On Tuesday I was asked a question that I am sure many marathoners, triathletes and endurance event competitors receive on a frequent basis, “Don’t you ever get tired of the same thing over and over again? Running day after day, it would just get too boring for me.”
It is an interesting viewpoint on this hobby of mine. From the outside, perhaps it does seem boring or repetittive. But I think that those who ask that question are looking at “training” as a one-way transaction.
You pay out, pay out and pay out in the form of lost sleep, sweat equity, free-time “lost”, but you never seem to make a withdrawl. Where is the payback for all that hard work one might wonder?
The answer to me is simple and can be summed up in just two words.
The rush from race day does not end for me after coming through the chute and hitting the finish line as you might imagine. There is a solid 3-4 days of residual “bounce” in my step coming off of a good performance. After the New York City Marathon last November, that bounce took me all the way to the Lights of Love race in December. Almost a full month after finishing perhaps the greatest marathon in the U.S.
Whether my performance is one that I am completely happy with, or an event where I fall short of my personal expectations I still get another “payoff” for all that hard work and racing. I get the chance to quantitatively evaluate my training and preparation. I am able to look back on the previous traning “period” or “cycle” and determine what worked, what didn’t work, where I made gains, where I fell short and most imporantly where I need to go from that point in order to improve.
Just 14 days away from my 45th birthday, after more than 6 years of training and racing I am still ascending. That is pretty remarkable if you think about it. Next month I will be faster than I am today. I will be able to swim further and faster, bike more powerfully and run as fast if not faster than I ever have before.
The magic formula for that improvement lay in an approach to training and preparation that many athletes and coaches embrace which is periodization. The ability to define a period of time to focus on maintaining your fitness level and abilities across the key areas that define you as an athlete, while focusing on one or two areas where you can improve to take your fitness level, mental toughness and race readiness to another level.
To continue to ascend.
So the answer to “doesn’t it get boring?” is a resounding no. It does not get boring as I feel like I am never training the same way twice. Never running the same race twice. Never preparing for anythinig more than once. I am always looking for an edge, an area where I can strenghten a weakness or make a strength even stronger
Today I am just over 70 days away from my first attempt at an Ironman 70.3 race. 1.2 Mile Swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run. It will be a day that will challenge me more from a physical standpoint than any other my life.
It will require me to swim steady and strong for 1.2 miles while managing my energy and especially my kick to make sure I have plenty left for the bike and run.
After a quick transition I will then power away on a 56 mile bike leg through the rolling terrain of the Texas Hill Country outside of Kerrville. Approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes of cycling at race effort, making sure that I hydrate well, eat enough calories and am completely topped off from a fuel perspective as I hit the dismount line.
I will shake out my legs, change into my race flats and I will run a half-marathon.
It will be the 10th time I have raced a half-marathon, but in many ways it will be a race that I have never run before. My legs will fight me, my mind will wonder how much I have left and carefully meter out that effort each mile to make sure I finish exactly on empty.
We will not be “saving ourself” on the run – instead we will be pushing ourself to the absolute limit of our fitness, training and ability making that final 1/10 of a mile feel like the longest we will have ever raced.
That is what the next 10 weeks of preparation is about. 10 weeks in this “period” to lengthen our swim workout, focusing on continuous efforts of more than 2,000 meters at a time. Total distance in our swim workouts will be increased from 2,250 or 2,300 meters to more than 3,000 so when we get on the bike, it will feel as if the 1,931 meters covered during the swim never happened.
On the bike our long rides will top at 65-70 miles during this period to make sure we are ready to be in the saddle pushing hard for 56 miles of racing.
Our Sunday Long Runs will gradually build back to the 18 mile range before the event so that the 13.1 mile final leg of the race will feel like a comfortable distance to tick off, hopefully as close to 7:30 pace as possible. Over 1 minute per mile slower than a stand alone half-marathon.
We will continue to do our speed work on Tuesdays, our hill repeats on Thursdays and our mid-week long runs to keep our run “right where we want it”, not sacrificing that “strength” off ours to compensate for the swim and bike where we still have room to improve.
Keep your strength strong and work on your weakness. That is the mantra for this next period of training.
It promises to be anything but boring.
After we earn our medal we will have a great dinner with Dawn and Landry, a few post-race adult beverages and on the ride back to Austin on Monday morning I will start to replay the race in my head.
Where was I strongest? Where are we with respect to the run?
Another “period”. Another opportunity to see if we have one more great effort in us. One more day when we can look at the reflection in the mirror knowing that at the age of 45, we are the best we have ever been.
There is certainly nothing boring about that.