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

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Second Book of Training (chapter 1)

Once, a friend of mine was giving a concert and called out to me in the audience, "Steve! Come up here and sing descant!" The look of shock on my face was probably priceless. For one thing, I only had a vague understanding of what "descant" means. Mostly, however, it was the fact that I can't sing a note; given weeks of practice, I might be able to string four or five notes together in tune, but it'd be iffy. It was inconceivable to him that anyone can't sing, as it comes as easily as breathing to him. He knew he was getting paid to sing because he's better than most at it, but he felt that that's because he works hard at it, not that he has some talent that others don't.

That's an important point to keep in mind when you get advice about running. Really talented people will tell you what they do and think that, if you just do what they do, you'll be as good as they are. That's why so many training plans fail; to succeed (if you're not naturally gifted), you have to understand what you're capable of doing and how to develop what little talent you might have. In my 20's, I was consistently running marathons in the 2:40's, but my times at shorter distances suggested I should be able to run 2:25-2:30, so I looked at various training plans developed by expert coaches - and I knew I couldn't do ANY of the workouts listed; in fact, I couldn't do any of the workouts they had for someone wanting to run 2:50. I decided then that I had to learn for myself how to develop a training plan [as it happens, I never officially broke 2:40 and it probably wouldn't have mattered how I trained; I didn't have the ability to run a marathon as well as I could run shorter distances].

I like planning my runs even more than doing them. I frequently get an idea of what should work, follow the plan for a while, get a new idea and abandon the old one before I get to test it thoroughly. For me, writing a training schedule is like composing music; there's a mathematical purity underlying it, but which can't be solely relied upon; there are elements combined in themes, which develop and come to the foreground and then recede as others replace them. In the end, there's a work of art, which suffers from a bad performance.

Like my musician friend, I have trouble seeing that what comes naturally and easily to me is completely alien to others. Most people don't care what goes into writing a training schedule, they just want to be told what to do. What I hope to do in this series of posts is to show how to plan one's training. Even though it's doubtful that anyone will fully adopt my way of thinking about training, there should be little nuggets along the way that one might pick up as valuable. At the very least, one should be able to look at a schedule written by someone else and be able to see if it makes sense to follow it or not.


aka Johny Smash said...

I'm very much in the same frame; I love the planning and then the seeing if it works but often mid-way into the plan something seemingly more important springs to mind meaning that I revise my plan to see what it brings.

Looking forward to your next few posts. Can you help me with one thing please? I'm really struggling to understand why my pace changes so often. For example, one day I do an easy run at a 70% effort and run at say 8min miles then the next for the same effort the pace goes up by as much as 45 seconds. The same route, same weather, no fatigue. What is going on? I'm really confused.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Ugh! The planning sounds almost worse than running!

Just kidding! Nothing's worse than the actual running.

I'm wrting fom an iPad so it'll probably take me 10attempts to do the stupid word verification. I shoulda planned better! And the fucking "word" is chaecksch!

joyRuN said...

I'm one of those brainless nitwits that need to be told what to do.

I'm nice & obedient that way.

Re: crossfit assholery - I'm still trying to figure out which ones are worse - crossfitters or triathletes.

SteveQ said...

@aka JS: I don't have enough information to answer your question, but suspect it's either residual fatigue from previous runs or just natural variation (sometimes we feel better and it has nothing to do with training).

SteveQ said...

@JoyRuN: I have a half-written post about "Really Fit Douchebags." It had the following video:

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

That http://youtu.be/sEQL6z1U0wY url is the url Youtube itself supplies for "sharing" that particular vid of "Midnight Rambler". As for the others, they are just bitly ensmallinations of reeeaaaallllllly long google urls.

I can't believe you and toyBuM are discussing who the biggest a-holes are and still haven't ... I mean helloooo? I'm RIGHT HERE!1!

BrianFlash said...

I'm way slower then you are but have the same problem. My 5K race times don't translate well into marathon race times.

When I was young, I thought more work would make me faster. Now, I understand no matter how much training I do, I'm not beating SteveQ in a race...

aka Johny Smash said...

Steve, see if this works;
or my blog......