The Post-Training Guilt

guilt_got-guilt-buttonA bit like the post-race void of emptiness athletes get when training no longer commands their life, there’s also something of a post-training guilt.

It varies from person to person, but this guilt usually appears in one of two ways (or both in my case).

  1. Distance guilt.

During training, 10 miles a day was the norm. You took off days because you should (and were tired enough to need them). Yet even those felt weird because in our training conditioned minds, there were miles to be run. Once training ends and the race is over, we go back to whatever “regular” weekly miles are (usually 30-40 for me).

Then the guilt sets in. What was once 10-milers turns into the more normal 3- and 4-milers. But I feel guilty because 3 miles seems so short (it’s not, but we’re distance runners and we view things oddly). In my mind, I’m usually thinking something like “well obviously I can do 10-milers, so why am I just doing 3.” Herein lies the issues.

Athletes, of any kind, seem to have this built in guilt mechanism when it comes to our sports. We feel guilty having off days, even though we should. We feel guilty having easy days, even if there’s a reason for them (like an upcoming race). We even feel guilty when we compare our workout to our friend’s, like this past weekend I ran a measly 10-mile long run while several running buddies were tackling a 20-miler.

Our minds disregard logic. We need off days. They keep our bodies going optimally. We need easy days. They help our bodies rest and prepare for running awesome races. And we shouldn’t compare workouts, especially knowing that each runner has different goals and are at different places. Those friends? They were doing 10-milers when I was doing my 20s. Because I was in training and they weren’t. Now they’re in training for a marathon that’s 6 weeks away and I’m not. It’s as simple as that.

Talk to a runner about their workout. Notice we often add in words like “just” and “only” before giving our mileage for the day. I did “just 10” on Saturday.

(On a side note: while my distances have been significantly shorter than during training, I seem to have alleviated some internal guilt by going faster. Not intentionally mind you, but maybe in a subconscious attempt to “make up” for only going 5 miles instead of 8, I’ve been running minutes faster than what I did before training. Though this may just be that I’m conditioned too…)

2. Food guilt.

Maybe the worst of all guilts any athlete can have. The dreaded food guilt, which is pretty self-explanatory. We come off of training and racing where we can barely eat enough to cover the exercise we’re doing (or in my case, I can’t. Pattern seems to be that I lose 5-10 pounds during marathon training, no matter how much I attempt to eat).

Once you transition back into a regular running schedule, there’s still this massive craving (for me) to eat everything in sight. But I’m no longer running the ridiculous miles per week that I was, so the balance is thrown off. Admittedly, my food guilt is much less than my distance guilt no matter the situation. I love food too much to be guilty all the time about eating it.

But at some point post-training, you have to decide that eating everything in sight has to stop and you return back to your regular eating schedule too.

This may seem slightly random, but I’ve noticed my distance guilt rearing it’s head in the last couple of days. Even this morning when I went out for a 4-miler, in my mind I was going through my route options because I felt like I needed to run at least 6 or 7. Hopefully, hitting some solid mileage weeks that aren’t reverse taper will help me settle back into the non-training mentality.

Do either of these guilts hit you?

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The Post-Race Void

It’s interesting that we spend all those months of training looking forward to THE Race (caps intended). Especially as the mileage ramps up and the event itself is so close, yet still not quite there, where we want it to happen only so we can spend less time training. Finally, the weekend arrives and all the excitement is focused on having a good time and a great race.

Then suddenly, it’s done. The training is over. No more rearranging our days to get all the miles in. No more planning weekends around long runs. No more intensive mental preparations to make this race the one we’ll always remember (though truthfully, we’ll remember every single one).

You take the few days after off. Instead of running, they’re spent recapping with friends, responding to posts of congratulations, putting up pictures of our triumph, and basking in the glow of achievement. Then it’s time to reverse taper back into a semi-regular schedule. Training no longer, simply running because it’s what we enjoy.

