All Hope Is Gone

Rob, a few years and miles later.  Thanks for the timeless lesson of good days vs bad days.

Rob, a few years and miles later.  Thanks for the timeless lesson of good days vs bad days.

All hope for a good race is gone, or so it seems.  After months of hard work you are finally getting close to race day, the weather is beginning to cooperate more often, and you are feeling fit.  Then you run a race or one of your few remaining long runs and it's a disaster.  Before you crossed the finish line or ended the long run the big questions storm through your mind.  What was I thinking when I signed up for this race?  Why do I do this to myself?  What is the meaning of life?  

You have invested a significant amount of precious time and energy, let alone heart and soul into your training.  You have tried to temper your expectations, but things were going so well until today.  You might even start thinking about pushing your race back to a later date.  You need more training,  Yes, that is it, you just need more training.

Let's get back to reality.  It was just a bad day.  If you have done the training, run the miles, the long runs, some quality from time to time and you have had many days that tell you that your fitness is there, you are ready to race.  Don't let one day derail you.

Here's what I've figured out.  Get ready, more quantum mechanics from the coach.  A great race or training day tells us you are in great shape.  There is no such thing as lucky in running.  Maybe the variables aligned to make it extra special and it was an A+ day, but it was your body and your mind that ran the time.  A good day means you are in good shape and should expect a good race.  A bad day means, well, that you had a bad day.  Nothing more or less.  Do you best to figure it out and avoid whatever cocktail of circumstances led to your pride swallowing performance.  And then move on to more good days.

One of my favorite stories to tell my runners after a bad race or training day at a critical time is about one of my former training partners, Rob Seymour.  Years ago we used to do a point to point from 146th Street and Meridian to Eagle Creek Park, 22 miles away.  We would transport the runners to the start and their car was waiting a few hours away at the finish line.  This particular year this was the last long run before his goal marathon.  To make sure people did not get lost on their way back I would drive back and forth on the course checking on them.  I came across Rob with about 2 miles to go and to say the least he was hating life.  I don't remember the exact exchange but when I offered him a ride because he was clearly done for the day, I think he said he hated himself, hating running, and probably hated me.  He managed to hike his way back to the finish.  Fast forward two weeks and Rob toed the line of his marathon with a half marathon PR of something in the low 1:30's and a marathon PR of several minutes over 3 hours.  Rob set many personal records that day.  He ran just a little under 1:30 for his first half (Half marathon PR!), he ran low 1:29 for the second half (Half marathon PR #2!) and finished in 2:59:01 (marathon PR!).  Amazing what he would have missed had he given up all hope for a good day after one bad day. 

Ideal Long Run Pace? Well, it depends...

Other than a few adventurous win or die trying types, the first marathon objective is to make it to the finish.  After that is no longer in doubt, the challenge becomes about getting to the finish before the clock strikes your personal midnight.  For many, your personal midnight has been determined by our friends at the Boston Athletic Association.  And then for some it becomes about being faster than the rest.  While there is overlap between how the finishers, pacers, and racers should perform their long runs, we will pretend for the purposes of this post that each prepares in their own way.

Collin Trent finished, paced (his fastest and slowest miles were within 9 seconds, -5/+4 of his average pace), and raced, finishing 20th at Monumental 2016.

Collin Trent finished, paced (his fastest and slowest miles were within 9 seconds, -5/+4 of his average pace), and raced, finishing 20th at Monumental 2016.

Finishers need to focus on, well, finishing their long runs.  Keep moving and show off early at your own peril.  Slower is fine if it allows you to complete gradually increasing longer runs.  For first time marathoners this can be all kinds of fun as you might be running the longest distance you have ever run on a regular basis as you build towards your longest, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 miles, before going 26.2 on race day.  This is pure endurance training done specifically to keep moving without regard to pace.

Pacers have typically already finished a marathon or two or have the resume that leaves little doubt of their ability to do so.  Now thinking about the specific demands on the legs and lungs over the actual last half of the race (10K, not the mathematical half, 13.1M) becomes paramount.  Running slow for 20 miles in training is not an effective way to prepare to run faster for 26.2.  The lungs need to be trained to be working as sub maximally as possible while the legs can handle the tension of a well paced race until the end.  Running faster workouts along with some higher intensity work added to the long runs will prepare the last of the muscle fibers called upon for service to produce the force needed to maintain the stride length necessary to maintain pace.  The ways to recruit the last fibers in training are only limited by imagination but they all include quads and other strategic muscles on the verge of going AWOL often accompanied by heavy breathing.  I have written a related post on goal pace running.

Racing the marathon is a bit different than shorter distances.  In most races it is you versus them.  In the marathon it is you and your teammate, the distance, against them.  Even if you cannot cover the moves of your competitors, the distance itself may finish them off for you.  So simultaneously you will need to be aware of what those around you are doing, but also your own personal very real and unforgiving limits.  True racing not only requires your ability to run a strong pace, but stay in the race after going a little too hard and recovering at that strong pace.  In addition to everything the Pacers will do in their training, races will need to add elements to their long runs that put them just enough over the edge of their limits that they can bring it back again without having to slow or stop.

Clarifying your marathon goal and current fitness will help you determine the right mix for your marathon success.

The Same But More

I used ta do a little but a little wouldn't do
So the little got more and more
I'm just keep tryin' ta get a little better
Said a little better than before

-GNR

The best thing about beginning running is that it is so easy to get better.  Just get out the door a few times a week and the improvement keeps coming.  You can set records in workouts and races and it seems it will never end.  Eventually the PR's start to take more effort and there's more time in between.  That is usually when people start to take more of an interest in training to figure out what will keep the PR parade marching.  

It does not take long to settle on a nice mix of workouts with some variety of speedwork, threshold running, and long runs for the magic to return...for awhile.  Training then gets more confusing and you begin to learn one of the absolute truths about how your body works.  When it comes to training your body cares about 2 things only, stress and rest.  They are all that matter.  If you keep stress and rest in balance your body will do amazing things for you.  If you are too heavy on the stress, you break down.  If you are too heavy on the rest, you don't improve.  

But here is the twist.  That balance may need to look different than it once did.  Marathon vets, do you recall your first 20 mile run?  You were probably nervous for the preceding days and were very careful the day before, carbo loading, staying off your feet and early to bed.  Finishing felt as good as a great race.  You might have spent the rest of the day in a hammock reliving the glory of your training victory. You were on a high for a few days afterwards amazed at how tough you were to run 20 miles.  A few (or many) marathons later and the 20 miler may not be routine, but you know you can do it and it feels like a good training day, but nothing like the first 20.  Your body thinks the same thing.  It is not nearly as impressed with that stress as it once was and it no longer needs the same recovery.  

