Running Isn’t Simple, Is It?

Today’s Run

Time – 38:30
Distance – 4.30 miles
Pace – 8:56 min/mi
Elevation – 131 ft.

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Got out the door again, despite the desire to stay in. Ran a little harder than I needed to, but it felt good. Just a quick out and back to get the routines down again.

Running isn’t simple, is it?

Running seems like it should just be a simple thing. You put on shoes, shorts, and a shirt, and go run. It’s like that most days. Maybe a treadmill if necessary, or a long shirt or hat if cold, but the process is simple.

Sometimes, though, it’s a lot more complicated. There’s the bargaining, the convincing, the affirmations that “Just do it, you’ll feel better. Promise!” It can be a chore that seems like it never ends, because you know that you have to do it again tomorrow. It can be like a thief that steals time, daylight, or the ability to get work done around the house. It can involve watches that track everything but spy satellites, running clothes that wick and comform and don’t smell, and shoes that were designed by NASA and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

Running isn’t hard, though, because running isn’t the outcome. It’s the means. That’s where my confusion was for a long time, and still is on occasion. I don’t run because of the run. I run for the other things. Years with my wife and kids because of health. A body that is stronger and will not fail me as quickly. A mind that needs the relaxing quiet I find on the roads and trails. My outcomes from running are the reason I run.

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That Wasn’t Pleasant

Today’s Run

Time – 39:01
Distance – 4.25 miles
Pace – 9:11 min/mi
Elevation – 121 ft.

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The first real sunshine in 10 days means that it’s time to go running. This was the first run in almost 2 weeks, and I paid the price for it. Nothing too hard or too fast, but I’m definitely going to have to work to get my legs back. Pace was bearable, and I wasn’t pushing too much.

A series of unfortunate delays

I’ve been asked by friends and acquaintances more than a few times over the last 2 months, “What happened to the blog?” There’s no one answer to that, of course, as life doesn’t really consist of one thing.

  1. We bought the house and moved in, which has been an adventure, to say the least. Moving everything you own every 2–3 years gets really old, and this time seemed to take a lot longer than most. Maybe that’s because we know we won’t have to do it again for a long time, unless the unfortunate happens. Until then, we’ve got a house! It fits our family just right, is in a decent neighborhood for running, and a great neighborhood for everything else.
  2. It’s been raining more this spring than I can remember, and I have NO motivation for treadmill running. That doesn’t help at all, and so I’ve left a lot of running days on the table.
  3. I’ll be skipping the marathon/half-marathon this spring. All of these other things have required that I jettison a couple of items, and this is one that has to go. I’m disappointed in myself, but I know that, based on what my running is really starting to look like, I’ll be pleased with the times I can put together when I get the next race in.
  4. My Master’s thesis has been postponed to the fall. This just hasn’t been able to happen due to work and family needs, and was the other thing that I’ve pushed off, besides the race. I go to a great school, and my advisor and the department chair have been helpful with getting my schedule adjusted. I’m very grateful.
  5. Finally, there’s the family. Because of all the things that I haven’t been doing, I’ve been spending that extra time I’ve had with them, and it’s been amazing! Baby Girl is growing so fast! Little Buddy is turning into a whole new personality, thanks to time in the program at his school! The Teenager is 15 now, and we talk about cars, which is scary to say the least. And, above all, I’ve gotten more time with The Wife, which makes me happy.

All in all, the trade off between running and life has been worth it. I’m okay with the way this has gone, even though I’m not getting out the door or blogging as much as I would like. The running hasn’t gone away completely; I’ve run 12 times in the past 8 weeks, so I’ve been getting it done a little bit, but nowhere near the numbers I’d like to see. I’m 187 miles behind pace for 1500 this year.

It’s time to get back on track.

Ben Kenobi was Right

Today’s Run

Time – 57:23
Distance – 5.78 miles
Pace – 9:56 min/mi
Elevation – 187 ft.

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Slightly warmer means outdoor run. Easy pace for 40–60 minutes before tomorrow’s workout. It was hard to keep up the pace, and my legs felt heavy. Not tired, just heavy. The food intake the last couple of days hasn’t been the best, so I’m pretty sure that’s not helping.

I love waffles

To be more precise, I love gluten-free, blueberry toaster waffles. Cook two of them twice so they’re crispy, cover one in chocolate hazelnut spread, and the other in apple cider or strawberry vanilla jam…I could eat these everyday.

But that wouldn’t be healthy, of course. They’re calorically dense, have limited nutritional value relative to fruits and vegetables, and get a little pricy when not on sale at the supermarket. They are good though.

I’m realizing that my running was starting to look the same. 40–60 minutes of comfortable running 4 days a week with another “long run” that’s 75–90 minutes isn’t a menu for success and growth. It’s, at best, maintenance. I’d probably get a little faster, but not much. And it would take a really long time to get there.

There’s a running site out there called Let’s Run. It is probably the best source for track and field/road running news on the planet. These guys get it right. They also have their World Famous Message Boards. These are probably the worst place for anything resembling reality. Think of it this way, the message boards are the Mos Eisley cantina of the internet. In other words, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Be cautious.

There are, however, nuggets of truth and good information sprinkled throughout the trolls, smugglers, posers, and self-proclaimed near-Olympians. I’ve read more than a few reports of people who, having run the same every day, didn’t improve much over a period of time. When adding speed work and more definitive long runs, they jumped in speed and endurance. This is the real live data I’m seeking.

Of course, the old adage, “Your mileage may vary” applies, but the intention of looking here isn’t to figure out how fast I’m personally going to get. It’s to reinforce the idea that the workouts matter, even when tired legs get in the way, or the desire to run in the cold isn’t there, or the treadmill starts to look like a medieval torture device. It’s the motivation that if I just keep running, things are going to happen.

