Monday, March 10, 2014

Variety is the spice of running

"Why run a race? You race to test yourself, for the ritual, the camaraderie, and for the adventure and discovery."
-from The New York Road Runners Club Complete Book of Running
 I have a couple folks in my running group, in addition to our fantastic coach Bill, who I look to as mentors.  You know, people who have run the road you want to run and are there to help you (honestly) evaluate a) can I even run what I want to run, and b) how do I get there?

With so much "chatter" out there on the net over how to train and get faster, it helps to have a small group of people you trust to cut through the noise.  That is priceless.

Anyway, all that to say, when our buddy Dave talks running, a world-class 2:17 marathoner in his heyday and all-around good guy, I listen.  I've asked him tons of questions about the marathon and gotten a lot of good advice from him.
Dave and I celebrating the free coffee and fact we outran a speedy centipede at the Bayou City 10k
 The one piece of his advice that stands out so far: Mix up your racing distances.  Running Times agrees.

In other words, he told me not to get stuck always running the marathon distance. Don't run endless marathon after marathon without a break. 

Why? He was getting at the idea that you really learn to "race" and get comfortable being very uncomfortable in shorter distances, i.e. 10k, 5k, and below.  Running hard from the start at shorter distances requires some mental toughness in a different way from the marathon.

I took his advice and ran the Bayou City 10k, part of HARRA's Spring race series, this past weekend. Fantastic race by the way, highly recommend it!  The course is a bit hilly by Houston standards out Allen Parkway and back, but a good challenge for sure and hosts a great after-party. 

Now, I'm not sure I would say I "liked" the 10k while I was running it.  The pace is obviously much harder than marathon pace.  It gets uncomfortable a lot faster than the marathon.  You're working hard over a short distance, but then it's over! I did like not running for 20+ miles that day!!

I learned so much from that race though, in particular that I need to race shorter to practice some mental toughness skills!  A few other benefits to mixing things up: 
  • Getting out of the marathon shuffle and working on higher leg turnover and speed.  
  • Getting more comfortable with pushing hard from the start 
  • No extended taper and recovery process 
  • No hobbling around for days after the race
  • No worries about carb loading/fueling during the race
  • Learning to race not just the clock, but other people
That last point in particular is different for me.  I did not come up through the traditional ranks of high school and/or college track and cross country where you get steeled to running hard and fast from the start.  It's tough in a different way from the marathon.

I've always considered myself more of a distance than a speed girl, but since the Houston Marathon, it has been a welcome break mentally and physically to mix things up a little bit and do some faster speed work and racing.

Did I just say that?

Bottom line, if you tend to run one race distance over and over again whether it's the marathon or something else, consider mixing things up a bit to challenge yourself in a different way.  It doesn't mean forever, maybe even just 4-6 weeks.  Maybe longer depending on your goals.

And after I lamented in a previous post about how much I don't like change, I'm seeing change can be good for the running soul. And running speed.
Volte took home some hardware! Chris and Hope (super speedsters), me, and Dave (also a super speedster).
 Oh, and we went to this fabulous Mexican restaurant called The Spanish Flower on North Main afterwards and had these:

I WILL be back for these babies.  Mexican food and pancakes, a perfectly harmonious combo if you ask me.
 Strawberry cream pancakes. How else do you top off a great morning of running, but with pancakes?

Train smart. Run hard. Eat pancakes.