Recently, a friend and fellow blogger (like a real blogger who writes something new every week *sigh*) interviewed a local runner who’s crazy fast, along the lines of 50:09 at a recent hilly ten-miler (cripes). When asked about motivation, he had this to say:
The main thing that keeps me motivated to train and compete to the best of my abilities is that I’m continually getting faster, so of course in typical American fashion, I want more and more. Once I begin to slow down, I don’t know what I will do. The idea of training harder just to slow down terrifies me.
I read this about 2 days after my last 5K. A week or so before the race, I had mentioned to a friend that it was a goal 5k, and she, not unkindly, asked what a “goal” could be when one no longer was able to get PRs. I mean, in my 20s to 30s, I chased after true PRs. After 40, there were masters PRs. But over 50? Yeah, I know there is the grandmaster category, and after that the senior grandmaster, and after that the Oh My God She’s Still Running! category. But re-setting PRs every 10 years seems kind of hollow to me.
So how do I come up with a goal? How do I avoid being terrorized by my own decline? It’s pretty simple. Basically I just want to be as fast for the age I am now as I was in my prime. This requires the use of age grading which, I know, makes some people *cough cough runners in their prime cough cough** angsty and eye-rolly, but I’m never going to beat you, so at least let me have my damn calculator and get out of my face.
Anyway, I was pretty much a 19:00-19:15 5K runner in my 20s. Nothing spectacular, but somewhere in the pretty good range at small races where none of the truly fast chicks showed up. Plugging those numbers into the oft-snarked calculator, it cranks out a 22:00-22:15 for a 51-year-old woman. Somewhere close to that was my goal for the Tom King 5K. Because my 5K times these past 5 months back from injury have been maddeningly erratic (anywhere from 22:10 to 23:30), I decided I could be happy with anything faster than 22:30.
I felt good going into this race physically, but not all that great mentally. I actually wondered if the 22:10 I had run in December had been a mistake, a short course, a fluke. The other three 5Ks I had run had been 50 to 80 seconds slower. In one of them, a masters runner I used to regularly beat, passed me wearing a down parka. (A DOWN PARKA.) In another, I was so disgusted with my 2-mile split that I nearly threw my watch away.
So, it was with this fragile confidence that I lined up for the race. I had a vague sense of trying to avoid killing myself in the first mile (my specialty!) and keeping it steady. In turn, this made me afraid to look at my watch since if the first mile was too slow, I’d be worried. And if the first mile was too fast, I’d be, well, worried. Around mile 1.2, I decided to just not look at my watch at all. What difference would it make? I was running as well as I could.
Coming up to the turnaround (180 degrees. Thank you? NO.) I thought I was probably the 2nd masters woman. This wasn’t as important to me as the clock, but it was something. A little extra squeak of confidence. From there to the finish, it was just hard. Nothing else. I wasn’t distracted or angry or worried. But I did feel progressively closer and closer to throwing up, so I knew I had to be running pretty well. When I made the turn inside the stadium with about 50 yards to go, I looked at the clock and thought it said 22:30, and for 2 seconds I was the essence of Extremely Pissed. Ten yards closer I could see that it was actually 21-something (eye exam, Tanya?).
Final time was 22:20, so I was happy. And since the masters awards only went 1-deep, I received my first grandmasters award which was kind of weird, kind of nice, and kind of startling. Startling in that I rarely think of myself as being over 50 (or, really, over 40. Okay, 37.), and there it was all in my face and announced over the PA and stuff. There was even the added prize of The Stick for the grandmaster winners since we’re so old and creaky and decrepit and everything. This was announced and discussed in some detail in front of about 500 people. Good times.
Still, it felt like old times for just a moment. The goal time is slower, but the race is the same. Nothing spectacular, but somewhere in the pretty good range at a small race where none of the truly fast chicks showed up.