Welcome to the Machine

Today’s Run

Time – 45:01
Distance – 4.55 miles
Pace – 9:53 min/mi
Elevation – N/A

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Mental toughness can be the weakest link…

Easy run on the treadmill. Still working on the stiffness in the legs from the hard run on Sunday. I thought I was going to have to stop, but once the blood got flowing, everything really eased up. Apparently, I didn’t cool down enough. I need to make that more of a part of the routine.

Now that THAT’S over…

The move to the half marathon has really relaxed my mind and made me much more comfortable about the training for the next 10 weeks. I know that I can do the distance. That’s something I feel will be the easiest part. The speed and concentration to keep pace the whole time will be the struggle, which is probably a good thing. I need to work on my mental toughness.

Endurance events really are about how long you can stay mentally tough, if you set your pace and goals correctly. There’s no way that I could ever run a 50 minute half marathon; no human could. I also don’t have a 1:15 in the tank right now. But, with a little more speed work and a whole lot of mental focus to push through the discomfort, I think that a 1:50 isn’t out of the question for April 7th. My last workout was 8 miles at 8:45/mile pace, which is about a 1:55 half marathon. A 1:50 half is 8:25/mile pace. That’s going to be doable. So that’s goal number two.

Goal number one is a PR. My best half marathon is 2:29 (net time, 2:34 gun time). That’s the time I need to beat most of all. I can be faster than that.

Goal number two may change as training shows me more. Do I think a 1:45 is on the table? I don’t know. That’s 8:00 miles for 13.2, which is a little fast for me right now. But we’ll find out!

More Workouts, and a Change

Today’s Run

Time – 1:10:03
Distance – 8.00 miles
Pace – 8:45 min/mi
Elevation – 148 ft.

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What are you going to do?!

Hard workout. 1 mile warmup, then 7 hard miles at half marathon effort. i felt like i was really working at this one. it took a lot, but i was really pleased with how it came together. I think that a 1:50 half marathon isn’t out of the question at this point.

So I’ve made a decision

After some deliberation, I’ve decided that I’m going to change from the marathon to the half marathon in April. With the move, the arrival of Baby Girl, Master’s work, and some job changes, time is going to get away from me. I haven’t been able to add to my mileage as much as I would hope, which is a function of life as much as anything else. Rather than go into the marathon just trying to hang on, I’d like to work hard at getting faster in the half and putting up a good number of which I can be proud. My half marathon PR is around 2:20, which I set back in 2005. I think it’s time to make that number look a lot better.

This means a shift to a new workout program through Strava, which will start on Monday. Here’s to getting after it!

When the Weather Is Good

Today’s Run

Time – 53:04
Distance – 5.64 miles
Pace – 9:24 min/mi
Elevation – 118 ft.

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At least it’s not raining men…

Easy day, post workout. 40–50 minutes. I went a bit long, but I felt really good the whole time. My achilles are a little sore this morning, but nothing that I have to worry about.

Let the sunshine in

Weekends are great, because running in the sun becomes an option. Not only that, but I get to run in shorts, outside, when the weather is nice. Score!

Random side-note: My 7 week old daughter, Baby Girl, loves to listen to the soundtrack to Pocahontas in her rocking seat. She first heard it in the hospital when she had RSV at 3 weeks. She’s gonna be a Disney princess for Halloween, every year. I can tell.

No dinosaurs and pirates for this dad anymore…

First Real Workout

Today’s Run

Time – 1:04:15
Distance – 6.93 miles
Pace – 9:16 min/mi
Elevation – 203 ft.

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Feel like this when you workout?

Marathon(?) training workout was 12 x 1 minute at 5k–10k effort with 1 minute easy run rest between, plus warm up and cool down. Warmup of 2 miles, 12 sets at 7:10–7:55 pace (consistency will come with time) for the hard running and 9:00 and below pace for the easy running. Then 3 miles of cool down. This was a great workout!

Finding the Edge and Riding It

This workout felt good, I was able to run all of it without too much trouble, which means that I probably ran it a little too easy. There was a couple of stops in the middle because of traffic lights on the easy running sections, which may have contributed to the recovery even more. All in all, I feel pretty good, and I think these kinds of workouts will help improve my running, and show me I can run fast. I mean, come on! 12 minutes at sub–7:55 pace means that I have a new mile PR, right? Not really…

I need to make sure, however, that I’m actually improving. I can go out and run hard for 12 minutes in the middle of a one hour run and have it be helpful, but if it’s still not that hard, it doesn’t do me as much good. The goal is to break down the body so that it rebuilds itself stronger. The key to doing that as efficiently as possible is to find the edge between improvement and injury, and to ride it. Gain as much improvement as possible without injury.

The issue, and the reason that so many athletes get injuried, in my opinion, is that this line of demarcation moves. Somedays, it’s easier to get hurt than others. Bodies get tired, inflammation hits, or the repairs from the last workout are not completed yet. Breakdowns here are a function of too much work. That’s the difficulty I’m going to have to work out. Not every run can be the same, nor can every workout be the same level of effort. Some days, I’m going to be able to do more work than I think I can (like my last run). Others, I’m not going to be able to put up the numbers I have in the past.

This, I think, is the crux behind “effort-based” workouts. Running based on the “feel” of a 5k or 10k means that on days that seem harder, you can still put up a good workout without too much loss in efficiency. Running to hit a goal time or pace is still good, and required, in some workouts. But the majority can be a workout of effort, and improvements can come that way.

What are your thoughts on this? Comment below.