Often after a race I find myself in the strangest of moods. A runner's high is great. It's unexplainable to anyone who doesn't run. Coming down off that high, though, is tough. Yesterday wasn't so bad. I came back home energized, ready to sign up for another race, ready to make plans for next year, ready to just keep going. Since I didn't run too hard, I wanted the "what's next" part of running to be right now. It can sort of happen like that, but like a year ago at this time, I'm finding that I don't really want "what's next" to be a half marathon. At least this year I want to run; last year at this time I was tired of running.
So today I've really come crashing down off my weekend experience. While a few weeks ago I was ready to not do the Rock 'n' Roll Half again I realize that this is very much a "vacation race." I had a lot of fun just getting away, hanging out with my 10-month-old son on the beach, eating dinner each night with my mom and stepdad -- but it felt like it was a day too short. I wish I would've taken a longer stroll on the beach with my wife the last night there; I wanted my son to play in the sand for another half hour on Sunday. I didn't want to work today and rainy weather didn't help. I wanted to stay home and plan ... I wanted to plan my now-annual Shamrock Half Marathon trip; I wanted to plan next Labor Day weekend at the beach again. I wanted "what's next" to be right now.
But I can't rush these things. I have a real world to get back to and I have some work to do with my running besides just wanting to race. I don't want to run for the sake of running, which has sort of happened this summer. So as far as what's next, a big focus for me has to do with not worrying about racing. Yet at the same time for me to improve my running in these "big" events, I have to race in something. Nothing beats the experience of running with large groups of people.
So for right now, my running is going back to basics. I want to get faster -- I want to get back to my sub 8-minute mile race paces from 2007. In order to do that I need to do speed work. So starting next week at least once a week, one day of running will be devoted to speed - intervals, fartleks, tempo runs. Something other than my current one-speed pace. I am not going to do a "big" fall race, meaning the Richmond Half Marathon is out. However, that weekend (Nov. 14) also has an 8k that I plan on doing. I'd like my "long" runs to be in the 5-6 mile range this fall, so a mid-November almost 5-miler would be ideal. That gives me two months to work on my speed issues and to attempt a PR at that distance. A turkey trot in Ohio is likely later that month and maybe, just maybe, I'll return to my roots in Bedford for the Christmas Classic that I've done a few times.
That pretty much leads me into next year. I mentioned the new Blue Ridge Marathon several weeks ago, but that event is out. It's too costly for me to commit to right now. Plus that course is the toughest course I've ever seen. And, quite honestly, the marathon itch still isn't there for me. My main goal is to set a PR in the half marathon and, to me, there's no better course to do it on than one I've already done three times -- the Shamrock Half Marathon in March.
A lot of runners like to travel to different cities for events. I often get that desire from time to time, but at this point in my life I'm starting to enjoy this tradition. The trip to Virginia Beach in March these past few years have been a lot of fun. While it's cold, it's an awesome time to go when not many tourists are around. Everything is still open, just minus the people. And after two years in a row of being at the beach on Labor Day, I'm pretty sure that next year I'd like to do it a third time. And since race entries do nothing but go up throughout the year, there's no better time than now to plan out 2010.
If I'm going to have a tradition with running then two half marathons a year in two completely different times of the year in one great place only two hours from home is a nice tradition to have.