Because of this your body will no longer experience the same training effect and resulting improvement it once did from an easy to moderate 20 mile run.  We can no longer expect you to get better from the same effort and same distance.  That's right, you now have to run longer or faster to get the same effect of your early long runs.  This applies to all of your training including weekly mileage and all varieties of quality workouts.  The same training will eventually no longer work and you can actually get worse by doing the same thing for too long.  For you to progress, your training must progress.  The best return on training investment in terms of how fast, how far, and how often are the details to be sorted out.  The training ingredients will be the same but you just need a little more for them to work their old magic.  If you have been at it hard enough for long enough to you know your PR days are behind you, but you want to slow down the slow down, the same principle applies.  However, with this experienced group it may have more to do with a re-balancing of training than simply doing more.

 

Thriving in Heat

When a simple 4 mile run can feel like this it's time to arm yourself with some strategies to thrive while others wilt.

When a simple 4 mile run can feel like this it's time to arm yourself with some strategies to thrive while others wilt.

So you have registered for Monumental with a fast course and cool conditions on your mind.  But then the realization sets in that to be ready to take advantage in November there are some critical training months that will be neither fast nor cool.  It's hot out there!  I do not want to duplicate the other heat training articles you have read, but I do want to offer a few practical points that may help you thrive while others are melting this summer.

LIVE BY FAITH when the heat index is stacked against you.  Accept your watch will not be offering you much in the way of confidence building numbers. It will be rare to be feeling light and fast when the conditions induce sweating by the very act of stepping outside.  Have faith that great training effect can still be had from working through tough conditions.  Your watch may try to tell you that you are worthless and weak and you should take up a less strenuous hobby when all the while you have been building the perfect beast.  The first cool day will prove your faith was well placed.

YOUR HEART RATE WILL DRIFT in the heat.  Two primary factors will cause your heart rate to rise above your actual effort level.  Lower blood volume caused by dehydration results in increased heart beats to deliver the same amount of oxygen.  Blood is also redistributed closer to the surface of the skin to help cool you and that leaves less volume for exercise.  So your legs and lungs may feel fine while your heart rate is indicating you have increased the effort.  This is a good time to rely on your other measures of effort.  If we can no longer trust pace or heart rate we need to focus more on our respiratory rate, muscular tension and perceived exertion.

TRAIN YOUR GUT to get you through the fire.  We know that if you can keep your water, sugar, and salt levels constant, running long and fast sure is easier.  As they dip you have all kinds of trouble coming your way.  We know what dehydration can do to you,but without enough sodium there is only so much water that can be absorbed no matter how much you drink.  If you run low on sugar you are on borrowed time before all speed is gone.  Are you thinking, "I tried, but I just cannot eat or drink anything when I run"?  Well, maybe.  But just like endurance and speed that is trainable.  Start working on it now.  If you get this down the duration and quality of your workouts can be closer to what you can do in ideal weather.  Bonus: This skill will be a big deal on race day when you are trying to run longer and faster even in great conditions.

WEIGH EARLY AND OFTEN to manage your hydration.  Keeping your hydration level constant will not only maximize your chances of a good workout or race, but it will also help speed recovery.  In the summer, running consecutive days or twice a day for the higher mileage crowd, your ability to rehydrate can become your limiting factor.  How do you know if you are optimally hydrated?  The simple and most practical way is to keep an eye on weight.  As you weigh yourself you know what to expect in the morning, pre run, post run, and at bedtime.  This regularity helps prevent surprises because if you realize you are too light and dehydrated as you head out on a run there is not much to be done other than to suffer.  In most cases taking in fluid on the run is limiting your losses and not keeping up with them, so if you start dehydrated it is all but a lost cause.  However, if you know several hours before a run you have time to work on it.  

 

The Calendar Vs the Clock

When you find your performances stalled or slipping or you are mired in an ongoing injury cycle, it is helpful to investigate the battle between the calendar and the clock.  Both play a critical role in planning your training and racing.  With a year full of so many enticing events from which to choose it can be hard to prioritize races and plan your training (and breaks!) properly.  

In this instance I am not referring to your body clock as something that tells you when to get up or eat, but rather your body clock that tells you when it is time to push harder, maintain, or back off.  When you allow your body clock to determine when it's time to push and when it's time to rest, finding the optimal balance to be at your best becomes much more clear.  A tell-tale sign that you are not listening to your body clock is when you are stuck in a bad patch and still think, "But I have this race coming in..."  Another common symptomatic thought is, "I sure am tired, but today's workout is..."  Your body could not care less about your plans or your calendar. It only cares if you have stress and rest in balance.  The longer you push through accommodating training and racing plans, ignoring your body's yield and eventual stop signs, the longer it will be until you are thriving and feeling sharp on race day.

I will let you in on a coach's secret.  No matter how beautifully crafted the workouts we write for our runners may be, it might not be the best thing to run them.  There is a certain amount of crystal ball that goes into planning training.  Sometimes things change and what seemed like a good idea a few weeks or days ago, is not not such a good idea or a downright bad idea now.  Staying tuned to your body clock will tell you if it is the right time for a workout or race.

Sure, if we expected to feel inspired and 100% for every hard effort, there would be very few workouts being run.  But when you have to drag yourself through something and the results  indicate your body was not ready and you are falling behind in recovery, it is time to step back and reevaluate.  Discerning when to tough it out and when to give in now for a better result later is a valuable skill.  This is when having the objectivity of a coach can be very beneficial.  The same mental tricks that make you a good runner are exactly the same ones that get you into trouble.  You may need saved from yourself.

Check in with your body often to determine if what is planned is really the best decision.  If it's not, your body has a way of winning sooner or later.  As a matter of fact your body always wins in the end.

The Gold Standard

How many opportunities do you have to fly down a clear Meridian Street?

How many opportunities do you have to fly down a clear Meridian Street?

If your running started when you were school age it is very likely one of your first races was the mile.  You have probably wondered periodically what you could run for that distance now.  Maybe you could run faster or maybe not.  However, there are not too many opportunities to race the mile.  There is now!

If you started running after you finished school you may have never thought about racing a mile.  After all, why would someone pay to run one mile?  Good question.  Let's see if I can give you a few reasons to race the Monumental Mile.

1) It is one mile straight down Meridian Street finishing at the circle.  Traffic is shut down on what is considered the main street of Indianapolis, so you can see how fast you can run one mile.  How cool is that?

2) There is a race for everyone.  There is a race for kids, youth, masters, open, and even a community mile for the whole family.  And then the races are topped of with an elite mile.  Except for the kids and community miles, all have a separate men's and women's race.

3) You will recover much faster from a mile than a half marathon allowing you to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the circle on a beautiful June evening.

