Fall Training: Week 1

09fall-training-01Back in the saddle again.

Given the events of the spring and summer, the most important word during this training cycle is “recovery.” I whaled away last week and came into this one feeling fatigued. Still tired Wednesday, I decided to cut back the mileage from a planned 89 to 70. As it turns out, I ended up with even less than that as I decided to take Saturday off completely. I hadn’t had a day off since July and felt I needed it.

So my training has started with more of a whimper than a bang, and that’s fine. I’m going into this with a completely new philosophy and approach.

As far as the philosophy goes, I’m not going to be picking an arbitrary marathon time goal (such as “sub-3:00”) and then bludgeoning my way through workouts at specific paces in hot pursuit of that time. No, this time I’m going to train and see where I am 12 weeks from now, then base my time goal on a pace that I am confident that I can sustain. How fucking revolutionary a concept is that? Pretty revolutionary for me, but probably elementary for runners less dense.

From a practical standpoint, chasing after paces will be replaced with workouts that are completely effort based. This will allow me avoid two issues that marred my last go-round: a constant feeling of failure at not being able to hit desired paces; the compulsion to read tea leaves in the form of scrutinizing headwinds, elevations, the effects of running on snow et al. Now I’ll just go run and hit certain efforts and see what paces I end up with.

Also, as stated at the start of this post, recovery is priority one. As Kevin put it, “Rule of thumb from now on — two or more days described at week’s end as drag-ass on RLAG will result in a schedule tweak.”

There are a few other practical differences. For one, the training cycle is only about 12 weeks. The last one was closer to 19 and I felt I was running at my best right around the 12 week mark. So we’ve lopped off a month and a half.

Also, I’m determined to run at least the first two-thirds of my December marathon in the 86%-87% MHR range. My most successful race (the 2008 More race) had a lot of early miles at that effort, after which I picked up effort and pace for the last six miles and ran them at my more typical marathon effort of 88-89%. It was the best I have felt in a marathon.

What this means is that I will be doing a lot of training at my desired marathon effort. You see a glimpse of this in Thursday’s workout, in which the goal was just to run some mile repeats at 85% effort, with a longish low-end aerobic recovery. Unfortunately, I’m beginning to suspect that I have another lemon heart rate monitor, as it was giving wacky readings during that workout and during yesterday’s 10 mile race.

For the Thursday workout, I ended up guessing at effort and decided not to worry about the HRM issue. It was a good workout and it’s early days yet, so I’m not going to obsess. As for yesterday’s 10 miler, I also knew the HRM was going to be unreliable when it shot up to 80% during an easy jog warmup. The watch recorded an average of 96% effort for the whole race, which is impossible for me to sustain for 1 mile, let alone 10. I know myself well enough that I’m fairly sure my effort ranged between 89-91% average and probably peaked at around 93% in the last mile.

The race was, as most of my races are, a disappointment. I suppose it was a good thing that I went in with no expectations, since I ended up running a few seconds slower than last year. One mistake I made was running the first mile way too fast at 6:32. I knew it was too fast but I couldn’t stop myself from trying to keep the lead women in sight. I slowed to 7:00 in mile two but the damage was done. I was feeling the effects by mile four and reminded myself that I needed to treat this as a lesson. Then I had a strong impulse to drop out and spent a good five minutes fighting that off. I dug in for the second half of the race and focused on maintaining effort for the uphill and headwind-filled last few miles.

My unofficial time was 1:14:55. Good for 1st in my AG (I think — the awards were really confusing this year). I think I came in 10th, but again I’m not sure. I’ve begun to take AG awards for granted, which I need to stop doing. For those first few years those awards were always painfully out of reach. Now they’re a regular thing. Even if I’m unhappy with a race, I need to remind myself of how far I’ve come and the fact that I haven’t given up the quest for improvement.