Sunday, October 07, 2007

Goodbye 40s Running

I am supposed to be in Chicago right now, in the initial recovery phases from the Chicago Marathon. I supposed I should be disappointed that plans didn't work out this year, after getting injured over the summer with that nagging calf problem which forced me to cut my mileage down to the teens while missing three weeks of training in August and September. After following the weather reports all week and seeing the preliminary results, not racing there this year is not a disappointment. Glad I didn't. Temperatures were in the 70s at the start, 80s by two hours into the race, and approaching 90 by the time they were three hours into it. Hundreds were sent to hospitals, and so far there has been at least one fatality, a 35-year old Michigan policeman who was running.

Meanwhile, here in Fairbanks, it's 20 degrees and snowing lightly over what may become the the first layer of our base, which will be on the ground for at least six months--that is unless the effects of global warming get the next or last say in the matter. Within a week or so, I'll be skiing 4-5 times a week, and just doing the minimum to keep my legs moving as a runner.

With just a few months to go before turning 50, this is a good time to take stock of my decade as a masters runner. It's over, in a way. 50+ running still could have a lot to offer, but I'll be a more cautious runner. Running for grins as much as anything.

A decade ago, I was working as a lecturer at U-Mass Amherst and just coming off of several years of injury. That fall, I closed my 30s happily but inauspiciously with a 35:44 10k and 17:20 5k. Not bad for 39, but well behind the low 32s and sub 16s I'd been running consistently just five or six years earlier. I vowed to keep consistent and smart about training as a 40+ runner. To have fun, but to be competitive and not get injured. However, I did have some pretty specific time, and ambitious time goals for the masters years (4:40 mile, 16:15 for 5k, sub 34 for 10k and sub 2:40 for the marathon).

Here are my best efforts, and excuses, by five year increments:

800 m - 2:09.1 (1998): I hate the 800!
1 mile - 4:38.9 (1998): no excuses there, just put together my best masters race on an incredibly hot and muggy evening in Amherst.
5k - 16:21 (1998 and 2000) I did this twice, 4th of July race in Springfield, MA, and then an altitude converted equivalent on the track in Boulder, CO (2000).
8k - 27:13: Drake Relays on the Road (2000); God that felt good!
10k - 34:07: Altitude converted, Longmont Turkey Trot, Longmont, CO (1998). Ran several close equivalents over the next two years.
1/2 marathon - 1:17:30 (1999): Colorado half marathon (also altitude converted). Back when it would be cold in October, on a hilly course and icy conditions, but still a good day! One of my biggest running career regrets is not running more halves as an open runner.
Marathon - 2:44:24, California International Marathon (1999): Not exactly high mileage training (55-60 mpw), but I was pretty happy to pull through with that.

I didn't exactly waltz through my 40s unscathed. In fact, I was beset by knee problems from 42.5 until just a few months before turning 46. I hardly ran a step in through much of 2002 and the first half of 2003.

1 mile - 4:54 (2006): no excuses, just fact.
5k - 17:03 (2005): hardly ever been a stellar 5k runner, but I'll take it.
8k - 28:41 (2004): only tried a couple of these.
10k - 35:22 (2005): always wanted to break 35 as a late 40s dude but with only 1 10k/year never got it done. The 10k remains my favorite distance.
1/2 marathon - 1:19:11 (2005): slow course, but ran relatively well, timewise, against some good local runners.
Marathon - ouch! 3:00:1 (3:00:06 chip), Cal International (2005): not much good to say about that experience, although I did have great weekend down there.

Well, that sums it about up. To early to think about 50s goals, other than to say that I want to keep running and racing for a few more years as long as it's fun, and that I really like coaching.

Bye 40s.