Seven weeks of purgatoryOctober 12, 2008
Running-wise, the days from mid-August to the end of September were one of the most frustrating periods of my life.
It’s bad enough to suddenly need an additional 15 to 20 seconds per mile on every run, from speed workouts to easy 6-milers. It’s much worse to not know why.
Most slowdowns of this magnitude are bearable because they have an obvious cause — illness, weight gain, too much or too little recent training, or whatever — which in turn suggests an obvious solution. In the absence of a clear cause, though, one can drive oneself crazy with idle speculation. Is this condition permanent? Will I now be slower for the rest of my life? If so, will I still be able to derive some enjoyment from competing, or will I turn into a non-racing “fitness jogger”?
After a month of pondering the latter question, I decided that I might still try another 100-miler someday, since I could certainly improve upon my one previous attempt at the distance. Much less appealing was the thought of spending shorter races doing a poor impersonation of my former self. In between uniformly bad workouts, I wondered whether to give up my spot on the United States 100K World Cup team that will compete in Italy on November 8th.
After about seven weeks of the sudden-onset idiopathic slowness, I finally started showing some improvement. On Thursday the 2nd, I managed to complete my hilly 3.7-mile Capitol Hill time trial in 21:24 — far off of my personal best of 20:41, but far faster than the 21:58 I had produced three weeks earlier. Then on Monday the 6th, I did 2 x 1530m in Cal Anderson Park in 5:01/4:59 — not completely dissimilar to a 4:55/4:52 effort during happier times.
Thus I appear to be moving in the right direction. I still don’t know what was afflicting me; my best guess is that I had a sneaky, lingering virus that slowed me down without causing any other major symptoms. The whole thing is weirdly reminiscent of the unexplained seven-week slumps that fellow Seattle ultramarathoners Brian Morrison, Michael Sanders, and Ralph Pooler all experienced last summer. (“If I weren’t a runner, I probably wouldn’t have known that anything was wrong with me,” Brian recalls.)
And now it’s time to cram for Italy.