My eight year-old daughter has been exploring the proper usage of the noun "excuse." When she asked if the neighbors were home yet from Sugarloaf and I said "I wasn't sure," she asked, "Is that an excuse?" Well, no, but I suppose it could be if I needed to cover the fact they were home for some strange reason.
It's easy to understand how the meaning could be difficult to comprehend when a young mind hasn't discovered the need for rationalization or self-defense. The dictionary defines the noun as "An explanation offered to justify or obtain foregiveness." Unfortunately, I've learned all too well the meaning of the word when it comes to running, and racing in particular.
Yesterday I raced the Mid-Winter Classic 10-Miler in 1:10:58, a 7:06 pace. My goal was to better last year's time and do it in 6:50s. But to accomplish any goal there have to be deliberate, appropriate steps to get there. I know this; this is a basic tenet of training. In order to run ten miles at a 6:50 pace, I would have had to train, at least once a week, at a faster pace per mile. A good workout would have been mile repeats at a 6:15-6:30 pace, progressively increasing the number of repeats each week. It also would have been important to run longer than the race distance, also weekly. That means run 12-14 miles for the long training run, instead of ten. I did neither of these things.
Other steps toward the goal might include regular strength training, dynamic stretching, core work, a conscientious healthful diet, lots of good rest, hydration of the non-alcoholic sort, keeping a positive mental attitude, and reducing overall stress in your life. I achieved these partway.
I mean you know there was the late October marathon and recovering from that, which led right into Thanksgiving and cornmeal stuffing and then Christmas and homemade eggnog and then New Year's, pop!, and then the inauguration, cheers Obama, and oh, the weather, did I mention this winter weather, I missed so many days of running, I can't stand the treadmill and I don't have a gym membership anyway, and I just can't seem to get a good night's sleep anymore, I am 50 after all and you know what that means to one's hormones and chemistry, and school vacations and snow days and childcare, and homework, and the economy, and the competition, I knew Ellie was going to beat me - she is the better long distance runner, after all, and the salt and sand that I had to breath in mixed with the freezing temperatures, I felt nauseous at mile four, and the hills, and that headwind in the final stretch, OMG. What's a poor road racer to do?
Thankfully, I do know and understand I was not trained to run any better than I did. I can only imagine what the twenty-miler is going to look like in two weeks. I guess I'd better start getting creative. SG will be understanding excuses in no time!
Kudos to all of you who ran and raced, and who achieved and exceeded your goals, as I know many of you did. Keep up the great work - you are an inspiration!