Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week One Progress Report

Today ends the first week of the schedule produced by the collective conscious of the Connecticut Running Camp. The week started with the revelation that I'm pretty out of shape. My deplorable time trial on Monday was tempered a bit by the fact that I had run six races in a little over a week, however.  With this in mind, I figured recovery would be just as important as training and finding the right balance would be tricky. My five mile sub tempo on Wednesday did not lead to much confidence in this regard. While I thought 6:30 pace would feel disappointingly easy, I actually had to kick hard to average under that pace. The combination lack of fitness and fatigue from all the races was coming back to haunt me. Thursday helped things turn around a bit with a fairly comfortable and actually pretty quick four loops (10.4 miles) around Lake Padden. Friday was another good run with some strides and an overall solid pace so it seemed like I had finally started to thread the effort/recovery needle. Saturday was supposed to be a traditional EMH workout but Tesseract was doing a Padden workout so I decided to compromise with EMH 400s around Padden for 3.35 miles. The workout went well with the only setback being a little less speed on the hard portions than I had hoped for. Overall, however, it was a positive indicator. I was scheduled for an easy 13 Sunday which turned out to be far too easy and not quite 13 due to some planning errors but in keeping with the goal from the beginning of the week, I figured erring on the side of a little extra recovery would be fine. Overall I got 67 in for the week and had three quality workouts and two other legitimate medium days. I want to be back into the 16s in  four weeks and preferably under 16:40 so we'll see how that goes. I look forward to week two of my schedule. It's good to have some focus again!

Friday, July 29, 2011


I had a bad night last night. Not sure why. Usually, at the onset of a virus, before I have any symptoms, I get very agitated and can't sleep at night. I have a few remedies I try to assuage the whole miserable experience but for the most part I just have to wait it out and see how bad the symptoms will be when they come. So after a pretty rough night I felt a bit off but no real viral symptoms so I had a choice to make. I could try to sleep more. I could run. I could just work and rest and call it an off day. This is where commitment kicks in. Especially at the start of a workout regimen, it is very important to establish a rhythm. I am firm believer in the law of inertia. If you don't do much, it is hard to start doing anything. Once you have some momentum behind you, you can easily slip out the door for a run, a workout, or whatever you need to do on even the busiest of days. It's not the physical act of doing it, it's the emotional commitment, the decision process that is paramount. For this reason, feeling a little bit off and pretty heavy legged, I headed out the door for my six miles with strides expecting some sort of disaster like not having a change of pace when I tried to open up on a stride. After about a mile though, I felt like nothing had ever been wrong. I ran just fine; the strides were a bit sluggish but I sped up enough to get into some good speed form. Certain things in life come down to a decision. That decision is voluntary and oftentimes comes quite begrudgingly but after a while, it becomes almost involuntary. After the decision has been weighed and made enough times, I simply know I will do it. There will be no more debate. Just like I know I will eat, breathe, and sleep every day, I know I will head out for my workout barring absolute disaster. When I reach this stage, I know success will follow shortly. I believe this is more than just the physical benefit of the consistent training. There is an emotional aspect at play as well. When I have turned the choice to do all my workouts into a subconscious one, it becomes likewise subconscious that I will get the most out of those workouts, and more importantly, my races. Racing is tough. Hurting enough to run your very best is counter-intuitive. The mind is made to help you avoid pain and in a race you need to override that survival mechanism in order to have your best time. If you choose the easy way out of training, you will sure as heck choose the easy way out in a race. however, if you have made that decision in workouts so many times to just go ahead and push through, so that it becomes automatic, the same decision to push through the pain of racing will be more likely to come automatically. I remember this very clearly from my track 10k last spring. I ran far better than I expected and it actually felt too easy but I think I know why. I never had to choose to push through the pain. the choice was already made so I just pushed without that internal struggle and it seemed relatively easy. I know I am not there yet. Today's run felt 50/50 before I did it. I decided quite a few times not to before I went ahead and got out the door. I know I will have that same dilemma the next time I race. But today was progress. A few more of these and I'll be on my way to auto pilot. More importantly, I have the advantage over those who still have to struggle with the decision. In the middle of a race, they will be going through inner turmoil and I will soon be 100 meters ahead. It's the advantage of thirty years experience. My 17:48 5k is pretty pathetic but most people running that time would be ecstatic to be thirty seconds faster in a month. I fully expect to be sixty seconds faster not exclusively from the physical endurance I will gain from my training, but from the mental tenacity that will come from not accepting no for an answer from myself. They say - and I'll deal with this more later - that it takes twenty-one days to establish a habit. I consider this day five. About two more weeks and I'll be ready to change my place in the running world. The timing works well as I have set a challenge for myself at the end of August. I look forward to seeing how it plays out.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My 25 Coaches

