Here I Go Again: Back From the Abyss and Fired Up By Pacing

Hi. Will you take me back?

It’s been a hell of a long time since my last confession. I wouldn’t call it writer’s block. I’ve done and run a crapload that I’ve blogged in my head, but it never gets typed and posted. I’ve been away from my computer a lot and then I had a whole big inner debate about blogging as a form of literary masturbation–and not in a good way–so I just didn’t write. But then people started asking me to write again, which really complicated matters, and when it comes down to it, I like writing, and if you like reading my crap, then that’s pretty super.

I haven’t raced much while training for Chicago on 10/9 because I find it hard to race short distances while training long. I ran Falmouth in early August, where I raced this guy. He’s ordinarily much faster than I am, but when he’s crippled and hobbling along on one leg, I discovered I can totally kick his ass. So that was fun. He held me off at about a 7-minute pace for the first 4 miles, then I caught up when his leg got wonky and smoked him in the last 2 miles of the race. I kept turning my head to see if he was drafting, assuming he was playing me and planning to stride past smoothly in the final kick. But that never happened. I do so love racing when I win. Apparently, I am a sore enough winner to embrace a win against a man who limped to buy me my prize margaritas. He handled it like a gentleman… and vowed to thrash the slower, shorter, testosterone-free gloater that I am next year. After the IAAF ruling, I hope he doesn’t retract my win or my margaritas and say I benefited from pacing by a faster, taller, testosteroned man.

My training for Chicago kept rolling until we went to Scotland at the end of August. I was hitting 60-mile weeks, and I did a 22-miler with 3x 2 miles at marathon pace the morning of our flight out. Once we got to the UK, my body cashed in its energy tokens and refused to do anything longer than 5 miles. I called it a rest week, even though jet lag and travel kept wearing me down.

We stayed in a castle outside of Edinburgh for a couple days, where I could run through some odd, desolate, and frankly depressing little towns, then drove to the West Highlands, where I ran my 5-milers on the gorgeous Loch Leven for 5 days. The Scottish Highlands are some of the most beautiful landscapes that I’ve seen.

We happened to find the Oban Highland Games, where we watched burly men in kilts throw cabers and giant hammers. It was pretty sexy, actually. And totally incomprehensible. Henry loved it–I see his future in strong-man competitions–but his favorite part of the trip to Scotland was our layover in Paris on the way home.

We had 7 hours between flights, so we did Paris ADHD-style. It was an ideal tour for a 6-year-old boy: Cabbed to Notre Dame, lunch avec beaucoup de vin, cab past the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, ride on a 2-story carousel, crepe au chocolat, and some secondhand hash smoke near the taxi stand before cabbing back to Charles de Gaulle. Tres magnifique!

Now it’s September. I ran a shitty 23 miler with the Cape Ann 25k thrown in on Labor Day weekend. That does not merit a race report, people. It. Sucked. There were tears at mile 6.

Then I turned 34, and that did not suck. Henry decided I should have a Harry Potter themed birthday. I decided I should have a carbon-road-bike themed birthday. I ran a fantastic 16-miler that morning in my favorite city on the planet with an old friend and drank absinthe with my sister at night in the same city. Really can’t get much better. This weekend, after I run my final long one before I taper, I’m getting myself fitted for a nice bike so I can play with some duathlon in 2012. Henry just learned to ride without training wheels, and after all his tumbles, he’s stoked to see me tip over when I learn how to ride with clips.

I feel good for Chicago, ready to push for a big PR, if my glutes, hamstrings, and quads let me do it. As I try to crank up my excitement, I’m feeling sentimental about this weekend, too, because the Berlin Marathon is Sunday, and that’s where I BQed with a marathon that seemed to be a gift from a higher power. I don’t know that I’ll ever get a race like that again.

I am digging around my 160 useless FIOS channels to see if I get to watch Paula Radcliffe make her comeback after having a second baby. I so desperately want her to kick ass, mostly because the IAAF is acting like a coterie of patriarchal a-holes. In case you don’t have a customized Google news feed for the keyword “marathon” (me–>dork), they disqualified her 2:15 world record because she used male pacers and then ruled that a woman’s world record cannot be set in a race in which men act as pacesetters.

My first response was pure emotion: WTF?!”  Radcliffe’s commentary was more restrained. She called it a “farce” and won’t “waste energy” on it. Atta girl. You can listen to her response. She points out that the American record–taken from Deena Kastor– now has to go back to 1984 (Joan Benoit?). “At the end of the day, you’re running on your own two feet,” Radcliffe said.

To me, this rule is about as absurd as the fact that a dude is allowed to race and win the women-only Princess Half-Marathon (yes, it happened). I know the comparison is flawed, but the level of idiocy is about the same. And I wonder about the implications for women’s racing, too–what will happen to the visibility of women’s elite marathoning if they aren’t in contention for world records at major events.

Mostly, though, I think the IAAF screwed up with their language and framing this as a scenario that women have exploited, a lucky break that helps them run faster than they’re really able to run. Women haven’t set a world record in the marathon since 2007, and winning times have hovered around the 2:20s since Radcliffe ran the 2:15 and then a 2:17 (which is now considered the record). Even if you think the void of women’s records is beside the point, why does the IAAF have to frame the rule in terms of women?

It can’t be that men are allowed pacers and women are not, right? If that’s the case, then I cry foul x2. I do like running with men, but the sex of a pacer makes no difference whatsoever, and the IAAF needs to put down that evolutionary psychology schlock they picked up at a yard sale. I guarantee that Catherine Ndereba has never thought, “Goody! Running is so much easier and faster with this man up ahead of me!” Allowing men to receive pacing from other men but prohibiting women from racing for records near men is completely ludicrous. My assumption is that the rule indicates no records–regardless of gender–can be set with pacers.

So, why word it as a rule about women? I’m baffled and indignant, but here’s what I think:

Paula Radcliffe is going to blow it off as a waste of her energy so she can race Berlin unencumbered by a technicality set by a bunch of people who must think up running footnotes more than they actually run.

I think we should let the Englishwoman set the pace. She clearly knows what she’s doing, with or without a guy up ahead.

I’ll try to blog again before 2020.

8 responses

  1. So glad to have you back! I fell on my new roadbike with clips but luckily there was no traffic at that moment and I lived to tell. That is horrendous about Paula Radcliffe!

  2. very glad to see a post from you. So much good stuff! So excited for Chicago… that’s on my list. Looking forward to the race report, so don’t even think about not writing one. I’ll harass you.

  3. Thanks for posting again – you were the first running-blogger-mom that I ever read…good luck in Chicago, can’t wait to “hear” all about it!

  4. Pingback: Slapdash To Speed: Run to Remember Half-Marathon 2012 « Mother Running Rampant

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