4) It is an easy measuring stick to duplicate to test your fitness.

5) The Mile is a great symbolic kick off to your training for other fall races.

Link to all the Monumental Mile details!

There is no holding back with only 1 mile to go!

There is no holding back with only 1 mile to go!

Optimal Training, Tug of War, & the 3-Point Shot

How much training do I need to reach my potential is one of the most fundamental questions that come to the mind of anyone struck with the inspiration to be their best.  Your optimal training level is where your maximum training load intersects with how much training your body can actually absorb.  How close, how consistently, and how long you can train at this level is the biggest controllable factor in your distance running success.

If we think of this intersection as the ideal training level as a line, anything below is undertraining and anything over is, you guessed it, overtraining.  The tricky thing about it is that it is hard to know exactly where that optimal training line lies.  It is a moving target and one that needs to be constantly monitored.  There is a complicated list of factors that contribute to how well we adapt to stress.  Non-running, real life stress leads that list.

Lines of Training.jpg

Let’s look first below the ideal line in the area of undertraining.  Many will fall into undertraining because of the other demands on time and energy keeping them from running as much as they would like.  Or this is simply where they enjoy running the most and have no need for more.  We know the closer we move towards the perfect training level, the point of diminishing returns sets in so the additional benefits are reduced while the time and energy demands are increased.  Most often, being a little undertrained results in better racing than overtraining.  For this reason aiming a little low of perfect is better than aiming a little too high.  And given the A+ personality types that concern themselves with such things as maximum performance, aiming low most often just limits the amount of overtraining. 

On the other side of ideal is overtraining and running from which we are no longer benefiting and more than our bodies are able to handle.  The more driven, with enough time on their hands, will often end up here.  There is an amount of overtraining that you can handle.  You are not thriving, but not breaking down either.  This is where the 3 point shot comes into play.  We know the worst shot on the basketball floor is just inside the 3 point line.  It is still a difficult shot but counts for 1 point less than an inch further back.  Training above the perfect line is increasing risk for no additional reward.  I will grant that a mental toughness factor can come into play and be beneficial but we need to be careful doing things for our heads that may hurt our bodies.  The real danger lies past this gray area of overtraining where the impending doom of burnout and injury reside. 

If you talk to a cross section of my runners you might get conflicting reports on how hard I think they should train.  This is the tug of war competition between coach and runner.  If I have a runner camping clearly below the ideal line while telling me they want to be their best they will tell you I am always challenging and pushing them to do more.  Others that like to live in the rare and dangerous air above the idea line may feel I am always trying to pull them down to run slower on recovery days and dial back their racing instincts during workouts.

How do we know where that ideal line is for you?  Two of the best measures of how close you are to ideal are recovery and race results.  If you feel fresh on your easy runs and can’t keep the pace under control it’s time to increase training stress.  If you feel progress has slowed and you are working harder with less to show for it, you may be in the gray area of too much.  If you feel you cannot get recovered and it is rare to feel fresh for a workout or race and you feel you are hanging on by an ever fraying thin thread keeping you from injury, you are on the express to breakdown.  If race day expectations are not being met you need to determine if is it because you are wishing for times without evidence they are realistic or are you leaving your best races in training.  If your workouts are better than your races it may be time to do a little less in training.

Gen GPS

With all the attention paid to Millennials and Baby Boomers, you might have missed the fastest growing running group, the GPS Generation.  They cannot be neatly boxed by their chronological age, but rather by their running age.  If someone started running in the last dozen years they could be part of Gen GPS.  You know you are a GPSer if you have never run an unmeasured unrecorded mile, unless of course you forgot to charge and your battery died during the run.  If you wondered if it still counted because it was not captured on your download you are definitely Gen GPS.

Don't get me wrong, I use a GPS watch and enjoy the freedom of running unmarked courses and still knowing my mileage and splits.  Hey, I am an early adopter of running tech.  I started using a HR monitor in 1988 (thanks, Coach Benson!).  As a coach, all the data I can see from a runner's workout is valuable in determining workout quality and progress.  A GPS watch is a great tool, but some GPSers don't know the short comings and how to avoid the problems they can cause.   So from a runner that has been at it for more than a few years and a coach that sees hundreds of downloads each week, here are a few problems I see with GPS and how to adapt.

Long Courses  Skillful tangent running assumed, how often do you hear someone complaining about a half marathon course being 13.3 miles?  Sure there are plenty of courses measured without much care, but when you run a reputable race you can expect great pains have been taken to make sure it is accurate.  After running one of the perennial local 5M races without any alarming splits, we started to notice the course read about 1/4 mile long.  As much I wanted to believe I was faster than my race time indicated, I could not believe it would be off that much without a very odd split along the way.  After downloading the file and zooming in on the map we saw everyone seemed to have an uncontrollable urge to dodge down the same alley during the 3rd mile.  The GPS signal had just jumped Satellites before correcting itself resulting in the "long" course.

Inaccurate Mile Markers  Careful readers might have wondered how I did not have an odd split if GPS read .25 too long over 5 miles.  The reason, and I highly encourage my runners to adopt this practice, is that I turn off auto split on reliably marked courses and go to the trouble of actually pressing a button when I pass a mile marker.  GPSers, never fear, I leave GPS on so I have the map with elevation and other data and a backup should the reliable prove otherwise.

Pacing Problems  Have you ever been with a pace group and heard watches alarming intermittently including maybe one or two that chirp at the mile marker?  Being a few seconds off does not really matter for most purposes...at least until you start multiplying a few seconds by lots of miles.  Have you ever found yourself running along on goal pace only to see the upcoming finish line is not where your GPS tells you 13.1 or 26.2 miles should be and you have another .2 or .3 miles to run?  Not fun!  Especially if you PR'd or qualified for Boston at the GPS finish but not at the finish with the banner and clock.

Faster Downtown  Remember the aforementioned alley?  Signals do tend to jump when the preferred satellite becomes obstructed.  Add the tall buildings and tunnels that you expect to find in any downtown and you have a finicky GPS reading.  Though GPS can read short (like it often does on trails) it is commonplace for it to read long downtown.  That is long on distance but with the actual time therefore calculating a much faster pace than actually run.  It's a great confidence booster until you get to race day and wonder why the pace that was manageable in training was not when it mattered most.

Too Fast For Recovery  Awareness is often key to solving problems, but in the case of GPS it can create the problem.  So you have run a hard workout and pressed yourself to the limit.  The next day you are in serious need of some recovery.  You go out for a nice relaxed run and it feels just right until you see your first split.  Now you rue the day you signed up for Strava.  No self respecting runner can let splits like that go public.  So surely enough you start pressing on the gas pedal to get a more respectable 2nd mile and soon order and respectability are restored.  Never mind it ended up being too hard for recovery and good preparation for the next hard workout because you won the recovery run.  Turn it off, tape over it, wear a non-GPS watch, keenly observe the angle of the sun, whatever it takes to get recovered and actually benefit from yesterday's hard effort and be ready for the next meaningful workout.

