Monday, April 30, 2012

Marathon Training: A week in review

Last Sunday, I ran 11 miles. The following day, I ran another 10. Tuesday morning over a bowl of oatmeal, breakfast ice cream and a few bananas, I decided I needed to develop a base if I was going to keep running like this. Four ten-mile runs in a one-week period was probably more than my undeveloped running muscles could handle, and I'm still getting a grip on what it means to fuel. (Hence ice cream at 7 a.m.)

The marathon seems like a good place to start. I downloaded some generic "intermediate" training plan after breakfast, and started plugging all the mileage into my Google calendar. Because of Monday's unnecessary long run, I picked up the training plan a day late. This schedule does exactly what I need it to. It lets me run six days a week, gives me a mandatory rest day--something I'm not very good with--and forces me to incorporate a speed workout.

Wednesday was a 6-mile run. Nothing to shake a stick at. Thursday I ran 4 miles, and clocked in averaging an 8:48 mile. I liked the short distance because I could run faster. That is, until I ran into a steep hill charging at an 8:20 pace that degenerated into an 11 minute per mile shuffle. Friday I ran 6 miles, pacing under a 9-minute mile. Was I already getting faster?

Saturday's 3-mile run started off poorly. As I was rounding the corner of my apartment community's parking lot, one of the cars facing the street honked at me. Startled, I stumbled and fumbled with my iPhone to pause my run tracker. The woman sitting in the driver's seat could have been 40 or 70, dressed in a bathrobe and draped with a blanket. The car had a stale cigarette smell, and I pitied the aging golden retriever wheezing in the passenger's seat. The back was filled with junk,  probably everything the lady owned.

"Tell me how to get to McDonald's," she said. I had to step back, because the cigarette smoke was burning my already over-taxed lungs.

I haven't been in a McDonald's in over six years, and I've stopped "seeing" them. They're everywhere. I gave the woman some generic directions to what might have been a McDonald's, or a Taco Bell, or a Wendy's. I'm still not sure, all I know is there's some fast food restaurant where I directed her, because I'd used the drive-thru to reach the street on a previous day's run.

Despite the interruption, overall it wound up being a nice short run with negative splits, averaging an 8:32 pace.

Sunday's 10-mile run was a drag. I'd made a gel with chia seeds and agave nectar, which I tried to sip while I was still jogging and managed to inhale the seeds, some of which are still lodged in my nose.

Today is a rest day, which I will use to (possibly) get another few thousand words into my novella-in-progress, and (hopefully) extract the sprouting chia seeds from my nasal cavity.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Long distance versus speed..

I'm not a fast runner.

I accept this fact. There was a time in my running life, back in college when I had definition in my abs and an 8-minute mile was my easy day. But that time has come and gone.

Nowadays, I've shortened my stride. Slowed myself down to enjoy the mountains. I stop to take pictures, slow down on the uphills and focus on my footwork. I try to convince myself I run because I love to run, and not to get faster or break any land speed records.

However, I don't find that I'm any easier on myself at the end of the run, and while I shouldn't make any excuses for my performance (unless it's valid), I need to take some pause before doing so.

I ran an easy 10 miles today. I went out knowing it was going to be long and slow, and I had no idea how fast it was going to be. Didn't really care, because it was cold, windy, raining, maybe snowing, and cloudy in Denver for the first time in ages. I finished the run at about a 10-minute pace with splits all over the place because of long and steep hills. I felt good the whole way, never feeling like I was exerting too much energy and ended back at my apartment fairly certain I could run another several miles at the same pace comfortably.

Then I really looked at my numbers, and felt defeated. No, I didn't hurt at mile 4, but I could have sworn I was running at least a 9-minute pace. Did I really only finish the final mile in 9:58, because I swore I was flying!

Afterwards, I compared my time with my last easy long run, a 9.29 mile lap up the road and back about two months ago. I averaged a 10:51 pace that run (even when I paused the timer to take the two pictures at Bear Creek on the right, which I ran by today under heavy cloud cover). I did almost a minute better per mile over a longer distance today.

Long distances are humbling. It isn't just how physically fit you are, but mentally prepared as well. Two hours of running, four, six, twenty-four hours... it takes more than strong legs to get you there.

And gives you a greater appreciation for the view!