This is the 100th post on Predawn Runner, just shy of its one-year anniversary. As such, I felt it was an appropriate time to reveal a new Predawn Runner. I’m talking about the runner, not the blog (though the blog has reverted to it’s traditional red hue after the end of Autism Awareness month). My realities have changed over the course of a year as many of you know having followed this blog. I am now a year older and definitely a year wiser.
Let’s start from the baseline. The old Predawn Runner believed:
- Running was all you needed to do to get better at running. And the only point of running was to get better at running.
- The faster you ran, the better – easy days could be sacrificed in the interest of more work on speed (after all, you’d be done sooner and could sleep in more).
- Strength training was helpful, but the type of workout you did really didn’t matter.
- Stretching was a waste of time.
- Every run should be done a little longer than planned – never shorter.
- Multiple hard workouts per week made you tougher and increased your rate of improvement.
- And, most importantly, Predawn Runner had never been injured, and believed he was genetically predisposed not to be.
Now you may think such a person is a moron. And you’d be right. But step back and think how many of these beliefs you have held at one time in your running career. Or maybe still hold. I think many go through a phase where they think they are invincible, and it takes an injury to learn otherwise. For the true runner, committed to lifelong learning, such an injury, if just serious enough, is the best thing that can happen to them. You need to hit bottom before you can bounce back up.
So what is the value system of the new Predawn Runner? Well, you may have read about the plans to invest in strengthening and flexibility to prevent future hamstring issues. But let’s look at things in a more general context:
Better athletes are better runners
As Coach Jay Johnson has accurately stated (via Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running), “To be a better runner, you must first be a better athlete.” Outstanding runners have good balance, strength, and flexibility – and that doesn’t come solely from running. In fact, running can hurt these elements, and thus such activities as yoga, dynamic stretching, and core strengthening are not just preventative, they make your running stronger and more efficient.
The below graphs compare the balance of time of the old Predawn Runner compared to the new Predawn Runner during a typical (45 mile) base-building week. Yes, this means 4 hours more per week of work. And that will have to come from somewhere – so unfortunately, I doubt the next year will see 100 blog posts. But a big part of the philosophy of this blog is proving by doing. “Predawn Perpetual Rehab” just doesn’t have the same ring. This is more than just a shift in time, it is a shift in mindset – from treating flexibility and strength training as a “not necessary evil” to enjoying the activity and feeling the positive effects every time I step out the door.
Miles are more important than speed
When I ramp back up for the fall marathon, I’ll be using the Pfitzinger 70 miles/week training plan (assuming I can manage the time and have the energy). This calls for no more than one speed workout per week, and minimal use of intervals, focusing on lactate threshold versus VO2max improvements. I truly believe that building a strong aerobic foundation through a high (50 miles/week) base-building period and keeping consistently high mileage through the training period will result in a better marathon and, so long as the runs are done appropriately, reduced risk of injury.
Frankly, my interval times never improved through my training cycles last year, and thus they are a poor predictor of marathon performance. Yes, they are important workouts – but not important enough to do them twice per week like the last training cycle.
Easy runs require as much focus as “quality” workouts
The focus on easy runs is on keeping them appropriately easy and using the opportunity to work on running form – running quietly and building in elements of minimalism. Thus they are every bit as important as the speed workouts. The old Predawn Runner took pride in never posting a pace slower than 8:00/mile – the new Predawn Runner doesn’t give a rat’s caboose about pace for easy runs.
Diet matters, but it’s not worth sweating over
The old Predawn Runner didn’t really monitor his calorie intake. Oh sure, he lost plenty of weight, but it was by happenstance, not plan. The new Predawn Runner will find and maintain the ideal racing weight through a combination of diet and exercise, but will do so in a realistic manner acknowledging the reality of the taste preferences of his three young sons. While there may be experimentation with smoothies or other reasonable concoctions, pizza, french fries, and mac and cheese will remain staples of the diet – but in measured moderation.
Running is about more than performance
When I reached the point where I wondered if I’d ever be the same runner again, I realized it didn’t matter that much. I restarted running in 2009 without the intention of doing marathons, let alone constantly setting PRs. I ran for weight loss. I ran for stress relief. I ran for that sense of doing, the feeling of getting something positive done before 5:30 AM. And I ran to explore new places, whether around the neighborhoods at home or while traveling. Thus, the new Predawn Runner will remember all these things even in the midst of his most intense marathon training, and I will take the opportunity to explore new routes not knowing exactly what distance they will end up taking me. I’ll take along my camera on occasion, to capture the predawn scenery, especially on the road. I’ll seek out trails when I can. And I may even do it more often by light of day to actually enjoy the scenery (and thus leaving the predawn for all that other activity I mentioned above).
Training plans are made to be bent
The old Predawn Runner only bent his training plans one way – more / faster. The new Predawn Runner will take the spontaneous rest or cross-training day as an opportunity to recharge, or to sleep, or to take advantage of another great life-experience opportunity. There will be plenty of miles in the bank, plenty of residual speed to draw from when needed. The plan will be a slave to my whim, not the other way around. And disruptions to the schedule will be viewed as opportunities to make the training even better.
The Running Manifesto v2.0
Well, the transformation wouldn’t be complete without reviewing and updating the founding document, the Magna Carta if you will, of this site – The Running Manifesto. In v2.0, gone are the anti-stretching screed and the push to run when sick. There is a bit less fun poked at cross-training. And The Purist Runner has been ditched, it’s few salient points merged into a singular manifesto. Merchandise will be updated shortly.
And finally, it seems mantras were all the rage earlier this year. At that time, during my convalescence, I started to wonder what mantra would work for my comeback, were I to have the privilege of making one. The Six Million Dollar Man came to mind – why, I don’t know, as I never even watched the show. But it seemed if I were going to rebuild, I’d still want to be better, stronger, and faster. And to do so, I’d have to be smarter. Better…faster…stronger…smarter. I think that has a nice rhythm to it. I’m not sure I’ll chant it while running, but maybe in those critical times, when an easy run starts to accelerate, or I think about sleeping through a core workout, it will pop to mind.
So I thank you for whatever portion of these 100 posts you have managed to read thus far. And now, it is late, so I must be off to bed. Maybe I’ll skip that morning recovery run, and hit the stationary bike for a short time instead. I can afford it, and it will be better for me in the long run. I apologize in advance if the posting frequency diminishes a bit, but it’s tough to blog from a plank or lunge.