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Questions and thoughts of a seasoned and confused runner

NCAthlete

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thoughts

I’ve been thinking about this training plan and marathon business a lot lately, and it’s brought up some interesting thoughts and questions.

I’ve been a runner since my junior year of high school (1997) – twenty two years. I’ve run at different capacities during my life:

  • High school cross-country team where I was flying by the seat of my pants and just doing what my coach told me to do. I don’t remember running much outside of practice and meets, so I was just doing it to be on the team. I did really enjoy it and got a taste of competing, but didn’t know what it really meant to be a runner.
  • I graduated in 1999, started going to community college, and became an occasional runner. I’d run around while playing volleyball and softball, and run a couple miles here and there around campus.
  • I joined the Army in 2001 and got out in 2009. This is when I really learned what running was about. Started running faster and longer – loving competing in races.

When I became a competitive runner, I did start looking at training plans with the hopes of following one and that it would make me a better/faster runner. It would typically turn into something like a compass – I would refer to it in terms of where I should be, but it wasn’t something that stressed me out. Why does it stress me out so much now and why do I feel the need to follow it 100%? I think there’s at least a few reasons…

  1. Moving to Colorado took away my speed and started a downward spiral of getting out of shape. I tried so many things and I just couldn’t get back to where I wanted to be. I thought that by following a training plan it would bring me back. Nope.
  2. SO many of you have so much success following training plans and having coaches – some of which also make it look VERY easy to stick to. That would work for me too, right? Nope.
  3. I always want to challenge and push myself which I can do now by either trying to get faster or running longer distances. In my mind, to do those things you need to following a relatively strict training plan. Could I do it that way? Nope.

SOHang on…

Who says a runner has to follow a plan to improve? This is what is always in the forefront of my mind these days. I’ve had so much success in the past just using plans as a compass. By looking back, I can see that success now. Sure they work wonderfully for some people – it’s a proven fact that they can help you improve. They don’t work for everyone and I can attest to that. All it does is add worry and stress and makes me feel like I’m not good enough when I miss a day or two. I now feel that I can still improve if I can just add more consistency and refer to a plan when I need to know around where I should be, mileage wise.

Also, why am I feeling the need to still run marathons and beyond? If it’s so hard for me to train for, then why am I doing it? I don’t have anything to prove to anyone, not even myself. I need to cut myself some damn slack and stop trying to up the bar after everything I accomplish. I don’t know when I reached the point of feeling like everything I do (athletically) has to be something amazing or better than the last thing I did. Maybe it’s getting older and closer to 40. Maybe it’s because I spent so long in the Army doing great things and I miss it. Maybe it’s because I took on the ultimate challenge of climbing Denali and it didn’t happen. I’m sure it’s a lot of things.

I have to realize that things do change as you get older, and there will come a point when I won’t be hitting PRs anymore (pfffff, haha!), or I might not be able to run longer distances without getting injured along the way. I’m not going to accept any of that right now, but I am going to start cutting myself some damn slack. I am 37, healthy and active, and am so lucky to be able to do the things that I do. I live in a beautiful place with many beautiful things to see and do. I’m going to soak up all of that while I still can and I’m going to enjoy it without stressing about whether I am doing the best I can or not.

Being a runner is a big part of me and I need to be whatever kind of runner I want to be. I need to make it my own and not try to follow what others are doing all of the time. For me, running is a hobby and not a job that I’ll ever get paid to do. It’s OK to compete with myself and others, but it needs to be done in a healthier, more realistic way. It’s also OK to try things that others have success with. If it doesn’t work for me, move on. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Relentless Forward Progress.

Lastly, the days of week-to-week training recaps are over – probably to the relief of many (which is also why not many people will be reading this – thank you to those who have stuck with me). Why write weekly recaps when I have a training log AND Strava that basically do that for me? Moving forward, I hope to write more about thoughts and memorable experiences. And race reports, of course!

For now, and hopefully forever, I’m going to stick to the advice of some of you and Just Fucking Run – JFR.

JFR, friends.

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Yeah, I mean some people do well on training plans, but also people end up injured, crashing and burning, and all other kinds of things. 

I had a similar epiphany with trying to combine lots of running and Beachbody workouts. My knees can only take one or the other - not both at the same time. For months, I agonized over trying to do both, before I asked, 'WHY?!?" Who the heck are we trying to please? Let's both commit to doing what's best for us. 

