Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thoughts on my training

I am a romantic, yes, but also to a great extent a scientist and a realist. This creates the conflict from which I emerge occasionally victorious, but out of breath.
Henri Matisse

I had planned to run a piece of the Foothills Trail this weekend. I’ve been threatening to dip my toe in that monster that a bunch of my local runner friends have made their personal Moby Dick, doing it in pieces, or the entire length, or one crazy cat’s double crossing. I had hoped to have company, but I’ve run thousands of miles alone in both familiar and strange woods. 
Then life popped up. My children take precedence over everything, and they have made some sacrifices for me to go running all day. All of a sudden, the timing fell apart, and late Saturday night, the Bench became impossible.
I figured I’d replace the run with 25 or so miles here at Croft, and cut out the 3 hours driving time. But I woke this morning nauseous, through all the preparation for the run, including the drive down to Croft and the 100 yard jog to stash water. I bagged the run.
The Bench
Cue voices: The Bench isn’t going anywhere (unless some crazed runner throws it into Lake Jocassee). I’m more fit than I’ve been in years, and my endurance is at its highest ever. I have to let these life moments and physical hints in, even though a significant part of endurance training lies in ignoring those signals. I guess I have to decide when to listen.
All this reminds me of an interesting discussion that has gone on in ultra-running for some time now, and which was elegantly added to by two top ultra-runners these days. Geoff Roes (Western States 100 and Wasatch 100 course record holder) and Ian Torrence (a long history of running, coaching and winning) have opposite views of the importance of speed training for ultra-running, but the bigger question they raise is about their own tendency to plan or not plan a training regimen. 
Torrance, a more old school runner and coach, holds that training for any distance requires three parts: endurance, stamina, and speed. The structured plans with the scheduled workouts keep him focused and confident when he races. Roes runs by feel, and says he doesn’t decide more than a day or two ahead of time what he’ll run. He may have a goal in mind (strength, or endurance) that informs his decisions, but other than that he runs with no plan.
Deciding which is “better” is pretty impossible, given the success each has had. Obviously, what works for Roes and Torrance works for them. But over 28 years of running, “what works for me” has varied greatly, depending somewhat on job, school, family, maintaining or regaining fitness, and all the other variables of life, the universe, and everything. Sometimes I have been very focused, and fairly rigid in my plan, in part to schedule with my running partners, too. Other times, I have run when I could, balancing family and career needs, especially when my kids were very young. Now I have one plan--to run every day. Beyond that, I still fall between Roes and Torrance.
I run long one day every weekend, with very few exceptions unless I’m injured or sick or worn out. “Long” has varied, but I generally have time at least one day a weekend to wear myself out. These days I count backwards from a race and write “20+” or “25+” on particular weekends. So I have some sense of what my schedule may look like.
But even then, I will change my plan if circumstances call for it. At this point in my preparation for Highlands Sky, I need to stay rested, mentally and physically. I know I’ll get some long runs in.
It seems to me that what this comes down to is art versus science. But we know that the best art involves science and the best science involves art. No one has yet come down on which is more important, or “better.” Certainly there is science behind Roes’s penchant for the vertical, though his approach may be more like art. Torrance’s art comes in the arrangement of the parts, the structure of the structured plan.  
The Snail, 1953, Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, on white 
paper, 287 cm × 288 cm (112 3/4 × 108 inches), Tate Gallery, London

This could be my training plan.
I train in patterns: long run on the weekend, a medium run or two (7-10) during the week, and the rest recovery runs. Since I’ve been running every day, I run three hard weeks building mileage, then one down week to recover. Because I’m running a 40-mile distance I’ve never run before, I’ll add some mileage to my weeks, which will likely fall in the 50-60 mile range. The pattern flexes in many spots, which is to me its strength.
Through all of this I keep in mind something that George Zack, a versatile runner and popular blogger whom I admire for his commitment to training and family and the balance, has been writing about lately.  We have goals, we train to improve, we sometimes put a hurt on ourselves for it. But I’m not making any money at this. “This ain’t the Olympics,” he says. 
When I lived in Charlottesville in the mid-80s, I was running faster and faster times. I’d been running for a full year by then, and I was logging higher and higher mileage. I had no family, no girlfriend (hence all the running, right?), and Charlottesville was (and is) a great running town. I was starting to get into the idea of training, learning from running guru Mark Lorenzoni about training strategies. We did weekly speed workouts, weekly long runs, some tempo running, and my times were plummeting.  
I wanted to break 17 minutes for 5K, and went to local race to do it. There was an accompanying 10K. Mark told me another fellow was also trying break 17 minutes, and said I should hook up with him. I asked this fellow if he minded if I tagged onto him. As we talked more, he told me that he preferred 10Ks, and if “I had my choice,” he said, he would run the longer race that day.
“Had his choice,” I thought? Who is keeping this guy from running whatever he wants to run? I guess it was his training plan. I knew then that I would not train like that. I was loving the 5Ks at the time (and other than the local beer and doughnut run, I haven’t run one in several years). You can imagine what happened. I ran about 16:40, the other guy about 17:20. I ran a distance I loved, he ran a distance he didn’t.
Those Charlottesville days were my schooling. I’ve never had a coach, and days hanging out in the Ragged Mountain Running Shop lacing shoes with Mark were my education. I still value Mark’s greatest running lesson: to love what I’m doing, and to do what I love, whether it’s art or science, romantic or realist. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Week ending April 22, with the Alabama Shakes

