Sunday, May 16, 2010

Train Easy, Race Slow

The other question hanging out there for the last month or so is why I enjoy training more than racing.  I think I could develop quite a lecture for this subject.  And the fact is it didn't use to be that way.

Back when I was somewhat fast the only reason I trained at all was so I wouldn't completely embarrass myself when I raced.  When I started running under the guidance of Tom Dowling and he had to reign in my desire to race and do speed work.  He also had to gently remind me as I progressed to not "race" in my workouts. 

I found this problematic when I lived in Phoenix and ran under with coach Fred Moore, another Lydiard disciple like Dowling.  I was training my ass off but I kept falling apart in the last two miles of every 10K.  The problem was the bi-weekly tempo and interval sessions with Fred and his group were killing me.  It took about a year before Tom advised in a phone conversation to stop racing the workouts.  Fred had been saying essentially the same thing but I wasn't listening.  For some reason that phone call hit me between the eyes.

I also took some advice from Fred to read "The Tao of Pooh."  I was thunderstruck by the simple message the book offered which I took as, go with the flow, don't push, let the race come to you.  The first 10K after reading the book I was in so-so shape yet ran a PR. 

But I digress from the original intent of the question as to why I'd rather train than race.  First of all, races are a major pain in the ass.  I began to find in the 1990's that races cost too much, they are poorly organized, the courses are not accurate, and I really don't like getting up at 6 a.m. to toe the line at 7:30 or 8 in the morning.  I'm a night person. 

I will say that the Fort Myers Track Club does the exact opposite of what I described above.  The cost is reasonable, races are well organized with quick results, and accurate courses.  But we only have two night races a year. 

It's also difficult getting worked up to run a 22 minute 5K.  I'm not trying to be a snob but if I am going to "Thrust against pain contemptuously" as the great coach Percy Cerutty advised, then I at least want to run under 21 minutes.  It's hard to race and run times that you know are slower than you are capable of running.  I may be 54 but I'm not ready to concede to anyone that I can't run 6:45 pace for a 5K.

On the other hand training is great because there simply isn't any pressure.  I run how I feel.  If I feel like doing a tempo run then I do it.  And the best part of training are those days when everything clicks.  You feel 10 years younger, 20 pounds lighter, your legs are light and it's magic because I feel like I'm flying across the asphalt.  You finish the run with a glow and a state of satisfied exhaustion that people pay good money for when it comes to illegal drugs.

The only training run that I dread is the long run and its two-fold.  I miss running in a group like I did back in Kansas City which helps take away the monotony and with the onset of summer weather, the humidity is a killer.  I'm going to start getting up at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday's to join the Mike Pemberton's long run group.  I tried it this Saturday hoping to catch the 6 a.m. group leaving Starbuck's but much to my surprise I was all by my lonesome.  The parking lot was full of cars belonging to 5:30 runners.  The early Saturday runs are a sacrifice I'm willing to make in order to not completely fall apart when I run my first marathon in seven years this October.

In closing I offer this bit of simple advice, don't grind.  If you can run, just enjoy it.  This attitude adjustment kept me from giving up the sport that I truly love.

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