Friday, May 25, 2007

How I got faster

2007 has been a breakthrough year for me as a runner and it took me by surprise. In January, I didn't have particular running goals except to avoid sucking at Broad Street and finish a marathon with Noah. I thought if I just qualify for Boston once before I turn 35 (when I get an extra 5 minutes because of old age), I would be content. I wouldn't even want to run Boston. So now I am taking stock of all this. Modest goals, negative thinking, positive splits .... and I ended up with three significant PRs this Spring. If people didn't see me and realize my head is the same size as before, they might've thought that I've broken into Barry Bonds medicine cabinet. But here's my second PSA of the week: hats still fly off my little head. And my third: I'm still not fast fast.

What have I done right? I don't know. I just know that during my running career, I've only had a handful of seasons in which I experienced dramatic improvements. They always catch me off guard at the time but have a good reason in hindsight. I'll recount these breakthroughs and their enablers below:

1993 - from 5th runner to 1/2 runner on the cross-country team; set PRs in every distance
Enabled by:
Ran year round. Malloy became our new X-C coach. Hard hard practices. Malloy was old and fast, and we didn't want her beating us all the time. Track coach Syd White's whole yelling of "contact" around the track (basically, keep the first runner within sight for as long as you can) finally got through to me -- this was the first year I saved nothing in races. You can't catch the person if they already crossed the finish line.

1999 - went from running 3 miles a day to doing the loop (11 miles to and from Penn) for no reason; seeing that there's a world beyond the 5K.
Enabled by: senioritis

- went from 1:25 to 1:16 at Broad Street by actually racing it and not treating it like a jogathon
Enabled by: I had been running with fast Kieran and we decided to run the race together. The realization here is that I can race hard at the long races too.

- dropped 2 minutes off the 5K, 7 minutes off the 10M; and 30 minutes off the marathon
Possible enablers:
living in a hillier neighborhood, taking iron supplements, swallowing gels during long races and not hitting the wall, eating meat, eating dinners.

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