Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On Windy Days and 100-Mile Training

I had one of my best runs in quite some time today. I ran five miles in approximately 50 minutes with about 1,000' of climbing in howling winds.

What's so great about that? Not much in and of itself. In fact, I'd probably have been better off not running at all, but five easy was the internal compromise. You see, my running brain is in a state of confusion right now. It knows full well that I am in need of rest, yet it also knows that I need to run and it has become fixated on 100-mile weeks and an annoying running streak.

Anyway, I'll tell you what was so great about today's run.

Firstly, there was very little fatigue in my legs (something I have been dealing with - and running through - for a few weeks now). Secondly, and more importantly, I didn't take that as a green light to go out and hammer a bunch of miles or rocket to the top of Horsetooth at record pace. Instead, I stuck to my plan of trying to re-find some training and racing mojo by going easy and accepting the fact that I'm teetering on the brink of burnout. There, I said it.

Honestly, I can't believe how tortured my legs felt on Sunday at the Crazy Legs 10k. Right from the get go, I had as close to nothing in my legs as I've felt in a while. I still competed, and actually managed to muscle out a decent run, but I felt like crap and didn't enjoy a second of it. And that's a problem.

Anyone who reads this blog with any degree of regularity probably realizes that I have a competitive personality - annoyingly so at times. It's that competitive nature that gets me out the door twice a day to go run a bunch of miles. I respond well to running twice a day, however that second run is often a chore rather than a pleasure. And that's a problem.

The minute this running gig becomes too much like hard work is the minute I need to give it up. But I can't let that happen. I enjoy running and being in the mountains too much to let that happen. Besides, I want to pass on to my children and to others around me the joy of being in the mountains, and I won't be able to do that if I'm hating every second of it. So obviously I need to refocus here and get back to enjoying the training process and away from grinding my way through it.

I know that to be competitive at, say, Western States in June I'm going to have to grind out some miles, but when I'm running aimlessly around Dixon Reservoir at 4:30 in the afternoon, padding my weekly mileage before picking up my son from daycare, my thoughts are typically zeroed in on either race strategy or they are off day dreaming about an epic run that strings together six or seven peaks. I find more distraction from the mundane nature of my reality in the latter, yet the competitive side of my personality ensures that I keep moving forward in search of the racing goals that I otherwise find myself thinking about.

Numbers are important to runners, but they can also be incredibly dangerous. In recent weeks, I've been heading out the door on nearly every run with a watch strapped to my wrist, and I've found that the correlation between wearing a watch and enjoyment has been a negative one. Through the months of January and February I didn't wear a watch on any of my training runs - only at races - and I felt an amazing sense of liberation in that. As the trails have cleared and the running has become more predictable, I have for some reason been strapping the digits to my wrist more frequently, which in turn has caused me to want to run my training runs at a harder pace and, not surprisingly, has resulted in a greater sense of accumulated fatigue.

Therefore, other than for specific workouts, I have decided to ditch the watch for the remainder of this training cycle as it provides little in terms of feedback. I simply don't need a watch to tell me that I completed a run faster or slower than I did yesterday; that's all there in perceived effort.

And so I have to find compromise, which is why today's run was such a good one. I kept my stupid running streak alive, but I allowed myself to run at a pace that wasn't far removed from a hike and I didn't even remotely feel like taking a turn that would have added two, five or ten miles to my outing. No, I stuck to the plan, embraced the wind and enjoyed my run. Half way around a hiker was quite clearly enjoying his day too.

"Carpe Diem," he exclaimed as I sauntered past him. "Carpe Diem indeed," I responded.

There's not much to learn on this blog about training for endurance races - I make it up as I go along - but this I do know: it has to be fun or it just ain't worth it.


  1. Good post. This balance of the push to excellence, letting it come, caring but not caring ... shit ... that mystery is probably just as much the allure to the sport now to me as fast times.

  2. Agreed GZ, great post Nick, found myself thinking the same thing when I was up on Plymouth Mtn Saturday... "this watch sucks"...

  3. "I've found that the correlation between wearing a watch and enjoyment has been a negative one" There's possibly part of an answer for you? Ditch the watch. I believe (but I've never run a 100 so take it with a grain) too that there is some benefit to stressing your body using intensity rather than mileage. For a time stressed athlete you can cut mileage and replace it with intensity and still get good benefits. Maybe if you are feeling pressured to hit that 100 per week, you can do a week of 60 but add in hard time trials up a peak or do a long 14-16 mile tempo effort (which are harder than ~22-24 easy IMO). Just my 1 cents worth. Hang in there brother.

  4. Ironically you put up this post today as I'm on my run thinking about you and your myles. I am on a streak of 9 runs in 7 days - and that's a big streak for me. Today I was tired (legs mainly) and that's why I was thinking of you and how you do two-a-days everyday and still enjoy it... now I know. Keep on, keeping on Sparky! But know you've got a great base on you and trust that it will carry you into WS properly. Maybe a down week will put that zest back into you.

  5. One word: REST. You've got the mojo Mr. Clark. Rekindle the love that you know from running that got you to where you are in the first place. You are putting in the work, the fitness is there.

  6. You are making this up? God damn it. If you would have told me to wear lipstick and a dress on my next tempo run, I might have believed you before.

  7. Another well-crafted post, Nick. You've done so much of the hard work already, throw in a bit of unfettered enjoyment and you'll be unstoppable come June 26.

  8. "The minute this running gig becomes too much like hard work is the minute I need to give it up. But I can't let that happen."
    I 100% get your post, but I think it's the "hard work" that most of us doing this get off on! It's in our blood. We choose this sport because we think it's the hardest, most challenging thing we can do to ourselves. I bet you challenge yourself in all aspects of your life, not just running. If this was "just fun" for you, you'd probably be doing something else like seeing how big a hole you could dig in the ground;-)
    When it starts feeling like "hard work" is the point when you're about to summit. In your case it's a 13er, on your way to a 14er.

  9. You should take a little rest - a down week now followed by reenergized training the next couple weeks leading to states will probably be better in the end.

    Definitely agree that on the need to keep it fun. I sort of burned out on racing bikes (partly why I don't anymore) and realized that it is important to keep it fun and not become 1-dimensional. Especially since for most of us it isn't paying the bills or providing much more than personal enjoyment.

    See you next week.

  10. Thanks for the comments guys. Yeah, I'm just hoping I need an easy week and can then bounce back. Got a nice run on a favorite lower elevation peak planned for Saturday - so looking forward to that - and then hopefully I can close out these last few weeks of training, rest well, race well and enjoy a lower-mileage summer in the mountains getting ready for Pikes and other stuff.

    Brandon - how about lipstick and a dress next Friday?

  11. Have you thought about dropping a few races from your schedule prior to WS? Looking over your schedule you have already raced 9 times with three more races prior to WS. As already mentioned in a previous response "REST, you've got the mojo." I just can not see you going into any of these races without giving them your all, and all those races are insignificant compared to "the big dance." I think just a important as being physically rested, mentally rested is probably more important. If you show up on game day in top form you will be with the leaders at Auburn.

  12. Todd - yeah, I race too much. Just can't help myself.

    I put Jemez on there because I thought it would be a good last hard effort with plenty of recovery time and plenty of downhill prep for States. The other two races are local, short and intended as taper tune-ups, but now you mention it, it might be an idea to cut at least one.

    Good point on the mental side of things. Hopefully I win a couple of the races between here and there (or at least have solid races) - that always seems to help.