Friday, July 18, 2014


So Far:

With the new regime of:

  • get fit for Tevis
  • get fit generally
  • lose the 10 lbs sitting on top of the 10 lbs that already wasn't supposed to be there
  • maybe sign up to do the Way Too Cool 50k in March (this run is a lottery entry with only 850 entrants for the several thousand who apply, so getting in may be one of the biggest obstacles)

I've been runnin' every other morning for about three weeks now to get to the baseline recommended stage of "this schedule assumes you're a regular runner to start with and can run for 30 minutes without stopping". Not quite there yet, but could probably do the 30 minutes if my life depended upon it.

Currently I'm squarely on "Week 1" of the 26 week option shown below ...and have been for three weeks. I'm going to give myself 10 runs at the 2 mile level before adding distance - which means I'll be bumping up to 3 miles next Friday.

My run consists of speed-hiking down our driveway, running one way (on dirt), turning around and coming back past the bottom of the driveway and running the other way (on pavement, although I run on the verge a lot) and turning around, and then slogging back up the driveway again = 2.06 miles.

In the last 100 yrds or so, I really lengthen my stride and run like a real person for a very short while (and can feel how easily it would be to damage to your body running like real people do). I also force myself to run all the way to the top of the three minor "hills" (I use the term loosely), even if it means I'm running slower than I would be going if I was walking - it's all about keeping a sustainable pace. I don't much like the turning around points, since it interrupts my running and I invariably drop to a walk for a mini-break when I turn around, but do my power-hike impersonation when walking. And doing the driveway ruins any splits, since it drops my overall time drastically, but I figure I get extra brownie points for doing it (and when it's hot, I get to take half my clothes off, since the driveway is nicely vegetated and hides me from the road).

This morning was my 8th run and they've been going like this:

28:08 - "OMG, I can barely run for 20 seconds"
27:57 - "OMG, this isn't much better"
26:43 - "hmm, starting to get the hang of this"
26:42 - "that didn't feel good"
26:22 - "coo - look, I took some time off my split and it actually didn't feel too bad"
26:26 - "this run actually felt faster than the much for that"
25:23 - "Oooohhh! Good jump. Starting to feel like I can do this"
25:54 - Had two moments during this run when I actually forgot I was running and was distracted by non-running thoughts. This might be starting to work properly.

Today was the first day I really felt like I was making progress. The ankle-full-o-metal was a little whiney, but nothing bad, and the shin on that side was making its presence known - I still never got full-strength back in that leg after I broke it in 2008 and the calf muscle is noticeably smaller, so I'm taking it easy and not pushing it.

Softly-softly, catchee monkee.

The Programs

When I started up running, I actually had 36 weeks until the Way Too Cool run, so I have the option of dawdling along and finally ramping up to the "16 weeks until..." program close to the event, or being more sensible and doing the "26 weeks until..." option. I actually like the longer option because it looks more interesting (fartleks and cross-training thrown in):
16 weeks to a marathon

26 weeks to a marathon

I like these plans because they don't assume you want to spend your life running (I don't), they give you rest in between. As an aside, this may also be the biggest problem with the whole plan - do I actually like running enough to spend so much time doing it? We'll see.

I do, however, like spending time on the trail and can get excited about the idea of doing specific runs, so that may play into my favor.

Even though I understood the principal of them, I wasn't sure exactly what the fartleks involved so looked it up. This is what it says:
  • During your longest run of the week, run a 1:00 surge every 6 or 7 minutes. This surge is not terribly hard—perhaps only 15 to 20 seconds per mile faster than your normal long-run pace.
  • At the end of the 1:00 surge, simply return to your relaxed rhythm. If you have a hard time returning to "normal" long-run rhythm, then you are running the surges too quickly.
I can do that.

But apparently that's fartlek for beginners. This is what I should be aiming at as I get more proficient:
  • After warming up, run a 2:30 pick-up beginning with the first 30 seconds only 5 to 10 seconds faster than your normal training pace. Each subsequent 30-second block should be a touch quicker than the previous with the final 30 seconds (from 2:00 to 2:30) being at or slightly faster than 10K fitness or race pace.
  • Recover with 90 seconds jogging easily
  • Run another 2:30 pick-up the same way.
  • I recommend running two sets, or a total of four pick-ups, which will take 16:00, including recovery.
Hmm, we'll see. Guessing these things are aimed at track/road runners, since I already get to do the extra work whenever I go up one of my hills. We'll come back to this in a few weeks.

Can It Really Be Done?

It didn't really occur to me until I started delving more into it and reading stuff that the generally accepted behaviour for a "running career" is that you run 5 and 10ks first, then maybe a half-marathon, and then maybe a full marathon before even considering something further. And it seems like most people start running on roads.

Being blessed with very little competitive spirit, and not feeling much need for speed, the whole concept of "getting the job done" over distance is much more my philosophy. I can get excited about the idea of doing a particular trail much more than covering a particular distance at a particular speed. Being no stranger to being "out there" for long periods of time (albeit on horseback), I'm hoping that this will translate into tenacity on my own two legs.

Sarah Nels writes:
" After spending a few weekends listening to their epic adventures and being truly inspired by [a group of trail runners'] unworldly perseverance, I signed up for a 50K training program. I had never run more than 15 miles and didn’t even know what a marathon felt like." 

This is her plan:
If you’re ready to upgrade your status to “Ultra Runner,” here’s my 5-step plan:
  • Step 1: Put your money where your mouth is: Sign up for your first 50K. Depending on your current level of fitness, give yourself at least 12 weeks of training time.
  • Step 2: A goal without a plan is just a wish: Find a training plan and stick to it! A 50K training plan will likely include more cross training than a marathon program and recovery runs on Sundays – both are key to your success as an Ultra Runner. Building core strength helps with climbing, descents, and tricky technical trails while recovery runs help you make the adjustment mentally to running on tired legs.
  • Step 3: Join a trail running or ultra running group: Five hour Saturday runs will go by much faster if you’re chatting away with a group of like-minded individuals, and more importantly, safety in numbers on isolated trails. I’m no stranger to having friends run ahead of me to scare away snakes.
  • Step 4: Eat and drink early and often: While every runner has different nutritional needs, I try to consume at least 100 calories an hour on a 2.5 hour run, 200 calories an hour on runs 3 hours or more. Use practice runs to learn what your body likes during long workouts. As you will be eating and running at the same time, your stomach might not be able to digest complex foods. There are lots of energy gels and bars on the market – try them all. You can also pack fruit, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (a personal favorite), mashed avocado or potato. Training is the time to dial in your nutritional needs.
  • Step 5: It’s all in your head: Set a seemingly impossible goal, know what it takes to achieve that goal, accept that there will be hurdles along the way, and just do it! With a little mental toughness and commitment, you will amaze yourself!
and here's a possible training program:

We'll see. I may discover that I really don't want to spend that much time running, in which case it may fall by the wayside, but in the meantime we'll see how it goes. Right now I feel slow, lumbering, and clumsy, but this morning's run offered glimpses of what may come in the future. 

And if nothing else, Finn thinks it's a most excellent caper.

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