For more information on how your GPS works and measurement considerations please visit Camille Estes's website for an article entitled, In GPS We Trust.

There is No Finish Line...

Nike's No Finish Line ad campaign of the 70's & 80's.

Nike's No Finish Line ad campaign of the 70's & 80's.

...Without a Start Line.  Yes, I am a master of the obvious, but we often loose sight of this fact when we are making training decisions.  Anything that causes undue risk of jeopardizing showing up at the start line on race day healthy and ready to run should make these decisions very clear.  Here are some trustworthy ideas to help deliver you safely to the start.

"There are no deals available.  The thing doesn't dilute."*  If you have missed training because you could just not get going again after your fall marathon, or work has been busy, or you have had a nagging injury, your body does not care.  You can not convince or make a deal with your body to do 6 months of training in 4.  You have to recalibrate the time you have and make the most of it.  That time is gone and your body will not let you make it up.

Be Patient or you will become one.  Trying to hurry your body to adapt to training rather than letting it absorb and adapt to the training is the surest way to support the local sports medicine professionals.  It's also a great way to be a cheerleader rather than a runner on race day.  Yes, this is very similar to point one, but I think it is important enough to repeat.

Find your hard/easy balance.  I apologize to any of my runners reading this because they have heard this countless times.  When the hard days get harder, the easy days have to get easier.  So tempting with a GPS to try to average some magic number on a recovery day.  Slow is never the goal, but pushing at all on an easy day reduces recovery and therefore adaptation to the work already done.  And furthermore it takes away from the next effort.  If you cannot stand seeing a slow pace on your download, don't.  Run by time on an unmeasured course at a fair average pace.  If jogging for you is 8:00/M, then run for 48:00 and call it 6 miles.  Now there is no incentive to overrun a recovery day.  Is it 6 miles?  Who cares?  Close enough and now your training benefit is increased.

Prove It.  Your body is amazing and would allow you to go out and run longer or faster than you think it could.  However it would then need a great deal of recovery time without skyrocketing injury risk.  When you increase your training level, especially, if you have not been there before and somewhat recently, allow plenty of time to make sure you have adapted before another training bump.  If you are taking longer to recover than normal you are not ready for another increase yet and may even need to back off.  If you are fully recovering for a week or two for each hard effort, then it may be time for another increase.

Use the 10 Minute Rule.  When you are struggling with an ache or pain and not sure if it is something you can run through or need to rely more on cross training or take time off you can apply the 10 minute rule.  Ease into a run and then evaluate after 10 minutes.  If it does not get better (or gets worse) or you are favoring it in any discernible way, stop.  If that means the walk of shame back home or to your car, do it anyway.  If it does get better, that means you can proceed with caution, but be sure to determine and address the cause to make sure it does not get worse. 

Use the Day After Safeguard.  Just because you passed the 10:00 test does not mean you are out of the woods.  Many injury issues warm up nicely and feel fine during the run.  If later in the day or the next morning, the injury concern is worse, then it is time to seek help and cross train or stop running for a day or two.

Listen to the Voices.  If you think back to most of the training mistakes you have made you probably can recall what you were thinking before they happened.  "This does not feel right."  I think I will be OK going a few more miles."  "I think I can squeeze in this workout."  "I don't have time to cooldown but I'll stretch really good tomorrow."  And the mother of all warning signs, "I am in the shape of my life!", That one often leads to a feeling of invincibility and that universal training rules not longer apply.  What were you telling yourself before your last setback?

The Little Things.  There are many people willing to work as hard as it takes for an hour or two on the run.  There are far fewer that have the discipline and habits to take care of all the little things like warmup/cooldown, stretching, strengthening, sleeping, and the list that goes on to become a very big accumulative thing in determining how your body responds to training.

I encourage you to take a little time and use these ideas to keep your training on course and I will look for you at the start and finish lines!

Showing up healthy allowed Scot Allen to take a 14 minute bite out of his marathon PR at Monumental '16.

Showing up healthy allowed Scot Allen to take a 14 minute bite out of his marathon PR at Monumental '16.

*This quote is from Quenton Cassidy in John Parker, Jr's Once A Runner.

New Year & ReNewed Purpose

Days like these start with a goal!

Days like these start with a goal!

There has always been something about turning the page to a new year that inspires renewal and resolution.  I would like to offer some thoughts about goal setting that may help you differentiate yourself from all of the other resolution runners and those overpopulating gyms for the next few weeks.

The Goal Has to Matter.  Be very clear with yourself about why this goal matters to you and why it will continue to matter after the initial inspiration and novelty wear off.  If you do not have at least one solid answer to this question you chances of success are zero.

The Goal Must be Exciting and Motivating.  It is amazing how willing we are to do many things that are hard and unappealing if the goal continues to be motivating and is the reward.  The initial motivation will ebb and flow, so the goal must be powerful enough to help you correct course over time.

Measure the Process and Habits.  While motivation may falter from time to time, habits will keep you on track.  Being able to measure the habits will help you through the tough spots.  You can measure training days, miles, hours, training or race pace, subjective measures such as how your feel or anything that helps you towards your goal.

Keep Moving.  Something is better than nothing.  When you feel beat down or life is taking its' toll, just do something.  Progress is not linear.  It is what you do during the dips that will make all the difference in the end.  Limit your losses and be ready for the next upswing.

Use Progress Reports to Correct Course.  Schedule progress reports along the way to identify what is working and what stays and what is not working that either goes or gets repaired.  You might even realize that you have been pointing towards the wrong goal and the destination needs adjusted.  These progress reports should be often enough you don't stray too far off course, but spaced out enough that you can spot trends and know what needs fixed.

Find a Mentor.  You take on some immediate measure of accountability once you tell the right person your intentions.  Find someone with the wisdom of things learned the hard way and can help you with what you don't know you don't know.  A good mentor should posses objectivity as well as wisdom to help you identify the obvious and not so obvious challenges and solutions along the way.

Are you ready to clarify you running purpose for 2017?  Contact Coach Matt Ebersole to set up a goal setting session today!

Quotes You can take the Distance

Noah Droddy finishing last year's Monumental Half high on optimism.  He carried this optimism out west to train in CO with Roots Running Project and made the Olympic Trials in the marathon and 10K.

Noah Droddy finishing last year's Monumental Half high on optimism.  He carried this optimism out west to train in CO with Roots Running Project and made the Olympic Trials in the marathon and 10K.

