Once again, it’s taper time!
I guess I’ve finally reached the point where I’ve been doing this runner thing long enough that I no longer stress very much about training for a specific event. At distances up to and including a half marathon, I can pretty much be ready to race with only a few weeks of focused training effort. Or it seems that way to me anyway, at the moment.
The North Olympic Discovery Half Marathon (NODM) is now only twelve days away. I’ve done some hill training. I’ve done some speed drills. I’ve done a bunch of medium distance (6-9 miles) tempo runs.
Last Saturday I did what I call my “dress rehearsal” for NODM — I ran essentially the last 11 miles of the course, give or take a short dogleg. I ran it at race pace (it actually would have been PR pace) and I finished feeling really, really strong. At the time I wondered whether I might have overdone it, but I came out of it feeling just fine. I was helped immensely by absolutely perfect weather — overcast, calm, and 55 degrees — which definitely contributed to how easy it felt. I doubt I’ll be as lucky weather-wise on race day, but I’ll have the always-helpful adrenalin factor to help carry me through.
So now I’m contentedly welcoming the taper. Over the next week and a half, I’ll run shorter distances with less intensity. I’ll try to limit my other activities, or at least try not to go all-out (as I write this, I’m looking forward to an e…a…s…y……. 15-20 miles on my bike this afternoon). I’ll try to eat well and get lots of sleep. I’ll try not to stress out when the scale tells me I’ve gained a pound or three: it’s all that glycogen and water I’ll be storing in my muscles!
I’ve generally taken a rather scientific approach to my running — the thoughtfully designed training plan, the carefully logged miles, the focus on the numbers — but I’m coming to see that there’s an art to it as well. Sometimes, when I don’t feel like running, the best thing to do is take a few days off. When I’m fed up with pushing the pace, it’s okay to slow down. My baseline fitness is now good enough that I can give myself those little breaks and still be ready on race day.
There’s an art to this running thing, a beauty and grace that I’m finally beginning to grasp. The other activities (cycling and hiking and walking almost everywhere I go around town) that also occupy my time and interest these days have helped show me this. It all has to do with living an active and healthy life. It’s not just about what happens on race day. It’s how I feel the next day, the next month, the next year. It’s getting out of bed every morning, feeling alive and eager to be out there and moving in the world.
It’s the overall, constant rhythm of activity that matters.
Slow and happy!
I guess that means I’d better get serious about training again. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been content to run a bit less, with less intention. Although we’ve had an extremely mild winter, I’m generally less than enthusiastic about running when my hands and feet are sure to go numb for the first 3 or more miles. I confess that my weekly mileage has been down… a lot… so far this year. Whereas I usually aim for 17-25 miles a week (and I can train quite adequately for a half marathon on that mileage), I’ve been doing more like 8-12.
But it’s April! So it’s time to get serious again.
The other day I passed the one-year anniversary of breaking my arm while trail running. Although I hiked on many miles of steep, challenging trails last summer, I’ve kept my vow to resist running on a rugged, rocky, root-filled, hilly trail ever again. I’ve recognized that it’s not for me. My habitual semi-shuffling gait is not well suited for avoiding obstacles on uneven trails, and I’m not likely to change my running style enough to warrant risking my life out there.
Fortunately I have many beautiful places to run while staying on pavement. I’m good with that.
But now it’s suddenly just nine weeks before our local half marathon. It’s time to get busy!
My primary goal for this year’s NODM on June 7 is, of course, to arrive at the finish line safely and in good health. Beyond that, I’d like to beat my current PR for this race, which I set two years ago, of 2:13:25. On this rather hilly course I’m not likely to set an all-time PR, but a race PR would be nice, and feels quite doable.
I’ve recently invested in some new running gear that has been really helpful. A couple months back, I decided to try running with a heart monitor again to see what I might learn about my progress as a runner. I used one for a while, maybe four years ago, but stopped using it because the big numbers I kept seeing were scary! I almost convinced myself I was going to have a heart attack out there, even though I was actually feeling just fine.
