A Hard Look at Myself

For me, looking at myself objectively is probably the hardest thing to do.  I believe that doing so is imperative however because the process of doing so inspires growth.  One thing I am not readily willing to do is to stagnate through life as my responsibilities change.

Looking back at my past running results I now realize some mistakes I have been consistently making.  In this post I would like to discuss what I have found.  The most enduring theme to these mistakes is somewhat paradoxical – doing too much and doing too little.  It is the timing and intensity that I’ve gotten wrong – mostly due to ego.  I need to admit this to myself in order to change it.  I need to train for the athlete who I am instead of the one I want to be.  By training the mind and body that I have I become the athlete who I want to be.  I believe the same goes for any worthwhile pursuit.  My focus here is on my running.  I began running seven years ago at the age of 32.  During the few years I’ve been running I have already learned and unlearned a great deal.

Doing too much in my world normally takes three forms:  racing the wrong race when I wasn’t ready, doing too much tempo, and improperly doing long runs.  The doing too little part looks like not taking care of speed training and not working out my weaknesses.  All of this boils down to not taking the right approach to a planned training schedule.  And most of the time I haven’t taken the right approach.   I’ve tried to outsmart otherwise carefully created and time tested training plans.   I’ve discarded periodization falsely believing that the two marathons I’ve run somehow magically disqualify the important base period.  What works for the guys who are great doesn’t really work for me.  Trying “outsmart” and “overtrain” my training plan hasn’t led to improved results but quite the opposite.  Hopefully I can take a good hard look at myself and my own training habits and make the appropriate changes to rectify my imbalances.

Racing when not ready

Over the past few months I’ve cut down my running to four days per week.  I’m OK with this.  I used to get stressed about not running but I’ve let this go.  This phenomena was even worse when I was cycling and racing every weekend.  In fact, due to family and job considerations I haven’t run for three days which would have sent me into a tailspin in the past.  I think I can handle the 5k race with this level of volume and maybe a 5 mile race (especially if I run the first three and half miles conservatively and not at 5k pace).  For the time being I’m not doing anything longer.  Even with running this smaller amount I’m still about 90 seconds off my peak October 2015 5k time (17:43).  The course was about as flat and as fast as it gets.  I can’t use this time as a benchmark to plan my training, which I have done (with next to no positive results).  Its amazing how much more I have to run to get into real racing shape, which is for me equals to about 90 precious seconds in the 5k.  At this time I was running easy long trail miles with a lassiez-faire attitude all summer because it was hot all the time.  I’m looking at doing 20 percent of the work for 80 percent of the results which is about what I can handle right now with everything else that I’m doing.  I sort of hate this approach but this is a compromise I have to make.

Too much Tempo

Tempo is far too easy when I’ve had a day or two off.  Very easy at least for a few miles.  Its *almost* race pace and running fast is fun and so satisfying.  Nothing is more satisfying than looking down at that Garmin and having the dream that I can keep this up for a marathon.  I can’t though and start to drop the pace after the fourth mile.  Tempo is addictive and I believe that some have overdeveloped this ability – running hard but not hard enough.

Long Run Hubris

I’ve always done these wrong except when I’ve done well.  I’m talking about doing well for me, which really isn’t that fast but I know when I am building what I have for a competitive edge.  Easy long runs – that is easy enough to run hard the next day if desired are important.  Of course, running hard the next day would be a mistake but this discussion is for another time.  Its also tempting to do these with the fast group.  During the long run I often begin a bit too hard and don’t end up running the negative splits I feel are required to gain endurance.

Not enough speed

Speed work helps.  Even just a little bit makes me faster and stronger.  I can feel the strength after a few weeks of dedicated and measured training.  Doing a workout where I add in a few fast 200’s or 400’s might help develop the leg speed and strength needed for racing.  I need to re-evaluate where I am now and it isn’t necessary to do a dozen 400’s or six 800’s every time I go out with a mind to do intervals.  Sure, I’ll do this week in and week out but I’m not really gaining anything.  They just make me tired.  Or I’ll go and do this for three weeks before I’m sort of burnt out and really just going through the motions.  My mind/body connection is severed at this point and I need a break.  Going through the motions is a recipe for complete mediocrity in my book.  I’d be better off doing something like 6 x 200 or ten strides when I’m fresh.

Inconsistent Strength Training

I know I need to take the time to hit the weight room.  The problem is I would rather be running and forego the gym for the roads.  When the race goes up hill its like I’m moving backward in the field.  I also know the better runners are far more versatile than myself since they are able to cope with the ups and downs and twists and turns of a course.  I don’t do this well and end up gasping for air at the slightest incline, which ends up slowing me down.  I’m going to hit the gym on a more regular basis.

When I’ve run my best is when I’ve taken a more relaxed and planned method to both training and racing.  This is the real issue for me.  I do tend to get anxious and over involved with this stuff.  I think its time to turn over a new leaf so I can use the precious time I do have more constructively than I have been.  Thanks for reading.



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