As I prepared to meet with a group of my runners to talk about their marathon and half marathon race plans, I wanted a new way to describe the spirit of a long distance race plan.  From there we can plug in their personally specific details.  I have described the thinking on race days as transforming from a pessimist, to a realist, to an optimist.  Here I offer a quote for each race segment that will transform you over the race distance.

"The Marathon can humble you." -Bill Rodgers 4 x NYC & Boston Marathon Winner*

Hang around the recovery area of a marathon or half marathon and one of the things you are least likely to hear is, "I should have started faster!"  Of the countless tales of marathon success and crash and burns I have heard, I don't think I have come across 5 people that told me their time or experience would have been better if only they would have hit the first few miles harder.  We know that your ever present effort gauge, perceived exertion, is MIA in high adrenaline moments.  That is why the common refrain of, "But, it felt so easy" is usually followed by the word, "until".  How about some real world evidence?  Maybe you've heard about the Boston Marathon and its hills in the second half?  The fastest time ever run on that course is 2:03:02 by Geoffrey Mutai in 2011.  Care to guess how much time he banked on the downhill first half?  He was actually 54 seconds faster over the hillier 2nd half and through the Newton Hills.  If someone with that speed on that course holds back early, it might even work for you.  This stage is usually the first 5-8 miles of a marathon and 2-4 miles of a half marathon.

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?" -Attributed to Winston Churchill (among others)

Most of the nerves that accompany race week are due to the unknown factors of race day.  Will I feel good?  What is the weather going to do?  Is my calf going to hold up?  And the list may go on.  The early miles are like waiting for the conditions report.  If you manage to stay nice and comfortable (race relative) and control your effort, you will find if the things you do not control are in your favor.  I was a spectator at the Chicago Marathon in 2002 on a very cold and extremely windy day (even for Chicago).  In all of my wisdom, I remember thinking that no one will be running fast today.  I was very surprised when the reports from my runners started coming in.  It was a big PR day.  And yes, this was the day Paula Radcliffe broke the world record by a minute and a half.  By the way her splits were 1:09:03/1:08:15.  More negative splits!  Contrast that to last year's Chicago where the temperature felt OK at the start but soon became evident it was too warm.  If people did not adjust their plan accordingly and quickly, many miles of training went unrewarded.  Check in with your self early and often and see what the day offers.  If you are not sure, stay conservative early and gradually become more aggressive as the miles pass.  This segment can last until 16-22 miles in the marathon and 8-10 in the half.

"Quenton Cassidy moved out to the second lane, the Lane of High Hopes, and ran out the rest of the life in him."  Once A Runner -John L. Parker, Jr.

The perceived exertion that may fail you early comes back and can be trusted again later in the race.  As a matter of fact it becomes pretty hard to fool, late in the race.  There is a very trustworthy litmus test that happens every mile.  Did that mile seem to pass quickly and are you excited about the fact you only have 10K to go?  Or did that last mile seem to last 5K and another 10K might as well be Everest?  This is the time that if it is you day, your challenge is to stay focused and keep the gas pedal down.  It is a scientific fact that if you are running a great time and are passing people you will feel far less pain than going slower at a reduced effort.  One of the many benefits of your training is that you have come to believe in yourself and be optimistic about the effort you can give when it gets difficult.  This is the time to rely on that knowledge and cash in the time and effort you have invested in this race.  If despite your best effort and adjustments for the day, it is still not going all that great, you can still tap into the training runs that headed south early that you managed to survive.  You know you can get there.  Just keep fighting and moving.  This will lead to another better, faster day.   It is my hope that by starting as a pessimist and transforming over the miles into an optimist, that better, faster day will be your next race.

*Here is the rest of the paragraph from Bill Rodgers' 1980 autobiography he wrote with Joe Concannon. 

"When I say the marathon can always humble you, I mean that no matter what level you have reached, what medals you have won, or who you are, or no matter how many lesson you think you've learned, you can run into the most difficult situations in a marathon. I mean the ravages of physical fatigue and psychological despair.  It happens to beginners, it happens to the best marathoners in the world.  It's something we all have in common."

Bad Math

If my math serves we have 9 weeks to go before the Monumental Marathon and Half Marathon.  This is a good time to talk about some of the bad math you will want to avoid in these last 2 months.

Adding

At this point you should be in a nice training rhythm and most likely adding mileage at a gradual, but progressive rate.  The time to add new training components is gone.  If injury (or prevention) necessitates adding strength or flexibility that is fine.  Just apply your gradual and progressive rule to those as well.  This is not the time to add circuit training, boot camp, cross fit, etc into the mix.  Anything you add at this point should be focused on allowing you to keep up with your normal training load and not adding to it.  The additional stress that tips the scale towards too much can also be something completely unrelated to running that still requires time or energy.

Subtracting

There are many possibilities from which to choose, but perhaps the silliest thing runners do is to stop doing what is working.  Maybe it is lifting twice a week or stretching regularly, and things are going great, so they stop.  The thought is I don't need to do these anymore because things are going great.  Reducing some cross training or supplemental training may be necessary as the mileage goes up,  but keep doing it and stay in your successful training rhythm.

Doubling

Most runners have the necessary amount of obsessive compulsive tendencies to be successful.  A missed workout or one cut short should bother you.  If that does not phase you, you will probably not get very far in marathon training.  However, doubling up on hard workouts or mileage to make up for what was missed is a sure way to miss making it to the start line.  I spend a fair amount of time helping my runners rework weeks by determining what we drop and what we move or replace with something else.  Take your frustration of missed training and use it to motivate you to plan better and hopefully avoid missing something later.

Balanced Equations

Remember in algebra 1 when you learned how to balance an equation?  Running, and all training for that matter, has to be a balanced equation between stress and rest.  As you increase weekly mileage and long run distance this balanced must be maintained.  Once that is lost your progress will slow with too much rest or you will fail to improve or worse, end up injured is the stress is too great.  If hard days get harder, the easy days need to become easier.  It is the rest from the stress that actually brings about the adaption and overcompensation to training.

Good luck with your math over the next 9 weeks and I look forward to seeing you in November!

 

 

Training Through the Ridiculous

Now that the weather has all of our attention, here are a few tips to help you survive the remaining high heat index days.

1) When a warmup is needed, keep it to the minimum required to be prepared for the workout.  Typically, we like to front load the days's mileage in the WU, but in these conditions it is taking away from the workout effectiveness.

2) As we do on race day, let's think of replacing water, salt, and sugar (if duration necessitates) in terms of an intravenous drip.  A little bit more often is absorbed much better than more at less frequent intervals.  Ideally, 6-8 ounces of fluid every 20:00.

