Saturday, January 25, 2014

Playing with intensity and volume

My training has been going very well this past month. The running injury I sustained from being overtrained in September is a distant memory. I knew that, when I resumed full training, I would need to do something differently, and the decision to work with Jack Daniels was a good one. I am excited to get my training plan every month, and it always surprises me. I have been able to execute the plan without an issue, and it is not an easy plan by any means!

One thing that is very different with my current plan is the amount of quality running (defined by me as anything faster than marathon pace) I am doing as a percentage of my weekly mileage. When I saw that my mileage was to be kept at 55 miles per week (MPW) through January, I was a bit concerned having always believed that I had to run high mileage to be super fit. I am trying to prepare for a marathon in March, and I have always taken my mileage up to at least 90 MPW before a big race. I also know that Jack won't increase my volume by more than 5-10 miles per week, every three weeks, so projecting forward, I won't be running much more than 70 MPW max for this marathon. Do I need to in order to run a PR in the marathon? I don't think so.

Why? Because of the volume of quality training I am doing. For example, this week, 50 percent of the 60 miles I am running will be run at faster than marathon pace (range of 5:30-6:30 pace; average ~6:15-6:20).  That's 30 miles of running at faster than 6:20 pace! I have never done that much quality volume in training. And, because my total volume is lower, I am handling it just fine. I am not sure that I could handle it if I were running 80+ miles per week. This is significant because I used to get my race-ready confidence from being able to hit goal marathon pace for 9 miles (3 x 3 mile workout) before my marathon. Now, I'm running anywhere from 10-12 continuous miles at a few seconds slower than GMP a couple of times a week and that is an amazing confidence booster. As we all know, so much of marathon performance is based on confidence in our training and ability to hold GMP.

What I notice with this high quality training is that I go into each run feeling relatively fresh. I don't have dead legs to contend with because I'm running 5-8 miles easy, often including 6 strides, on the days between them. The other thing that I really like about this training is it gets me back to having distinct phases of training with a specific training focus for each. I know that I do much better when I progress from speed to strength to race specific training. My last program alternated speed and strength workouts on a weekly basis, and I didn't respond as well to that.

The biggest lesson I've learned about training lately is that one size does not fit all. And, even if the size fit a few years ago, it may no longer fit today. The best plan for each of us is the plan that keeps us running consistently, and we are often the best judge of what that plan looks like. There are a number of different ways to train to become a faster runner. Trying something new is a gift, even if it doesn't pan out. At least you've learned something new about yourself as an athlete. Maybe this big experiment I am undertaking with quality and volume won't pan out, but I don't care. I am hopeful that it will, but I will learn something no matter what.
Photo by Ian Shive (text added).
Maybe the most significant thing that has changed in my life recently is that I quit my day job. Well, sort of. I actually had about 4 jobs I was juggling and now I have 3. The one I quit was paying most of the bills. I had to make a tough call about whether I could put up with some things that I felt were very wrong. I realized I couldn't and decided I would suffer the consequences, if there were any to be had. I had enough independent work built to make the transition financially workable.

Theoretically, this should give me more time to train, right? Theoretically. Like magic, my time shifted to so many other places. I have been somewhat stunned. I had grand visions of enjoying bon bons, wine and napping anytime I wanted. Uh, not even. What this means for those of you who were disappointed that I was not taking any more coaching clients is that I have room to grow now!

One of the wonderful things about making this decision is how much it has freed up my brain to dream about what's next. Maybe I'll continue to work as an independent consultant. Maybe I'll find the perfect fit with a non-profit, University or for-profit company. Maybe I'll start my own non-profit. What I know is that, when I set my mind to whatever it is I decide I want to try next, I have a high level of confidence that I can make it happen. I have running to thank for helping me find that confidence in myself.

Now, get out there and train like it's your job!