Wednesday, December 7, 2011

They Have Age Groups For A Reason

Trying to qualify for Boston and coming close, one strategy is to just keep running the same time and let the qualifying times catch up to you. After all, they jump five to ten minutes every five years, and surely you won’t slow as much as the BQ times.
BQ chart - Old School Times - Changing for 2013

Well, being 40 + means you realize that may not be the case.

They have Age Groups For A Reason.
101 years old and a closet full of age-group awards

Age groups are not just to boost the egos of those who are aging, (well, maybe partly for that) but to let you know you are not alone with declining bodies and increasing finish times.  I ran a marathon in 3 hours and 16 minutes once, (but I was young and foolish and I am certain I was in 3:10 minute shape)  three years ago it was 3 hours and 20 minutes,  and now as I plan a spring marathon I am hoping to keep a 3 hours and 25 minute pace.  If I keep running into my fifties, I am sure it may be 3 hours and 80 minutes.

For all of these runs, it’s not that I’m not trying as hard. My perceived effort does not change, but the results do.   

When I run a 7:30 mile, it feels what a 7:10 did years ago.  I haven’t done the math, but my guess is it’s about 2 seconds every year that your time slows down, per mile, with the same effort.  Over a marathon, this means about a minute slower each year, and thus fits in with the general 5 minutes slower BQ times every 5 years (especially with the new standards)

Running fast is a joy.  I really believe it gets out more frustration and ‘deeper tissue’ angst than a regular run does, and it’s the only way to shock your muscle and lungs to a higher plateau if you’ve been putting in all your miles at the same pace.  But a fast run, as good as it feels, takes me twice as long to recover from.  If I put in some speed, or do some hill work, I used to be able to do a hard workout again in 2 days. Now it’s doubled to four or five, and I have to put in a slogging recovery run in between.

The other noteworthy thing: as your body starts to change, the long runs are even more difficult to fit in to your schedule since a 20 miler now takes an additional 15-20 minutes due to slower mile times.)

For this reason, btw, I think PR’s should also reset every few years. Maybe not every five, but perhaps every 7 to 10 years.

17 year old 2:48 marathoner.

I used to not buy into the whole age thing.

My "off the cuff" list of “Used To’s”
-I used to think older people were wimps and lazy when they complained of their old bones.

-I used to be able to do a ten mile run and the next day do quarter mile intervals under 70 seconds and then bounce back with six miles the next day.

-I used to be able to run 5 days a week, and cross train with a 15 mile mountain bike ride or a game of roller hockey in between.

-I used to only be held back by the ability of my lungs, just the scolding of their anaerobic attack rather than sore, non responsive legs was the barrier to running faster. 

-I used to be able to see a menu at a restaurant without holding it far away, at arm’s length and then concentrating with all my might.  Same with expiration dates.  I used to not need reading glasses.

And the used to list goes on and on….

And then the age hits, and you realize that old people aren’t wimps, they are just playing with old equipment with some wounds that are permanent.  And it’s not even the years, it’s often the mileage.  But what you lack in fresh material, the wisdom that comes with age is the only bonus.

I realize there are some who are less impacted by age. Some of this, I believe, is due to stretching, cross-training, and genetics. The rest is discipline.  I can have the discipline to run, but my genetics are fair at best, my stretching is terrible and intermittent, and my genetics I can blame on somebody else.

Now the Same perceived effort of a 7:30 mile is what an 8 minute mile feels like.  My mile intervals, when done, are at the pace at barely below what my regular “putting in the miles” pace used to be.

But the biggest factor, I believe, is that it takes probably triple the recovery time that it used to.  A rage filled

So, I was thinking, that of course they have Age Groups for a reason, but how about other factors.

-"I have an infant at home who does not sleep through the night" group

-"I have two children under 5" group

-"I had a house fire in the middle of training" group

-  "I had to loose 80 pounds over a year," 
   "I had to endure people laughing at my goals of running a marathon,"
   "I spent years battling substance abuse,"
   "my legs are multiple inches shorter than this gifted person next to me" or
   "I ran two marathons in six months"  group

Obviously, some minor, some major

Then again, we all carry our baggage.  So, hopefully in our heads we give ourselves an award for our own specific struggles we have overcome, which are uniquely ours.  There is a spiritual law that says we purposely put certain barriers in our own way in order to target specific areas where our soul needs to grow. So think of your barriers as gifts.

I remember one half-marathon I did where the days before the event I had a major gastro-intestinal problem.  I made frequent trips to the bathroom that upped my weekly mileage and I was so fluid empty.  All night long before the race I was awake, back and forth to the john, and fully planned to skip the event entirely.  Only problem was, I needed a half-marathon time to put myself into a corral for the Chicago Marathon or else I would have started in the back, so in the morning I kept down a couple of bananas and changed my mind.

The event was so difficult to run with a rumbling, very dynamic digestive track, a pair of clenched cheeks, and trying not to stop at each plastic portapotty pod to take a sit down. I finished slowly but triumphantly and did get into corral C, one lesser corral than I would have been placed in had I been healthy,  but when I did finish,  I wanted a “diarrhea-induced dehydration” group medal.    Funny, never got one. But I should have. That day, I was iron man, a beast, a force, not due to my time, but what I had to overcome.

The mascot of the "Hungry Duck" half-marathon. I was definitely making some quacking noises.

So, take it easy on yourself, and repeat it as many times as you need to.

They have age groups for a reason…
They have age groups for a reason…

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are a treasure. The end.

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