My Running Rule

One running rule that I subscribe to, which you may already know if you've been here a while, is that I do not, cannot, will not, follow a training schedule.

I would never calendar "tuesdays are tempo day, thursday is track, saturday is long run, Sunday is off..." etc. etc.

I am often thoroughly mystified that this kind of planning works for some runners.  That some runners bodies are so adaptable to any type of run that they can bounce out of bed and go for the run that the calendar says is on tap.

I know that many people who follow a training plan do allow for some flexibility, and will move their long run over a day if something comes up.  But that is still a plan--only now, the plan is that you will run long on that next day.

Here's what works for me, and I mean, it works.

Work it

I wake up and head out for a run, not sure at all what the run will have in store.  Warm up for 1-3 miles at a slow pace.  Do I feel good? Ok, I'll run a little longer, or harder, or hit the track today.  Do I feel crappy?  Slow pace, I'm allowed to stop whenever I want.  Do I feel great? Today is HARD day! Track sprints, or a long hard 20+ miler!

This is the ONLY way I can be a runner.  The only way.  Mentally, it works for me, and physically, my body is such an unpredictable mystery that there are days I wake up and a 9:00 minute pace is all I can muster, for unknown reasons.  And then the next day a 6:30 pace feels fantastic.  How crazy would it be if I stuck with a schedule that had me doing a tempo on the crappy-feeling day, and a recovery run on the day I felt great?

For instance--let's look at this weekend.

After a half-marathon last weekend, and several weeks before that lacking any challenging runs due to general fatigue and a couple problems with my left leg, I really wanted to wake up on Saturday and just kill it.  Go for a LONG run, 20+ miles, push it hard, and officially get excited that the CIM marathon will be here before I know it (I know it is redundant to write "CIM marathon", but I cannot help it...).

Instead, I had a rough Saturday morning.  I blame some apartment neighbors.  No need to rant about them any more here.

I tried to recover from my cranky mood and get Saturday going in the right direction.  I loaded up my ipod with some great dorky podcasts.  I otherwise prepared for a 2.5-to-3 hour run by smearing on the sunscreen and stashing some dried cherries in my shorts.

One slow lap around the lake.  4.5 miles (yes for you locals, I have figured out a way to make the 3.4 mile Lake Merritt a 4.5 or even 5.0 mile lap.  It involves doubling up on certain paths that are parallel to each other, but no retraced steps).   I was really mentally struggling with the desire to continue to running for another 2 hours.  It was already noon, and the idea of not getting home 'til 2:00 was bothering me.  My body (left leg alert) felt terrible.  I stopped to walk, stopped to stretch, and stopped to walk some more, and came home with 9 ugly miles.  I scarfed the dried cherries out of disappointment.

Well that blew, I thought.  This December marathon better stay far away and not arrive too soon, because I'm not ready.  With a day like this, confidence blown, I'm just not ready.  I refuse to run a marathon "for fun."  Waking up in an uncomfortable hotel at 5:30 a.m. after paying $100+ for a bib is not what I do "for fun."  It is what I do when I am ready for a challenge and to prove something.

But then, quickly, I realized that this was just a lame day for a hard or long run.  It just wasn't the right day for it.  It was a slower, easier day, the end.  I knew I would feel good soon enough and devour a run where I felt "on".

I woke up on Sunday.  My neighbors still sucked assholes.  But I was in a cheerful mood, and I could feel it -- today was going to be a better run day.

And oh, it was.

20.08 miles in 2:23:50 -- a 7:09 average pace!

I've run a faster 20 miles before on a treadmill, but never a 20-miler this fast outside.  This is not even close to my normal 20 mile pace.  

The splits just got better and better.  (check out the warm-up mile compared to the rest....I respect the warm up mile).

Miles 1-5:       7:58; 7:05; 7:03; 6:56; 7:08
Miles 6-10:     7:12; 7:14; 7:04; 7:01; 7:08
Miles 11-15:   7:12; 7:10; 7:19; 7:07; 7:10
Miles 16-20:   7:10; 7:05; 7:08; 6:54; 6:58
(and 0.8 in 0:37).

It was easy for a long time, I felt fan-freaking-tastic, until of course it wasn't.  I would have happily stopped at mile 15.  But I wasn't going to lose an opportunity to finish up a solid 20 miler.

Not included in the overall time is a couple water fountain stops and a couple breaks to stretch out my hips and calves.  If you think it is "cheating" not to count water breaks in my run time, lighten up and don't worry because I'm not worrying.  I will throw water all over my face and choke in order to drink but not break stride while racing; I will take a solid stop for water while running for fun.  Simple, no big problem, different turf different rules.

Last weekend, racing.  This weekend, not racing.  No rules. (Yup, carrying my bib by hand)

I ate a small plastic baggie worth of dried cherries during the 13th mile.  I waived hello to Richard the odd and possibly homeless runner four times.

So in sum. I cannot force a good workout.  I have to wait and let it find me when I'm ready.

This is what works for me.  Listening to advice in Runners World, in books, in blogs, not so much.  This isn't advice.  Do what works for you.