Four weeks ago at just this moment, I was nervously pacing back at forth near the starting line of the Black Hills 50k. That turned out to be a longer than expected morning! Now a month after stumbling and bumbling my way to a 5:33 finish, I’m looking at ways to reboot and get back to running with a purpose. Since my recovery has gone great, the options are totally open. Here’s my sense of the choices.
Run a marathon
My most recent road marathon was Twin Cities in 2011. I ended up with bursitis just 2 weeks out. That injury, and a combination of relative heat, poor nutrition choices (don’t eat a pound of spicy trail mix the day before the race, people), and abysmal execution led to a lackluster finish. I’ve run thousands of miles and 3 ultras since then, and recent workouts suggest that a sub 3:10 is a real possibility. On the other hand, committing to an October marathon would involve more time away from family, pounding out road miles, tempo workouts, and speed work, all on a compressed timeline of about 2 months. And then there’s the trivial matter of actually running the race which, let’s face it, is going to involve a trip to the ol’ pain cave no matter what. Needless to say, I’m ambivalent.
The alternative here would be to run the half. Doing so would require me to work through the idea that only marathon-plus distances are worth the entry fee. Unlike an ultra, where I’ve been able to focus on the experience and not worry about time, I’m likely to drift towards being pretty focused on the clock. Setting an arbitrary time goal is a high risk-moderate reward strategy: no one else cares if I drop a 1:25, but I could be pretty disappointed if I don’t.
All that to say, Run Crazy Horse, my answer is maybe.
Step up the distance
No doubt I fall into the thinking trap that longer races are better, and even the idea that to qualify as an ultrarunner you have to do a hundred. Given that I have a decent base right now and feel motivated, why not shoot for a longer distance? My plan had been to build to a 50 miler a few years ago before I was sidelined with a long recovery from pneumonia. Local options are limited this fall/winter, but Aravaipa Running puts on a great race. What could be better than escaping South Dakota in January for the Coldwater Rumble?
Downsides here are even more time away from family, managing anxiety about going longer, and expense. There are also great local options in the summer. Waiting until 2018 for the Black Hills 50 or Lean Horse seems reasonable. In that case, I could actually do both.
Focus on health and fun
This idea is worth a full post. Working on general fitness, diet, and family balance while not really racing for the rest of 2017 sure sounds appealing. I’d have plenty of options in terms of exploring the Black Hills, jumping in a local trail race or two, and maybe even sleeping in past 5:15 on the weekend sometime.
At the end of each one of the above paragraphs, I was completely convinced that each idea was the best choice. That’s a blessing. On the other hand, I’ll probably be fretting a bit over the next 3 weeks before the Run Crazy Horse price goes up.