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

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Odds and Ends

I looked at the Afton Trail 50K record for 50 year-old men and decided it was soft. Using age-grading and switching 25K to 50K in one case (and changing gender in one), I came up with four predictions of what the record should be - 4:05, 4:05, 4:08, 4:08. The record currently stands at 4:27:27. The next question was: Just how hard would that be? The current record is about like running a marathon under 3:10 and 4:05 would be about a marathon in 2:50. I might be able to match the current record, but that would be about my limit.

De-romanticizing the past

But is that in any way realistic? I dug out my old records and in 2007, I was running 85 miles per week at 8 minutes per mile; I could run sub 4:30 at Afton then. The next year, I was doing just a little worse (and racing a lot) and could reasonably expect to do it... but ran 5:29. Two minutes per mile slower! It was a bad race, with a nasty fall, but even before that, the pace was wrong. I was not racing well after the win at Trail Mix in April. Something was up.

The idea of running as fast next year as I did then is barely in the realm of possibility.

How did I used to do it, anyway?

In the early 2000's, I had times when I didn't run much mileage, but I was still running 6.5 to 7.5 minutes per mile in training. When I increased mileage, it was dramatic and not systematic. I remember some slow years, when running 10 minutes per mile for a few miles was a challenge (about where I started this summer), but my records from then are spotty.

The build

I'm starting to run again. I'm stuck at a slow pace and low mileage and trying to remember how to make a comeback. There've been times when I could whip myself into shape in 6 weeks, but I can't do that any more. There've been attempts at a comeback before that have failed and I think I know the reason: what made me race well was the ability to endure much more suffering than others - but there are no awards for suffering. I'm good at going from 98% to 99%, but getting from 48% to 49% bothers me and I've tried to leapfrog over some steps in the past.

Recently, my "long" run was 7 miles and, as I headed out to run 8, I ran into an old friend who pointed out that I was running a 3 mile loop, so I might as well make it a 9 miler. It's what I would've done before - and I would've paid the price of not being able to run well (if at all) for a couple of days afterward.

Treating myself like someone else

The biggest challenge of being self-coached is second-guessing oneself.  What I need to do is make myself run like I would if I were someone else. Pull out the old rules:

1) Don't increase mileage more than 10% (and 5% is safer).
2) Don't make your long run too long (25% of previous week's mileage is the goal).
3) Take a day off each week, until running at least 60 miles per week.
4) Do just a little speedwork - nothing longer than 100 meters at a time, to break the monotony.
5) Don't push in any workout, but, if you feel good, run as fast as you feel like going.
6) Try to improve just a little, either in average pace or in total miles, every week.
7) When you can't manage #6, back off for a week or two.

It's maddeningly slow making a comeback this way, but it's working so far.


Karen said...

I'm self-coached too and sometimes second guess myself, often incorporating rules just like yours. Wishing you luck on your comeback, it sounds like a solid plan to me :)

wildknits said...

Glad to see that you are able to consistently run again, no matter how "slow" it may seem.

Off to reread those training guidelines and analyze where I currently am and how I have been mucking it all up this year.

Chad Walstrom said...

If anything, you're relatable, Steve! As the date for Superior 50 looms ahead, I wonder what the hell I was thinking. I'll suffer through it, to be sure, but if there's one thing I've recognized is that because of that suffering, I would like it completed sooner than later.

I joked with you on my birthday that I should have you coach me, but the truth of the matter is that I'm not sure I could keep you happy. :) Most of the "organized" training runs we do as a community are the the "shout-out" type. "I'm running Afton tomorrow morning at 6:30! Others welcome." We don't ever talk about training, race strategy, etc.

Would you be interested in a Meetup group, where the topic of conversation is self-coached training? Some place and time that we can share ideas, exchange tips, and bullshit about things? Not an organized run, but rather an excuse to drink beer and pull out training notebooks?

Double said...

Go to bed knowing your going to grind out an hour run in the AM. Run 1.5 Wednesday and 2.0 Sunday before Sunday School. Race on Saturday or do something with a little ass in it. When tired take a day off...two if necessary. Repeat for decades.

Jean-Serge Cardinal said...

After 2 years of injuries (Achilles with haglung) and trying to recover I manage to SLOWLY improve and increased my mileage from 12miles/week to now 45miles/week in one year(September 2013 to now) which represent about 2% increase per week. I had no rules except to run every day a set amount of miles without too much pain and keeping a 175-190step/min, using minimalist shoes. I increased the set mileage only when the pain is not too much.

I not saying that this will work with you but It worked very well with me.

After three years of misery I'm finally doing a half marathon race in september, I'm very happy.