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

Monday, July 11, 2011

Smacks of Common Sense

More of the massive rethink:

One of the things that always bothers me, for reasons inexplicable, are people who never truly challenge themselves. There are runners who have long successful careers, who never find out what they're capable of doing, because they've never pushed themselves to the limit. As early as 1980, Track and Field news was considering abandoning their rankings of marathoners, because no two competed against each other; being known as the winner of some marathon was more valuable than running a personal best second place in a prestigious race. Locally, age class competitors choose their races by their competition and everyone wins their trophies with a minimum of effort, beating their nearest rival by a minute per mile or more.

That ain't me.

A few years ago, I wanted to run a 5K to see what kind of shape I was in and so entered one held in my back yard. I ran 18-something, not bad for my condition, the course and the weather, and the second finisher was three minutes back. I was embarassed - I should've been running some other race with better competition. Sometimes such races are understandable; the Minnesota Distance Runner of the Year competition is based upon races at a variety of distances and some races have few options and thus some runners needing a good time at an odd distance run a small race and blow the competition away. Still, it just seems wrong. I do races to, well, race.

I like to push myself to the breaking point... and so I'm broken.

A couple of years ago, the day after the Superior Trail 50K, Julie Berg ran 20 miles of hill repeats and I just shook my head in wonder: why didn't she use that energy in her race? I, on the other hand, was so beat up that I couldn't run a step for days, causing Julie to shake her head, wondering why I didn't just run the race more easily. I can't do it. The week after finishing a 100 mile race for the first time, I ran the Trail Mix 50K in 5:00:41 and Matt Patten, knowing I had another 50K the next week, said "You don't have to do every 50K in 5 hours." Ultrarunners often use races as training runs, but I can't not race them (and I was thinking, "but I ran 3:48 here last time, 5:00 isn't racing!")

I had a reputation early on for leaving my best races on the workout track. I can still recall the day I ran 25 times 400 meters in 72 seconds, with a one minute recovery, but I can't remember the time of the 10K I used that as training for (34 something, I think). My thought had always been that, "if you don't push yourself in training, you won't push yourself in races."

I'm rethinking that.

I'd do a workout, say hill repeats, and after reaching a point where it became difficult, tell myself that I had to push to do more, or I'd quit when it got hard in a race. I'd do another repeat, a bit slower, with my form falling apart, thinking "so-and-so could do 9 repeats, but he couldn't do 10. I'm doing 10." I thought I was training myself to push through discomfort, but I was teaching myself to fall apart and then run inefficiently afterward. Plus, I was exhausting myself, so that it interfered with the next few workouts or the next race.

That's not the way I coach others, so why do I do it to myself? If you do a variety of workouts and improve at doing them, bit by bit, you know you should be able to race a little better as well. I need to convince myself that I don't need "warm-up" races to see where I am in training (especially as I'll do them too hard) and I don't need to push quite so hard when I'm training.

One thing I learned about myself many years ago was that, if I don't have a goal to strive for, I don't run at all. My first "retirement" was about age 30 and the time I usually spent training instead got spent drinking and I gained 30 pounds. There has to be something for me to shoot for, but I can't have anything planned soon, or I'll ramp up my training too fast, get hurt, recover, see the date of the race looming, train harder to get ready in the shortened time, get hurt, etc.

I have a goal. It's in 2013. I'll undoubtedly race before then... I mean, look at the title of this blog... but I'll try to be low-key about races. Try.


Anonymous said...

Great self analysis, making for a good read.

Sometimes a runner just needs a break. I get the feeling those back to back to back to back ultras you ran emptied your tank. Rest a while, and see where you are next season.

Matthew Patten said...

I met someone this weekend who lives right off the lake by you.

I asked "Ever see a creepy guy running around the lake.... all of the time (I gave a brief description)?"

He knew who you were.

... so if you hear some guy yelling at you from a passing car, I told him to do that.

Oh yeah, my fastest 50k is 5:28. And I was racing

Double said...

Are you living my life? Let's pick a big race in 2013, trade cyber notes and go kick some ass.

wildknits said...


Good self analysis (to quote Anon.)

Understand the mindset (if not the speed and intensity).

SteveQ said...

@Matt: Just what I need; one more guy yelling at me from his car. Could you gt him to have his dog relieve himself in my yard, too?

Anonymous said...

Ummm, I was with Patten that day. It was more like us sitting on the hood of his car, drinking coffee and requesting EVERY passing person to heckle you. There were a few people that even volunteered to ring your doorbell late at night while leaving a small, flaming present. Bill P.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

I'm just the opposite of you, in that I'm young, sane, slow, and not goal-oriented.

Hahahahahahaha! Just kidding! I'm not young!

I'm glad it bothers you that I don't challenge myself because to be totally honest it really doesn't bother me one whit. (Full Disclosure: The assumption behind this assertion is that someone should be bothered by this and since it ain't me, it might as well be you. But I think that might be a faulty assumption and prehaps no one should be bothered by this if I am not. But having read enough runners' blogs, I know there's very little "real" runners like to do more than judge other runners, especially when they can judge them to be in some way deficient, not up-to-snuff.)

Different philosophies, I guess. I race every once in awhile but only in short, nearby races, because if I can be said to have any goals, they are these:

Not to have to travel very far to race;

and ...

once there, not to have to race very far.

Not so much goals as anti-goals.

But then again, I have a hard time thinking of running as a sport - for me, anyway. It's just exercise. This probably says more about me than it does about the sport(?) of running, but I really don't think about it all that much.

SteveQ said...

@G: You challenge yourself, just not at running. How's that "Shakespeare in a year" going?

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Shxpr in a year won't happen till after the baseball season, if ever. I've been thinking about cutting that back to just reading what I haven't already read. So then, only Henry VIII is left.

The Twins are only 6.5 games out (not 7) with 3 games in hand on the Indians. I expect to see them make a second-half-of-the-season run at the division title because, obviously, the wild card in not coming from the AL Central.

I also expect not to see the Marlins still in last in our division. It would also surprise me to see the Reds in 4th at the end of the year, but that's where they are now.

I'd REALLY like to see the D'backs knock off the Giants because NOBODY saw them coming this year.

As for the Phils, not a whole lot of offense this year, which everyone is periodically freaking about, despite their best-in-the-majors record. It's how we roll here on the East Coast. Stress-puppying.

But we score 14 runs against the Braves in our last game. Game before that? We got one run for Cliff Lee ... or, to be completely honest, he got it himself, with a homer. He was taken out in the 9th with the game tied at 1-1. Then the Phils lost it in the 11th, 4-1. We've seen a lot of games similar to that. We usually mange to win when Lee/Hamels/Doc give up zero runs ...

So our pitching's been great.

Still, we could use a right-handed power bat.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

ZOMG!1! Your wingnut senator Koch's (hmmm ... where have I heard THAT name before?) decision to shutdown your state affected not only your races (YAWN!), but will soon cause your state to run out of beer and cigarettes! Does MN even have a tourist industry? Because if it does, you can say goodbye to THAT, too.

See how much wingnuts LOVE small businesses?

Julie B said...

Oh my goodness, how can you even remember what I did after the race?!! Hey, two good days of hill workouts was easier than 1 fast 50K!! Racing-I just dont have that in me! Oh yeah, I came to see your Afton report. I'll look for it. Take care!