By Michael Wade
Those of you who know me, know that I am not a patient man. Particularly when it comes to running. I started running in 1998 and my first road race was the following spring when I bandited (sorry, not sorry) the Boston Marathon! So, yup. Zero to 26.2 in less than a year! If that’s not an impatient (stupid?) runner, then I’ve never met one!
For a while, my impatience served me well. Pushing me every day. Trying to finish my next training run faster than my previous one - every single time out. It worked well and I got quick, quick. But, after a while it began to wear me down and burn me out. So, I soon realized that if I wanted to keep doing this “running thing” long term, I’d need to add easy days to my hard days. This has worked for me with varying degrees of success.
Over the last 17 years, I’ve had my ups and downs with running. Most of my road race PR’s are from late 2008 / early 2009. And, since then, it’s been a real struggle trying to get back to that level of fitness. Always while pushing the envelope of patience, which (when combined with age) resulted in a series of prolonged set-backs and injuries.
So, this year, after battling the hands of time to a draw, I decided to flip the script and start running ultras. I figured, “If I can’t get any faster, then I’ll just go longer!” Unfortunately for me, my impatience is a real liability in ultras. Having patience can mean the difference between finishing, finishing strong and lying on side the trail in a fetal position. So, I’ve REALLY had to focus on keeping those impatient demons at bay.
What does that mean, really? Well, this year, it means instead of running ALL the road races on my running clubs schedule, I’ll just run a couple. Instead of running ALL the club track workouts (which I love), I’ll just do a few. And it means, instead of hammering ALL my longs runs, I’ll just pick one or two long races to run hard. Everything else has been slow and steady. Or, at least that’s the “one mile at a time” mindset I’ve been working on as I build up to my first 100 mile race.
Now, that’s not to say that I’ve been 100% successful in changing all my impatient ways. I have definitely regressed a bunch of times this year. I went out way too hard (in way too warm of conditions) at the TARC 50. I over did it with my Mountain Running, and paid the dearly for it at the Summer Classic 50. So, I’ve had my fair share of lessons learned. And, I think I’ve grown from them.
So far, by adhering (mostly) to my new, more patient, way of thinking I’ve managed to stay injury free all year long. I’ve been able to rack up over 2500 miles – an average of 68 miles per week. And, I’ve been (mostly) happy while doing it. Although, I will admit, it has been a real challenge sticking to the long, slow, lonely runs on the trails instead of running fast and free with my friends. But, I’m hoping all my hard work will soon pay off.
My next big mental challenge is preparing for, and running, the Ghost Train 100 Miler on October 25th. In the training runs I’ve done on the course, both during the day and at night, I’ve averaged somewhere between 8:00 and 10:00 minutes per mile. It’s hard for me to fathom right now, but those easy training paces are 3 to 5 minutes per mile faster than the 13 minute miles I’ll need to average during the 100 miler itself! Crazy.
I have no doubt that, even with all the patience practice that I’ve had, that it’s still going to be a struggle for me not to give in to the “I just wanna get there” feeling. The temptation is going to be very real, and very strong. But, I know that if I don’t remain patient, particularly in the early going, it doesn’t matter how fast I start, I won’t get to the finish. And that would be a shame. Because, with this being my first hundred, the finish is the only thing that really matters!
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