So I'm seeing someone now who is a far better runner than I. This is amazing for me because watching him run literally gives me goosbumps. ...that and I happen to find good running a huge turn-on, but that's beside the point. The point is spending time with someone so talented has inspired me to actually put some effort into my own running. I've decided the days of skating by on the 3-day-a-week program are gone and that I would like to actually see what my little body is capable of doing. In this vein, I decided to assess my situation at what may have been the dumbest venue ever: the Shut-in Ridge Trail run.
For those of you uninitiated, this is a lovely (read: grueling) 18-ish mile run (read: run/hike/shuffle) over some beautiful (okay, they really are beautiful) hills (dilemma here - coming from Colorado, I can't call the Smokies "mountains", but the parts that we run up seem very much like vertical climbs that go on for 100 miles.... I guess I will call them steep, long-ass hills?). I ended up the 16th female out of 55, which was acceptable, took 20 minutes off my finishing time compared to the last time I ran it, and beat the girl I had been seesawing with for the whole race. I also ran as well as I could, strategically speaking, given my level of training. Ah ha! You say - my "level of training"? Yes, I did well on the flat parts, I did well on the downhills, I even did well on the more gentle uphills, the problem was when I got to the steeper uphills, I didn't have a gear for that. The annoyance was overwhelming. So there you go - I need to get stronger so the steeper uphills are not such a problem for me. As an aside, Ronnie came in 7th overall and was the first flat-land finisher - I'm so proud of him!!!!
So here we go - a frank assessment of where I stand:
I know I have some talent for distance running (I managed to get 5th in a 40-miler last November without actually cracking 40 miles in a training WEEK leading up to it). I think, however, I've reached the limit of what I can accomplish by simply varying the length of my long run on Saturdays...
I am weak. Apparently, 7 years of not visiting the gym or doing any really tough hill workouts has caught up with me and though my legs are quite toned and can run for a very very long time, they are weak. If I wasn't weak, those hills would not have been the problem they were. I need to work on attacking every hill I cross when I'm training and maybe throw in some stair workouts (UGH) every so often.
If I am to really take this training thing seriously, I need to run more than 3 days a week (and hashing doesn't count.... though it does provide some opportunity for some good ol' fashion fartlek trail running!). I am now set to run Mon nights (~6 miles), Weds mornings (~6 miles for now), Thurs nights (~7 miles for the winter), and Sat mornings (12-15 miles), and will add either an easy run Tues or Fri or a tough workout Fri afternoon as training progresses. As of now, this brings my weekly base mileage to 30-35 with the additional Tues/Fri workouts on top of that.
I need to vary my workouts. Running all distances moderately hard is great, but it might be helpful to have a little more variety... Mile repeats on Weds mornings. Stairs some Friday afternoons. We'll see what pace Mon and Thurs settle out to...
I am targeting Uwharrie (beginning of Feb) for the next assessment of progress.... I would really like to get back into the top 3 this year....
Other random training goal: Get 6 mile repeats under 6:30 so I can go sub-42 at the Bolder Boulder....may not be feasible this year, but it's a goal :)
And, finally, my thoughts on all this for today:
The upside of all this is I think I might be surprised at what I can accomplish; there have been small flashes of running brilliance on my part (2nd at Uwharrie 2 years ago) in the sea of middling to slightly above average performances that have marked my running career thus far.
The downside is that training hard hurts. I've started doing some mile repeats on Weds mornings and I have to say that while I appreciate the benefits and the principles, those workouts are just not fun. I come away with a sense of accomplishment and pride that I managed to haul my buns out of bed early on yet another Wednesday morning, but I can't say that I've ever actually enjoyed such a workout.
Another upside, though, is that sometimes I get a breakfast date after the run, which DEFINITELY makes the whole thing worthwhile :)
Downside: Training hard also makes you tired. I swear I can't get enough sleep to make up for the abuse that I'm inflicting upon myself. Maybe if I give up working, I could catch up?
Thank you for listening.