Mon 4/16  4 miles on Cottonwood
Tue 4/17  5 miles on Cottonwood
Wed 4/18  12 miles at Croft. Great run in the pouring rain. So yesterday it was 84 degrees and sunny; I figured it was good heat training, and that I’d pay attention to that this spring anticipating heat at Highlands Sky. Today it was 54 and raining. So much for heat training.
from Dairy Ridge: Palmetto to TC’s to the little lake trail to Lake Johnson Loop to Palmetto
Thu 4/19 2 miles wobbling. After a full day, observing Q’s ballet class, meeting a friend for a beer (or two), I ran around the neighborhood.
Fri 4/20  4 miles on Cottonwood. Mountain laurel and wild roses blooming, cotton from the cottonwoods blowing.
Sat 4/21 3 miles
Sun 4/22  20 miles at Croft. One of the best runs I’ve ever had. Gordon and I set off in the chill and rain, and hit almost all the hilliest trails. I felt easy and strong the whole run. Bristol seemed to be feeling about the same. We ran a few extra steps to see if we could catch some of the mountain bike race going on at Southside. 
from the Riding Ring: Foster Mill to Boy Scout Hut and Lake to New Edition to Palmetto to TC’s to the little lake trail to the Lake back to the Boy Scout Hut and Foster Mill.
Total  50 miles in seven runs (101-11)

"I travelled a long way
And it took a long time
But I found you, I finally found you."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Week ending April 15

Mon 4/9  8 1/2 miles at Croft. Good relaxed, loping pace.

from Dairy Ridge: Palmetto to Lake Johnson Loop all the way around and back to Palmetto.
Tue 4/10  3 miles  Busy day.
Wed 4/11  5 miles at Cottonwood
Thu 4/12  5 miles at Cottonwood. I thought I might go farther, but felt tired. A little niggling pain in my lower back, my right ankle, my left IT band: Get thee to a chiropractor!
Fri 4/13  4 miles, including 2 miles barefoot.
Sat 4/14  12 miles at Croft. Again, I thought I would go over 20 today, but just didn’t feel like I could muster up the mental strength to do so. Since I’m still just 3 weeks from Terrapin, I feel like I can still look at recovery. I haven’t raced much in the past few years, so I don’t want to press the comeback from a good, hard race. I am focusing on Highlands Sky, and need to be mentally and physically prepared. 
That said, and knowing I would do two shorter back-to-back runs this weekend, I went after it. I felt very easy at 7:30 pace for the entire run, even with some slow climbs. 
at Southside: Southside Loop all the way around, including High and Dry and Rock Creek.
Sun 4/15 9 1/2 miles at Croft. I set off to explore a new trail, but a tired back changed that plan. I did end up running longer than I thought I would.
from Dairy Ridge: New Edition to Lake Johnson Connector to Lake Johnson Loop all the way around to Hensington and Palmetto
Total  47 miles in seven runs  (94-11: In order to start my year on January 1, I have added in the week before I started my first streak to my count of on and off days.)
Old shoes, new shoes: the old ones
have about 530 miles on them.
In the interest of keeping track of the miles on my shoes, I will record here that I bought a new pair of shoes after Terrapin, and have been wearing them since Wednesday, March 28. 
The shoe buy was a good lesson, too: I’ve worn the Montrail Rogue Racers for a year now (3 pairs). After last year’s Terrapin, I had some foot problems, and I blamed them on the Rogue Racers’ lightness. I bought a pair of Brooks Cascadias, a heavier and more cushioned shoe. My foot problems continued until one day I wore an old pair of Rogue Racers to work. My feet felt great, so I returned to them. 
Later I felt like my calf problems were related to the Rogue Racers, and bought a pair of Mountain Masochists. I did not like either the Cascadias or the Mountain Masochists. They were both too stiff, too heavy and clunky for me. I stuck with the Rogue Racers, but was excited about the coming Montrail Bajadas, which were only slightly heavier than the Rogue Racers. I thought I would buy them, but C reminded me of something I have held to all through my running: when I find a pair of shoes I like, I stick with them. As usual, C is brilliant.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Week ending April 8