End_of_the_Road_Wallpaper_y3v85Yet even then, it feels like there’s a hole. A gap in our existence. Without another big race on the horizon, we lack the purpose of the past many months. An empty void in our lives. A beautiful void (we’ve been waiting for this moment, for the training and the race to be done), but a void nonetheless. And it feels weird. I think “shouldn’t I be training for something? and “shouldn’t my days be consumed with my workouts and the end goal of a race?” It’s hard to re-adjust to the mentality where my life isn’t all consumed by this event somewhere in the near future that’s steadily getting closer, while never being quite close enough.

It seems weird, but I especially feel bereft after completing the Marine Corps Marathon. I met my goal! Not only did I break the time I set for myself of 3:40 so long ago, I went a step further and ran a Boston Qualifier time. While I did not believe I would never run one, I also didn’t really expect it to happen so soon. I sort of expected more years building up my race experience and improving my training before it happened. Now, I simply have to wait until next fall when registration for 2015 opens.

Luckily, not all is an empty void in my future. I’ve plans for a half marathon just before Thanksgiving. There’s high hopes in my mind coming off this marathon that I can go on to PR my half marathon time as well. Plus, somewhere in the next 2 months I hope to run a 5K as well in the hopes of another PR. (All that success going to my head.)

While that void has been in my mind, it’s been good to get back out and just run. Plus having smaller events and goals to run towards is helping me keep from becoming completely distracted.

MCM Training: Week 16/18

Annnnnd that’s it!!! 16/18 and officially in taper now. Very excited for that. There’s been a lot of attention in regards to the race getting cancelled due to the government shutdown. But I decided until the race tells me otherwise, it’s happening. That said, on to the workouts!

Total Miles: 57

Hills: 10.27 miles

9×1.0mi (sorta) – 8:32, 8:12, 8:09, 8:15, 8:16, 8:19, 8:15, 8:01, 7:57

Run made easier by having two of the guys (including my coach) along for most of it. I was a bit worried coming into this not only because I was late for my intended start, but I also hadn’t been hydrating as well through the afternoon as usual. Doesn’t seem to really have stopped me though. First one was sort of a warm-up and sort of me attempting to get on pace.

Intervals: 9.25 miles

10x800m – 3:22, 3:26, 3:26, 3:27, 3:25, 3:28, 3:28, 3:28, 3:15, 3:06

Success! That’s both my 10 repeat weeks done! Skipped the morning to sleep in (fatigue has been getting to me) and no one else was planning to be out at 5AM. Took it easy and just went out to start at 6PM with another of the guys in training. Lucked out after my first repeat that Steve showed up as we were in the same pace range. Ended up running 7 with me and we stayed pretty consistent. The last two went really well (as the times show). Legs were tired, but managed on my own. Hydrated well during the afternoon and had a small snack about 45 minutes before the workout. Yay.

Long Run: 18 miles @ 9:36 pace

Actually expected this to be closer to 10 pace. Early miles running with a slower paced group, then running more towards 8:30s than 9:00s with Donna and Justin. Pain really hit me in the knee and several of my leg muscles at about 12 miles in, so I had to slow it down. Ended up doing like 10+ pace the last 3 miles with Randy and Mandy ( lots of those two, plus an Andy in our running group haha). Never quite had it hit me like that, so I wasn’t prepared for it. But I got the miles in!

After ice and taking it easy Saturday, a shorter recovery on Sunday went well. Just had a little tightness around the knee joint. Didn’t think about it until after, but I was out and about most of Friday with a good amount of walking & the buildup from these last few high mileage weeks probably strained it a bit. I’ll be taking it extra easy over the next 2 weeks so I can keep the knees in good condition for the race. Ice and rest as needed!

Now in taper!!! My life is currently complete, now if the race could just get here without anything crazy going wrong.

MCM Training: Week 15/18

Yay! 15/18 and that means just one more week until taper. Plus we’re getting all kinds of emails and info about the race that has me excited. Now these politician people better get the government running again so all the museums and memorials can be open when I get there. On a totally different note, highest mileage week EVER!

