Sunday, March 20, 2016

Running lessons: Sometimes you just have to get serious

It's been a good week of training. I completed all the runs I had planned and, for the most part, they felt good. Yesterday's long slow run was the exception. I managed to run all 23k but it was a slog and I felt so weary afterwards that I spent the rest of the day recovering. I know 23k isn't an insignificant distance but I've been working up to it for months so I was surprised it felt so tough. Granted, I ran into a cold hard wind for half the distance and the route included more hills than usual but I think there may have been more to it than that.

The underlying problem seems to be that I'm not taking the endeavour as seriously as I should. After training for dozens of races over the past 15+ years, some part of my pea-sized brain imagines I can tackle long training runs with little or no preparation (though nothing could be farther from the truth) with the result that I don't always do what I should to make my long runs as painless and productive as possible.

This week, for example, I drank too much wine and too little water Friday night, skipped breakfast Saturday morning and forgot to bring snacks for the road. What was I thinking? How did I not realize those choices would leave me hungry, dehydrated and miserable long before I finished all 23k? It's like there was a three year old inside me stamping her feet and yelling "I won't, I won't, I won't!"

The reality is there are times when you just have to get serious. Training for a marathon is one of those times. The only hope I have of finishing Calgary "upright and smiling" is if I train properly. Practically speaking, that means doing most of my planned workouts, reducing my intake of alcohol, getting enough rest, stretching regularly, and paying close attention to which combinations of food and drink work best. If I continue behaving as cavalierly as I have to this point, I'll be setting myself up for disaster.

Sure, I could probably finish the race without much more training. It wouldn't be pretty and there's a good chance I'd injure myself, but I'm stubborn enough to cover the distance no matter how much I hurt. (I proved that in New Glasgow a few years back.) But, really, what would be the point? The thing that makes running marathons worthwhile is all the preparation leading up to them. It's toeing the start line knowing I've spent months doing what I could to prepare - even when life interferes and things don't work out exactly as planned. It's figuring out what I'm capable of - mentally, physically and emotionally. It's taking time to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses and develop Plans A, B and C for race day - while accepting there's still a good chance unexpected things will happen. It's being present and grateful for each step along the way, and all the people who support me on the journey.

Well, look at that. Once again, running's an excellent metaphor for life. I can't always devote as much time to things as I'd like, and even the best preparation doesn't guarantee things will turn out as I want them to. But when something's important to me, I owe it to myself to get serious about trying to make it happen. As the saying goes, "There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going."

What about you? What motivates you to train for events?  Have you ever been too cavalier about preparing for a race?  How do you know when you've found the balance between training just enough and not too much?

Happy running and writing!

1 comment:

  1. What motivates me to train is considering the alternatives, what will happen if I don't train. I think of it as training for life, not for an event. There's a rule for softening butter in the microwave. Leave it going till it melts, then take it out 20 seconds before that. Unfortunately, that seems to apply to my training, trying to become consistent and faster without injury.