Although I’ve been running for a little over 2 years now, I still consider myself a bit of a newbie when it comes to running. Through some consistent running over a decent amount of time, I’ve gotten better at it, but I know I’m still only beginning to see what I can really do. I didn’t grow up running on a cross country team in high school or college, so I have never learned the “why” I should train certain ways, and the more I learn about the rationale behind certain workouts, the better and faster I’ll get. Ask me to teach a baseball catcher how to block pitches and I can give you 8 or 10 drills to do that, the techniques to practice while doing them, and what each drill reinforces. Not so with running. I’m trying to pick up the “why” as I go along.
And like many runners new to this game, I find myself falling into the trap of thinking faster is always better. And it’s not. In fact it can be counter productive. When discussing my current training with my coach, he reminded me to make sure to try to hit the specific tempo pace I had been given. When I’d report a particular tempo effort, I’d say, “The plan was for 2 miles warmup then 6 miles at 8:10 and my actuals were 8:07, 8:01, 8:09, 8:00, 8:00, 7:56,” and then I’d wait for a pat on the back and a “Good job!” But the reality was that by going faster than the prescribed pace, I’m not getting the benefit that particular run was meant to give me. Here’s a small excerpt of our discussion:
With a marathon tempo, you are really hovering along that point where the body is probably using a little more carbs than fat. This is good, because it puts the body into just enough stress that it will adapt very well. When you cheat it down (i.e. go too fast), the body is stressed beyond the point where any real adaptation will occur.
The whole point of dragging my butt out of bed and cranking out these workouts is to adapt. To get stronger and faster. And by going too fast, I blew it. OK, there still is some benefit when you compare it to sitting on the couch, but I’m not getting the very benefit I am trying for: to get faster.
During MCM this past October, I had a couple miles in the middle and then a couple at 15 and 16 that were a full 10-15 seconds faster than they should have been. And I know I paid that toll in the last couple of miles of the race: my pace fell by more than a full minute in 24 and 25 and while I knew it would dip, that’s pretty drastic. I may have been able to hit a 3:35:00 had I paid better attention and paced myself more consistently.
If I’m going to have a legitimate shot at reaching my goals for this year, I’m going to have to do a much better job of being consistent and smart about my workouts.