Monday, August 17, 2009


“The biggest mistake is to stick to a formula, or a schedule,” says the running coach Brad Hudson. These have been comforting words over the past few weeks. It’s a little scary not to follow the FIRST dictates day by day. There’s a sense that by letting go, anything might happen—including the whole enterprise falling apart. But things have hung together well, I think, even as I go my own way more and more. Mostly I’ve remained confident that I understand (1) how FIRST is trying to make me faster and (2) that my own input can only improve the formula.

Take this past Thursday: I had missed the two previous tempo runs because of races, and was trying to decide between getting back into the program with the 10-miler at 7:15 from the previous week, or the subsequent five-miler at 6:49. The long run felt a little slow and the short one too much like the races I'd just done, so I kind of split the difference, doing seven miles at 7:00/mile. My race log notes: “Marine Drive w/ Niko riding alongside. Nice cloudy day. Wore Gel-Cumulus. Hard run. Still recovering from Sunday’s tough 20. But a solid workout. Five would have been too short, 10 too long.”

Saturday called for a track workout: 1000m @ 3:37, 2000m @ 7:36 and 1000m at 3:37, with 400m rest intervals. As always, I warmed up by jogging the 2.2 miles to the track. My right calf was really tight and this worried me. But while you’d think hard running would exacerbate an injury—I would think that—it hasn’t worked out that way. Again, the track workout loosened up the calf, and I did the first 1000 in 3:31, the 2000 in 7:28 and the final 1000 in 3:37. These track workouts are always challenging, but I seem to be able to swallow a thick dose of short-term pain easier than a thin dose spread out over three-plus hours.

So that was two hard workouts in three days but the weird thing was, I didn’t feel like resting on Sunday, or doing an hour on the trainer. I felt like running easy. As it happened, Southeast Portland was host to the last of the summer’s Sunday Parkways, in which a circuit running through several parks is closed off to traffic, allowing bikers, runners and all manner of people movers and people moving to own the streets. Niko and I chugged along at a comfy 9:00/mile pace, covering 8.5 miles and rather enjoying the Portland-style parade. I felt refreshed and invigorated afterward—the very definition of a recovery run. And the run made me hungry to run more. So I did, today. I went for 10 miles, mostly at 7:50/mile, but in the middle of the run, for three miles I alternated moderately hard 400s (6:45/mile pace) with easier 400s (8:00). This was a total freelance effort, no planning beforehand, just winging it and going with the flow. It was good.

What’s next? My gut tells me that the half-dozen tempo runs and half-dozen track workouts I’ve done with FIRST have largely done their job. I’m not saying I’m going to abandon those runs entirely. I understand their value, and I’ll turn to them again, if less often than the schedule tells me to. But my highest priority in the next two weeks is to get in two great long, hard runs, per FIRST. To do that, I’ll need to protect myself from damaging workouts and have great recoveries. Weirdly, I think that means frequent mid-distance, mid-effort runs.

1 comment:

  1. It's comforting to hear that you're messing with the schedule a little bit. I always feel somehow guilty for doing this, even though I obviously know far better than a book what I'm feeling and what I can expect to do.

    My runs have been in the extreme heat and humidity too, something that I wasn't really considering when I felt bad about being a little slow. And I probably also need to take that into account when thinking about whether the amount of recovery time I'm giving myself is sufficient.

    Your plan for the rest of the way seems sound to me. I can't imagine there's too much to gain from high-intensity workouts in the last few weeks, and there's plenty to lose if something should go wrong during one.