And yes, girl, that altitude is a speed stealing jackass that can go straight to hell. But it's kinda nice when you come down from altitude and suddenly you're speedy again. So. There's that. 

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19 minutes ago, eliz83 said:

Yeah, I mean some people do well on training plans, but also people end up injured, crashing and burning, and all other kinds of things. 

I had a similar epiphany with trying to combine lots of running and Beachbody workouts. My knees can only take one or the other - not both at the same time. For months, I agonized over trying to do both, before I asked, 'WHY?!?" Who the heck are we trying to please? Let's both commit to doing what's best for us. 

And yes, girl, that altitude is a speed stealing jackass that can go straight to hell. But it's kinda nice when you come down from altitude and suddenly you're speedy again. So. There's that. 

"...that altitude is a speed stealing jackass that can go straight to hell." YES!!! I look forward to the day that I'm closer to sea-level again. It is cool to see the improvements I've had in the last couple years, at altitude, but I'd much rather be running in NC again. Bring on the humidity!

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1 hour ago, NCAthlete said:

 Bring on the humidity!

OMG yes - humidity! It always freaked me out how little I sweated in Colorado. 

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It's easy to get caught up in numbers and rigid structure as a runner, but it's always most important to remember that we do this because we love it.

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All sorts of disjointed thoughts about this. Most of them learned firsthand, because I'm a dope.

  • Sure, the Loop is so much smaller now, but of course we still love you and reading about your adventures.
  • The world has plenty of room for runners of all types.
  • mpw
  • There are only three types of marathoners - injured, recovering from injury, and soon to be injured. There's a price to be paid if you want to run that much, and we've all paid it.
  • marathon
  • You don't have to prove anything to anyone. 
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I'm totally with you on the training plan.  I follow them very loosely trying to avoid the self-hatred.  On my calendar I only write the long-run mileage that I should be on that week and I always add in weeks to the schedule to assume I will not be having a good week here and there.  I'm amazed at the type-A folks who live by those plans!

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Do you think it's a fear of being judged because of the paces you are running? I know I shut down my Strava for a while because sometimes I get caught up in what people think about my pace. You are running at altitude vs the rest of us down at sea level. Apples vs oranges.

And I totally agree training plans are stressful. I've often thought it would be nice not to know what I had on the plan to run until I was actually running it. Head games, man, head games.

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as you know, no plan survives the first contact with the enemy.. 

My first year running, our school coaches had drawn up a training plan which I followed exactly, six runs in a week and a day off, four months to the goal race. During test/training runs at school I was astonished to find I was the only one of some thirty kids who actually followed the plan. It did work, made it onto the team of 12, but it was also the last year I was able to follow a plan exactly.. injury, term papers due, etc etc etc. As Tom Derderian observed, life is a conspiracy to keep you from running. 

So my plans tend to be very specific in hope, but very sporadic in execution. The trick is to keep the broad perspective and not get hung up on any weekly or monthly goals - execute as best you can and let it go when it can't be done. This is where a good coach is invaluable.. 
 

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I just read "The Happy Runner" and so much of what you wrote hits on running for a long time, running as we age, and remembering the why of running. 

I've enjoyed reading your bloops FWIW. If it brings you joy (and inspires along the way!), who cares what anyone else thinks? 

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1 hour ago, ocrunnergirl said:

Do you think it's a fear of being judged because of the paces you are running? I know I shut down my Strava for a while because sometimes I get caught up in what people think about my pace. You are running at altitude vs the rest of us down at sea level. Apples vs oranges.

And I totally agree training plans are stressful. I've often thought it would be nice not to know what I had on the plan to run until I was actually running it. Head games, man, head games.

Gwen, I honestly couldn't care less what others think about my pace. I just keep beating myself up because I'm not as fast as I use to be and I keep getting all these stupid little injuries. It's all me. Head games, indeed.

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1 hour ago, Gonzo Runner said:

JFR FTMFW. 

I'm thinking of getting it tattooed somewhere. Forehead maybe?

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1 hour ago, CompulsiveRunner said:

I'm just going to say I love that picture of you.  

That picture is from one of our first 14er hikes when we moved here. It is a good one.

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