One of my most valuable training tools is my logbook. A quick peek at my tired scribbles gives a very thorough and accurate view of who I am as a runner — how I feel, what kind of running I’m doing, ebbs and flows of a training cycle displayed beautifully by the English language.
Once I pick it up, it’s hard for me to put down.
Yesterday, as I studied the bevy of runs logged over the last 12 months, I made a surprising realization:
Life rarely gets in my way.
Life rarely gets in my way!!!
You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about that cliche oft heard by runners of all abilities: “Sometimes life gets in the way.”
Wife. Kids. Job.
I have a job, but it requires zero stress. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nothing more, nothing less. No late nights for me. No taking work home. No last minute business dinners. No trips, no conference calls.
I do not have kids. I don’t have a significant other. My closest family member lives four hours away by car.
I live alone. I do what I want to do, when I want to do it. And I don’t stress.
In fact, in the last year, life has only gotten in the way of my training twice: once due to a death in the family which required an entire day of driving, and once so I could go to Games 1 and 2 of the 2011 World Series in St. Louis (I know, rough life, cry me a river, etc.). Those were the only two times I had to shelf a run. That’s it! Twice.
Meanwhile, most of my running buddies find themselves having to adapt to the barrage of life-shit thrown at them. Some have to deal with such hiccups on a daily basis!
So why have I not taken more advantage of this near-perfect training environment? Good question. And it’s one that I aim to address through reversal.
Go big or go home.
That’s another one of those cliches favored by the running community. Well, my friends, since life has been kind to my running addiction, my ass is going BIG.
I once dated a girl who got real weird during her taper before the big race. As one who was already quite prone to the overly dramatic, she blamed everything on “the taper.” I’m irritable because of the taper. I can’t sleep because of the taper. Don’t talk to me because of the taper.
Of course, everyone is different, but by the time I get to my typical three-week taper before race day, I’m so damn tired that I need some accumulated rest. In fact, I train to get to the taper, pushing myself hard in the weeks that lead up to it, knowing the reward will be a respite.
I welcome the shortened sessions on my feet, the dialed back tempos. Get me a foam roller, a bowl of pasta and a bottle of Two Buck Chuck and I’m good!
Only once race week comes does a hint of that taper madness anxiety slip into my conscience. I’m no psychiatrist, but I feel that most of what I feel is simply a case of the race jitters and nothing else. I mean, what good would I be doing myself by running more miles when I’m supposed to be saving my energy for the upcoming race?
Still, whenever anyone (myself included) mentions any symptom of that dreaded taper madness, my universal go-to cure is to open up that logbook and look at all the great work that’s already been done. As any seasoned runner will admit, the guts of one’s training comes before the taper, not during it.
If you’re not ready to tackle your goals three weeks out from race day, you might as well treat the race as a fun run.
So take pride in all that hard work, relax as race day approaches and tell taper madness to take a hike (preferably along the entire Appalachian Trail, so it stays away for a while).
A 20 mile training run is the highlight of my training, for any race. I think, for me, it’s the perfect distance. It’s a long enough distance that it is going to get me that happy wasted feeling that leaves me fatigued, but not long enough that I’ll have Frankenstein legs the next day.
I can run it on trails, on the road. Fast, slow or something in between.
The Goldilocks run!
Nowadays I’m hittin’ a 20 miler at least once a month, sometimes more, depending on where I am in my training, but it didn’t used to always be like that. Here’s my log entry for my very first 20 miler:
Location: Lakeshore Path, Chicago
Notes: 1st 20 MILER! Boy was it tough. Mostly cuz cold, wind, rain. 1st 10 miles was okay, but coming back had 20 mph headwind. Got drenched. Splashed by a car on Lakeshore. Wanted to quit but I stuck it out and finshed very strong. Hot dog!!! Chilling rest of day.
Boy did I chill. My legs hurt like a bitch.
That day was more about conquering the elements and having to go to battle in order to survive. I recall channeling my inner Walter Payton, focusing on his indomitable will on the field. One guy couldn’t tackle Walter. Two guys couldn’t either.
Go back and watch Walter Payton highlight reels and focus on how much he looks like the bad guy in an old western flick: he gets shot but keeps comin’… gets shot again, keeps comin’ still… shot again, same thing.
You couldn’t kill him.
After that run, I knew nothing could kill me out there. Not snow, not wind, not cold… not heat, not rain (maybe lightning), no intangible of any kind could ever stop me from enjoying going long.
Somehow I attached that epiphany to 20 mile training runs, so they sorta come with the anxiety and exhilaration of a race.
Sometimes it’s just about tricking my mind to be up for something that could really suck, so when it eventually DOES really suck it’s not that big of a deal.
But most of the time, a 20 miler, for me, is the perfect distance to run on instinct and just let ‘er rip. We all know that the last 6 miles of a marathon is where most people have to crawl inside their own brains to find out what can and can’t be tweaked. Manipulated. Overridden.
That’s where shit really starts to hurt.
So avoiding that is always a welcome charge.