Last season I was focused on two things - going long and not getting injured. As Ironman got closer on the calendar I chose to forgo speed work and anything else that I felt may increase the chance of injury.
They (who is they, by the way?) say, if you always run long and slow, you will get good at running long and slow. And guess what else? On race day, you will be slow. You can't expect to be a speed demon on race day if you are always training slow.
I was focused on getting to the Ironman starting line healthy and having the endurance training so that I could cross the finish line. My training made me pretty darn good at going long at a moderate pace, whether swimming, biking or running. Moderate, of course, is relative to ones own strengths and weaknesses, and compared to others, I am sure I could be considered slow.
This season, with a decent endurance base supporting me, I am working on getting faster. I have started adding weekly tempo runs to my routine and while I don't necessarily look forward to these runs, I know that they are both physically and mentally rewarding. Physically, I am confident that running faster will make me faster (and you can substitute swimming and biking for running too). Mentally, running faster in my workouts is showing me both what I am capable of speed wise and giving me confidence that I can handle the discomfort that comes with pushing myself hard. I know that this confidence will come in handy on race day.
On a separate note, this weekend was the Rocky Raccoon 50 mile / 100 mile endurance race. Since I abandoned my training partner for the race, I volunteered to crew for him instead. So, Saturday morning I woke up at 4:30 and drove to his house so that we could make the 1 hour trek to Huntsville for the 7:00 am race start. Rocky allows packet pick-up race morning, so we retrieved his packet and got him to the starting line. The 100 milers started at 6:00 am, so the starting line wasn't too hectic for the 50 mile start.
This race is very casual and family friendly. It was frustrating to be there and not be racing and that feeling only got worse as the day wore on and I was itching to run.
After seeing Mark off, I went back to the car to nap, knowing that I would not see Mark again for about 3 hours. It was pretty chilly out, otherwise, I would have been happy to nap in the shade. Just after 10 am, I saw Mark again, looking great after his first 16.7 mile loop. After a short stop, he was off again. Meanwhile, I was coordinating with our families who were on their way to the race site. I got to spend about an hour with them before Mark re-appeared and I was off to run my pacing loop with him.
I have not done much true trail running so I was not sure what to expect. My "trail" running has been on crushed granite on a flat, circular loop, so I had a steep learning curve on the pine needle, root covered trail. After tripping, but thankfully not falling, a couple of times, my footing got better and the running got easier. I had also forgotten that running on trails also slows down your pace. On the positive side, the trails around the lake were beautiful and the miles passed quickly. I was struck by how friendly and encouraging every single person on the trail was. If I was ever unsure as to whether I wanted to commit to an ultra, all of my doubts were set aside on Saturday. I have to do one now -- and I would seriously consider doing a 100 miler too (after tackling a 50, of course!).
Mark had a great race and it was awesome to run the last lap with him. With several miles to go he started to pick up the pace and with 2 miles to go he was running sub-9 minute miles. I could hardly keep up with him for the last mile and I had only run one-third of the miles that he had! I felt like a total failure but I kept pushing knowing that I could manage through the discomfort. He later told me, quoting Born to Run, that when you feel like running fast, you run fast, and when you feel like running slow, you run slow -- and at that point he felt like running fast. I was glad to be able to give him company on the last lap and to support him as he has been a rock for me through some tough training cycles as well as pacing me to a sub-4 hour finish at the Houston marathon last year.
Mileage for Week Ending 2/07/2010
Swim: 6400 yards in 300
Bike: 83 miles in 5:15
Run: 32 miles in 6:04
Strength Training/Core: 0:30 (high heart rate)
Stretching: 0:00 -- I have been feeling great (knock on wood), so I have been bad about stretching. I can commit to 5 minutes each night this week.
Have a great week!