"You only grow as a human being if you're outside your comfort zone."
|Too funny...and often too true.|
I had coffee with my buddy Adrienne yesterday and as usual, the topic turned to training and race goals (some of my favorite nerdy topics besides running shoes).
This has been an unusual training cycle for me in many ways, but also a really, really good one.
I'm typically a runner who likes long training blocks and infrequent racing. I think it sets up well for marathon training, and since I'm pretty much always in marathon training to some degree or another, that's sorta been my modus operandi over the last 4 years.
My typical training week goes like: speed on Tuesday, some kind of "tempo" on Thursday, and a long run on Saturday, plus easy runs in between those workouts. It's worked really well for me as it does for many other runners, with an occasional race thrown in besides my goal marathon race.
When you throw a race into the mix on Saturday or Sunday, assuming you're giving pretty near all-out efforts in those races, you have to consider the week before and after the race and what you may be giving up to be able to put down a hard-effort run on race day and what it will take to recover. To varying degrees, it requires some sacrifice of other workouts depending on the intensity of your race effort.
Racing makes things tricky for me not to go overboard and do too much hard-effort running during the week.
So, for those reasons, I don't race a lot. Usually.
The downside of course is that I forgo the practice of race day rituals and dealing with nerves and nutrition, which means that for the few times I do race, all of those things become tougher to deal with because I'm a little rusty!
And while I certainly suffer to a degree in training, I think most would agree it's tough to manufacture the suffering level in a workout that you can achieve in a race when it really counts.
Racing teaches you to persevere in suffering the way a tough workout can't quite replicate.
After Houston, the perfect storm of trainng burnout and a desire to enjoy running again led me to sign-up for more races than usual. I've also been told by a few key folks I trust that I needed to do more racing (short-distance) to work on speed to keep making gains at the marathon distance, since that is my weak spot.
So see, this all still goes back to the marathon :)
Anyhow, since mid February, I've been off the track and on the roads for speed work, and signed up for a race every other weekend including a couple of 5ks, a 10k, and then a 10-miler last weekend.
I'm not advocating it's the right way to train for everyone all the time, but it's been a good change of pace for me personally (hah).
The biggest thing more frequent racing has done for me is that it's taught me to be flexible in training. I've shortened, eliminated (gasp!!!), or moved some speed workouts around to accomodate for the harder race efforts and gone a lot more by how-am-I-feeling today instead of forcing myself to run what's on the sched simply because it's there.
The other positive is that frequent racing has helped take some of my all-or-nothing attitude towards the outcome of the race and softened it a bit. In other words, every race can't be a PR (ahem Kate), especially as you improve in your fitness. It gets harder to make those big gains in time, but there's a positive in every race if you look hard enough.
And as tough a pill as it is for me to swallow, when I have a "bad" race, it's not the end of the world if I don't let it be the end of the world.
Still working on that last one!
I love my running and racing, but life is full of many good gifts outside of running too that I sometimes forget in my tunnel-vision desire to improve. Less-than-stellar races are a good reminder of what really matters: faith, family, friends, health. Lord-willing, there is always another race to try again.
So, I sit here feeling pretty darn good all things considered. These races, while not necessarily super improvements in time, have been solid and really good practice in racing some harder paces. This will be the last high mileage week (about 70, yay!) before a taper heading into Boston, and I'm hoping that all the practice running faster than marathon pace will make marathon pace seem "easy" in about three weeks.
Ready to go after a hard marathon effort again. Haven't felt that way in about 6 months, perhaps in part too because my memory of the difficulty of miles 18-26 has faded :)
Change is good sometimes.