Running Recap: Ch-ch-ch-changes!

I write a lot of quarterly reports for work, so this feels a bit incomplete without a bunch of charts and fiscal notes…

There have been no real running updates here since the day before my first event, in which I laid out the season (as currently planned) before me.

Today, I am two events down (Valentine’s Day 5K and 100% Irish for a Day 5K, both by Twin Cities in Motion) and heading into the final weeks before the Goldy’s 10 Mile on April 12.

run
The Valentine’s Day 5K. I was able to run fast because my legs and feet were numb and thus invincible to pain due to the ridiculous cold!

Before I share how great the season has been for me so far, let me just take one minute to air a single grievance: It is March 31, eleven full days into the springtime, and I am still essentially winter running. Fleece-lined tights, fleece headband, fleece mittens, fleece jacket. There is a lot of fleece here, and with it a lot of static electricity and that miserable way clothing holds on to running stank even after a wash. I even had to drag out the YakTrax once this month due to a freak snow/ice storm. Misery.

Besides another year of never-ending winter with some temperatures you would not believe, the first quarter of 2014 has been dynamite for running. I have made some changes to my running and those changes seem to be making a significant difference.

I added weekly speedwork training sessions. I used to be wholly anti-speedwork because I thought speedwork was only for people who, you know, have speed. As a 10:00-10:30 min/mile runner, I didn’t think I was fast enough to really do a speedwork workout. I kept telling myself, “If I can get to a point where I can run a little faster, then I will start weaving in some speedwork.” Which, now that I see that written out, was pretty stupid. How, exactly, was I expecting to get any faster if I never practiced being any faster? It was a classic example of the popular quote from Einstein which says that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Turns out, you can not run 10 min/miles consistently and then be baffled why you cannot break 9:30in a 5K.

Because of the speedwork, I have stuck to my training plan much more consistently. Some runners will be more or less willing to let you in on this dirty little secret: sometimes running is boring. Despite living in an area chock-full of sidewalks and beautiful parks, trails, lakes, and a creek, the reality is there are only so many running routes available from one point. And, really,  the first and last half-mile of almost every run that starts and ends at my home is pretty much the same (which, by the way, also ends with a soul-crushing uphill)– up the hill to 46th, down the hill by the school, left or right onto the Minnehaha Creek Trail. The longer the run, the more likely I am to get bored. Speedwork makes a difference for me because it is a constantly changing workout. It forces me to pay attention to my effort and distance/time, especially on tempo runs where the goal is to slowly reach a fast but sustainable speed and then gradually come down. It is a great way to mentally engage in my running.

This has also shown me that sometimes I use running to mentally disengage and that is awesome, but sometimes I need to re-engage my mind on something else. If I think about running while I am running, my brain does a lot of this: “How fast are you going?! Check your watch! Oh. Not that fast. Go faster. Now how fast are you going?! Check your watch again!! It’s only been 30 seconds?! Oh my god, do you know how many more ’30 seconds’ you have to go? A LOT. And look at that hill. A big’un. That’s gonna hurt. And slow you down. Can you even afford to go any slower? I don’t know, CHECK YOUR WATCH and see! Is that a single grain of sand in your shoe? It feels like a single grain of sand. In fact, I am going to consult the foot and see what the foot says. ALERT: The foot says there is a grain of sand in the shoe and it is rubbing disagreeably against the skin in your arch! VERY DISAGREEABLY. DO SOMETHING. Too late, blister. Check your watch.” Given that it is now springtime, the ducks are in full force around the creek and I have taken to counting them and reporting the run’s DPM, Average Ducks Per Mile. On Saturday, I ran 7 miles and saw 82 ducks, for a DPM of 11.7. That’s a lot of ducks.

I switched my shoes. Have I told you this already? Maybe. I went to some much lighter-weight Brooks with less cushioning and a smaller drop between the heel and the toe, and I feel like I am running on air. I don’t claim to know the perfect running form or the real nitty-gritty about shoe fit and stride and all that, but I do know that when your feet feel light and your running stride feels natural and the aches and pains in your shins and feet go away, you should hold on to that magic and never ever let go.

I changed my focus to quality over quantity. Here’s my truth: If I run 100 miles per month, and 30 of those are crap because I am too tired or sore or actually injured, then not only are those 30 miles totally wasted, they undermine the good of the other 70 miles. I once believe that even bad miles were better than no miles, but that’s not always true. Sometimes bad miles are worse than no miles! I am running a lot fewer miles per month that a lot of runners I know. And that’s okay. I had a 7 miler scheduled for last Saturday and I was a bit nervous– my midweek speedwork was abysmal and 7 miles would be my furthest distance in quite some time. But it went awesome. I stopped a few times to stretch and take pictures of ducks, and the whole run was over before I knew it. I was able to achieve negative splits and even had enough in my tank to run a sub-10 minute mile for my last mile, which I essentially never do on runs more than 4 miles. Huzzah.

Evidence that the changes are working? I dropped over a minute and twenty seconds from my 5K time between the Valentine’s 5K and the 100% Irish for a Day 5K, which were only a month apart. less than 3 weeks later, I set my (unofficial) 5K PR during a training run by OVER 2 MINUTES and about 2:30 faster than the 100% Irish 5K. I also set an unofficial 10K PR on a training run and ran approximately 30 seconds per mile faster on runs greater than 5 miles than I did on the same length runs last year. Injuries have been minimal and manageable thanks to a lot of stretching and my commitment to quality miles. And, I am still enjoying myself. No burnout.

Mileage stats:

January: 20.7 miles.

February: 33.47 miles.

March: 66.32 miles.

Yearly total: 121 miles.

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