on (not really) training for the first race of the year…

I want to race in the spring. This happens to me every year.  I’m actually pretty good about running through the winter – I mean, considering that I live somewhere where winter is typically, well, wintery. Gray, damp, cold, snowy, icy, dreary, and generally icky. So by the time March rolls around, I’m ready. Stir-crazy. Wound up. Tired of the ice and snow and layers upon layers of wind blocking, sweat wicking, beanies and gloves and a cold cold nose. Tired of the treadmill (which in my book are to be used only as an absolute last resort).

I want to race in the spring.

Winter Runner - photo by kirybabe

But here’s the problem. While I run over the winter, I don’t run with purpose over the winter. No. I shouldn’t say that. I have a purpose: it is to stay active, get outside, stay sane and stay in shape. Mostly to stay sane. I should say I don’t train with a purpose over the winter. But then here’s what happens. Spring half marathons call my name. Why half marathons? Frankly I’m not sure. I could do shorter. But I like the distance. Come March, I’m anxious to be at the starting line. Only I haven’t been training with a purpose.

So this year, February rolled around and what happened? I was ready to 13.1. So I pulled up some race websites and found some early to mid-March. Now, some of you may already know that many 13.1 training programs usually recommend 12 weeks of training. And if you already know that, you’ve probably done the math. February? For an early March race? That gave me just 4 weeks to train. Ah. A non-starter. I bumped my target back to early April and cut my training weeks wayyyy back to 8. Maybe not recommended, but I felt anxious to get something on the calendar, something under the 2012 race belt. Ultimately, what an 8 week training plan required me to do was hike up my mileage faster than recommended… with a long run starting at 5 miles and climbing to 10 the week before the race and skipping the recovery weeks that are usually built in where your long run mileage drops – say from an 8 mile long run down to a 10k the next before jumping back to a 9 mile the following week. Again, generally not a good idea. I was a little cocky, it’s true. Been there, done that, know what it takes, got it under control. I wasn’t trying to break land speed records.

Portland’s Race for the Roses was a lovely 1st race of the year. I was thankful for 1) no rain(!), 2) mild temperatures, 3) a brother who dropped us off bright at early at the startline, 4) a pre-race indoor staging area, 5) joints that held up surprisingly well to the pounding that comes with 13.1 miles, 6) muscles that cried just a wee little bit when they realized that my condensed training had incorporated absolutely NO hills and there were in fact, several that stood between me and the finish line, and last but not least, 7) a wonderful running partner, my hubby, whose joints and muscles also held up well considering the shortened training plan he also undertook. (Some might say he was coerced. But I won’t use such a strong word here…).

I should note, I don’t necessarily condone the kind of cocky and irresponsible behavior that I’m exhibiting here. Now, in this case we walked away just fine. Fortunately, 8 weeks worked out okay this time. We both had a good base of fitness and a good running foundation from which to build. And we’d both done many many halfs prior to this one, so we knew what we were getting ourselves into. And we were prepared to walk (though I’d be lying if I said we wouldn’t hvae been upset about it).

Most 13.1 training programs recommend 12 weeks with good reason (and so do I…), primarily because your body (joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments) needs time to adjust to the miles. A good rule of thumb is to increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10% each week to allow yourself to safely increase without undue risk of injury, etc. And I’ve definitely been in the position before where a condensed training program led to disappointment and even injury. So why, then, would any sane individual take on this kind of risk? I really have no good answer. Other than that I want to race in the spring.

It feels good to get a good race under my belt – I’m not going to lie. And I’ve got a fancy new technical T to prove it. See?

But the moral of today’s story? Don’t be a fool. For crying out loud, do as I say, not as I do… I certainly intend to see this 70.3 training through. And maybe I will also listen to my own advice for the next 13.1. But don’t hold me to it. If I’m going to be a fool, I’ll do it on my own terms, thank you very much.

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