high-minded drivel

high-minded (adjective) - refined; cultured; particularly civilized. drivel (noun) - senseless talk; nonsense.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A training plan, for running AND life

With a dog sled and a pack of eager huskies, a whole new
cross-training element could be added to your running this
time of year
It all started with a question about buttermilk.

Running has been going well since picking up with a true training plan a couple months ago.  Right now my approach is to run a minimum of four days per week, maximum six, and as you might expect, things tend to average out to running five days per week.  Sunday I view as the most significant run of the week, because that is when I do a run at my goal pace.  Monday night or Tuesday morning I'll just do some miles, Wednesday night I'll do a longer run with hills (to the extent that I can find them in Columbus), Thursday night I'll do some more miles, and then Saturday I'll do a slow mid-range run as I look ahead to the pace run the next day to start the cycle over again.  Friday is pretty much always going to be a day off, but Monday morning could involve a run if I really feel like it for some reason.  Although I'm trying to stick to this schedule fairly regularly, at times there will be a day when a refresher is needed, so on those days I'll do some jump rope in lieu of a run.

Hal Higdon's training plans recommend running slower than your goal pace on the Sunday run (which is the day of the week when you end up doing your longest runs), but I've found that I have to actually train at my goal pace if I'm going to then run at the goal pace on the day of the race.  Intuitively, my approach seems to make sense.  I think Higdon's perspective is that your body naturally ramps up for the day of the race due to a trained ability to conserve energy for when it's needed, but whether it's because I don't get "amped" for the day of the race or something else, this doesn't seem to work for me.  I'll feel most confident going into the day of the race believing I can run my goal pace if I've already run at that pace for significant distances in training.  The principle of starting slow and picking up the pace as you go along is sound, but running a full minute and a half slower than your goal pace while you're training?  Obviously Higdon is the expert (he's the one with the website about training plans, numerous books, and any number of disciples), but it's also important to customize with the things that work for you.

You aren't literally tying them to yourself, but it's kind
of the same idea
One thing I've found to be helpful is to not focus so much on lifting.  Again, this makes sense intuitively, but took me a lot longer to figure out, even though nobody, Higdon or anyone else, was recommending my prior approach.  All through high school, college, and after college, Nate and I have pretty consistently lifted weights.  But until recently, the approach was to add weight and add weight as we got stronger, thus getting bigger and heavier.  Of course this went in some cycles, so it's not like we just kept growing and growing and eventually woke up one morning and found that we couldn't fit through the doorway to get out of the house.  But generally speaking, getting bigger was viewed positively.  Well, believe it or not, getting bigger does not make you run faster.  In high school and college the effect is kind of masked, because you have enough youthful exuberance to carry you along at a decent pace despite also hitting the weights 3-4 days per week.  But post-college, choices need to be made, priorities need to be established, and if running is your chosen route, then the nature of weight-lifting has to be considered carefully.  No more benching, no more building up the shoulders.  So with a scaled back weight lifting approach, I've been able to lighten up a bit, and the results in the running arena have been very agreeable.  I tend to want the best of all worlds - running my fastest marathon and being stronger than I've ever been all at once, but it's just not realistic at this point.

You may have noticed in my training routine that the runs occur mostly in the evening during the week.  I had been getting up early to run before work, but the combination of a new job requiring longer hours at the moment, the arrival of ice, cold, wind, and darkness in the morning, and progressively longer runs has led me to shift the weekday runs to the evenings after work.  It is still difficult to come home from a long day of work and immediately go out for an eight-miler in the cold, but not quite as difficult as rolling out of bed to greet the morning by trying doing the eight miles before heading to the office.  Unlike the Dagny Taggarts of the world (that bitch!) who consider sleep to be a vice, I actually do enjoy sleeping in a bit when possible and having a more leisurely approach to my mornings.  I haven't gained any time on the weekday mornings by shifting running to the evening because the rise-and-shine time hasn't changed, just the time for running.  But Saturday is different.  Saturday is the one day where the run can be saved for mid-day, when there isn't a need to go to the office when it's still dark out, when tasky things can be reserved for the next day.  Saturdays are great.  And one way to celebrate the weekly event of Saturday is to actually cook breakfast rather than just dumping oatmeal into a bowl or eating some toast.  So last Saturday, Jen and I decided to make some waffles.  And this prompted the question:

Do we have any buttermilk available?  See if you can follow the ensuing conversation...

The next village is just over those mountains
Query: Do we actually need buttermilk?  Response: We'll have to look up the recipe.  Query: What actually creates buttermilk anyway?  Response: These are things that people used to know, but the internet has created a society where people don't remember things, because there is no need to remember when the information is so readily available everywhere.  A global financial meltdown/apocalypse is inevitable, which will result in not having the internet, which will result in the people who have retained their "country skills" surviving and ruling.  Query: What will we be able to offer to the post-apocalyptic society?

Hmm, a thought-provoking question indeed.  What kind of skills do I possess that will prove my value in this society?  Blogging?  Uh, no.  Remember, there is no internet, and my blogging abilities hold little to no value even now.  Writing in general?  Maybe, but a skill in prose isn't so important early on in the post-apocalyptic world.  The focus is on survival, and even if you do want to start recording history right from the get-go, all you need is someone to record facts.  Probably good handwriting is more important in that case than a true skill with words.  Okay, how about something from my HR background?

Sorry, that wheezing sound you hear is the world at large trying to catch its breath after a bout of hysterical laughter.

Is this pigeon carrying a message, or is it just
protecting itself in the post-apocalyptic society
by carrying a bomb around on its back?
In the end, it is clear that without any great skill in catching or preparing game, without any great knowledge in the ways of farming or engineering, and without even the mere expertise of how to make buttermilk (I've already forgotten since looking it up last weekend), I'll need to rely on the one thing I have to offer: an able body.  I can offer my running.  How would running fit into a post-apocalyptic society?  One likely need of the society would be the need to carry messages between various encampments/villages of people, and to do it quickly.  You may counter with an idea of using carrier pigeons for that purpose, but I will rebuke that by saying there is good meat on those bones, and shame on you for proposing to withhold a source of food from our society.  You see how the whole "proving your value in the new society" thing works here?

So, it's a good thing that my running is going well, and if I ever need the extra kick in the pants to keep up with the training, I need only remember that this isn't just for the sake of hitting a goal pace in my next marathon.  This is about preparing to survive.  And when Hal Higdon is feebly trying to explain to the post-apocalyptic rulers about how he needs to run a slower pace on certain days of the week, I'll be right there with an offer to carry their message at a pace that I've prepared for all along.

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