When setting up my plan for The Connecticut Running Camp this summer, I wanted to raise the bar a notch from past camps. I always thought we were doing a good job conveying the ideas behind a solid training program, but this year I wanted to prove it. Were the kids walking away with the ability to actually formulate a solid training schedule? There was only one way to find out. Having recently recovered from an injury (another experiment confirming the hypothesis that people do way too much speed work) I had been slowly regaining confidence in my health with slow jogging at a low weekly mileage. Ready for my next phase and not having set out a schedule yet, I put it to the campers. Coach me! Write me a schedule. Oh yeah, we're pushing it on time so you have a little under a half hour. Go! Thirty minutes later each of the groups, led by a counselor, reported back with a sixteen week fall schedule. My intention was to pick one and follow it but upon looking at the schedules, I saw elements that I liked in each schedule. I realized what I should have done in the first place. I should have had each group write me a single phase and put them together. So I picked four weeks from each of the four groups, copied them onto a master schedule and Voila! I had my fall schedule. Of course life can never be simple and almost immediately after receiving my new training schedule I found out I was needed for the Northwest Passage version of the Ragnar Relays the day after I cam back to Washington and two days before I was to start my new plan. So after three races in 14 hours and less than an hour's sleep, I drove home Saturday afternoon trying to figure out how to recover for my first week of training  starting Monday. Of course, like any good schedule, day 1 was a race to gauge baseline fitness. I'm not sure if that track 5k was the smartest idea but I got it in and now have an idea of where I am. (Yes, ignorance would have been a blissful alternative). So my 25 coaches now have the job of taking this 17:49 5k runner back to the 16s and hopefully beyond. I have my schedule, I have three days underneath me - today being a far too uncomfortable sub tempo run proving I still haven't recovered from Monday's time trial... or Ragnar... or the 2.7 time trial last Tuesday... or the 4k time trial the Saturday before that. But I will get my recovery runs in and go from there.  I'm ready!

Welcome to my life!

What is it like to be an almost literal "lifelong" runner? The story goes that at the age of three, I would not let my dad out the door for his runs until he took me down the street for my "run" first. After a jog down the block to see some ducks, my dad would bring me back home and then commence his real run. I would deliberately get in trouble in first grade so I would be punished with laps instead of having to play kickball. I once ran the entire period always answering my teacher's seemingly rhetorical question of "had enough?" with "nope."  I ran my first half marathon in under 2 hours at the age of nine and subsequently had my first stress fracture shortly thereafter. At the age of 10, I was running 40 mile weeks and under 40 for the 10k. At the age of 16, I ran my first marathon in 2:54. During my junior and senior year in high school, I raced 124 times in 69 weeks. A recipe for burnout some might say. My response would be that I have run a sub 2:50 marathon in every decade of my life since that first one including a 2:38:00 in 2010. At the age of 41, I ran a 4:44 mile, a 15:58 5k and a 32:51 10k - all on the track. My earliest and most recent 100 mile weeks came over 20 years apart. I am a runner who never learned to fear running or racing. I love both so I do both... often. I am a runner, a racer, a coach, a fan. Welcome to my life!