Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Simple Thoughts on Simple Stuff

"Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify." --"Thoreau, Where I Lived, and What I Lived for"

You are probably familiar with the above quote by Thoreau. If I were not saving my philosophical energies for other projects, I would ruminate on running as a practice of returning to the simple.

Instead, I want to sum up the results of some recent training and talk about the changes I am going to make in the next few months.

If you've been following along, I just spent the last 6 months chasing some 5k goals. I quit mileage whoring (biggest week: 75 miles and a ton of weeks in the 50s). I ran a ton of workouts on the track. I actually paid attention to recovery and stuff. And most importantly: I got my butt 12 times to the starting lines of races, including the mile, a 3k, a heapload of 5ks, a 5 miler, and last weekend a 10 miler.


The results? Just post college PRs in, oh, the mile, the 3k, the 5k, the 5 mile, and the 10 mile. I'd say it was a pretty positive season.

Being a runner, I'm not totally satisfied. But I'm about as close to satisfied as I get.

What next? Well, obviously I want to build on that success. This means, paradoxically, that I need to quit doing everything that got me all of this success. I need to care less about recovery, bump up my miles, get off the track. And most importantly: quit racing for a little while.

Why? Well, the reasons (as usual) are multiple.

1. Change is good. The body reacts to stimuli, and if you keep getting the same old stimulus from your training, then the body will cease to see that stimulus as a "stimulus" and just see it as something it can take care of without changing. The stimulus ceases to become a stimulus and just becomes what you always do. That's not training; that's stasis. This goes for the mind and the body.

2. I need to build my base. The whole beginning of this experiment was motivated by getting away from with base building. I had spent the prior 2 or 3 years slogging out miles in hope that running more would make me faster. Well, guess what: it did. Once I quit slogging the miles and became more purposeful about my training and racing, I was able to put that huge base to work. Although I wouldn't have had this great season without becoming more purposeful and mixing it up, the runner I am today would like to thank the runner I used to be for being so dogged, determined, and relentless in rolling up the miles.

3. A common saying is "you can't train well and race well at the same time." It's true, but like most true sayings, it can be easily misinterpreted. Training well is necessary for racing well. And they have to happen at the same time. What the saying really means is that you can't train hard and race well at the same time. (Any surprise that runners can't make a distinction between training well and training hard?) To race well, you've got to be fresh mentally and physically. Hard training, the type of training that really moves the line of fitness, means running tired. Not all the time, but a lot of the time, and while it is possible (and more frequent than you might expect) to run well during hard training, it is also possible to run really poorly and get discouraged.

All this is a long-winded way of saying that I am entering an aerobic period of training. I will probably still race occasionally, but I am not going to put much stock in the results. From here to August or so, it's going to be easy running, tempos, and strides. Good, solid summer training that hopefully will allow me to make more progress in my racing this fall.

Best of all, this base building gives me a chance to return to the simple. I can forget dialing in certain paces. I don't have to worry about resting up for big races. No more to frittering away energy thinking about whether or not I hit the workout just right or went out too fast in the last race. I'll just put on the shoes, once or twice a day, head out the door, and take what I get.

11 comments:

  1. On point 3: Sometimes I'll have a bad tune-up race and realize that, big picture, the training towards the goal is going well and my fitness is moving along. Helps keep the lows in perspective.

    Sometimes, I'll have a great tune-up race. I'll savor it for a bit, then say, "O.k. I backed off a little to get this. Time to get back at it." Helps keep the highs in perspective.

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  2. In the Thoreau quote - "dead reckoning" is a term I used to misinterpret. When I took pilot lessons I learned it's a navigational term that's shortened/slang pronunciation of "deductive reasoning." Maybe everyone else knew that but I think I missed that in our high school classes.

    The point being, I know it's so easy to get roped into setting up every aspect of training around dead reckoning to the point where you forget the joy of long mindless mileage. Congrats on a great season, and now go enjoy the experience of building a good base (and stay healthy!). I'm looking forward to the same.

    BTW - you need to post your PRs!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, man.

      I will get those PRs back up there, but they went like this: mile: 4:42, 3000m: 9:07, 5000m: 15:48, 5 mile: 26:54, 10 mile: 56:25 (hot and hilly--technically this is not a PR, as I've come through 10 faster in a half marathon.)

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  3. You can train well and race moderately well at the same time. The good Australian runners of the 60s, 70s & 80s (Clarke, de Castella & Moneghetti for example) used to run many 'club' races -- usually winning or placing in these whilst in the midst of regular training.

    The simplicity of base-building is attractive (in not having to "fritter away energy or rest up for big races.") As is the simplicity of the Clohessy-style mixed training in which the same week is repeated ad infinitum - used successfully by de Castella and Moneghetti. Or Yoshihisa Hosaka's repeated days for even greater simplicity. Moneghetti these days trains the same way but once daily and for 100 or so k per week -- good enough for world best times in his A/G. So that begs the question: where is the stimulus in this type of training and is stimulus a necessity for improvement?

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    Replies
    1. Hey Ewen,

      I agree that it is possible to set up a schedule where you race regularly and train well, too, and perhaps there are some runners who are able to stay with it pretty much constantly. I bet (but don't know for sure) that even the runners you mention have down times built into their schedule, even if it's only a month or two here or there.

