26 February 2010

I'm Crazy Ain't I?

Really, any coach, any authority, any doctor would have said it was stupid. Even to myself, I’m convinced I’m a bit of a sick puppy. But it just happened, and it felt good, pretty much up to the last few miles, I’m tickled that it happened, and I survived. So, so what? I’m a bit crazy, ain’t I? Enjoy it.

Just two weeks ago I was lamenting all sorts of aches and pains. Yet Tuesday I broke my personal record for weekly mileage. That’s not a plan you’d find in any “Best Advice for Runners” book. It just happened, granted, with some extra effort on day seven.

In my last posting I’d noted how the spring weather we enjoyed last week inspired me to turn it up a few notches with some lunch-hour double-digit jaunts, followed by the pleasant surprise of my clubmates wanting to go long Saturday morning. So by Saturday I was on a 10+ mile-per-day pace for the previous four days and I’d already arranged with Rocket John (you do remember Rocket John, right?) to do a long one on Sunday. The gears started to whir and click. This could be cool. But first I had to deal with one of those anal retentive harsh definition things and soften my view of the world. Go with me on this, it was good for me to let go a bit.

I knew that my log recorded my biggest week in the Second Lap era at 79.45 miles, cranked out in the fall of ’08. But I also knew that my log counted Sunday to Saturday weeks. Something deep in my psyche defined that as a week. But something else floating through my neurons said, “Says Who?” The part saying that was, of course, the part that knew I’d started a mileage tear on a Wednesday. Really, who says a week is anything other than a seven day span? It’s just a cultural definition. And I wanted a shot at that 79.45 miles. So I resolved that a week was seven days, period. One hump surmounted.

But if I was going to take a shot at it with a week that started on Wednesday, well, fair’s fair, I’d have to re-run the previous stats, since I’d only counted Sundays to Saturdays. Lucky, I’m obsessed enough that my mileage log lives in a spreadsheet, so it wasn’t too hard to run a column adding up each successive seven-day span. And I got a surprise. The mark wasn’t 79.45, it was 84 flat. Oh… Umm... Ah…

Step back a moment here. All of this is ludicrous to begin with. Never mind that I shouldn’t have been contemplating such numbers so soon after feeling wounded. Beyond that, the whole “arbitrary numbers over arbitrary periods” thing is rather absurd. But then again, without that absurd concept, why would we race, or care about a four minute mile, a three hour marathon, or anything? Right. Over that hump On with the show.

Second step back moment: Truth be told, my real record wasn’t even 84, it was the fact that once, in August of 1980, back in those First Lap days, I made the assault on the summit and turned in a 100-mile week. But that was (a) in my younger days, and (b) a planned assault. What I had here was a rather accidental opportunity to surpass my modern mark. But, while 84 was only five more than I’d been expecting, at four days in, 42 down, need an extra five was a lot. No matter. I pondered all this even before my planned Sunday long run. And a storm was forecast for Tuesday. It might all be moot, anyway.

Sunday came breezy but beautiful. My wife dropped John and I off a few towns away for a “simulated Boston” – big downhill start and primarily eastbound to catch the wind. We had a glorious day, adding the optional extra loop near the end to clock nearly 21 miles at close to 7-minute-flat pace. I beat the crap out of a toe or two having forgotten to trim the nails, but otherwise all was good. And just like that, I was now at 60-something for five days. Sixty-three, I thought. But I wasn’t sure, as it got fuzzy in my memory, and that’s where it started getting weird.

Two days to go. But Monday was not conducive to running. A three hour drive to an eight-hour meeting in Albany and another three-hour drive home. No time. But record or not, fourteen hours of sitting just screamed for escape, so I packed the bag and was changed and out the door ten minutes after the meeting ended for a nine-miler through the western ‘burbs of Albany as the sun sank to darkness. With my day-glo jacket, flasher light, headlamp – works better handheld, but you get the idea, ID tag – just in case, I’m getting this opportunistic running thing down pat. And my co-workers certainly got a charge out of seeing Batman charge out of the building in tights.

And then it got really weird. I’d forgotten my exact mileage total to date. Monday was a late night coming in from Albany. I didn’t boot my laptop, which is where my log lives, so I couldn’t check that key number. Tuesday, another meeting in Providence, returning home mid-afternoon to the pleasant surprise that the expected storm hadn’t yet arrived and I could squeeze a “late lunch hour” run in, but I’d have to get out there to beat the weather. I had some long-overdue hardware repair to do on the laptop so I didn’t want to boot it up only to have to shut it down again right away, so once again I couldn’t check that key number, which left me in the odd spot of making a dash for this record yet not really knowing how far I needed to dash. And it wasn’t trivial, either. Remember that extra five miles, from 79 to 84? I would need a good 13. I thought. But I wasn’t sure.

Picture this: I head out, seeking to break a record that’s rather ludicrous to begin with, that I shouldn’t be shooting for having come off injuries, with the opportunity arising quite by accident (someday I will plan to hit that 100-mile week, but this just popped up randomly), not knowing how far I have to go – and changing my course mid-run didn’t help either, and, quite frankly, once I got up around the 80-mile total mark, feeling pretty used up as I climbed one of the biggest hills in town. Ludicrous. But wouldn’t it totally stink if I got home, measured it out, added it up, and came up a quarter mile short? You bet it would. And so I ran on, and on, and on. I ran based on time, adding on an extra few minutes just to be sure. And after the measuring and accounting, there it was: over the top, 85.65 miles.

Ludicrous, yes. But satisfying. And even better, I checked my log from my youthful days and discovered that other than that planned 100-mile week, my top mark in those days was 84.7, posted in April of 1980, which meant I hadn’t surpassed it before, but I had now. That made it sweeter.

Ain’t I crazy?

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