|Julia and her twin, Laura, running the Auburn Half-marathon|
Race the Races
"We need to gauge our workouts and our workout progression to ensure that we'll be training tomorrow…and the next day, and next week, and next month and next year…Patience and long-term planning must be our training partners." - Pete Magill
For the past few months, I’ve been training for the Columbus Marathon on October 16th. My goal for this race is a 3:35, which is 22 minutes faster than my PR. It’s an ambitious attempt, so I considered my training program carefully. Too much speed work burns me out, but I need to be prepared to hold that pace. I could write a whole other blog post about how my training has progressed so far, but right now I want to focus on a particular aspect of my training philosophy: race the races, not the workouts.
Everyone is different, and everyone’s training is different. I know there are training plans that lay out 2-3 hard workouts per week, but that's not how I roll. I'm content to run a track workout or tempo run about every other week. And when I do, I don't run the same maximum effort that I would run in a race. I run hard, for sure, but it's a calculated hard.
A few weeks ago, I ran 7x800 meters with my friend Katie. I took the Yasso 800 approach and ran each one in 3 minutes and 30 seconds or better. At the end of the workout, I felt like I could have done at least one or two more 800s at the same effort level. That doesn't mean I didn't run hard. It definitely felt like work. But I wasn't completely exhausted afterwards, so I was able to recover faster and run well the rest of the week. Scott Douglas, co-author of Advanced Marathoning, explains, "The purpose of any workout, even the hardest, is to advance your fitness toward a performance goal. That means a measured effort that's hard enough to provide the desired stimulus, but not so hard that you're so trashed that the next few days of running are a waste. Remember Pete Magill's counsel: great training, not great workouts. Elite runners go to the well seldom if ever in their training; they save their racing for the races. You should finish hard workouts with more in the tank. If you're doing repeats, you should be able to run a few more at the same pace. If you're doing a tempo run, you should be able to run another couple miles at the same pace without a marked increase in effort."
Bill Squires, a coach for the Greater Boston Track Club, refers to workouts as "things you can handle." He says, "A workout is an effort where you can control your speed. That means you can control your form. They [his athletes] always have more in their gun when they leave. I'm not into these practice runners, the Cinderfellas, who want a Purple Heart for their workout. I always say, 'Let's see what we can do on Saturday [in the race]." Or consider the words of Greg McMillan, the coach of McMillanElite in Flagstaff, Arizona: "The optimal rate of adaptation…occurs when the body is stressed to a tolerable level, allowing it time to adapt without having to draw on every ounce of its physical and mental reserves. It gradually adapts and is at far less risk for injury or burnout…A little control will make training more enjoyable and lead to greater overall improvement and, most importantly, better race performance."
This Saturday my schedule calls for 13 miles at half marathon pace. The next big workout after that will be 10x800 meters on the track. The ten days in-between will include solid mileage (easy to moderate pace, including my final 20 miler) and rest. It’s so easy to get bogged down with workouts and paces and schedules, which is why striking the right balance between hard and easy is important to me. I want to feel fresh and motivated while striving for my goals. I want to push myself without losing the joy. Hopefully this approach will ensure that I’ll be training tomorrow...and the next day, and next week, and next month and next year...