Friday, August 6, 2010

Chicken dogs, hawks, and offspring: Summer training and racing full steam ahead for October 17

Where should I start? Okay, my name is Mike and it's been two months since my last confession.

Several Very Important Things have happened in my world of running since I last posted in this space. I had a run-in with a chicken dog, I've strung together two 300+ mile months in a row and counting (and not just mileage but quality training), along with my cohorts I helped direct a successful 4th annual FORR 5k road race, I was attacked by a hawk, I ran a PW 10k and in the same week brought my masters 5k PR down to 17:08, which is also my fastest 5k since 2004. I convinced my favorite rival to run Baystate so we can go toe-to-toe for 26.2 miles. Oh, and I decided that Baystate will be my last marathon--more about that later.

By chicken dog, I'm referring to one of those "toy" breeds that weigh less than 10 pounds and yaps at you incessantly because it has a doggie version of a Napoleon complex. You know the type I mean. Calling them chicken dogs is a bit of an insult to chickens, since they are much less useful than actual chickens. It's mostly a size thing. Anyway, one chased me half way up Woburn Street in Reading one day as I was jogging home from the track. I kicked at it once just grazing it, it ran away only to come back later and was almost run over by a beige swagger wagon. It was quite a scene. Eventually it got tired of chasing me and, I guess, went home.

The FORR 5k was a mild success. I was a bit worried about having too many runners this year as Memorial Park and the adjacent Harrison St are completely torn up, but we wound up with about the same number as last year (160 ish) and nobody got hurt or arrested. Success! My oldest girls ran it without me this time and had a successful race.

Yeah, for real a hawk swooped down out of the sky and tried to maul me on the top of my head with both sets of talons while I was running one morning on Chestnut St in Lynnfield. Then it flew up into the limb of a big oak tree and looked down mocking me. I had to google "hawk attack" when I got home just to see if that really is something that happens. Apparently it is. I had bruises on my head, but it didn't draw blood. Good thing I was due for a haircut so that my thick mat of hair (that my wife insists is full of gray) protected me. I couldn't have made that up if I tried.

Last week I ran a 10k that was put on by one of my co-workers. I mostly ran it as a workout and as a favor to the guy but I didn't expect it to be THAT bad. The race was out and back on a bike path and featured 5k of downhill, then a hairpin turn and 5k of uphill. And it was 88 degrees and very humid at race time! Yuck. I ran my slowest 10k ever in 37:45, which was still good for 4th overall and 1st old guy.

I guess it was a decent workout though, because I had an excellent 5k just days later. I took the oldest 2 girls up to York and we crashed at my sister's place on Saturday night so we could all run the York Days 5k on Sunday morning. The weather turned out to be perfect. There was a couple days of break in the humidity and this big Canadian air mass (what am I a meteorologist??) came down and cooled us off. It was literally 57 degrees at my sister's when I got up in the morning. I got the girls over to York High School, got us our bibs and chips and left them in the girls' room line while I went out to do a jog. I could tell immediately I was going to pop a good one. And it was still cool, probably still in the 60's by race time. I knew the course profile pretty well and had run a race that uses the same finish, so I was pretty confident. I wound up executing one of the best races I've ever run running (I think) about 5:25 in the last mile, and finished in 17:08, my best 5k since 2004 and 3rd best ever.

The girls ran great and finished with the same time in 29:15.

A fantastic beach day with their sisters and cousins ensued.

In other news, I've decided I don't want to run marathons anymore after Baystate. It's half a quality of life/career decision and half a quality of running decision. I'm planning to go balls out for the rest of the summer and try to improve on my 2:49 PR and then whether I do or I don't, I'm really not willing to do the work it will take to keep improving at that distance. There are too many other things I'd rather focus my energy on. I'll continue to run for sure, and I can probably stay pretty close to PR shape or even improve some of my PRs from 13.1 on down, but the marathon is a different animal and I'm just not up for putting a whole six months of training into one day like that anymore and making all the sacrifices along the way that doing so requires. And I have no interest in slogging through sub-maximal marathons just for fun. Not my bag. At times I'm sure I'll run just as much as current "marathon training" but I won't be dong any 20 milers (unless I feel like it) and I won't be putting a whole season's worth of eggs in one race-day basket anymore after October 17th. Big whoop.

The various reactions to this decision have been interesting. Some people completely get it, some flat out don't believe that I'll stop running marathons and some can't understand why I've spent as much time as I have on them already. But a small group have even become what I can only describe as offended by the notion that perhaps a forty-something hobbyjogger might not want to run eighty or more miles a week at the expense of his career, family and overall quality of life for the sake of improving, by a few seconds, his completely mediocre and utterly unimportant marathon personal best. I'm not judging others for their obsessive pursuit of trivial numbers and in fact I'm admitting that until October 17th, I'm going to be at least as OC as anyone. But I've prioritized marathons to the extent I have because I wanted to. And now I don't want to. It will really be okay.


  1. firstly, you said, "I won't be dong any 20 milers". haha. DONG. secondly, i am greatly offended by your choices that you have made about your life, because in the end, it's all about me.

  2. Heh. Dong. Like in Sixteen Candles.

    (I'm totally leaving that there.)

  3. I was going to say "Very offended," and then saw that Waffs had already beaten me to it like a week ago.

    Marions are wack.

  4. The blue jay is conspicuously absent from this otherwise highly astute offering. Please, man. Connect. The. Dots. I'm not offended; though, your decision and supporting reasons leave me feeling (only slightly) stupid (really) about pursuing the whole marathon enterprise.