day or two afterward. I broke it on a trail in 2012, and it was a couple of years before I could even jog more than 40 or 45 miles a week on it. I've now accepted that it is no longer in the "still healing, however slowly" phase and is permanently fucked up to some extent. This need not be a real limitation if I'm smart about it, and don't wear badly worn-out shoes, something I got away with each and every day for years on end as a younger fellow. But I did wear such shoes and it cost me last week.

I was sore on Monday, less so on Tuesday and still less so on Wednesday, sticking to easy runs in my usual, almost-new trainers. But when I put on my racing flats on Thursday at the third Boulder Road Runners All-Gomers' meet of the summer (new flatts, save for the Bolder Boulder six weeks ago and a couple other easy efforts), I knew I might be in some trouble. I'd already paid my whopping $7 and was supposed to team up with a buddy in a effort to run 10:00, so I started the thing. It it went to shit I felt solid overall through splits of about 79.5, 2:39.5 and 4:00, but this didn't mean much because I knew I would have to step off the track. So that was that.

If I had any brains I'd have thrown away the old flats as soon as I got home, but I'm letting them sit there in the corner, glowering at me as I snarl right back, ready to strap the motherfuckers on in the event I feel prone to a whimsical running-suicide mission. I get these impish urges to just bury the whole training-ti-race exercise under a huge mountain of shit, but it is some consolation that these urges are no longer honest. In recent years I've started a half-dozen or more "comebacks" (either a very easy thing to do or an impossible thing to do when you were never very fast in the first place) and when I didn't see the progress I needed, I pulled the plug unpretentiously and with due drama, finality, and destructive nonsense. These days it's more like idly wishing I didn't give a rip when clearly I do, if that makes sense.

I was able to run 11 decent miles on Sunday, when I was feeling the heat more than usual and felt a little beat up overall, but wasn't feeling too much ankle pain. Some other really cool things happened this week...well, they didn't just happen; I sort of engineered them, which is always a good feeling. And I finally got to meet the woman below, someone I've been working with for a few years now -- actually, four and a half.

She's got an interesting story, as do most people when you stop to listen to them. She was born and raised in Serbia, but came to the U.S. in her twenties, got married, and works as an engineer in Houston. She's taking pre-med classes now and is an American citizen as well as a member of the United States Army. Not surprisingly, she noted a variety of minor cultural differences between Boulder and Texas.

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