Total Miles: 64

Hills: 10.26 miles

9×1.0mi – 8:21, 8:08, 8:20, 8:09, 8:00, 8:00, 8:08, 8:13, 8:11

Not super consistent but way better than the past few weeks. And I felt awesome doing it. Guess I managed to be well hydrated and timed my pre-workout snack well. Plus I got to mix up running a few on my own and then the rest with different people. It was still humid, but a degree or two cooler than it has been.

Intervals: 9.57 miles

10x800m – 3:29, 3:26, 3:25, 3:24, 3:23, 3:25, 3:24, 3:24, 3:22, 3:12

Was already feeling the fatigue from this week, so during the warm-up I was doubting if I’d be able to complete all 10. But Kathy as usual was her positive self and we just sort of took them in 2s. I was good about halfway through, then struggled with the last couple that Kathy ran with me (she did 8). After that, guess I was so close to the end that I was able to push through 2 more and finish. Legs were definitely tired, but all 10 managed.

Long Run: 23.1 miles @ 9:24 pace

Woohoo! Last really long run complete. The 18 miler next week will be nothing haha. Anyways, once again a bit surprised by what I was able to bring the pace down to. Early 11 with friends were in the 9:45-10:00 range. Which I was okay with because I just wanted people to run with. Then the later 12 with different friends ended up being largely sub-9. Getting back to the car at 20 and needing 3 more was a bit rough, but manageable. Tested out the shoes and socks I have planned for the race and they held up fine – now just waiting the top so I can test that out too.

So close to taper and therefore, race day! Actually managed this week of miles much better than I was expecting. Though I admit to taking naps to make up for early morning workouts. Made good use of stretching and compression socks – didn’t have to ice the knees this time. Managed to hit the workouts solidly, so I look forward to one more week before taper. 17 days and counting!

MCM Training: Week 14/18

I can’t start a report without saying 14/18 down! So there’s no confusion on the specific workouts, for this particular week Monday-Wednesday was pretty much downpour of rain the entire time.

Total Miles: 56

Modified Hills: 6.63 miles

8:55, 8:39, 8:33, 8:02, 8:13

Yeahh, was not on for this workout to begin with and then the rain just made it worse. Normally I love running in the rain, but this workout just did not happen. Got started, had to ease into the pace, and finally just decided to cut it short.

Modified Tempo: 6.54 miles

8:12, 8:21, 8:04, 8:00, 7:52

Changed my Tuesday recovery into a tempo to semi-make up for cutting hills short. Felt much better, except for the fact that it was still raining. But in this case it just kept the run relatively cool, though I did nearly face plant into the wall trying to run to the shower without leaving puddles of water all over the house. Not as long a workout as I was planning, but obligations kept it from going farther.

Intervals: 8.63 miles

9x800m – 3:27, 3:28, 3:24, 3:25, 3:20, 3:27, 3:20, 3:24, 3:22

By Thursday I was struggling a bit from being tired – made up the miles I’d been missing so far in the week on Wednesday with a double run. So I crashed and slept in Thursday to meet up with with someone around 7AM instead of 5AM. Glad to have gotten the sleep, but wasn’t sure I’d be able to do as good pacing without Kathy running in front of me. Not nearly as consistent as with her, but still managed pretty well I think. It was hotter and the sun had come up, so not as good conditions as 5AM, but not bad. After getting all that sleep (like 9 hours), it was like a reset and the second half of the week went much better.

Long Run: 18.19 miles @ 9:10 pace

Recharged after Friday off, decided to just breeze my way through this one. Joined a couple people for a slower early 8 – we averaged around 9:40 or so. Then hopped on with two of the guys for around 9:00 pace for the next 10. Think the easier early 8 helped to ease into the run and kept the miles relaxed. Even the next 10 that were all sub-9 felt good. While I just wanted the miles, quite pleased that the pace was dropped as much as it did.

