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.