Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Slow? So what?

Huh (she said incredulously). This time last year, 4:10 was a difficult 800.

Last night's track session involved 5 moderate 800s. Which turned out to be 4:10, 4:07, 4:05, 3:58 (?!), 4:02. With room to chat with my friend J. (Followed, of course, by 4x400 'hard' which I promptly floundered around on: 1:47, 1:52, 2:05 - my shoulder suddenly spiked with pain, who knows why - and 1:59. Yes, my body still rebels during short intervals.)

In this -- my hardest week of marathon prep, mentally even if it physically isn't much, involving a nasty bout with self-doubt -- my body springs a lunatic surprise like this. THAT'S IT, BODY. NO MORE SURPRISES. I can't deal.

There are good track sessions, and there are absolutely lousy ones. There are good runs and terrible ones. Two steps forward, one step back.

Although last night's track was probably the effect of the present I bought myself (along with the husband's set of birthday presents - shirts that practically glow in the dark because he has the terrible habit of running home from work, at night, clad in black).
The downside is, luminous purple makes it harder to hide from your coach on the other side of the track.

Which brings us to this lovely post from The Wannabe Athlete (don't mind her moniker, she is very much a real athlete).

She wrote it as a follow-up to a hilariously nasty comment someone left on her post, 'On behalf of all the 10+ minute mile runners'. That's 6+ minutes per km.

It has honestly never crossed my mind to feel ashamed of the pace I run. Frustrated that that IS my fast, sure. But shame, no...

If you look at my race times today, you'd think, oh, she doesn't really take these races seriously. But my first marathon three years ago took me just over six hours. My first 10k took me at least an hour and ten minutes. My first 5k --  I don't even remember my first 5k, but if I did it'd probably be 'let's not even go there'. So things HAVE changed. But it has taken me a long, long time to get there. Life. You know. It happens.

So I might be one of the unlucky genetically challenged*; I may be good for nothing at all except fidgeting relentlessly. (I am an incorrigible fidgeter. Hey, I'll take whatever superpowers I can get.)

Still, there's a silver lining. My heart and lungs are almost certainly healthier than before, and I'm probably at less risk now from the chronic liver condition I was born with. My blood pressure is entirely healthy - running probably saves me from the stresses of work life. And exercise seems to help maintain cognitive function - at least, it does in this study of masters athletes. I like to think it makes me younger (totally why people still mistake me for an intern, right?) No reason to stop now just because I'm not getting a whole lot faster.

All that is why I never ever, ever judge anyone for their speed or their finishing time in a race. How do you know for sure whether someone has put in the work and is giving it their all, or is on a run/walk plan, or is undertrained because they don't respect the distance? Everyone's got to start somewhere. And honestly, you never know how far each person has already come.

*A note for science nerds. Science nerds who may or may not have read The Sports Gene. I'm looking at you Jeano.

How much difference is there between different ethnic populations? If different populations have longer, thinner legs  or more fast-twitch muscle fibres written into their genetic code, would it be implausible that different ethnic populations have different levels of trainability on average at the population level? Are these things that vary more WITHIN populations than BETWEEN them?

In other news, after this marathon, it'll be time to evict the spiders and their cobwebs from my bike and dust off my goggles. I've signed up for the sprint Cold Storage Singapore International Triathlon at the end of September and would rather not be the resident Metasport embarrassment.

Here's a discount code - TRITSIT1309 - in case any of you want to try a thlon. That gets you 20% off race entry (have not done this one yet, cannot attest to quality of organising). Found on the web via Trititude.

And here's a picture from my favourite run last week, more to motivate myself than anything else.


  1. Ahaha, "science nerd." "Science admirer with little to no science education" is more accurate, unless we're calling economics a science (any lab scientist will tell you it's not). I DID fool myself thinking I should major in neuroscience when I started college, but that didn't last long! The ethnicity-athleticism section of that book is really interesting!

    You definitely switched from "what's the point if I can't get any faster" to "slow is fine!" pretty quickly! I totally agree. You occasionally read a quote from someone (usually an insanely fast marathoner) saying something like "I think the race was much more difficult for the slower people, because they had to spend 2-3 times as long out there!" And that's so true. Your effort level isn't necessarily much lower than theirs, AND you have to run at that effort level for a lot longer! Also, running is running. Pace is unimportant.

  2. Haha! I would've been a neuroscience major, but my school started the formal major only when I was in my junior year - before that you had to cobble it together yourself and jump through all sorts of hoops. (So I am a psych major with a smattering of biology. Also an English major.)

    What changed? I had a good laugh at the nutcase who commented on the Wannabe Athlete's post. I'd still love to not be slow though, but you know. Two steps forward, one step back. Some days I feel better about it. Some worse.

  3. Let's briefly waste our time discussing this coupon code: TRITSIT. At a first glance, I saw:

    TIT SIT (huh??)

    TRIS IT (K, that kind of makes sense if we wordplay tri/try),

    TRITS-IT (like a Triscuit?),

    *defeat* I don't get it. What does this coupon code meeeean??? [My brain is an odd place to be. Don't judge.]

  4. I finished The Sports Gene! I need another recommendation! I was also very disappointed to finish when my Kindle told me I was only 67% done. Stupid appendix.

  5. Speed is just relative. No, that's not actually correct because it's measurable but the adjectives we use to describe it are relative. Fast or slow - it doesn't really matter because most of us will never run at the Olympics. The most important thing is that we run and what it does for us.

    As for your dehydration question - I don't seem to get them. I drink as I go during the long run and drink afterwards plus the weather's cool and dry at the moment so I'm not sweating too much.