Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Running Rule

One running rule that I subscribe to, which you may already know if you've been here a while, is that I do not, cannot, will not, follow a training schedule.

I would never calendar "tuesdays are tempo day, thursday is track, saturday is long run, Sunday is off..." etc. etc.

I am often thoroughly mystified that this kind of planning works for some runners.  That some runners bodies are so adaptable to any type of run that they can bounce out of bed and go for the run that the calendar says is on tap.

I know that many people who follow a training plan do allow for some flexibility, and will move their long run over a day if something comes up.  But that is still a plan--only now, the plan is that you will run long on that next day.

Here's what works for me, and I mean, it works.

Work it

I wake up and head out for a run, not sure at all what the run will have in store.  Warm up for 1-3 miles at a slow pace.  Do I feel good? Ok, I'll run a little longer, or harder, or hit the track today.  Do I feel crappy?  Slow pace, I'm allowed to stop whenever I want.  Do I feel great? Today is HARD day! Track sprints, or a long hard 20+ miler!

This is the ONLY way I can be a runner.  The only way.  Mentally, it works for me, and physically, my body is such an unpredictable mystery that there are days I wake up and a 9:00 minute pace is all I can muster, for unknown reasons.  And then the next day a 6:30 pace feels fantastic.  How crazy would it be if I stuck with a schedule that had me doing a tempo on the crappy-feeling day, and a recovery run on the day I felt great?

For instance--let's look at this weekend.

After a half-marathon last weekend, and several weeks before that lacking any challenging runs due to general fatigue and a couple problems with my left leg, I really wanted to wake up on Saturday and just kill it.  Go for a LONG run, 20+ miles, push it hard, and officially get excited that the CIM marathon will be here before I know it (I know it is redundant to write "CIM marathon", but I cannot help it...).

Instead, I had a rough Saturday morning.  I blame some apartment neighbors.  No need to rant about them any more here.

I tried to recover from my cranky mood and get Saturday going in the right direction.  I loaded up my ipod with some great dorky podcasts.  I otherwise prepared for a 2.5-to-3 hour run by smearing on the sunscreen and stashing some dried cherries in my shorts.

One slow lap around the lake.  4.5 miles (yes for you locals, I have figured out a way to make the 3.4 mile Lake Merritt a 4.5 or even 5.0 mile lap.  It involves doubling up on certain paths that are parallel to each other, but no retraced steps).   I was really mentally struggling with the desire to continue to running for another 2 hours.  It was already noon, and the idea of not getting home 'til 2:00 was bothering me.  My body (left leg alert) felt terrible.  I stopped to walk, stopped to stretch, and stopped to walk some more, and came home with 9 ugly miles.  I scarfed the dried cherries out of disappointment.

Well that blew, I thought.  This December marathon better stay far away and not arrive too soon, because I'm not ready.  With a day like this, confidence blown, I'm just not ready.  I refuse to run a marathon "for fun."  Waking up in an uncomfortable hotel at 5:30 a.m. after paying $100+ for a bib is not what I do "for fun."  It is what I do when I am ready for a challenge and to prove something.

But then, quickly, I realized that this was just a lame day for a hard or long run.  It just wasn't the right day for it.  It was a slower, easier day, the end.  I knew I would feel good soon enough and devour a run where I felt "on".

I woke up on Sunday.  My neighbors still sucked assholes.  But I was in a cheerful mood, and I could feel it -- today was going to be a better run day.

And oh, it was.

20.08 miles in 2:23:50 -- a 7:09 average pace!

I've run a faster 20 miles before on a treadmill, but never a 20-miler this fast outside.  This is not even close to my normal 20 mile pace.  

The splits just got better and better.  (check out the warm-up mile compared to the rest....I respect the warm up mile).

Miles 1-5:       7:58; 7:05; 7:03; 6:56; 7:08
Miles 6-10:     7:12; 7:14; 7:04; 7:01; 7:08
Miles 11-15:   7:12; 7:10; 7:19; 7:07; 7:10
Miles 16-20:   7:10; 7:05; 7:08; 6:54; 6:58
(and 0.8 in 0:37).

It was easy for a long time, I felt fan-freaking-tastic, until of course it wasn't.  I would have happily stopped at mile 15.  But I wasn't going to lose an opportunity to finish up a solid 20 miler.

Not included in the overall time is a couple water fountain stops and a couple breaks to stretch out my hips and calves.  If you think it is "cheating" not to count water breaks in my run time, lighten up and don't worry because I'm not worrying.  I will throw water all over my face and choke in order to drink but not break stride while racing; I will take a solid stop for water while running for fun.  Simple, no big problem, different turf different rules.


