"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."








Sunday, January 3, 2010

Flavors of Running #1: Intro

Theresa and I only ran together once. I agreed to run her pace and so we did 10 miles in 80 minutes; then I added another 5 miles in 30 minutes to make it fit my own schedule. This made her angry because she believed it meant 1) I had gone out of my way to show her that her workout wasn't worth doing and 2) I'd rather run than spend that half-hour with her.

She'd said she was training for a marathon and that this was a typical day, so I did the math and figured she was training to run a 3 hour marathon, as I had run about 70 miles per week at 8 minute miles when I first did it. When she ran the marathon, she finished in 3:29 and I thought she'd be disappointed, but she told me "Not many women can run that fast!" [for the record, 120 had run that fast in that race (20 broke 3 hours)]. She was angry with me again, because as she said, "I worked hard to run that fast." I tried to explain to her that everyone else who ran 70 miles a week was breaking 3 hours and those running 3:30 generally ran 35-40. "See? I have to work twice as hard as anyone else and you don't appreciate it!"

I thought back to our run together and realized that she'd done 10 miles at race pace that day, a very hard run. She must've been averaging 9 minute miles and ran extra fast when running with me, I figured, but I was wrong again. She'd run exactly 10 miles in exactly 80 minutes every single day except the day of the marathon, including the day before the race and the day after!

I tried to convince her that she could run much faster, perhaps even break 3 hours, but she'd have to make some changes - run less some days so she could run longer on others, include some faster runs, take some chances. She looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language, but I could see that the fact I thought she had potential (instead of thinking she wasn't doing anything worthwhile) had had an effect.

I suggested she enter a 10K race I was running a month later. I figured that the fear of finishing last would cause her to run faster; I hadn't told her ahead of time that this was a fast bunch doing this particular race. My notes from that day: "Easy run. Just sat on Triviski for 4 miles and kicked the hill. 33:41, 4th place." [Triviski returns in a major way in the last post of this series.] I figured Theresa would finish about 43 minutes, but wasn't too surprised when I didn't see her at 45. At 47, I was a bit worried she'd hurt herself. She crossed the line in 49:50, exactly the same pace she ran the marathon and at which she trained. She then did a cool-down of exactly 3 3/4 miles, to make it to 10 miles in 80 minutes yet again.

Some months later, she sprained an ankle and wasn't able to do her 10 miles. As far as I know, she never ran again. I just shook my head in bewilderment.

There was an important lesson in this that took a long time for me to learn and it's best described by an incident 20 years later. I took my mother to Izzy's gourmet ice cream parlor. I had a waffle cone of Norwegian Chai with an extra "izzy" of blood orange sherbet. Mom had a small scoop of vanilla. At 20, I would've thought, "We make a special trip and you can have anything in the world and you choose vanilla!" At 40, I thought, "Nothing wrong with vanilla. Most popular flavor in the world. Some people could eat it every day."

For Theresa, the marathon was like a triple scoop of vanilla - something she liked, but hard to finish. As a coach, I needed to know that not everyone races for the reasons I do and not everyone trains the same way. This series will detail my takes on continuous runs (from recovery runs to very long runs), interval training, fartlek and then three on the art of racing, which won't be of much value to most, but might mean a great deal to a very few.
..............
Completely unrelated. Anyone else remember this?

9 comments:

Londell said...

A post that made me think and yes, I even know the Frito Bandito song...

Christopher Swenke said...

Eagerly anticipating the next segment.

trailgrrl said...

I liked this post...yep...yep yep yepyepyepyep..I must say I really appreciated what you had to share here and if you don't mind I think this little lesson I took from this post well I will carry it around for awhile..then when I am done with it..I will make sure to pass it on...

Guy said...

Aye, aye, aye, aye, I am the Frito Bandito!

nwgdc said...

Great post.
I only learned of the Frito Bandito when in an "Education Fundamentals" class my freshman year (general ed requirement) when the prof was talking about how evil the Frito Bandito advertising was because of its stereotypical nature.
In other news...I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this post:
http://gobroncobilly.blogspot.com/2009/12/to-gel-or-not-to-gel.html

Beth said...

I think Theresa and I must be long lost cousins. No matter how much I try to speed up or slow down, I always average the same pace. Down deep I question if I could really get any faster. When you are slow like me, you have to find other motivators and speed becomes less of a focus. I'm looking forward to the rest of your series. Maybe it will motivate me to change up my thinking.

SteveQ said...

@Nic: Without thinking about it, I've never ingested anything in runs under 4 hours; the principle stated in that post makes sense to me, whether it's right or not. I'm also wondering if I've ever read Livingstone's book (probably skimmed it once).

sea legs girl said...

Great post! I think Theresa and I would get along :). Too bad she gave up on running before she realized it CAN be fun to run at different speeds.

M2Marathon said...

ooh, really looking forward to these segments! Thanks for sharing.