3) Sodium is necessary for water to be absorbed.  Drinking an ideal amount is only part of the equation, we have to make sure it is being readily absorbed.  Those that have learned to use salt tablets or other sodium supplements have been enjoying better workouts and faster recovery.  A good starting point is 400-600 mg per 1 Liter (or 34 ounces) of water intake.

4) Pace will not tell the story so don't get too down on yourself for slow splits.

5) Blood gets redistributed to the skin's surface to help cool your body.  Additionally, dehydration causes a decrease in blood volume.  Combined, these require a faster heart rate to accomplish the same oxygen delivery.  Your HR will not correspond to effort as it does normally.

6) Because pace & HR are not very helpful right now, you will need to rely on perceived exertion, respiratory rate, and muscular tension to mange effort.

7) Remember your body does not care how far or fast you ran, it cares about stress.  You body may get more stress than normal even with a reduced workload and pace with a high heat index.  Use this physiological fact to alleviate any guilt for cutting a workout short.

8) If you are not feeling quite right or are exhibiting any symptoms of heat illness such as nausea, dizziness, cessation of sweating, stop and live to run another day.

9) As soon as the run is done, it's time to focus on recovery and that means re-hydrating.  A pre and post run weigh in are very helpful to measure how you are doing.  If weighing yourself is on your list of least favorite things to do, cheat.  Move the scale to a weight that you know is too high or too low, but gives you the net difference between pre and post run.

10) We live by faith during ridiculous weather.  Keep doing your best and despite all evidence to the contrary right now, you will find the work will pay off and when the weather breaks.

 

Hope & Insanity

Some time on the track may get your improvement curve moving in the right direction again.

Some time on the track may get your improvement curve moving in the right direction again.

Remember when you starting running and you were thrilled to make it a block and then a mile without stopping?  That led to your first 5K and then your first half marathon and then maybe a marathon (or beyond).  Running was sweet and simple.  The more you ran the better you became. 

At some point you found you had to add higher quality workouts to continue improving.  Then you figured out the awful truth that the better you got the more work it took to continue getting faster.  Eventually, you may have found yourself on a long-lasting plateau.

If you have plateaued and are still hopeful for improvement by doing the same thing that has ceased to be successful, you may have met the running version of the popular definition of insanity.  That is, continuing to train the same way that is no longer working, but still expecting progress.  Though I am addressing the more experienced and accomplished runners in this post, if you follow me to the end, there is a point for everyone. 

How do we get your improvement curve moving in the right direction once again?  Let's start with facing the fact that you will have your last PR.  Rarely do we know it when that happens, so let's go down fighting before we accept that you will have to find something obscure or truly insane for a new PR.

The tendency after a few marathons is to spend all of your training effort accumulating mileage and "threshold" quality.  For marathoners it is pretty easy to fall in love with mileage and threshold or stamina training because it is race specific and the benefits are great and improvement can be sustained for a long time.  Of course, this makes perfect sense, until the results dry up and you find yourself stuck.  

If you gradually raised your weekly mileage to a great endurance building level that has now peaked or been reduced by time, interest, or health, you are no longer likely to get adequate training stimulus for improvement this way.   You've found the magic of high end aerobic or threshold training and have utilized it through intervals, steady state runs, and sprinkling quality into your long runs to maximize your stamina.   That led to the rewrite of your personal record book.  But now, even the effectiveness of stamina training has seemed to stall.

This is where many long distance runners get stuck and the insanity creeps in.   If you are not going to run more miles, and you can't add more "threshold" miles with effectiveness, and your training pace has stagnated, or worse, slowed, what will bring the PR fitness?  Now that your performances are treading water, you will need to add or increase another ingredient to your training mix. 

We have established in previous posts that we can summarize training into 4 types, endurance, stamina, economy, and speed.  Now is a good time to more closely examine the third workout type, economy.  Let’s define running economy as the energy cost of running a given pace.  It’s true that all types of training result in improved running economy (at least for a time).  However, because we seem to have maxed out endurance and stamina you will want to focus on the most targeted ways to improve your economy.  Where you find yourself now requires a move northward into the world of faster running, heavy breathing and lactic acid.

It's time to reallocate your training resources and spend more energy on hard running.  So how hard are we talking about?  This is not the comfortably hard stuff that is so stamina specific. It is training above your threshold.   It's the kind of running that only happens when you mean it, the kind that is only fun when it's over.  If you ran in high school and college and spent time racing 5K to 10K on the roads before focusing on the marathon, you have done plenty of this training in the past.  Common economy training are intervals at 90% or higher and races of up to 10K.  

If it has been awhile these efforts will be shocking.  Oddly enough, kind of like long runs used to be.  In the right dosage this type of training can jump start your marathon specific training by raising your ceiling and nudging you to a faster pace for the rest of your training.  And here is the key.  With the right balance this will help your endurance and stamina training regain effectiveness.  

The lesson here for all is that the training mix that works best for you now will need to be reevaluated from time to time when goals change or progress slows.  The right reallocation of your effort can get your improvement curve heading back into the right direction pushing that last PR into the future.

Reshuffling Your Race Mix

Haile Gebrselassie (1658) had the best performance range in history.  

Haile Gebrselassie (1658) had the best performance range in history.  

To be faster or more competitive at your chosen distance you might start by becoming a better runner.  I know this sounds redundant and obvious, so let me explain.  If you consider yourself a half marathoner, think about how much of your year is spent working on improving the demands of other distances.  The two people you least want to have pull up alongside you at 10 miles in a half marathon are a marathoner that you know can hold a pace for hours and someone that just ran a great 5K because you know at the end they have a gear you don’t.  If you could combine the endurance and stamina of marathon training and the economy and speed of 5K training, you will be a better half marathoner.  You know when you do something new that it stresses your body in a different way and you can feel it.  If you are stuck in one type of training you may no longer feel that kind of stress and mild soreness that reminds you that you did something new.  That can mean you have adapted to your training and your benefits are no longer being maximized.

Below is a summary of the benefits of the four workout types for a middle distance runner and marathoner.  By reshuffling your training and racing mix you can have them all.  These do not just meet in the middle at 13.1.  We know from history that when middle distance runners started running higher mileage at points in the year to complement their speed, records fell and medals were won (Thank you, Arthur!).  We also know that the marathon was revolutionized when national and world record holders moved from the track to the road.  Running over your chosen race distance helps the race seem much shorter mentally.  After a few marathons a 5K seems to be over before you can blink.  Running below your goal distance helps race pace feel more comfortable.  Spending most of a 5K in the pain cave makes the early miles of a marathon seem like jogging.  At the world class level, once you’ve run 4:10 pace for 5,000m (sub 13:00), 4:50 (2:06+) pace does not seem that bad, even if it is for a few hours.  The marathoners all want these people to stay on the track until they are well past their prime.