Mon 4/2  7 miles at Croft. I felt steady but still fatigued.
from Dairy Ridge: New Addition to Lake Johnson Connector to Palmetto
Tue 4/3  4 miles at Cottonwood.
Wed 4/4  A great hike with Q, who did his longest hike (6 miles, about 5 hours). We left from Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway and hiked 3 miles and about 1400’ up to Black Balsam Knob. The hike involved a long traverse, some serious climbs, and a little cross country through the grasses toward the top of the bald. 
As always, we laughed a lot, talked about camp and outdoors and history, stopped to eat. I thought about the difference in pace and effort when I run, and actively sought to make this one a hike. We sat at a few overlooks, and a few times just to rest. 
I felt a little pain in my IT band, and I took that to mean I should not run--another conscious effort to train smart.
Thu 4/5  A crazy day of work, family duties, and two evening presentations. Again, I chose not to run. I did ride my bike to work.
Fri 4/6 Work ride, but again, no run. On the unmotivated side, I am resting.
Sat 4/7  11 miles at Croft. Today is eleven weeks out from the Highlands Sky 40 miler. If I start my streak this coming Monday, I’ll run the Highlands Sky 40-miler on the 76th day, the same day I ran Terrapin. I’ll go for the mojo.
from Dairy Ridge: New Addition to Lake up past the pool to Hensington to Palmetto.

Sun 4/8  Spent a great day with C and her family. Starting the Highlands Sky streak tomorrow.
Total  22 miles in 3 runs

On the way up.

Approaching Black Balsam Knob

Q rarely misses the opportunity to take a dip.

Up there.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Week ending April 1: Recovery

Mon 3/26  Mon 3/26  0 miles. Though I did ride my bike to work comfortably, stairs were a challenge, especially down. Kismet led me to an interview on with Karl Meltzer, legendary 100-mile-winner-32-times-at-least-one-for-the-past-13-years, who had this to say about his post-race recovery: 
 "I’ll take my dog for a walk the next couple days to move my legs. Yes, the way I feel now, I’ll probably take Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday off. I’ll take walks, and I’ll keep moving around the house because I don’t like to sit still. I’ll start running when my body feels it’s ready. It might be a 3 miler...
“Overdoing it is a big mistake I’ve seen a lot of people do. If they have a great race and let’s say they feel great on Tuesday, they’ll start banging out, banging out, banging out miles and all the sudden two weeks later they have this low period where they’re tired again. They’re not really recovered from three weeks ago. So you want to recover in a week and a half then get back to training if you can. There’s a fine line of doing too much right afterwards. That’s what I try to avoid.”
Tue 3/27  3 miles on Cottonwood. I drove the less-than-a-mile to the trailhead to avoid a long downhill on our street. I felt surprisingly good on the flats, but the slightest dip in the trail was a reminder. 77-2
Wed 3/28  4 miles, including 2 miles barefoot. Oh, and I guess in all fairness, I wear socks. 78-2
Thu 3/29  5 miles on Cottonwood. Very nice early morning run. 79-2
Fri 3/30 2 miles. Reminding myself to come back slowly. Felt a little stiffness in my calf. 80-2
Sat 3/31 2 miles. Bristol was very confused by the loop around the neighborhood all on pavement and passing a pile of dogs in yards. Again, a little stiffness in my calf, but not in the usual spot. Get out the Stick. 81-2
March totals: 168 1/2 miles in 29 runs
Year to date: 531 miles in 82 runs
Sun 4/1  0 miles A nice walk in the morning up in the mountains. Spent Saturday night playing music, drinking, laughing and eating with my old friend Shan (I’ve known Shan for 45 years) and his wife Bev, Bev’s mom Jane and a couple of her friends celebrating Shan’s 50th birthday. 81-3
Total: 16 miles in 5 runs
Shan: I've known only my family longer.
Caution led me this week. I felt a little niggling in my Achilles area on Saturday morning. I think the value of the streak was in the preparation for Terrapin Mountain. I had confidence in my training, which obviously went well. So I’ll start a new streak to the next race, the Highlands Sky 40 miler, as soon as I’m recovered.