15 September 2011

Desperation is the Mother of Excess

How does that phrase go? Something, I think it was necessity, is the mother of something else. Seriously, I forgot the phrase and had to Google it, and it’s invention. But I was thinking of it because my catch phrase of late is a perversion of said idiom.

I’m not quite sure how this always happens, but it always happens. Over the years my attitude toward the marathon has shifted from pipe dream, to awesome and slightly fearful goal, to challenging race, to a motivating goal for the fall and spring seasons. Except that somewhere along the way, the idea of the race as the motivator for the training leading up to it somehow gets lost in the vagaries of the calendar.

There are two simple explanations. First, summer is always busy. The concept of summer vacation doesn’t really hold water in the real world, when even vacations entail a lot of effort to pull off. Pile on top of that a couple of business trips that made August evaporate, and, well, how is it that September is half over already? Second, October – a.k.a. marathon season – is just ages away from summer, right? Except it’s not, really, it’s separated from summer by the single month of September. My mental process, no longer tuned to the shock and awe of my early marathon attitude which dictated detailed and careful training planning for the race, somehow repeatedly fails to comprehend that twelve weeks prior to a mid-October marathon lies… what’s that? Yes, the middle of July.

Who’s thinking about marathon training in July? Certainly not me. It’s summer. It’s hot. It’s just not conducive to marathon-think. And suddenly it’s the end of July, it’s only ten weeks to the fall race, and I’ve hit a double-digit run just once in the last month. So I obligatorily crank out a fifteen as August dawns and vow that I won’t miss the up-ramp this year, that by the close of the month I’ll have worked in a bunch of something-teen runs and maybe already crack into the twenties, and this time I’ll get those three or four twenty-somethings in. Except, as noted, August evaporated.

And so it is September, Bay State, this year’s target race, is a mere six weeks and a few days away, and – gulp! – that fifteen a month back still ranks as the longest thing I’ve seen since Buffalo.

Kids, this is not good.

And so, as the title suggests, Desperation is the Mother of Excess. Crank it, baby, we’ve got ground to make up.

What resulted over the last two weeks was a little unwise, a little stupid, a little abusive, but let’s face it, a little invigorating in that I blew out a few personal marks and frolicked in the land of compulsion. And it ain’t over yet.

What better way to kick it off than with a double on the month’s opening day? Eleven in the morning, speed work in the evening. Two days later, force the twenty-something. On a day when, frankly, even the first mile stunk, but Desperation is the Mother of… I repeat myself. Twenty one stinky miles later, at least the first one was in the books, at least I had the ‘time on the road’ workout logged, even if the pace wasn’t pretty. Two days later, race the local ten-miler. Two days later, another fifteen. And of course more on the in-between days as well. This big-one-every-other-day cadence topped out at eighty-seven miles for the first seven days of the month, a new mark for me, as I record my ‘biggest weeks’ as any seven-day span. Life doesn’t stick to Sunday-to-Saturday schedules, nor do I.

But since that was the first seven days, it set up a shot at another oddball record I keep. Yes, the OCD side is coming out strong, now! I call it the “fastest to one hundred” (or two hundred). As in, fastest from the start of a month to that mileage total, and the previous mark was ten days. After eighty-seven in a week, the body couldn’t really stand thirteen the next day to make it in eight days, but covering that in two days seemed do-able and would still set a new mark.

Another business trip loomed on days eight and nine, complicating the task, but knowing where I’d be on day nine, I’d spied on the satellite photos a fine-looking canal-side towpath to run that morning. To my dismay, it was pretty short, a mere two-point-something to the far end, but knowing I wouldn’t have a lot of time, that was to be the day nine run. Which meant that if I were to make one hundred miles by day nine, I’d need, oh, um, well, I never quite figured it out exactly what I needed for day eight, simply too frantic, no time.

In football they call it a broken play when things don’t go quite as planned yet they still work out. Day eight, pouring rain and no time in the morning, trundle off to Albany, do that for which they pay me, get out of town to my next destination, slip in an evening run plenty long enough to assure reaching the day nine goal, and… broken play. Completely stymied on the ‘get out of town’ bit. Leftover flooding had closed bridges, funneling traffic into my path, bringing the world to a dead stop. Half an hour, a quarter mile of progress, not even on the highway yet.

This is the joy of running. Any time, any place. I bailed out of traffic to a hotel parking lot, changed, and hit the roads. An hour later, I had my run in, and traffic had lightened. And irony of irony, late that night at the hotel, when I charted out where I’d run, by chance the distance worked out to exactly what I needed so that the morning towpath run would hit one hundred. Exactly. Which it did, one hundred in nine days. I couldn’t have planned it better had I actually planned it.

Marathon training desperation? You bet. Excess in response? Absolutely. Tapping into the power of geeky number-crunching obsession? Priceless. Bring it on, there’s still the second half of the month to go!

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