Last weekend, racing.  This weekend, not racing.  No rules. (Yup, carrying my bib by hand)


I ate a small plastic baggie worth of dried cherries during the 13th mile.  I waived hello to Richard the odd and possibly homeless runner four times.

So in sum. I cannot force a good workout.  I have to wait and let it find me when I'm ready.

This is what works for me.  Listening to advice in Runners World, in books, in blogs, not so much.  This isn't advice.  Do what works for you. 

28 comments:

  1. Totally NOT cheating. People who consider that cheating don't understand what a 'training' run is all about. They also are anal to the point of unhealthy. They probably even run to an OCD bus stop every time at the top of the hill they run. Very, very impressive 20 miler! Way to do it :)

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  2. What a fast run, I'm jealous! I don't think stopping to
    Get water, etc. is cheating either. I personally think its harder when I start up again, so it's not giving me any sort of advantage. In a race you are handed water every two miles, so you don't have to stop. I ran 18 Saturday and stopped to take a GU twice and drown my face in the water fountain....getting tired of running in Georgia!

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  3. "I cannot force a good workout." Awesome stuff. I do follow a training plan but the number one rule above the training plan is, listen to my body. If I'm to run 6 miles today but feel like crap, 4 miles it is. If I'm "supposed" to run 10 miles but feel great, I'll shoot for 12 miles. Really, the only constraint is time. Does my family need me at home? (What, no? Awesome! Off to Costa Rica!) I'm new to this running thing, so a training plan keeps me mentally focused but I do approach it with flexibility. Perhaps in the future (with a few more races under my belt), I will ditch the training plan and "run free." :)

    Also, you are crazy fast. Congrats on an awesome 20 miler!

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  4. Also, I'm a podcast dork too. What do you listen to?

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    1. My regular approved rotation includes Mike and Tom Eat Snacks (comedy), RadioLab (nerd fun), NPR music, Sarah & Vinnie morning show (CA bay area radio), and that's all I can think of right now. Please recommend any!

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  5. That's how I feel I "train" too, although I do find myself repeating things that felt rewarding or successful in weeks before, which ends up leading to patterns. I do a good job of "listening" but I'm probably a lot more adherent to the loose plans in my mind than I think... if that makes any sense. How is that hip thing doing, anyway? That is an amazing long run!!

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    1. Patterns, I agree with that.

      My hip thing is going on 9 months of being exactly the same! Some days undetectable, some days just terrible. I'm doing glute work almost every day now....thanks for checking in on the stupid thing!

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  6. That's sort of how I trained for my last half marathon...no rules, just running 3-4 days a week, running long one weekend day, and working in the speed when it felt right. It was so nice not to have to be a slave to my schedule.

    Question - what constitutes a dorky podcast in your mind?

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    1. Listening to a podcast while running is dorky by nature!

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  7. That is a darn good workout. 7:09? Rock on.
    I also can't follow a training plan. I've printed them, marked them out, slaved over them, and then - always - subsequently ignored them. My only consistency is that I do try to make the Monday track group, but it really does suck when you're having a bad day and everyone else is sailing merrily about the track.

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  8. I am still newish to running, but I generally think that if someone is not flexible with training runs they will end up going crazy. If you set out for say 10 miles at a fast pace and don't accomplish it then it will mess with your mind too much. You can only fail(I use that term lightly) so much in runs before it starts taking a toll. I generally like for my runs to come to me. No individual run will make or break you. It is being consistent over a period of time that works.

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    1. Yes! I don't want to associate running (something I love) with guilt (for not executing whatever was on schedule)

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  9. def not cheating to stop for water/gu/cherries/a burrito or to potty. I think you should go with whatever works for you... same with peeps who follow a plan. some people need the discipline of a plan. I for one like a plan. But combine that with listening to my body and whatever plans I may have that week that may throw it off.

    you might be readier than you think!

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  10. I absolutely don't think it's cheating. I prefer to never even walk in a race, but in training run, it's not worth it to push like that. That is a badass run, RR. Go you!!!

    I am SO sick of living in apartments. It's been the story of my live for 12 years and I cannot wait to end it. The inconsiderate asshole college girls that live next to me shriek at the top of their lungs all the time, and they also come home from the bar at 2am and run around their kitchen (which it directly above my bedroom) like a herd of elephants. OVER IT.

