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

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"Good Enough" Is Not Good Enough

I was leafing through a couple of books on triathlon training; I have no plan to do one, I just have exhausted all the running books and wondered what the run sections of triathlon books were like. My favorite statement in one was that the triathlon is an "image sport," where it's important to look like one belongs up front, to psyche out the competition by having equipment a little newer or pricier than they do. That sounds about right... morons.

The other one, in the section on interval training for the run, said that one should always finish the workout feeling like one could have done another repetition or two. I understand the thought behind this, that you can't push yourself to the limit day after day, to leave yourself something to work with the next day. I just don't believe it: when you run hard, run very hard and let the easy days take care of themselves.

I almost bought into that mindset of "good enough" this past year. If you don't push yourself in workouts, you won't push yourself in races (unless you're racing almost weekly). In my races last year, "good enough" was a consideration. I ran a 50K when injured and held back to make sure I didn't make the injury worse. Then, out of shape, I did a 25K where I only thought of racing the leaders for the first 500 meters or so and, when someone in my age class caught me, I didn't want to pummel him to death (my usual mindset); as everyone made wrong turns, there was no real racing going on and I didn't push myself the whole way. Then there was a 10K, where I went out hard, but breathing problems had me in distress at 2 miles and I quit. Then there was a marathon where, knowing I couldn't do as well as I wanted, I didn't even start. I kept talking about retirement, because what I was doing was not what I call racing.

I hate when people finish a race, smiling and waving and have energy to spare afterward. I want to be completely spent - and if you've read some of my race reports, you'll see I usually have gone far beyond what others would consider reasonable. I don't want to finish a race comfortably and think I could've run faster, which is what so many do. I don't want to end up thinking "what if...?"

Gut Check... Every Single Day

The weather's not been co-operating with my training plans. As I write this, it's -5F (-20C). I look at my training from my last good year, 2007, and see I ran 35 miles at 8 minutes per mile once per week in January; but it was 35-40 degrees on those days. Every day is a struggle, as I try to make a comeback.

I had a decent run on Monday, but yesterday, my legs ached and I felt tired. I waited for the temperature to climb a bit, to run at the best time of day. I ended up skipping breakfast and, when the temperature was getting better, I was ravenous. I ate before I ran - and eating and running is one of those ultramarathon things I just don't do well - banana, cranberries, apricots and a little salmon. When I got out to run, I was logy; my body can either digest or it can run, but it doesn't do both.

After 3 slow miles, I was tempted to quit. I was thinking, "Bag this workout and make it up tomorrow," but I also knew that tomorrow would be colder. I had to ask myself, "Is this good enough to get you where you want to be? Or are you going to look back on it thinking you could do more?" I pushed on for another 3, when I started to bonk; I was hungry, I couldn't figure out how fast I was going or how far I was going (and I was wearing a Garmin that had those things in big numbers) and I was slowing to a glacial stagger. I was close to home, so I walked back there, had some water, downed a couple of Hammer gels (the only readily available food - I'd be scared to check the expiration dates!) and started talking to myself again. "Are you going to be happy with this? Are you going to go to bed tonight thinking you've done everything you could?" I forced myself back outside and did another two miles. Then one more. Then 1/2 more.

Then I was done. Truly done.

Today will be even harder.


Xenia said...

There's that quote from someone famous about having to go too far to find where your limits are. I always want to push myself in training but invariably I always back off way too early. I need to build up my tolerance level for discomfort, but again, I've been too lazy to do that.

Good luck with your training. Try not to kill yourself.

GeorgiaSnail said...

Thanks for the reminder...I try to leave it all out on teh road(trail) when I race; in the interest of full disclosure, I think I leave too much on the table when I train.

sea legs girl said...

I truly believe running outdoors in subzero F makes one a stronger runner. That's what I always told myself in Wisconsin - I've never been one to run on a 'mill. And you learn a lot about how to dress. Do you have hand warmers by the way and a hat that covers 95% of your head and face? I used to have one that I made myself. It was the ugliest thing one coule imagine - but no one could recognize me anyway so that was okay.

Regarding the songs: it is just too weird. I was sure you had taken the Frightened Rabbit and Local Natives songs from me since I had both of those exact songs as running songs of the day - so it wasn't those I didn't know. I really need to stop patting myeslf on the back for things I haven't actually accomplished.

The three I didn't know were Avett Brothers (which was my favorite song on my run today, by the way), LCD Soundsystem and Not the Kid by Communist Daughter (I've never even heard of the last band and I'm not even sure if the band is Not the Kid or Communist Daughter).

Keith said...

One can always push a little harder in training. Go further. Go faster. But that exacts a toll on your body. So how often do you push that hard? You have to get to the start line healthy, or at least that's if you're sensible. One of my thoughts during IM training was "race smart, train smarter". After all, we do a lot more training than racing. If it's "good enough" to meet your training plan, then in fact it's good enough and you can stop.

joyRuN said...

Party pooper.

I'm a big fan of half-assing it myself.

when you run hard, run very hard and let the easy days take care of themselves

I think w/ triathlon training, the volume of day-after-day training doesn't allow for a lot of easy days, hence the advice to leave a little something in the tank for the next workout.