Racing your race, not your training plan

Posted: May 21, 2013 in Training

There have been a few breakthrough moments for me when it comes to this sport over the last 5-6 years.  Just a handful of moments where the runner who finished the race was different from the runner who started it.

More than 1,300 runs, covering more than 12,000 miles and I can count on one hand the days that really made a difference.

May 2, 2009 – Pittsburgh Marathon I.  October 17, 2010 – IBM Uptown Classic.  November 6, 2011 – New York City Marathon.  March 18, 2012 – Shamrock Half Marathon.  December 7, 2012 – Lights of Love.

Those were all days when I took my first strides across the starting line “Thinking” I could do something and by the time I crossed the finish line I “Knew” that I could.

Everything else is just a blur of workouts, training runs and races.  But those 5 days are the reasons why runners continue on.  Keep searching.  Keep training.  Keep pushing.  You hope that every time you have one of those days, it is not your last.  That there will be one more out there in front of you that will make all the hard work, early mornings, runs in the heat, wind and rain worth it.  Breakthrough moments.

The funny thing is, none of those moments for me have ever occurred while I was training.  They are unique to race day.  I have been trying to articulate this to people who ask me what it is I love about racing and I have never been able to explain it properly.

Training runs are for race day.  They are not about posting workouts via social media so everyone can tell you what a beast you are or for throwing it up on Facebook to impress others.  They are simply a means to an end for me.  They are the price of admission to those breakthrough moments.  None of which would have ever occurred without the dues-paying workouts.  The non-glamorous stuff like 4:45 a.m. alarm clocks and 8 miles at 7:52 recovery pace like I ran this morning.

Then finally – I got an e-mail from Coach Carmen who put it perfectly about the value of sticking to your planned workouts.  Not doing more to impress people (even yourself) – the idea behind running your training plan and racing your race.  Not mixing up those things and going faster during training to prove something to someone.  Even you.

She wrote:

“What I find to be the biggest mistake marathoners and half marathoners do in their training is not training the right paces.

At this point your longer, faster intervals should be easier than if you were training for a 5k or a mile, much easier.

So the tendency is to do them faster. Please don’t. I will not be monitoring this, but I will try to give you the right paces and you will be responsible for following them or not.

Why should you stick to the paces?.

Simply because is the pace you want to target.

For example, if you want to go to NY, you will not take a plane that will land you in Baltimore right?  Same concept.

The excuse I always get is “but if felt easy, so I did it all faster”.

Of course it will feel easy (and is a good thing),  it’s only 1/10 or 1/20 of the marathon distance. But it is giving you the right adaptations. Is the right plane to take.”

After assigning times to me for each of my workouts she added:

“Again, discipline is one of the most important traits of good marathoners. You all are hard workers, but so are all the other people in your races, only you can decide on whether you take this to the end or not”.

We all place extra emphasis on being “tougher” than the other runners that we are competing against or “wanting it more” than the rest of them.  But the bottom line is out of the men and women who are toeing the line at Cottonwood looking to run something close to three hours flat, they are all tough.  They all want it badly.  They are all talented.  They will all be prepared.

The test for me will be whether I can run these next 98 workouts and 1,015 1/2 miles of my training plan intelligently.  Running my assigned paces as assigned.  Not faster and not slower.  Can I take my recovery days seriously.  Take care of my body.  Eat right.

Can I run easy when called for even when it feels like I could go faster.  Actually, especially when it feels like I could go faster.

I feel like I am ready for this now.  For this approach.  To trust my training.  Do not more than asked and certainly do no less.

In the end all I want to be sure of is that I get on the right plane.  Once I’m there in Salt Lake City, standing at the top of Cottonwood Canyon with 26.2 miles to go – I will have plenty of time to show off just how tough I am.  How much desire I have, how badly I want it and how talented I am.

I just don’t have to prove that day after day during my training.  That is a recipe for over-training, injury or both.

All I want is just one more breakthrough moment.  Here’s to it happening on September 14th.

  1. Jodi H says:

    I thought of this blog post this morning on my last 400 when I was pretty fast out of the gate. I needed to try my best to run the training plan. I was happy to be able to do so! So glad I read this last night!!

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