Almost to taper! Others starting to race has me super excited for race day to get here. While this week wasn’t ideal with the rain throwing everything off and just having an exhausted time getting through the workouts (plus some other stuff), it ended well and I still met my mileage goals. I’ve broken in both pairs of new shoes and retired the old ones (they needed it). Pretty sure I know which pair I’ll wear for the race, but Saturday’s 23 will be the true test. Less than 4 weeks to race day!

MCM Training: Week 12/18

And week 12/18. That’s what? 4/5ths done? (Not quite…)

Total Running Miles: 53

Biking Miles: 12

Hills: 9.33 mi

7×1.0mi – 8:23, 8:14, 8:02, 8:07, 8:13, 8:03, 8:09

Ugh, horribly inconsistent. This was a pretty miserable workout for me. My routine was off, I probably wasn’t hydrated enough, and that combined with fatigue from the 22 miler added up. Sure, I technically hit my pace goals – but it didn’t feel that great and there was no consistency.

Intervals: 7.37 mi

8×800 – 3:29, 3:23, 3:23, 3:23, 3:22, 3:24, 3:21, 3:18

So yeah, a bit speedy there. But I felt fine doing it! Could probably have even had one or two faster, but I think this is more than fast enough. I ran with one of the girls (Kathy), though it’s better to say that except for the last repeat I was chasing her. Another morning workout that was awesome.

Long Run: 18.07 @ 9:27 pace

So yeahh – don’t know what it was but Friday night I was dead tired by 9 and absolutely dreading getting up on Saturday. This was the first workout (this training cycle) that I believe I seriously just considered skipping or putting off to another day. Knew it wasn’t going to go too well the moment I woke up. Still, went out and did an early 8 super, super slow. Then tagged onto two others for the next 10 and was able to bring the pace down. I managed, but I just didn’t feel it.

4 more weeks of tough workouts and then it’s TAPER! A couple not so great runs this week, but considering what my mileage is I’m not surprised. I’m getting super excited for the race. Got my new shoes (posts to appear soon!), should be getting the race top anytime now, and I’ve picked out which shorts I plan to race in. All that’s left is to get through the training. Here’s a sneak peak of one of my new shoes!

20130916_174235

Positive Motivation

(Fair warning, this will be a long post.)

With 7 weeks and counting to race day, now is when I need positive motivation the most. I’ve just run my highest mileage month ever (August for 231 miles). In the next 5 weeks of training before I taper, I’ll run my highest mileage week (ever) as well. The workouts are getting longer and mentally tougher. It’s now that I must hold strongest to my determination because it’s this training that will help me travel the path I want. So here’s a mix of sayings and images from around the ‘net that harden my resolve, give me the strength to endure, and motivate me to reach my goals.

accomplishment

Instead of giving myself reasons why I can’t, I give myself reasons why I can.

dowhatpeoplesayyoucant

I AM A RUNNER because I know that despite my best efforts, I will always want more from myself. I will always want to know my limits so that I can exceed them.

I AM A RUNNER because I run. Not because I run fast. Not because I run far.

I AM A RUNNER because I say I am. And no one can tell me I’m not.

– John Bingham

baconstation

No one is born a perfect runner. And none of us will become one. But through incremental steps, we can become better runners. And that’s the beauty of our sport: There are no shortcuts, nothing is given to us; we earn every mile, and we earn every result.

– Peter Magill

perserverance

After enough miles, over enough runs and enough years, I realized: No matter what, no matter when, or where, or why, I can find my shoes and go for a run and things will get better. And that realization? Just knowing that? It made things better.

– Mark Remy (So I Went For A Run)

slaydragons

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

– Mark Twain

marathon

Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest.

– Haruki Murakami

BE7xyxXCQAA_M6f

That’s what running does to lives. It’s not just exercise. It’s not just achievement. It’s a daily discipline that has nothing to do with speed, weight, social status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, where you live, what car you drive, or whether anyone anywhere loves you. It’s about the slow and painful process of being the best you can be. That’s why the first step out the door is always so hard. That’s when we choose between settling for average and being a superhero version of ourselves.