Endurance

Miler – The ability to recover.  Marathoner – Able to keep going.

Stamina

Miler - The ability to stay aerobic longer into the race.  Marathoner – Able to maintain pace.

Economy

Miler – Lowers the cost of race pace.  Marathoner – Makes race pace more sub maximal and more comfortable longer.

Speed

Miler – Enables a wider variety of race tactics, such as surging, covering moves, and kicking.  Marathoner- Counteracts the biomechanical poison of high mileage.

Now the trick is to get the balance right at the appropriate time of the year to be ready to combine them all in the right mix on the most important days.  If you do this well, you will be the one they don't want to see with a few miles to go!

 

Haile Gebrselassie may have the best performance range in history.  #157 All-Time 1 Mile 3:52.39 in 1999, #2 5,000m 12:39.36 in 1998, #2 10,000m 26:22.75 in 1998, and #9 Marathon 2:03:59 in 2008.  Emil Zatopek (903) displayed historic dominance by winning the 5,000m, 10,000m and Marthon in the 1952 Olympics.

The Monumental Mile

If your running started in school it is very likely one of your first races was the mile.  You have also probably wondered periodically what you could run for that distance now.  Maybe you could run faster or maybe not.  However, there just are not too many opportunities to race the mile.  There is now!

If you are an adult onset runner, especially of the GPS generation, you may have never thought about racing a mile.  After all, why would someone pay to run one mile?  Good question.  Let's see if I can give you a few reasons to race the Monumental Mile.

1) It is one mile straight down Meridian Street finishing at the circle.  Traffic is shut down on what could be considered the main street of Indianapolis, so you can see how fast you can run one mile.  How cool is that?

2) There is a race for everyone.  There is a race for kids, masters, open, and even a community mile for the whole family.  And then the races are topped of with an elite mile.

3) You will recover much faster from a mile than a half marathon allowing you to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the circle on a beautiful June evening.

4) It is an easy measuring stick to duplicate to test your fitness.

5) The Mile is a great symbolic kick off to your training for other fall races.

Link to all the details!

Chasing Confidence

  Well founded confidence can lead to race day relaxation and monster PR's.

 

Well founded confidence can lead to race day relaxation and monster PR's.

The important spring races are close at hand.  As they approach, you have an undeniable need to prove your fitness.  Like any addict you need just one more workout of proof to tell you that you are fit and ready to run the goal time or win the race.  

Oddly enough the very act of proving fitness in training is on the short list of the surest ways to ruin your big race.  Your training should be a body of evidence with some highlights that demonstrate you are in the range of your goal.  Yes, hard training is necessary to accomplish anything worthwhile.  But when that leads to over training or equally damaging, racing in training, it is likely to lead to breakdown before success. 

Confidence is very fickle.  I like to remind my runners that a great workout shows you are fit and a bad one simply shows you had a bad day.  It does not mean your fitness somehow disappeared since last week.

Even better than reading your training log, running 3-5 races (maybe more for shorter distances) should also lend all the support to the viability of your goal.  Again, if those races do not offer the sought after confidence then it is time to reconsider what is possible for you right now.  Realize wanting a goal, no matter how deeply, does not mean you are ready or capable of doing it.  At least yet!

The most successful Olympic American distance runner in history, Frank Shorter*, said that there are two kinds of workouts; those that make us fit and those that demonstrate fitness.  He pointed out that if these two types get out of balance you are likely to become the fittest spectator on the course.

*Frank won gold in 1972 (adding to a 5th place in the 10,000) and silver in 1976 in the marathon. 

Get the Most from Your Long Run

Some PBT runners getting in a long run in AZ.

Some PBT runners getting in a long run in AZ.

Long runs are the cornerstone of marathon and half marathon training and are a regular component of your running week.  Because long runs are done with frequency and comprise a good percentage of your weekly mileage they warrant thoughtful consideration to make sure you are getting the most from them.  The two primary questions to be addressed are how far and how fast?  The focus of this post will be on how fast or more precisely how hard.  I prefer to think in terms of effort due to the many variables of pace such as temperature, wind, and hills among them.  Please refer to the effort to pace guidelines below.

As with other training questions, being mindful of your fitness and goal is important in determining the appropriate effort for your long run.  If you are training for a new distance, or it has been awhile, and the primary goal is to finish then an effort of 60-75% of maximum heart rate should allow you to continue to build endurance and be prepared for race day.  Staying toward the bottom half of the range for the early miles and increasing effort to the top half towards the end will usually result in relatively even splits.  This is also great practice for race day!

Those focused on a goal time or racing others over longer distances will need to add some additional stress to their long runs.  If you have been through a few marathon training cycles, think back to your first 20 mile run.  Remember the challenge and fatigue and sense of accomplishment?  It is not quite the same anymore is it?  The reason is that you have adapted to running that distance.  To race faster you will have to increase the effort to get the same training effect you got from those early 20 mile runs.

The logical question now becomes how hard is too hard?  Make no mistake, you can over do it and run too fast.  I like to measure this in terms of recovery time.  If it takes more than 2 days to recover and you are not ready for something of quality on the 3rd day, you probably over did it and should save that kind of effort for racing.

Another logical thought process is that if you used to average 7:30 pace you should now try to bring that down 5-10 seconds per mile.  Well, though it will probably happen, I don't care to think of it that way.  Many training runs and races are run off the rails by thinking about pace from the start.  I like to think in terms of adding more training stress to portions of the run.  

The options on how to do this are many.  Some of the ingredients you might add to your long run include continuous steady state miles (80-85%) or intervals (80-90%) at goal pace or faster, hills (80-90%), negative splits (up to 85%), or faster finishing miles (up to 90%).  Again, please see the guidelines below.

Really, the specifics are up to your imagination, but the primary objective is to get your legs to ask the same question they will late in the race with similar urgency, "What are you doing to me?"  Mixing these components with some relaxed long run miles in the same workout will keep the run from requiring excessive recovery time and minimize injury risk.   Sure, some of your long runs should just be nice and relaxed but with regular quality injections into the others you will be racing faster soon!

Effort to Speed Guidelines.  60-75% Jogging to comfortable running, 80 % Marathon Pace, 85% Half Marathon Pace, 90% 10K Pace, anything higher is fast and not something you can maintain for long.

 

Indiana Marathon Talent on Display

I love the Olympic Trials Marathon.  I suppose it is because it is what we could call grass roots elite.  The truly world class are joined by the runners that show up at local races and are a part of running communities across the country.  These are runners that for the most part have everyday real life responsibilities, like jobs and families, and are training at a very high level for very little pay.  They are doing it for the love of running.  That love may be for the competition, the challenge, the lifestyle, or the intrinsic rewards they get for being exceptionally good at something.  The reality is there is a very short list of runners that could make the Olympic team by finishing in the top 3 spots. 