Well, when I strapped on the heart monitor again I was delighted to see how much progress I’ve made! I know enough about myself as a runner now that I know what it feels like when I’m pushing hard rather than just moseying along. The heart monitor provided validation of those feelings. I still habitually tick along on the high side of what the charts say I should be doing at my age, but the numbers are lower and less variable than they used to be. The fact that I can run along for miles with a steady heart rate of 150+, and still comfortably carry on a conversation most of the time, actually means that I’ve got a very healthy heart. I should celebrate those numbers, not fear them!
So I spent some money and bought a new heart monitor that, in conjunction with my watch, tells me a lot of really interesting things like how far my feet come off the ground (not nearly far enough to consider trail running) and how long my feet stay on the ground (a rather leisurely amount of time). With this data I’ve figured out that the best way for me to get faster is to focus on cadence and simply turn over my feet a bit faster. I can do that!
After upgrading the heart monitor, of course I could not resist upgrading the watch. I’m now the proud owner of a Fenix 3, Garmin’s latest multi-sport GPS watch. While in the past I’ve worn a GPS watch only while actually running or cycling or hiking, this one is also an activity and sleep tracker. Hence I’ve taken to wearing it 24/7.
It’s not exactly a fashion statement on my wrist. It’s huge!
But it does get the job done. When the danged thing buzzes and tells me to move, I get up and walk around the house.
I’m about to go out for a 9 mile run. I’ll put some big numbers on the step counter, and try to put some smallish numbers on the average pace screen.
Tomorrow I’ll ride my bike. I’m trying to alternate running and biking days so that I’m doing lots of both. As the days get longer and warmer I’ll start mixing in hiking days. But from now through June 7, running is my top priority.
After June 7, cycling and hiking will take top billing. I have a major cycling event coming up in early August. After that I’ll get serious about training for the marathon I’m going to run on October 11.
What about you? What are your running plans for 2015? Has your training kicked into high gear yet?
While I’ve been happily biking and hiking my way through this exceptionally glorious Pacific Northwest summer, the days and weeks have flown by! The Victoria half marathon is now only 23 days away. So… how am I doing with my race training?
When I last wrote here, I was struggling. I had lost so much momentum during the weeks I spent recovering from my broken arm that running had lost its “fun” factor for me. On a warm day it was easier and more enjoyable to hop on my bike rather than to go out there and slog through the hot miles on foot.
My very next run after I wrote that somewhat whiny last post was an unexpectedly great one: a perfectly steady, strong 9-miler. It’s basically been like that ever since. Well, not always perfect, but on most days both my endurance and my speed are continuing to improve. I’m coming back!
Over the past couple weeks I’ve been easily maintaining a sub-10 minute pace for several miles at a time. I’ve also been doing some focused speed work over shorter distances. I’ve never really done tempo training, but my current experiments with pushing the pace for short intervals seem to be paying off.
It has helped that the seasons are definitely changing. The leaves are starting to turn and fall; I swished my way through big-leaf maple leaves lying across the trail the other day. We’ve finally had a bit of rain. I actually felt chilled during my first mile yesterday. What a relief!
My goal for Victoria is, of course, the long-elusive sub-2:10:00 — the last of the second set of big hairy audacious running goals that I set for myself back in February 2013. To do that I’ll have to run a 9:55 pace for 13.1 miles. To be safe my watch has to tell me I’m on a 9:53 pace, which leaves room for the inevitable GPS wobble that makes every race measure long.
On a perfect day (and Victoria in October has a way of being charmingly perfect) I think this might be the day when I actually pull off that sub-2:10:00.
But it’s always good to have “B” and “C” goals, right?
- “B” goal — 2:12:00 will beat my current half marathon PR of 2:12:01.
- “C” goal — 2:14:28 will beat my Victoria half marathon PR of 2:14:29.
Tomorrow I’m planning to run 11 miles, which will be my longest training run before I start to think about my taper. I’m aiming to run it at an easy, sustainable, as-close-as-possible-to-10:00 pace.
I’ll have a much better idea of my race prospects after tomorrow. I’m optimistic about Victoria… but we’ll see.
One step at a time!