Older and Wiser

By: Kevin Irwin 

Yet another birthday draws near, providing an opportunity to reflect on the past year.  Things running-wise are definitely going well compared to this time last year. I’m over the hump with the injury issues that dogged me – a big shout out to Devon at Tao Health Clinic for that. I’ve been able to get in about one race a month since January.  Of course, my times aren’t yet where I’d like them to be, but training with Aussie Scott and the gang, I’m confident things are heading in the right direction.

After a certain age, the accumulation of years doesn’t make you faster (unlike those teen years). However, this entry isn’t titled Older and Slower. That’s because nobody wants to read that and there’s really no surprise there. Despite the fact that I’d be trounced by a high school version of myself, this dog still has a few tricks up his sleeve. Here are things learned and forgotten and then relearned over the course of my running career. They are a few things that have been thrust to the forefront lately.

I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger.
“Ooh La La”, Faces

1. Fatigue is mostly in the mind. I’m not saying going faster and/or further doesn’t hurt. Trust me, I feel those iron bands around my quads on those tough days. But most of the discomfort, especially at first, is just a mental pressure to stop. It’s kind of like a nagging itch, a voice in the back of your mind saying all will be better if you just slow down. Ignore that voice.  The cake is a lie.

2. Don’t beat yourself up when things go wrong.   Some workouts will feel harder than you expect. Every day cannot be a day you set a PR. You’ll make mistakes in training, nutrition, race strategy, whatever. Learn from them and apply the lessons the next time.

3. Be happy, but don’t be satisfied. The master of my kids’ karate studio says this all the time. At one level this says enjoy reaching your goals, but to find new ones to keep improving. But I think it can be applied on the smaller scale in the context of the race – particularly at the 5K/10K. Early on in these races you will face a choice (unless you’ve gone out too fast): stay in the “comfort” zone or push forward. You can certainly have a good race staying at the “comfortable” pace, but you’ll only have a great race if you try to push the envelope. If you think it’s your day, why not go for it? Otherwise you’ll never find out. Admittedly, it’s a fine line to tread here, something I’m only now rediscovering how to do (again).  But you’ll only find the boundary by crossing it.

4. Last, but not least, always set a backup alarm. Or for that matter, keep an eye on the time when you’re doing your pre-race routine. The race starts with or without you. So far this year I’ve missed a start because my warm up took too long and I’ve slept through a race. Not a good feeling.

As an aside, May is ALS awareness month. Amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease which slowly robs the afflicted of voluntary motor control, eventually leading to death. Better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, perhaps the most well known individual with the disease is Stephen Hawking, one of the rare non-fatal cases. The exact causes and mechanisms of the disease are, to date, unknown, although it is known to affect veterans at a higher rate than the normal population and some genetic markers have been found.


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