I am not 25 anymore.
I think I've started a couple of recent blog posts with this realization. It must really be hitting home these days!
While I don't believe I have hit the inevitable 'slowing down with age' threshold yet, I have definitely hit the 'need more recovery time after races and very hard workouts' threshold. Specifically, when you race to your limit two weeks in a row after the age of 35, well, it takes a little while to fully bounce back from that.
In good news, I am paying attention and listening to my body and its messages better than ever before. I think a key factor in my ability to do this has been reading Matt Fitzgerald's books about training and organizing key workouts and listening to your body to know when to modify them.
Specifically, I'll give you an example from our track workout yesterday. 3 x 2 miles at 1/2 marathon pace with 2 min recovery. It doesn't seem like it would be that hard to run 6 miles at the pace you can handle for 13.1 miles, but this workout is pretty darn hard. We nailed the first 2 miles without much issue. And 2 minutes seemed like plenty of rest. Next 2 miles were harder but still doable and we came in just a few seconds under goal pace. Perfect. 2 minutes rest went by quite a bit quicker this time. 1200M into the final 2 mile interval I felt the piano fall on my back. My breathing increased past the point of panting to nearly hyperventilating. 5 more laps to go at this effort? It was going to take some serious digging to accomplish goal pace now. I ran the next 400 at what felt like a very hard effort but was off the pace. And I quit the interval right then and there. That was enough for today.
Last year I do not think I would have had the courage to leave that workout incomplete. It would have felt like quitting to me and I would have felt like a wimp. But yesterday it was the absolute smartest thing I could have done. I "went to the well" two weekends in a row racing, and going to the well again on this track workout was just going to leave me thirsty... because guess what? The well was empty. The best thing I could have done for myself and my December marathon was to stop that workout before I dug myself a deeper hole. So I listened. I had the courage to quit. And I don't feel like a wimp. I feel like a smart athlete. I know that in a few weeks my body will be back to normal and I'll be able to nail these longer training days again. I know that. So that is why I am not worried about the fact that I couldn't finish that workout.
Now don't get me wrong- I am NOT advocating quitting a workout every time it gets hard and starts to hurt. But there is a difference between wimping out and being smart. And for those of us who are overachievers and typically lean toward more/harder/faster is better, well, sometimes we need to know that it's not.