Thursday, August 23, 2007

Quack Quack

Why is it so much easier to learn from our training mistakes rather than from our training successes? I guess the smoke and fire that erupts from overdoing it draws more attention than the sometimes imperceptible gains that come from consistent and balanced training.

A little over two weeks ago I was cooked from a combination of travel, work and general fatigue. I recognized this only after a trainwreck of a long run. Later, my log of the week shows me tired on two occasions before the blow up. After a much-needed easy day of six miles followed by a day off, I seemed to be back to making progress. In fact, the past two weeks of training were easily the best of this training cycle in terms of balancing the increased stresses of the workouts with my increased recovery needs. No single workout left me absolutely fried, and the words,"felt good" or "felt easy" started replacing "tired" next to where I typed in my workout results.

With this in mind, a smart runner would take pains to keep to the same type of schedule and ride the gains out, especially as the workouts start to increase in intensity and duration. Stay in the game, keep moving up the ladder, and other tired phrases I use often come to mind here. I believe that a good week of training, or even two, doesn't mean that much in the grand scheme of things. A good month is something else, and I think taking this longer view leads to a bit more balance while deemphasizing the tendency to cram in the miles or the workouts in a given week to meet an arbitrary goal. Unfortunately, I haven't been a smart runner.

Instead of making good decisions this week, I ended up taking my fitness for granted. Heading out to the Saguaro 8 mile course and running the last three miles close to marathon pace was a bad idea on Monday, especially the day after hill repeats and the day before running 7 miles worth of cruise intervals. This was the first time I had done this type of workout for this cycle (the cruise intervals), and those miles spent running faster than marathon pace should have been preceded by an easy run instead. In retrospect, the load looks like three workouts in a row, which certainly wasn't what the coach had in mind.

Yesterday was my chance to really recover, and to save up whatever I could for this week's back to back workouts on Thursday and Friday. I made a good choice by heading out for an easy 10 in the morning, but then I stupidly decided to do the evening run with the Running Shop gang. Since I've sworn off this run I've had a much easier time with the back to back workouts, so I don't know why I showed up. It's nice to see everyone, but running 10K in 102 degree temps just 11 hours before the first of my back to back workouts simply doesn't work for me. Which brings me to this morning...

A poor night of sleep, interrupted twice by the kids, brought 4am around too soon. Once on the road the legs didn't feel great, and a first mile of 7:40 certainly proved I wasn't running any better than I felt. After a second mile I started the 7 mile effort at 5:57 pace, and found myself working entirely too hard to keep the pace under 6 minutes. 85 degree temperatures weren't helping, but this alone isn't enough to find me struggling this early. After getting things down to 5:56 for the first mile I almost stopped to save the workout for tomorrow, but for whatever reason I pressed on. Mile two passed in 5:55 with slightly less of a struggle, then mile three in an inexplicable 5:50. Now I was heading downhill for a few miles, and I expected the effort to ease. Instead, I kept having to surge a bit to stay under 6. A 5:58 followed by a 5:55 felt closer to the 5:45's I was running earlier in the week, and after a sixth mile in 5:57 I pulled the plug. The feet were blistered for the first time in memory, I felt overheated, and my breathing wasn't right for the pace. I grumpily jogged a mile home, thinking all the way about the mile I had shirked and the probability that tomorrow could be quite tough depending on how I bounce back. While I'm not totally cooked by any means, the workout did not feel the way it was designed to, and it seemed like finishing it for the sake of putting it in the log-book would just mean digging myself deeper.

I'm not upset about my fitness, I'm just disappointed in the series of rookie training mistakes that no doubt contributed to the rough day and the missed mile. I also got to thinking about the 3-4x2 mile cruise interval workout, and how I probably would have gotten all 8 miles in (instead of stopping at 7) if I had taken it easier the day before. Another mile and another opportunity missed.

Afterwards, I hopped into what passes for an ice bath around here. The small amount of available ice melted fairly quickly, but soon enough it was replaced by three rubber ducks, two basketballs, a boat and a small giraffe. While the water was far too cold for the kids to hop in, they made sure I didn't lack for company.

Training: Today, 9 miles, 57:20, 6:25 pace, w/6 mile effort in 5:56, 5:55, 5:50, 5:58, 5:55, 5:57
Yesterday pm., 6.2 miles easy, 43 minutes
Yesterday am., 10 miles, 1:11:10, 7:07 pace


Eric said...

What an encouraging post! I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with your new 'smart' running strategy.

You are planning on running 'smart' going forward, right? =)

Amanda said...

Ah we live and we learn and then we do it all again.

The first step to recovery is recognizing you have a problem..or so they say. :)

Blaxabbath said...

We've had an unusually long streak of humidity with the heat lately. I'm not saying it's THE REASON -- but I'm always one for finding different factors and I think being engulfed in this Tucson version of humidity 24/7 for weeks is just one more condition your body isn't used to.

On the bright side, it won't stay this way forever.