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    1. LOL at your apartment neighbors. I know it's never funny at the time while you are trying to sleep and considering whether voodoo dolls work, but picturing them "shrieking" is...funny

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  11. I feel exactly the same way about training. I have no idea how people can run so meticulously and mechanically. Sometimes I have to time a speedier run to coincide with needing to be somewhere and not wanting to run at 4 in the morning or something, but for the most part the whole enjoyment aspect of running comes from being a bit more intuitive. Although for me that also means being somewhat excessive :P

    Your 20 miles is crazy in the best way possible. I can't imagine what it must feel like to crank out 6-minute miles that far into a run. I get vicarious warm fuzzies just looking at those splits. This is going to sound weird but I always look forward to you posting details of your runs because you're one of the few runners I can be pleased for without feeling resentful or wanting to compete (not that I ever could!) It gives me hope that perhaps I'm not a complete asshole after all lol.

    xxx

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  12. Glad to hear you had a great long run, I know that always improves my mood. I find that flexible training is so important for me too! This Saturday I was planning on doing my long run and swimming on Sunday, but when I woke up Sat to my alarm I felt like crap. I decided to switch the workouts, but was feeling like a cop-out later in the day. However, when I woke up Sunday morning, it was about 10 degrees cooler than the previous day and I had the best run in a LONG time, everything worked out the way it was supposed to :)

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  13. You are so stinkin fast!! That is incredible. And I think your plan totally sounds like the way to go. Don't push your body unnecessarily.

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  14. I am so impressed by people who can run whatever/whenever. I allow for complete flexibility in my plans, but I still make one. Usually I sit down on Sunday night and write down what I would LIKE to run that week, and usually about 90% of it pans out. If I feel bad, the tempo run is scrapped. If I feel awesome, I pick up the pace or add a few miles.

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  15. I'm impressed by flexibility and possess none of it. Mostly because if I don't know how long I'm going to be running, I don't know when I'm supposed to drag my ass out of bed.

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  16. Wow 7:09 pace for a 20 miler is fantastic! Maybe you have a shot at your PR at CIM in December. And while it seems like not following a set plan works for you for running, when I'm in training for a race, I generally need to follow a plan. Otherwise I always wonder what I should be doing each day. But if I'm just staying in general shape (as I am right now), I just run between 5-7 miles at a time, with no real plan other than to run it at a decent pace.

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  17. I think a plan is good in the following situations:
    1. When you're a newbie to a particular distance and need some general guidelines. I'm going through this now with training for my first marathon.
    2. When you're being lazy (i.e. NOT injured or experiencing true muscle fatigue) and you need that extra motivation, the drill sargeant in the back of your head to be like, "Get your butt out of bed and do that tempo run, STAT!"

    Otherwise, though, I agree with you. Being too inflexible = not fun or good.

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  18. Yea, following someone else's plan without listening to your own body is a recipe for injury. Unfortunately "listen to your own body" doesn't fill pages and sell books and magazines ;-0

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  19. I like your running rule. I fully understand the need for a structured training plan but in the past year or so I've slowly veered away from it. I think it is partly because I now know my ability as a running - both physically and mentally. I'm eyeing up a half marathon this winter and if I do commit my only training plan will consist of long run distance goals for each week...and hopefully I'll get at least 75% of the long run distance in during the week as well. We will see.

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  20. So, I'm on a "spoiled white girl has a triathlon coach" plan. BUT it means that every week looks CRAZY different. I almost never do the same things on the same day, and now that I live this way, I don't want to go back to the poopy plan and spreadsheet way. On Monday, I get my schedule until Sunday, and sometimes it doesn't even stay alive that long because I'm a complete pain in the ass about moving things around when someone is willing to run with me. End of story.

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  21. I'm unintentionally following your racing rules. Last time I trained with a very strict plan and I failed. So not only did I beat myself up for not "staying on track" when my marathon came and I injured myself during it, I blamed my lack of dedication (which really wasn't that bad, I missed one long run, and a couple of tempos). So now, I'm taking each day as it comes, for the most part. I know I like to do track workouts on Tuesdays or Thursdays. And I like long runs on the weekend. Tempos will come and go, and my goal is to just get more miles on my feet this time around.

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  22. I like your laid back approach. but obviously not too laid back because you are one fast runner. I find I respond well to a schedule to make sure I actually vary my runs throughout the week; I use it more as a guideline. Which day I do each run on is not always set in stone, however Tuesday is often track day for me because that's when my running group goes and therefore I have a coached track workout and can chase people who are faster than me, making me faster. I need to sort of pick a day for certain runs because the type of run determines if I can do it from my house or if I need to drive to a track or a trail or a traffic-light-free network of paths. But if I feel like crap on track day, I'm going to do an easy run or rest instead. And if I feel good while doing a tempo run, I'll run longer than I initially planned.

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  23. You are such a f*cking fast running bad ass!

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