I don't consider myself a patient person. Optimistic, yes. Realistic, yes. Patient, not so much. I like seeing results. Immediately. Even if the work has just started, I want to see a teeny glimmer that I'm on the right track and the effort is worthwhile.
If running has taught me anything, it's that most times you don't see immediate results. You work and work and sweat and suffer and nothing seems to change. This time last year, I was coming off my second consecutive fall season spent getting back into running after training errors led to injury. I was so happy to be running consistent, pain free miles that pace was of little importance to me. I ran a respectable 1:45 Shamrock half last year in the worst weather conditions I've personally experienced on race day, and I chalked it up to running smart miles all winter and being healthy when I toed the starting line (the oh so wet, windy starting line).
I had a strong, steady spring and was excited to finally run healthy over the summer and reap the rewards of all that sweat equity during my fall races. I had been patient for over six months and I was ready to let 'er rip and get some speed back into these legs. The universe had other plans for me though. Bronchitis came knocking in late May and decided my lungs were a fine place to summer vacation. I had a cough that lingered for months and I was never able to get quality speed workouts in. Ever the optimist, I was still running injury free and let that be my summer achievement. Sure, the miles were slower than they had been in the past, but I was truly enjoying my runs and thankful nothing was hurting as I entered the fall season.
October started with a disappointing Crawlin' Crab half marathon but finished with a promising Wicked 10k that left me feeling like I wasn't too far from where I had left off before injury. I looked forward to the work of building my fitness base for Shamrock, and ran consistent 30 mile weeks during the craziest time of year so when it came time to pick up the pace, my legs would be strong and ready.
The holidays came and went, and I dove into my Shamrock training plan with a renewed excitement about the weeks ahead. My base mileage was already higher than what my peak mileage had been in the past and my legs and feet were feeling fantastic. But good god was I tired. I struggled to wake up before 6am for my strength workouts, and my energy level bottomed out by 3pm most days. My easy runs were still great, but I struggled to hit my paces for speed work and tempo runs. Most hard days would start off pretty well, but then I'd run out of gas after a few intervals or a mile or two of tempo. There was always a logical explanation for the shoddy quality of those runs...tired legs from cramming miles into very few days because the kids were home so much, the wind was ridiculous, it was unseasonably warm, I didn't eat enough that morning, yada yada yada. February has brought no improvement, only my self-proclaimed title of Queen of Positive Splits. Maybe this is the new normal for me. Maybe I've already peaked with my speed and now I'm just supposed to acknowledge and accept that I'm getting older and I should just enjoy running and appreciate that my body is still capable of running plenty of healthy miles.
Frustrated and disappointed that I could see my Shamrock goal sinking like the Titanic, the universe has thrown me a door to float on. Thanks to a routine health screening for a health insurance credit, I've learned my iron levels, while still within the scope of normal, are less than a third of what they were at this time last year.
Shocking, yes. Surprising, nope. Not at all. It connects all the dots and explains my sluggishness during the day and my running out of gas during my tougher runs. I couldn't get out to the store for iron supplements fast enough. Along with really upping the iron-rich foods in my diet, I'll be popping those tablets religiously between now and Shamrock. The race is a month away and while I do not expect a miracle in the form of a PR (I haven't been running anywhere near PR pace this entire training cycle), I do expect to see an improvement in my endurance and overall energy. Being healthy enough to race is always the #1 goal of a training cycle, and I'll be celebrating that and the personal victories of so many of my favorite people all Shamrock Weekend. Until then, I'll be washing my iron supplements down with a big gulp of patience, fingers crossed I'm not the has been I was starting to accept I had become.