Saturday, February 20, 2016

Training Miles are Not the Same as Race Miles, but so Important

A couple weeks ago, what I thought would be an easy Saturday long run was unexpectedly exhausting and slow.  Since Fat Tuesday was that week, we were doing a new route so we could visit a Polish deli and eat paczkis.  Given that the total mileage was lower than previous weeks, and the weather was unseasonably warm, I was excited to do the run. 

As always, the first few miles are the easiest, since everyone was running together and generally chatty.  We got to the first water stop, about 2.5 miles in, and I realized that I would be running the rest of the 13 by myself; most of the people at my pace were turning around, done for the day.
After taking some of our much appreciated club Gatorade, I pushed forward, surprised at the chill and wind in the air.  Even though the sun had come over the horizon, the wind kept blowing every bit of heat I could generate away.  I just plowed on, back to the water stop, where I discovered the deli was closed until 9 am.  No matter to me, because it was just about accruing mileage.  The paczkis were just a bonus.

I had a long time to think as I plodded along, and the one thing that kept going through my mind was that training miles are so much harder than race miles.  It’s not something that is talked about much, but a race is the culmination of the training.  Even in high school and college, where we raced every weekend, the goal was to peak at conference or Regionals or Sectionals or State or Nationals.  If you prepared all year, that last race was a breeze.  If not, it was the end of a difficult season.

All of my marathons have been challenging, despite being mostly prepared for all of them.  I can’t possibly imagine what it would be like to not be prepared for that effort.  Even so, I hear people talk in corrals about being less than prepared and read blogs about people who struggled to find the time to do that last long training run.  Why?  Because training for a race is nothing like that cute montage in the movies.  When you’re a 12 min marathoner, running a marathon is an all-day event, so doing those long training runs can be an all-day event.  It’s long and slow and boring and tiring, and in this “shiny object” sort of world, it’s so much easier to fill one’s time with fun instead of boring.  Perhaps, though, my marathon experiences make me appreciate all those training runs because I’m not needing a race to motivate me.

On today’s run, I was talking with a friend about training.  I have learned by watching successful figure skaters (even in the “recreational” adult ranks) that to get results, you truly have to treat training like a part time job.  Training has to be a priority in your schedule, as does recovery, and sessions need to be organized in a way to balance with the rest of life.  In addition, making sure to get enough sleep at night and to eat a healthy diet are key components as well.

Last night I was frustrated over having to do 14 miles because it was going to take all morning to complete.  It would be so nice to be faster, to not have to schedule all day for a long training run.  How quickly I have forgotten that “fast” and “slow” are relative terms, and that no matter what pace, a long training run can be difficult and boring.  (And often, a faster runner just adds miles to the run rather than make it shorter.)

Epilogue:  I spent the entire next week sick with a bug, so I’m guessing it was why the paczki run was so tough.  I’m falling a bit behind with mileage in February so hopefully the weather will warm up and I’ll be able to add some miles in soon!