One of the bigger areas of debate among runners and coaches is the tradeoff between quantity of miles (or kilometers, of course) and quality of miles. With the growth of the “run less, run better” and Crossfit approaches to training, there is a temptation to believe that you as a runner can perform your best by landing on the quality side of this argument in your training and cutting down your mileage to the “minimum necessary.” There are plenty of success stories claiming to prove that these approaches work.
It is, however, important to distinguish between what “can work” and what “works best”. Yes, you can improve your race results with a low quantity / high quality approach, particularly if you are a newer runner (and don’t run with so much intensity that you get injured), or a runner who has been away for awhile but has a good aerobic and athletic base. But these gains are going to be limited in scope and over time, as your returns on investment will begin to fade.
One error many runners make is in the management of their tune-up races. These training elements, when used properly, can be a powerful tool for providing physiological and psychological development, feedback on your progress, experience in managing pacing and other race-specific elements, and in dialing in your “A” race goal. However, they can also quickly derail your training if overused or scheduled and executed improperly.
There are a couple of more common mistakes in the management of tune-up races that you should watch out for (and it’s an area I work closely with Team Predawn Runner members in planning and avoiding).
Today, I hit a new milestone in my training – with a 10 mile run (plus strength and core training mixed in the middle), I reached 255 miles of running for August. I think my previous high was in July, at 221 miles, so this was a significant (15%) step up from that. It wasn’t my intent heading into the month; I knew I would probably have at least 225 miles, but throughout the month I started stretching out some runs, threw in a few extra lunch runs here and there, and before I knew it, 250 miles was well in sight. Obviously, current circumstances make finding the time to put in extra miles easier, so I’m not sure I would have been able to do this otherwise, but I am considering this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to test how well the body reacts to increased mileage.
At the same time, I have started picking up my “easy” pace and pushing things a little bit on long runs as well, including a half-marathon PR on a training run last week. I’ve decided that if I want to be a sub-3:00 marathoner, I need to start thinking like one, and convincing myself that 7:00 / mile is “easy” (for mid-length runs, at least). I was worried that if I didn’t shift my mindset, it’d be far too easy to fall back to a 7:30 pace when the going gets tough in the late stages of the Akron Marathon next month.
I recognize that a lot of what I’m doing goes against conventional wisdom. You see advice like “easy runs should be at marathon pace + 20%,” or “if you continually put in over 50 miles a week, your risk of injury and fatigue skyrocket,” or “don’t go beyond what your training plan calls for.” I’m not suggesting that this is bad advice. At this point in time, I am feeling no signs of any injury, and while I am more tired than normal in general, my recoveries from all but the longest runs have been good, leaving me able to put in quality workouts up to 5 times per week.
I’ve stated before (in The Running Manifesto) that you sometimes need to “sacrifice to learn.” Given how I have felt, and the bit of a roll I have been on (keeping in mind that this is just training – the proof will have to come from race results), I decided it was the right time to put myself out there a bit and see what this aging (but still sub-40, for those who may have wondered) body is capable of. Ironically, the question-of-the-day on Dailymile yesterday (8/30/10) was, “What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned about training/pushing the limits of your body?” The expected answer was probably involved taking rest days when needed, listening to your body at the first sign of injury, or something of the sort. My answer is that I have learned you don’t know what you are capable of until you take some risks, set higher expectations, and push yourself to achieve them.
I’m not advocating that everyone should go out and try this approach. What works for one runner may not work for another. Maybe I had a particularly strong base going into these past two months. Maybe I have the luxury of an efficient running style that puts less stress than normal on my joints. I’m not going to take for granted that this momentum and luck will last forever either, so I’m going to take advantage of the situation while I can. With one exception – just as I have trained hard for Akron, I’m going to taper hard too, to be as refreshed as possible for the race.
I don’t know what this all means for upcoming race results and beyond. I had not intended to go for 3:00 at Akron as I was thinking that was a bit of a stretch on the back-end hills of the course. However, with the amount of work I have put into training in July and August, I shudder to think that even more may be required to break 3:00 at Boston next year. Therefore, we are going to give it a rip at Akron, knowing that there is the risk of the “bonk” and a resulting failure to even set a PR. However, since I’ve learned you don’t know what you are capable of until you take some risks, it is time to lay it all on the line for a race, and find out exactly what that means. My fast recovery from Cleveland suggested that I didn’t push myself as hard as I could at the end – I probably cruised a bit once I knew a BQ and PR were firmly in reach. I don’t want to recover quickly after Akron.
It’s not often that I spontaneously buy a new type of running shoe. But that was the position I found myself in when I went with my wife to help her pick out some new shoes at the best shoe store in the area, Vertical Runner in Hudson, OH.
First, I think a bit of a lesson is in order – be careful in trusting the expertise of running shoe salespeople, especially when it’s not a running-focused store. My wife got her first shoes from someone who had been “trained by Brooks” on selecting shoes. While the young lady got one variable right (neutral running form), she missed a few other key ingredients. My wife spends most of her work day in high heels as a hospital administrator, and has never really run before. The Brooks Pure Cadence sounded good on paper, but the low drop and limited cushioning were a complete miss. Fortunately, the store took the shoes back after ~20 miles, so we decided to go to a better source for try #2 (note, I had intentionally removed myself from try #1, to let my wife find her own space in developing as a runner). Read the rest of Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Road N1 »
Many runners are in a relationship where they are the only one pursuing the sport. Obviously, partners in a relationship can have divergent interests, that either predate the relationship or developed over time. This is a good thing, as everyone needs their own “thing”, and their time to themselves. Plus, running is a hobby that consumes a lot of time, and it can be difficult to balance with other needs like childcare – though hopefully you are doing your fair share of more of the work and supporting your partner’s own hobbies.
However, given the great physical and mental health benefits of running, which you are hopefully humbly putting on display through your fitness and good demeanor, it’s probably far more likely that your significant other (for simplicity, let’s just assume it is a spouse, and more specifically a wife, since Mrs. Predawn Runner has just started running) will develop an interest in running than in, say, golf or poker (especially poker). Or perhaps she just wants to have something more in common, something to talk about, or another way to spend time together.
A few Team Predawn Runner members have asked for help with their form of late. I’ve also been asked to provide some thoughts on the running form of one of the kindergarten soccer players coach. My response? Maybe it’s a little early to worry about that…
Form is a tricky topic and in fact a bit of a “bunny hole”, particularly when coaching online. That’s partly because form is highly subjective and individual, and therefore “messing with it” can often be counterproductive. Since it is a common concern runners have, it’s worth sharing a few thoughts on a “form philosophy” that I’ve built over the years. Read the rest of Nine Helpful Tips on Your Running Form »