      I think your last question is really interesting. Another guy like this is Mark Nenow, who broke the American 10k record off of a bread and butter schedule of one hour in the morning, one hour at night, just steady running. In college, I did some of my best running off of a simple schedule of 10 miles per day at a moderate pace, no workouts. Not much variation in stimulus there!

      I wish I had an answer for you, but I think that for me it's important to do the training that keeps me excited about running, that is sustainable and enjoyable, and that gives me confidence for my racing. We can't really know directly what's going on at the cellular level with our bodies, but can pay attention to how we feel, and that's our best guide to what is working in training.

      Would love to hear answers or thoughts from other readers on this point. Thanks for the good questions.

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    2. Jeff, I'll jump in ahead of other readers. I'd like to hear their thoughts too!

      Regarding downtimes for those runners -- I know Deek and Mona usually trained for one (sometimes two) marathons per year. Deek usually had a week off after a marathon then took 2 or 3 more weeks to gradually resume training. Mona was similar I think although he once said his secret training session was the 2 x 7 x 365. My comment above is a little confusing - Mona now trains the same way he did when an elite runner, not the same as Hosaka.

      For other runners here downtime comes after the two seasons - we have winter cross country/road racing and summer track, roughly 6 months each, so it's common to have an easy week or two after those seasons.

      Totally agree with you about keeping running exciting, sustainable and enjoyable, which is a very individual thing.

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  4. Jeff,

    HAve not read in a awhile (saw the natural running thread might add some thoughts there too) due to time constraints but my anecdotal experiences confirm your obeservations posted here. My best racing season of all time was summer 2010 and that was after two to three years of casual volume mileage no faster than 7:00 (my favorite distance was 8 miles)with some speed work every two weeks or so.The spring of 2010 I did weekly intense speed and maintained mileage. Prior to 2010 I really had no goals other than fitness and enjoyment The races I did enter were just for fun, but I did hit 40-60 mpw nearly weekly and even several high 70 weeks as well. The 3 races I did enter the summer of 2010 resulted in two overall wins and a 8k of 28:20.
    Now to contrast that with what I have been doing since a comeback this spring...tried to quickly return ignoring a long base building period and try to go for intense training focused on lower mileage and more "effective" workouts. Meaning intense speed and tempo as well as faster paces on mileage. The result was an intial high but ultimately an onset of fatigue and burnout. The races I have done have resulted in extremely dissapointing times.The lesson I leanred is that base building is essential and trying to reutrn too fast can sap your confidence, strength, and lead to unrealistic expectations. Now I think I am just going to get the mileage back up and enjoy it before i consider the competition aspect. I think this post touches on your earlier post about the cycle of running and each runner must find their subjective cycle to best maximize their performance.

    Kevin

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  5. Good stuff! I believe that the stim. from an intelligent base period comes with the simple overall increase in aerobic fitness (Lydiard-style). This has worked wonders for me...to begin with all easy miles and increase to a large workload (as much as you can handle) at more intense aerobic paces for months on end... adding in tempos, short sprints and strides. Returning back to the base of the pyramid w/ a new desire to up that aerobic capacity before indulging into the more usual speedwork later down the line. Nothing more exciting than cumulating miles in the bank for another season!

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  6. This was what I needed to hear. I hurt myself "training" before I really knew what training was (was running too many miles too fast, running too many race efforts). After a few physiotherapist visits, I learned the lesson that you can't ignore your own body's subtle messages for too long without getting hurt. I'm not going to make that mistake again.

    As a 19:19 5K'er, I'm obviously nowhere near the rocket-science level of training necessary for the performance described here, but I still don't want to neglect carefully considering what is actually occurring while I'm out there every day.

    I've been advised not over think my training, especially at the level I am at. I've taken the hint. Used to have a schedule, I tossed it. Used to have a Garmin and HRM, I tossed both. So now I just run, around 40-50 mpw or as many easy miles as I can without getting hurt. It's quite liberating, actually, because I don't have to worry about sub-categorizing run types or estimating effort levels or inputting GPS information.

    Gonna say it- thanks a million, Jeff.

    David (runnerdave67)

    ReplyDelete
  7. This was what I needed to hear. I hurt myself "training" before I really knew what training was (was running too many miles too fast, running too many race efforts). After a few physiotherapist visits, I learned the lesson that you can't ignore your own body's subtle messages for too long without getting hurt. I'm not going to make that mistake again.

    As a 19:19 5K'er, I'm obviously nowhere near the rocket-science level of training necessary for the performance described here, but I still don't want to neglect carefully considering what is actually occurring while I'm out there every day.

    I've been advised not over think my training, especially at the level I am at. I've taken the hint. Used to have a schedule, I tossed it. Used to have a Garmin and HRM, I tossed both. So now I just run, around 40-50 mpw or as many easy miles as I can without getting hurt. It's quite liberating, actually, because I don't have to worry about sub-categorizing run types or estimating effort levels or inputting GPS information.

    Gonna say it- thanks a million, Jeff.

    David (runnerdave67)

    ReplyDelete

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