One of the things that I simultaneously love and am infuriatingly frustrated by in running is how measurable everything is. Times, distances, splits – they’re all super easy to assign a pass/fail based on the data we collect. However, and let’s go back to middle school science for a second, every time we lace up we’re stepping into an uncontrolled experiment; You can match those PR’s, training runs, and treadmill settings to any old run from the past, but there’s nothing to account for how you felt, what the weather was like, if you had your period or if your legs were tired after a peak mileage week.
Yet we (the data-obsessed runners, collective) number crunch and analyze till we’re blue in the face wondering why the eff a 7:30 tempo pace felt so impossible after last week’s 7:15, or celebrating an all-stars-aligned long run that felt like a breeze under goal pace.
It’s especially fun when both ends of the spectrum hit just a few days apart.
After boldly declaring no losses to my training game after the E-word Adventure Roadtrip of 2013 (I drafted the post Saturday) I went out Sunday for a 20 miler that ended all kinds of ego-smashing badly. My long runs have been pretty hit-or-miss, so I wanted to nail this run since it would be the only “true” 20 of the cycle.
(the other scheduled 20 turned into a trail half with warm up/cool down miles to total 19 still solid miles, but nothing compares to the feeling of moving for 3 hours nonstop)
I ran the first 8 with Kristina, finally getting to catch up on life which made the miles fly. When we parted I realized how tired my legs were and how daunting 12 more miles seemed.
“You should feel tired! It’s peak week! You’ve had three hard long runs before this, just power through and then it’s time to taper! You’ll be tired during the race, practice working through it!”
That voice, non-stop.
Shoulda brought my iPod.
After two hours and an estimated 14 miles (Garmin is still dead) I turned in. My body just wasn’t up for it. The exhaustion of traveling, leg fatigue, and knowing my visiting family was at home waiting for me was too much to battle. I hated giving in and worried what it meant for the marathon, but tried to keep a calm head and come up with a long run rescue plan.
The next morning I woke up early for 10 miles, hoping cumulative miles on fatigued legs would simulate something close to a 20. The miles flew, my legs felt great, and I finished the run reinvigorated for my big goal race.
After a rest day Tuesday, I went to the track on Wednesday. Since I’ve been running Garmin-less for the last few weeks this would be the first real quantifiable workout in a while and I was nervous what the numbers would tell me.
The last time I ran 400s was more than a month ago, which looked like this :
(July 16) 16×4, 60s rest, 3min rest mid-way
Reps 1-8 : 1:46 down to 1:43 [rest] 9-16 : 1:39 down to 1:26
… and this week :
(Aug 21) 20×4, 60s rest, 4min rest mid-way
Reps 1-10 : 1:43 down to 1:39 [rest] 11-20 : 1:36 down to 1:26
The numbers seem pretty similar on the surface, other than an extra four reps and bonus minute of rest. But this is where the quantifiable gets trumped by the qualitative…
I ran the 16x4s with Margot, who makes pacing simple and mindless, plus offers extra motivation to not slack off. We started conservatively and finished hard.
20×4 was solo, in the heat of the day, with a smaller spread from slowest to fastest, consistent early splits and negative splits through the final five. Lead, pulled, and pushed by myself.
I started out harder than I normally would, getting out of my comfort zone from the start and ignoring the doubt and nerves clouding over me. After missing out on the 20 miler I wanted to fabricate a messy crash-and-burn scenario that I could push myself through. Ummm masochism or necessary mental training — you choose.
I powered through each and every rep, never letting the apprehension of “omg __ left to go” talk me into conserving, and finished the workout completely spent and proud. Turns out I CAN battle mental demons and push through physical walls, it just comes a little easier in a fast-and-short-with-frequent-breaks way.
… Two weeks to figure out how to apply it to a slow-and-far-with-not-even-bathroom-breaks-just-pee-your-shorts marathon kind of way.
Until then I’ll let this entry in my workout log convince me I’m ready for September 8th.