Confessions of a Former Speed Addict

As a forewarning, if you’ve come here looking for life stories of a meth-head, you’ll be sadly disappointed.

This past weekend was the CHaD Hero Half Marathon and 5k. It’s an event that helps to support the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth. Last year – I think – it raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $750k for the hospital. It’s kind of a family event and for the last two years I have run the half-marathon while my wife has run the 5k or done the 1 mile walk/run with the kids.

While the half isn’t the fastest course, it is a nice course and I set a PR there last year. My race calendar isn’t very packed – races are expensive and usually require some travel. So when an event like this is local, it’s on my calendar for good. This year, though, was a little different.

Almost a year ago, I set my sights on the ultra world. I started adjusting my training to prepare me more for 50 miles, than for 13.1. Most of the training is the same, with some longer runs replacing speed workouts. At times during the year, I really wanted to go to the track for some 2000s, but instead I followed my plan and would do something else. My race schedule changed and races that were usually key races became b-races. This years CHaD half was one of those that took the back seat.

When the time came to register, my wife and I talked and I decided that this year I would sit out the half, and instead I’d run the 5k with my wife and kids in the stroller. At times I questioned my decision. I knew that if I wanted to head out and have a go at the CHaD, I could. My legs and muscles could handle it. It wouldn’t be as fast as I’d have liked, but it could still be quick. I also knew that this is my off-season and I need to let my body recover (mainly my damned Achilles), and that running with the family can be enjoyable, too.

The 5k and the half start together and there’s lots of stuff for the kids to do after. Starting in the back of the pack with the stroller, the front running half-marathoners had a three minute lead on us before we even crossed the starting line. We ran our little race, went through the food line and took the kids for a ride on a robotic elephant that paraded around in circles. And then it was time to leave. Of course, it was just about time for the first guys to start coming in for the half.

Last year I finished with this years first place guy a couple of seconds ahead of me. He has been laying down some nasty times this year, and there’s no doubt he would have smoked me this year, but as he and second place came through in 1:12 and 1:13, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of jealousy tinged with some sadness.

Jealous because I wish I was out there with them hitting 5:40s. Sad because I know that even if I had run, I wouldn’t have nearly the speed they had. Sad because that speed is gone for now. It’s taken a break. I might be able to reclaim some of it, but I’ve made a decision to let it go.

It’s kind of like an 800m specialist in love with cross country. It’s impossible to train to be the best in both fields. The requirements on your body are too different. I picked ultras. I picked long events that take fractions of days to finish. And while I usually think I made the right choice, watching the finish of the half had me second guessing.

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5 thoughts on “Confessions of a Former Speed Addict

  1. It’s an odd one isn’t it. I started to train for the Marathon seriously this year and found that while my endurance is getting SO much better, my speed was kind of hanging about the same. Not so fun, but my coach told me if I wanted to work on the 5K we could, we just couldn’t do both!

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  2. Hmmm. I had the opposite experience (of course, I am much newer to running, much slower, and a lot more room for improvement). My key race for the year was Ironman Wisconsin (my first and likely only 140.6 mile triathlon). Training had a lot of long and slow runs and bike. There was no speed work at all. Heart rate was consistently in z1-z2 range. None of my other rares mattered to me at all. They were just short term goals to keep me motivated and train thru events. Looking back at my year, I noticed something amazing. I have participated in 8 different type of events, and I have set PB in 7 of them (5k, 10k, 10 mile, HM, Sprint Triathlon, 70.3, 140.6). The only event that I have not set a PB is the marathon-and I expect that to change in a few weeks (I just recorded a 1:44 half, and my marathon PB is 4:25). Many of these PB’s crushed the prior PB (40 seconds on the 5k, 4:30 on the 10k, 10+ minutes on the 10 miler and HM, 52 minutes on the 70.3). When I was scratching my head about this, a fellow runner made the comment “At high tide, all ships rise”. Makes sense in my case where there is a lot of room for improvement. Just the dramatic increase in training volume will help me across the board. But I guess that it would not be the case for more elite runners that really need to focus on a specific discipline and train accordingly. I am planning to complete my first ultra next year and hope that I still have enough room for improvement that I will still see gains at other levels. Good luck!

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    • Congrats on the PRs. Job(s) well done! I think those are good times for you, but not the best. When you train for a specific event training for other events takes a loss. Now you might be in better over all shape so you’re faster, but if you trained specifically for that event your PR would drop even more.

      I think this is seen more easily when you get into ultras. If you’re training specifically to run 100 mile, you won’t be doing workouts that focus on 5k speed. You might do one or two faster pieces in a workout, but wouldn’t really do a 5k specific workout.

      I think it’s an interesting topic/idea/theme (specificity) I’m planning on writing a post specifically (haha….) targeting just that in the next day or two… We’ll see when it happens.

      Congrats again!

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  3. ok so the speed isn’t there now, but the pay off is seeing people’s expressions when they ask you about the longest distance you’ve raced. You’ll never get that with a half 🙂

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