– Martin Dugard (To Be A Runner)
motivation

The more I run, the more I love my body. Not because it is perfect, far from it, but because with every mile it is proving to me that I am capable of more than I ever thought possible.

earned

I have learned that there is no failure in running, or in life, as long as you keep moving. It’s not about speed and gold medals. It’s about refusing to be stopped.

– Amby Burfoot

happiness

The Marathon is not about the race, it’s about commitment…It’s not about instant gratification, it’s about endurance. It’s not about the thrill, it’s about passion. To run a marathon, you need to not only commit to the sport, you need to commit to yourself. In short, to run a marathon, you need to be a runner.

my gym

Running has given me the courage to start, the determination to keep trying, and the childlike spirit to have fun along the way. Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running.

– Julie Isphording

runn

Tips: Gradually Building Up

There’s the rule of 10% and then there’s the common sense of building up gradually. They both are pretty much in the same realm of thought.

the dayThere are many reasons to pay careful attention to how exactly you ramp up your mileage and workouts. Too quick of a jump in activity and you not only risk injury, but simply general health. It’s important to acclimate your body to the activity you are asking it to do. Building up slowly over time allows the body to adjust and make any necessary changes to habits, such as requiring more sleep.

So instead of jumping straight from 15 to 30 miles a week, spread that increase over a few weeks. Most running related injuries occur due to overuse – stress fractures, runner’s knee, all those sucky things are a result of too much, too fast, or over too long a time. This is why the rule of 10% is something I recommend following, even if you don’t usually follow the main schools of thought.

The idea is that from week to week, you don’t increase your mileage more than 10%. Run 20 miles one week? Just jump it up 2 miles to 22 the next week. Admittedly, on the lower end of mileage for established runners it may not be as big a concern. However, if you’re new to exercise or reaching higher mileage weeks for training it’s important to follow. I don’t just magically jump from 30 miles to 50 when I’m training for a marathon. That happens over 7-8 weeks.

Gradual increase is also a technique you can apply to new gear or forms. If you’re interested in taking up minimalistic running (whether through Vibram Five Fingers or the offerings of other shoe companies) the same idea applies. Run your usual miles each week in your  normal running shoes. But start slowly a couple times a week with the new ones – say a half mile to mile twice a week to slowly increase to 1-2 miles. Taking those small steps up each week over a 4-6 week period, spending additional weeks where necessary, can get you up to something like a regular run distance.

Of course, it’s important to know where you’re weak too. In the case of minimalistic shoes, if you feel additional strain running say 2 miles then spend an extra week at that distance instead of moving to the next distance up. Making choices like that can only help you, not hurt you.

I emphasize the idea of working your way to a higher amount of activity for several reasons. The first being that injuries are not fun and we all want to avoid them. For new athletes (regardless of sport) being a little too enthusiastic can result in pushing too hard, too fast. Yes, we all want to jump in feet first. But doing so not only risks injury, but has the potential to cause a bad experience that could easily turn you from a sport forever. For those of us jumping hardcore into training, the last thing we want to do is become injured and miss an event altogether.

On the opposite side, stressing our bodies too much will cause our workouts to suffer over time. And when you’re not meeting your goals—time, pace, or distance—it can seriously affect your mental outlook on the training, the event, and even the sport. I love running, but I know sometimes that I reach the point where I’m just plain tired of doing it. Not because I no longer love it; I just need a break. If I’m marathon training (which is when that usually happens), it would be exponentially worse if my training wasn’t going well.

That’s what prompted this piece. I’ve build up my weekly miles gradually and the next 6 weeks will be my highest mileage weeks for the plan. Not only will I be running a good amount of miles, but some will be specific workouts that will strain my body even more. That’s why I’m so glad for the 10+ weeks that build me up to this point. My body can handle all of the training because I’ve conditioned it over time to do so. It’s a hard discussion to have with newer runners at times. How do I properly explain it without ruining their enthusiasm?