This will be the largest Olympic Trials Marathon in history (the first women’s trials was in 1984) and makes a great statement about the progress of American marathoners.  In 2000, the US did not have enough runners that met the Olympic standard to send a full team.  With the number of runners that met the trials standard for 2016 serious thought has to be given to again raising the bar or maintaining a larger field.  Either way will demonstrate the amount of talent and drive our marathoners possess.

One of the many great things about running, and the Olympic Trials Marathon is no exception, is that many victories will be realized despite the fact that only 1 man and 1 woman will win the races.  Make no mistake everyone else would love to trade places with the winners.  But for many this will be the biggest stage on which they will ever race and by running their best on this day it will eclipse many days where they did finish first.

When you watch the Olympic Trials Marathon on February 13th it will be enjoyable to watch as the races unfold and see the winners break the tape and the teams determined.  But by taking a closer look you might be able to get a feel for all of the other running dreams that are realized that day. 

Here is a look at some of the runners with Indianapolis area ties.

Men

Jesse Davis’s 2:18:02 is the fastest of his 3 qualifying marathons.  This is Jesse’s second trials marathon and will try to put a cap on an exciting last 3 months of running with a win at the Monumental Marathon and 5th place at the 50K World Championships

Noah Droddy broke through with a big PR at the Monumental Half Marathon and then took another 2:00 off of his best in January with a 1:04:17 in Arizona.  Noah is currently training in Colorado.

Kyle Jordan was an All-American in college in cross country and track before moving up in distance and qualified with a 1:04:58 at the Monumental Half Marathon in 2014.

Other Indiana Men

Zach Mayhew 1:04:43 (Bloomington), Dustin Betz 1:04:51 (Schnellville), Jacob Kildoo 1:04:58 (South Bend), all qualified at the 2015 Monumental Half Marathon. Aziz Atmani (Indianapolis) also qualified with a 2:16:09 in 2013 but is currently retired.

Women

Whitney Bevins-Lazzara was an early qualifier in 2013 and improved on that time in 2014 in Chicago by running 2:40:12.  She has spent time at altitude and is now training in Houston and will be ready for a strong race.

Erin Vergara will be running her second Olympic Trials marathon and qualified with sub 1:15 halves at Monumental in both 2014 and 2015.  She moved up through the field as the trials race went on and finished 23rd with a 2:37:06 in 2012.  Erin is a strong and smart runner and will add to her many career highlights in LA.

Anna Weber had a breakout performance at Twin Cities this past fall running 2:38:14.  Seeing the work she is doing via her social media posts we may see another breakthrough from Anna at the Trials.

Other Indiana Women

Becky Boyle (Bloomington) was one that did not get to celebrate her qualification at Monumental 2014 until the standard was adjusted more than a year later and found out via Facebook.

Alissa McKaig (Fort Wayne) ran 2:31:56 for 8th place at the 2012 Trials in Houston and qualified with a 1:13:59 half marathon.

The Olympic Trials Field by the Numbers

“A” Standard 2:15(5:09/Mile) 27 Qualifiers (13%)

“B” Marathon Standard 2:19 (5:18/M) 59 Qualifiers (28%)

“B” Half Marathon Standard 1:05 (4:58/M) 125 Qualifiers (59%)

Total Men Qualified = 211

“A” Standard 2:37 (6:00/Mile) = 42 Qualifiers (17%)

“B” Marathon Standard 2:45 (6:18/M) = 156 Qualifiers (63%)

“B” Half Marathon Standard 1:15 (5:44/M) = 48 Qualifiers (20%)

Total Women Qualified = 246

Source:  USATF.org

http://www.usatf.org/Events---Calendar/2016/U-S--Olympic-Team-Trials---Marathon/Qualifying-Standards.aspx

Matt Ebersole coaches a wide range of runners including 8 Olympic Trials Marathon qualifiers in his coaching career.

Do Your Goals Fit?

  The right goal can get you out of a warm bed and into the cold for a Monday morning 12 miler before the sun rises.

 

The right goal can get you out of a warm bed and into the cold for a Monday morning 12 miler before the sun rises.

“It’s better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than at the top of the one you don’t.”   -Stephen Kellogg

If you are setting goals you have an appetite for achievement.  This appetite will consume hundreds of hours of time and gallons of sweat so they better be worthy targets.  Here are some of the common problems to consider and avoid when setting and pursuing goals. 

Do Your Goals Align?

Are you sabotaging your own goals by setting so many they are in competition with each other?  Do you say you want to run a marathon PR while running a 5K every weekend and skipping long runs?  Do you want to run a fast half marathon but run a marathon 2 weeks before your goal race?  Getting clarity with your goals and recognizing if other races or training are helping or hindering you is obviously very important.  Upon further review you might realize what you say is your goal is really not the priority.  It is OK to change your goal to what is actually most important to you.  It is far less frustrating to figure this out sooner rather than later.

Adopting a Goal

The social aspect of running is a huge motivator and great reward for many runners.  However, a worthy goal that takes so much time, energy, and emotion to achieve has to be something important to you and not someone else’s goal you have adopted.  Find ways you can support others in their goals while not taking away these resources from what is most important to you.  You might find a supporting role rather than actually running the same race will be more helpful to your friend and you might even expand your social running circle by finding others with your same goal.

Pass or Fail Time Goals

The most common of these is a Boston Marathon qualifying time.  This is a great goal for many people because it is very clear and motivating and with the right amount of time and work most people can get there.  But before this becomes the immediate goal evaluating the evidence that you are in the performance range to run the time is very important.  Many good marathons that are great steppingstones to Boston get ruined by stretching for a few more minutes that are beyond one’s current fitness.  Sure, make it a goal but let’s find the evidence with other race performances before it becomes a pass or fail goal in your next marathon.

Poor Planning

The realities of real life and of the calendar must play a role in your decision making.  Evaluating family, job, and other real life responsibilities will have an impact or your ability to prepare. Ignoring them does not change that fact. Registering for a race before determining if you have enough training time is a sure way to be disappointed.  Charging towards a goal race and running through your body’s signs that you need more time to train will result in poor performance at best and an injury breakdown at worst.

Confusing Finishing and Performance

If you are planning to run as many marathons in a year as your travel budget allows it is very unlikely you will be close to your best possible performance in the same 12 months.  Both goals are fantastic but they are in competition with each other.  Last year one of my runners had the goal of completing as many half marathons as possible and she did a great job with it.  This year she is more concerned with performance and her training plan looks much different.

By giving your goals the thought and soul searching they deserve you can celebrate not only your victory but everything you gave to earn it.