Monday, August 16, 2010

A Long Discussion About Things

or…My Running State of Training Speech

I’ll begin with an admission, I’m bad with change. I’m not talking about my absolute hatred of pennies; no, it’s the other kind of change. More specifically, I resist making an easy change even when it will benefit me. An example: I started my new job last October, the week before the Chicago Marathon. At my previous job, clients came to the firm. Now, working for a corporation, we go to the client. This means I went from a very predictable 8a to 5p job to days where I may work from 12p to 10p by the time I finish my commute home. Because the profession I represent is 24 hours a day/7 days a week, often I have meetings at 7pm (and the occasional 6am meeting). At my old job, we had unlimited internet freedom. New job, not so much. Old job, at desk all day. New job, at desk once a week. Basically, I now work non-standard hours and must always dodge the internet boogeyman.

That said, back to the ‘bad with change’ part. While training for Boston I could have done my runs in the morning if I knew I had to work late that evening. I didn’t. Instead I tried to force in late runs and ended up missing several workouts. Yep, I’d get home at 9:30p and I’d try to go do a tempo run—which never went well. Why run at night when I could easily run in the morning? Because it’s cold and dark and sidewalks are not plowed on any average Michigan winter morning. Then again, the same applies for any average Michigan winter evening. Hummm…

Alas, when change presented me with an opportunity(i.e. run in the morning)—I ignored it. I tried to stick to my old ways and ended up frustrated because I was missing several of my weekly runs. Not to mention the fact that I tried to do track workouts in the winter. Yes, I’m stubborn (read: stupid) enough to try and do 400s, 600s, 800s, etc in winter. I’d try to find a clear length of sidewalk and sprint it…in winter. It didn’t work. I couldn’t find a clear length or I’d face horrific winds and sleet the few days I could find enough room to sprint. Oh, did I ever mention that I live extremely close to Michigan State University and that MSU has an indoor track open to the public? Did I ever use this indoor track during Boston training? Come on, you should know the answer to this!!!

So, while I never missed a long run, I never really fully trained adequately. And despite a goal of running Boston at a comfortable pace, I still had a crap-tastic race.

After Boston, I took several weeks off. I’d been training hard for over 16 months. I rested. I didn’t run or workout. Instead, I read. I prepared for the Redhead to move in. I slept late on weekends. I ate Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, dark chocolate Reese’s, and Cheez-Its. And I got out of running shape. But it was wonderful. Simply, my body needed the rest (but not so much Taco Bell).

When base training for Grand Rapids was supposed to begin in early June, I sorta did it. I’d maybe run once or twice during the week. Same problem, refusing to run in the morning and trying to force runs in late at night.

This all resulted in me arriving at the start of my Grand Rapids training at the below designated fitness level.


I ran Chicago 09 at 178lbs. I weighed in before GR training at 205lbs. 25 extra pounds makes a difference regarding running shape. My first several weeks of training were stuffed full of slower runs where I was easily winded. Sure, some of my speed still remained, but I wasn’t going to last for much longer than a few miles.

But our bodies love to get healthy. I began to eat better (read: limiting my TB intake and (and this is a big deal for me) when forced to eat out—even at a fast food place—ordering a salad without dressing). I never die from eating salads. A good change, but one I always institute while training.

If a tree can make an abrupt change, why not I?

But the biggest change was only possible with the support of the Redhead. Together, she has helped me become a morning runner. Yep, every run begins before 6:30a. I won’t lie, it sucks. Early morning running should only be reserved for long runs. Alas, now I run in the am. And I’ve managed to hit all of my runs this way. I’ve combined eating healthier with regularly working out and guess what—I’m getting back into good running shape. I’ve lost over 10lbs in 4 weeks; plus my speed and endurance are getting back to form. Imagine that!?!

Are my times what they were last year at this point in my training—no. But last year I had the benefit of running Bayshore and then Sunburst and then began Chicago training—so I had an excellent base going into Chicago 09. And the goal this year is to have an awesome Boston. Which means training as hard as possible for Grand Rapids and carrying that momentum (and the adjustments I have made/should have made last year) into training for the 115th running of the Boston Marathon.

But really, what does all of this mean. I think it goes to show a few important aspects of running. Initially, regardless of whether you run in Asics or barefoot, if running is going to remain a long-term partner in your life, then you are going to have to allow yourself the gift of adjusting change. Life will always find cleaver, if not outright inconvenient, ways to interrupt your ‘perfect training plan.’ You can fight it, or accept it and make the best possible adjustment you can. And not to discredit the individuals who pursue running streaks or those who have trained hard every week for 75 straight years…but I’m a firm believer your body needs rest.

Second, there is a beauty in accepting that you are not where you were before; and that it will take some time to get back there. Don’t all long distance runners accept that the prize is in the journey and not the destination? Whether it is an injury-induced refrain from running or a self-imposed month of gluttony, there is joy in rediscovering your stride. It is not courageous to set a PR every time; it is courageous to fail and decide to continue—knowing what sacrifices must be made in order to toe the line once more.

8 comments:

Sun Runner said...

Second, there is a beauty in accepting that you are not where you were before; and that it will take some time to get back there.

Sigh. Why do you have to sound so...so...SENSIBLE?

I am struggling with the exact same problem. A few extra pounds, a few too many missed runs, every run feels more difficult than it should. I think about the amazing shape I was in heading into Cleveland in '09 and I just want to cry. I'm not even close this time. Requalifying for Boston at Grand Rapids is a remote possibility. As in, it's not happening. At all. I'm in no condition to run a 3:45 race.

So now what? I accept the current state of affairs and move forward. My dad will be running the half at GR. Redhead will be running the half. You'll be there too. It will be a great weekend of friends and family. It will be my fifth (!!!) marathon. There will be beer from Founders afterward.

I will have the opportunity to regroup and make a serious attempt at BQing at the Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte in December if GR is a bust. We'll see. That was supposed to be my "fun" race.

In the meantime I'd like this hamstring issue to resolve itself so I can actually run again!

Nitmos said...

The Boston Hangover.

I planned a series of 5k's immediately after my Boston08 in anticipation of the urge to slack. Before long, the hangover went away and I was still running.

But it's easy for me, working from home, running on my lunch hour. You have different challenges but will be back in tip-top shape before long.

The Laminator said...

Great post, my man! I think change is hard but definitely necessary in different parts of our lives. It is how we well we adapt to those required changes that dictates our success. I know you'll get back to where you need to be and have a great Boston next year!

Xenia said...

Although I'm slower than ditch water and always have been, I can really relate to this post. Lots of good stuff here. Thanks, Spike.

Adam said...

Well said. I am just now coming to my pre sFx form. It took a crap ton of work and even more frustration.

Change is good.

Bethany + Ryan said...

haha, love the tree and your comment on that pic :-)

Morgan said...

Change is good and it always seems to bring out the best in us when we finally embrace it. :)

Paul said...

Spike, you give me a laugh. My story is similar in some ways. When I started dating my own redhead I was in the best form of my life. Within 12-months I was slower and heavier but much happier in many ways.

In the time since then my weight and form have ebbed and flowed - never back to my halcyon days but good nonetheless.

My redhead and I also got married, bought a house and now have two lovely little girls.

Life changes, you move on and enjoy your new reality. Hope your journey is at least as much fun as mine has been!

Cheers, PB