It’s a tough balance too. We want to find our limits so we can push them and get better. To see how far we can really go. I do every day that I run! Without a doubt and maybe just a little fear (which isn’t a bad thing), we seek to challenge ourselves. I want everyone to do that and this post is not to warn you away from seeking out your limits. Just some advice to do so in a safe way so you don’t hurt yourself along the way.

To get a much better and more in depth explanation, here’s a Runner’s World article that fully explains the Rule of 10%.

MCM Training: Week 4/18

Huzzah! That’s 4/18 and I’m a month in.

Running Miles: 40

Cycling Miles: 17

Pretty good week. The weekend post long run was thrown off a bit as I did a self defense class at a boxing gym with a friend. While enjoyable, they really focused on fighting back and my body was so sore! Thus, the recovery on Sunday and since has been fun with sore muscles. But now onto last week’s workouts.

Hills: 6.26 miles

4 at pace miles – 8:02, 8:24, 8:10, 8:14

So totally not consistent at all. Yeahhhh, just could not settle myself into a pace and had to constantly keep checking my watch. Also had one of the super fast guys (1:12 half marathon kind of fast) who did his workout in the morning just getting a few extra miles with us afternoon people at a ‘slow’ pace. Way to make me feel like a turtle when my paced miles are like a recovery for him. But at least I wasn’t yelling at him as he ran past me (instead we were arguing the whole time). Silliness at its best.

Intervals: 6.09 miles

5x800m – 3:28, 3:28, 3:25, 3:29, 3:20

This time I was semi-consistent and semi-on pace for once. Sort of. No issues with the workout, though I threw my pace off on the 3rd one. It was fun running with one of the girls coming back from injury (again, fast person – her back from injury is my training pace). While I won’t say it was easy, I definitely felt solid on the workout. Though I’m sure I’ll be cursing myself once I get to more repeats.

Long Run: 12.01 @ 9:01 pace

Look at that, exactly on pace. I was almost worried it would end up being too fast. Sounds crazy but the 12 felt easy. I spent most of the run in a daze without really noticing the miles going by. It was practically a surprise to end up at the park (one of the route’s water stops) and be near 7 miles. I was so excited to sleep in until 5:30! Course, that won’t be happening again for a good few months. I didn’t really feel much strain in my muscles and made sure to have all my recovery stuff.

Still getting adjusted to the days I bike and/or run. While the cycling itself isn’t straining (unless it’s windy) it is a different type of exercise and I think tires me a little more than running. After that self defense class, I obviously need to work on more than just my cardio more often. Another good week of training! From here my mileage will just keep ramping up.

The Training Plan is Here

planA couple weeks ago I hit up a member of my running group in Florida who had coached me for my first marathon.  He was kind enough to agree to write up my plan and coach me again.

Now when I say coach, it’s a pretty loose system. He crafts a training plan based on where I am, what I want to run for the race (time goal, etc), and how long until then. Then I send weekly updates with how the training for the past week went. I’ll give total mileage, how I felt, whether I hit the targets (pace or otherwise) for each of the workouts, and whatever else I want to say.

Races are included in the plan and we use finish times for those to gauge any changes once it’s started. If I have questions or want to make modifications, I just hit him up. Otherwise, it’s pretty much on me to follow it and prep for the race.

Luckily, I’ve been working my running schedule in preparation for this training. Tempo work, interval work, and long runs trying to be at about the target I imagined I’d need. For the marathon, the training plan is starting 18 weeks out from the race (which is pretty normal, as usually it’s 4 months with most of the people I’ve run with). So I’m a little less than a month from officially starting it (late June).

I’m excited looking over the schedule and a little nervous too. I’ll max out a couple weeks before the race at 60+ miles and have 4 x 20+ mile long runs. It’s a tougher program than I ran before, but we have a better idea of what I can do with a marathon and I have a faster goal this time.

Not that it wasn’t real before, but actually getting the plan has turned on the competitive spirit. I’m ready to do this!