training and goals: when is enough enough?

I was reading a friend’s post about ways to spice up long runs. I’m impressed with the precision and focus she maintains in her training. I’m yet to try something different with long runs and usually keep them easy. Some people are quite detailed and systematic with their running. I feel like I’m on the verge of moving that way and might need to put more planning into my runs, however…

I am wary of giving away too much of the simple purity of running. I know, if I want to get faster, then I need to do speed work, have another quality run or two in the week, strength train, etc. And yet, how fast is fast enough?

When looking at how overwhelming structured training plans can become I get a little uneasy. I strictly followed a plan for my June marathon and it went all right. I hit my time goal and had a good race. After a few weeks of recovery and while getting ready for my last marathon, I was less structured in my approach, but still showed up to the race feeling well-prepared and strong. The only speed work I did was an occasional fartlek and tempo run. I stayed pretty consistent with my long run build-up and otherwise had another couple of middle distance runs through the week, but that was the gist of my training over the last couple months.

I’m wondering, when is enough enough? Do I stop with a solid training plan and finding a good group to run with? Do I bite the bullet and find myself a coach to keep me in line? How important to me is it to chase time goals anymore? A Boston Qualifier, do I really want one?

In the end I probably most appreciate exploratory runs through the woods and letting my beard grow long. I hope to keep my ferocity, but I’m not very concerned with trying to win anything or achieving a certain measure of competitiveness. Moments where I can bask in the sense of freedom that comes with a run as long as I want through the wilderness— these are the runs that soothe my soul. And yet, part of me enjoys tediously tearing around the track until I want to barf. Other more focused runs are enjoyable at times too. Some training guidelines are definitely useful as they help to keep me focused and more likely to head out the door since there are times when I don’t want to run at all.

In writing this I’m getting to the answers of my questions. I need a training plan that provides an unstructured outlet for joy and madness. I could also use some more focused, planned runs to help stretch my limits. And I definitely need friends to tear through the wilderness with on occasion. I don’t want to keep the trails or revelations that come to me out there to myself, let’s go explore together!

running down 2009, two weeks along

Running this past week went well. Actually, it was almost a complete repeat of the week before. The weather was especially cold early in the week and a couple of the runs started and ended in below zero temps. Later in the week temps climbed into the teens and low twenties, which nearly felt tropical. My legs are feeling good and most of the running has been smooth and comfortable. Thursday morning, however, I woke up feeling a bit off and was not wanting to run. Then I encountered a video that two friends were sharing in Facebook. This video, a compilation of two performances of Prisencolinensinainciusol, is from Adriano Celentano, who was a pop star in Italy through the 60’s and 70’s. The song is essentially a bunch of gibberish meant to sound like English, or it at least demonstrates what English sounded like to some Italians in the 70’s. It’s awesome, watch it for yourself!

That song, video and the dancing featured tap into something elemental that really gets me going. After watching the video several times and tracking down the mp3, my loins were sufficiently girded and I was ready to run like mad again. I put the song on my mp3 player and left it to repeat while running with abandon through my winter wonderland.

Week two: 31 miles, 4 hours & 54 minutes, 4,654 calories.

report #1: 22 days of running down 2009

Six days out of seven featured a decent run outside last week. I announced my goal on Wednesday to continue running 6 of 7 days a week for the rest of the month, so if I include Monday and Tuesday of last week it will actually end up being 22 out of 25 days of winter running joy before 2010 comes around. Getting out there was a bit of a challenge for the first part of the week when we had single digit temperatures and sub-zero wind chills. Actually, it wasn’t bad after bundling up properly and starting, but knowing it’s that cold and windy does present a significant mental barrier. I did it though, showing myself who’s boss on a routine basis this past week.

Yesterday by the time I ran off in the afternoon the temperatures were up around 30, which was a welcome break from the cold, but it meant the snow on the trail and the sandy road I often cruise along on had softened and my footing was rather precarious. Thankfully I’ve been blessed with flexible, strong ankles and they held up. Let’s hope they continue to hold up.

One of the best parts of making a regular practice of running is that when I get out there even when not feeling like it I am able to reinforce a valuable lesson despite my stubbornness: You are much more than the whiny voice that’d have you seek comfort and wallow in lethargy— an active body and mind bring a more profound tranquility. And also, almost as importantly: You like Christmas cookies too much to not be running!

One week down: 31 miles, 5 hours, 4,688 calories.

running out the year

I’ve been out running each of the last three days and today I had my first solid run in vile winter weather: -5 °F, with a wind chill of -10, lots of fresh snow drifting all over the place. I had my YakTrax on and all sorts of layers, so my traction was decent and I was almost balmy, except when running straight into the strongest gusts. Each step was more work than usual because of the fresh snow, but I still covered 5+ miles and ventured along the trail beside the creek. The run was refreshing and encouraging, proof positive that I can handle being active in an upper midwest winter. I got plenty of practice dealing with winter weather in Alaska and learned to layer (onion up!) sufficiently, but Fairbanks winter was usually calm. Serious wind during these months will be a much more common challenge here.

There are 22 days left in 2009. My goal is to run or ski on 19 of them (at least 4 miles per run), taking the 3 remaining Sundays off. My legs are feeling better than they have since moving— even my left hip and right hamstring are almost fully healed! Barring some new physical breakdown, I should be able to handle this. Then, come 2010, I’ll be in the groove and ready to continue busting rump outside through the winter. After that I’ll be prepared to increase my mileage and start marathon training in early spring. I’m thinking I might run 2 marathons next year.

Screw New Year’s resolutions, it starts now! Christmas cookies will not slow me down!