Archive for November 19, 2010

Friday is a rest day throughout this marathon training cycle.

I guess I need to qualify that by saying a rest day from running and cycling as I do have a 1 hour strength training session scheduled every Friday.

But it is a rest day for the legs, and one that I know my body really needs to recover from all of the hard pushing of three straight run days Tuesday through Thursday, and especially now that we have a tough, tough hill repeat workout every Thursday morning.

Those rest days are included on my training calendar just as a 6.2 mile tempo run is or an 18 mile long run.  I record them and cross them off just as I would any other workout, as I know that they are just as important.  In some ways they are even more important for an endurance athlete.

Improving as a runner is about adaptation.  There is nothing inherently natural about training for an endurance event.  It is not your body’s natural state to jump out of bed and race 13.1 or 26.2 miles.  Hell, it really hasn’t been “natural” since we were trying to run down our breakfast lunch and dinner thousands of years ago.

So to improve at this sport of ours it is a matter of breaking down muscles during runs, rides and strength training sessions so that they can adapt to that increased workload and grow stronger.

Rest days are a critical piece of that equation as they allow those muscle groups the time off to in fact adapt and recover.  Without those rest days, your muscles are simply being beat down and not given the chance to grow stronger.

Those are nature’s rules, not mine.  But I am smart enough to hold them sacred and in fact even embrace those rest days.

The other thing that I enjoy about my Friday’s “off” is that I feel like it grants me the opportunity to slow down, take a breath, and look at where we are in our marathon preparation. 

I get to actually look forward to what lies ahead as well as looking back at what we have accomplished.

This weekend will wrap-up week 5 of our 18-week marathon training cycle.  Normally, this would be the time when the schedule would be starting to get “tough”.  I would be staring down 16, 17 mile training runs over the next two Sundays, a step-back week in week 8, then my Sunday runs would stretch on to 19 and 20 milers on consecutive weekends.

Those were the workouts that I would mentally circle as the ones that would be “getting me ready” for the Marathon.

There is something different this time around however as when I glance over my shoulder and look back at the last 4 ½ weeks of training we are much farther along than we have ever been before.

Last Sunday we put in a 16.2 mile training run at a more than acceptable 7:14 min./mile pace.

Yesterday we knocked out our fourth hill repeat session of 10 repeats over the last five weeks.  Only skipping our hill work in lieu of a rest day on October 28th preparing for the Run for the Water 10-Miler race on Halloween morning.

Never have we done so much “quality work”, so early in a training cycle, and I feel like it is the hills that are making the difference.

The 16th week of hill repeats went into the books yesterday and I can honestly say that while I would not make the claim that “I like them”, which is bordering on lunacy, I will say that “I look forward to them” every week. 

Now, you may ask what the difference is.  But in my already twisted “runner’s mind”, it makes all the sense in the world.  I forget sometimes that things that make perfect sense to those of us afflicted with a love for this sport are borderline psychotic to those “normal” folks who are out there in the world.

When I started running hill repeats back on July 22nd, I was running them on the hill that leads to the top of the dam on Brushy Creek Trail.  For six weeks I toiled in anonymity on that hill running up the 4/10 of a mile hill as hard as I could, made my way to the top, turned around and jogged slowly back down to the bottom.

The first week I did five repeats.  The next week it was six.  Then seven, eight, nine and finally 10 repeats.  The plan was to continue to run 10 repeats each week, trying to run them faster and faster as we got stronger on the hills.

Mother Nature interrupted this plan of ours after week number six as Tropical Storm Hermine came through Austin and literally closed down our running trail for close to a month.  That was a day to remember and a run to remember as I was forced to “relocate” to another hill in our adjoining neighborhood, if you missed the story of that day – you can read about it here:

Our “New Hill” is where we have been toiling for the last 10 weeks of repeats.  It is a bit shorter at just 3/10 of a mile, but it is much steeper, climbing about 6 ½ stories or 65 feet over that distance.  It is also not tucked away on a tree covered trail out of the site of all of the “normal people”.

My Thursday workout is out in the open, for all of the residents of the Water’s Edge Neighborhood in Avery Ranch to see between 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.  Over the past two and a half months I have made some Thursday morning friends.

There is the woman who walks her small dachshund.  The woman with the two white standard poodles, one much younger than the other.  There is the morning commuter in his Smart Car who waves to me every week.  The guy on the Harley who shakes his head at me.

There is the young woman with the Yellow Lab who thinks I am the most interesting thing in the world as I race past him arms and legs moving as fast as I can.

And there is the couple, I’m guessing in their mid-30’s who go for their morning walk together.

Yesterday I had just made it to the top of the hill completing repeat number 8.  I turned under the street lamp that marks the endpoint of my repeat and glanced down at my Garmin.  1:43 the display said.  Identical to the repeat before and only :01 seconds slower than my very first repeat of the morning.  I was nailing my workout.  Only two repeats to go.

Now 1:43 might not seem like a long time.  If you are still reading, you are probably well past twice that time at this point.

But to run basically all out, 5K race effort for close to two minutes up a somewhat steep hill is a little bit tough.  Doing it 10 times after about a 3 minute recovery jog back down to the bottom adds to the challenge just a bit.

As I passed the couple on my left I waved and said:  “good morning”

The young woman smiled wide and asked: “How many of those do you do?”.

I replied a little out of breath, “Ten … only two to go.”

I took a few strides past and I heard her husband say:  “Did he say ten?  He must be nuts ….”

I smiled just a bit as I made my way back down to the bottom of the hill by the park, made the turn, punched my watch and raced up for the 9th time. 

1:43 on the nose.

I took my time jogging back down for my final repeat.  The best repeat of the morning, more so than even the first repeat when my legs feel fresh and I know I can push hard all the way through the hill. 

The tenth repeat is the best because it is the hardest.  It is the repeat that makes me stronger, faster, tougher.  It is the repeat that all the others lead up to, breaking me down to see how much I have left.

I hit my lap timer at the manhole cover that marks the start of the repeat.  I pushed up the incline to the ¼ mark where there is a dark black stripe on the road from the last time the street was paved.

I glanced up the hill to the cluster of green bushes on the left.  They mark the ½ way point up the hill.

When I hit the bushes I looked up ahead to the neighborhood mailboxes that stand on the sidewalk.

Just past the mailboxes, the hill increases its grade a bit and there are just two light posts to go.

I get up on my toes at this point to push hard over the final ¼ of the repeat.  I can feel my quads tighten and my calf muscles straining as I change my footfall.

As I hit the final light post I punch my GPS lap timer to stop it.  I glance down at the display and see:


I smile.

Nuts?  Nah, I’m just a marathoner.