Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 343 - Left Behind

I love group runs. We've talked about this. The camaraderie, conversation, foul humor... what's not to like.

But there are days when your body tells you it needs to break away from the group.

The dynamics of the group change over time. And they change depending on who's running. If there's a newcomer, then the group let's them dictate the pace, unless they are faster than the group, in which case it's really up to the new guy to slow it down.

But when it's the usual suspects, there's a default pace that just, happens. No one sets the pace. There's no plan. The group starts and they start at more or less the same speed.

Here's the problem... I'm the only member of this particular group stupid enough to try to run every day for a year. These guys employ actual rest days. As for me, I've got 342 days worth of wear and tear piling up.

For most of the year, I could hang with these guys. Something about the cold, and the fear of blowing out an achilles or two, has slowed me down.

So today, after about half a mile, I told 'em "Guys, I'm dropping off. You guys go ahead. See you at the end."

That's running buddy talk for "I'm going to go slower and shorter than you. I've acknowledged it, now please, let's not speak of this again."

It was the smart thing to do. I only cut about 0.6 miles off of what they did, but the pace they started with was too fast. My creaky parts didn't have time to warm up. If I'd stayed with them, I'd have been in a world of hurt.

I was still happy with my run. Once I slowed up, I was able to warm up, and my pace picked up. By the end, I was clipping along just fine.

What I missed was the stories, and the laughs, and likely a couple good-natured insults. But sometimes we need to do the smart thing, not the fun thing, so that we can do more of the fun thing, later.

It's a tricky balancing game. A group can pull you to levels of performance that you never knew possible. But if you aren't careful, trying to hang when you shouldn't can put you on the sidelines.

I'm confident that next month, after a some rest and recuperation, I'll be right on their collective shoulders, in easy earshot of things I'll wish I'd never heard.

Good running,

Numbers: 3.4 miles on asphalt.