The Lazy Marathoner: Well, that was easy
I registered for the Long Beach Half Marathon with zero expectations. My running and fitness hit the skids a while back, and although I've been trying to get back on track, I have been bedeviled by a nagging, compelling, overwhelming desire to lie on the couch and watch TV instead of working out. I also had a painful foot injury. I used it all as an excuse to take months and months off. Ugh.
But I've rallied back by trying to follow Dr. Phil Maffetone's fitness plan. You can read more details here, but, briefly put, Maffetone bucks conventional wisdom by opposing the "no-pain, no-gain" philosophy that has been so ingrained in me and others. Instead, he focuses on improving aerobic conditioning -- and fat burning -- by slowing down and keeping your heart rate in check. He has urged me repeatedly to enjoy working out and not to focus on the clock. And although I have been skeptical about it at times -- it feels so easy, I can't believe I'm actually getting a "good workout" -- I'm here to say that it has worked for me in a big, big way.
The proof came Sunday, when I took part in the Long Beach Half Marathon simply as a training run. The cool temperatures and overcast skies made for perfect running weather for the roughly 24,000 people who took part in the day's events. Jason Gutierrez, 26, of Bogota, Colombia, came in first among the men, with a time of 2 hours, 19 minutes and 41 seconds. Lindsay Nelson, 25, of Chico, Calif., won the women's division with a time of 2 hours, 45 minutes and 8 seconds, a time that qualifies her for the 2012 Olympic trials.
For me, it was, by far, the easiest, most enjoyable, relaxed race I've ever run. (I've competed in a total of about 10 half marathons and marathons.) I felt like the gun went off, and next thing I knew, I was at Mile 11. I felt so great that when the race split off for the marathoners, I ever-so-briefly considered trying to do the whole thing.
And then I came to my senses and stuck to the half-marathon course.
But it was so easy that I'm going to try to do the Rock and Roll Marathon this coming Sunday if I can get registered at the last minute. Yes, that would be back-to-back half marathons, both done at the easy heart rate of 135 beats per minute that Dr. Phil prescribed for someone at my age and fitness level.
Now, note that I haven't yet told you what my time was. There are a few reasons for that. One, I'm incredibly slow, and keeping my heart rate in check made me even slower, because I did a lot of walking. (Mostly walking.) Two, my "official" race time hasn't shown up yet on the race results spread sheet. But by my own watch, I came in just under four hours. That's pretty slow, but Dr. Phil said to focus first on aerobic conditioning, and the speed would come. He brought me this far; I'm just going to trust in the rest.
Even if speed doesn't pick up in a major way, I'm thrilled with the progress so far. Have I told you yet that I can't believe how easy it was? And I probably could have shaved at least five minutes off my time if I hadn't stopped so many times to shoot photos and Twitter along the way. (See below.)
But this program has shown me that sometimes you make the most progress when you slow down. And how can you not stop when you see someone in a blue tutu?
twitter.com / renelynch
At the point pictured above, I thought, "Wouldn't it be cool to do the whole thing?" And then I slapped myself and took a left.
A little liquid motivation.
I just had to stop and have my picture taken with a runner in a blue tutu. I plan to steal that look for a later race.
Photos: Rene Lynch / Los Angeles Times (all by me, except for the last one, of course, which was taken by a stranger whom I tapped on the shoulder)