Sunday, January 20, 2013

Failure during training: it's OK

As a runner, you're one of two people. Either you've successfully run the race you're training for (or longer) already. Or, you're a total novice to running, not entirely sure what it feels like to run more than a mile at a time.

One thing we all are is human (although I'm suspicious of a couple of know who you are).

As humans we're essentially guaranteed to do a few things often. Failure is one of those "things."

This is ok. What's that line? If you're not failing, you're not trying. 

It's true!

I have failed at more things than I care to recall, and that was just this week. It pains me to think about all the stuff that either hasn't worked correctly or that I haven't completed during my graduate training, and I've only been at it for five months! Ugh!

But, I'm trying. Dammit, I get up every day, I go in there, I sling some pipettes, count some flies and pretend to intently study research papers while enjoying my mocha latte at 10:00 and 2:00. (Just kidding about that mocha thing, I'm an espresso guy.) (I'm also kidding about the 10:00 and 2:00 thing. I'm pretty bitter right now while working on an article about how the whole "scientists live in an ivory tower" mindset makes scientists [me!] feel.) (I use parentheticals a lot, deal with it.)

And you know what? Every once in a while, something works! I get a piece of data (I may not understand it, but I get it). I get a paper published. My boss throws me a "good job." Or a lab-mate says, "Hey, that makes sense."

Success—or modicums of success, really—are thrilling!

Where the hell am I going with this? This is not meant to be a woe-is-me post about school. It's about running. And, well, the same attitude applies to running. 

Look, running a race isn't hard. Getting ready to run a race is a total pain in the ass. The race is the most relaxing part of the whole thing.

During training there are calendars, clocks, scales, deadlines, goals, friends, spreadsheets, books, glossy magazines, and idols. All of which are putting pressure on you (us) to feel the need to constantly succeed.

Thing is, that's not the point and it's destructive because you're bound to fail at something. 

Look, the point is to get most of your training right. Not to get ALL of your training right. If you think you need to do everything perfect during training then you're on the fast-track to disappointment. 

It's okay to fail during training. Just make sure you get the overall training right.

Miss a run during the week? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Did a long run at 10:15/mi when you were shooting for 10:00/mi? Nice run!

Don't let these things weigh on you. Just move on. Your goal isn't to check every box off your training plan. Your goal is to run a good race when you need to. Don't let the little bumps along the way keep you from doing that.

You'll meet people who either claim to adhere perfectly to their training plan or claim to be making training their little witch.
Me: Hey Overachiever Oliver, how's training for Hospital Hill going?
Overachiever Oliver: Oh man, it's great. I got in six runs today all three minutes under my goal pace! I've dropped 732 pounds and my resting HR is now 2! But I'm a little worried about the race man. I might not be able to finish. I gotta train harder. How's your training going?
Me: I managed to eat two cookies instead of three yesterday. I'm pretty happy with myself.  
Don't let people like that impact your training. Just do what you need to do. My bet is you'll see ol' Oliver there bouncin' around in the porta-potty line at mile six because he had eight too many protein shakes before the race.

As a runner, I've failed numerous times. I've finished two 100-milers, but I've started six. You do the math on that but don't tell me the answer. I peaced out at mile 120 of a 200-miler, which a friend of mine flew all the way (on his own dime) to Vermont to help me run. I've never broken the mile time I want. Came in late as a pacer (the first time I paced!!!). Didn't start races because I knew I wasn't ready. I've let fellow runners down. I haven't shown up for morning runs. Et cetra. And all sorts of other failures that at the time seemed monumental.

I'm ok though. It happens. You learn and somehow you are better in the long run for it. That's the other thing we're all good at as humans: learning from past experience. It's a wonderful gift. (Except for Congress—a new neuronal synapse hasn't been formed in that building for some time now.)

On the training front it was a good week. I got in about 20 miles which included a longer-ish run on Saturday. It was so freaking beautiful in KC on Saturday that I almost stopped caring about those Polar Bears.

I'm kidding. I love Polar Bears.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hospital Hill Blogging Team

Hi all! If you're found your way here by way of the Hospital Hill website or Facebook page, welcome! If you're one of my (three) regular readers, then you're in for some more frequent updates! Beth, the Race Director for Hospital Hill, for reasons that she'll likely regret later, included me in the Blogging Team for the 2013 race. If you're from anywhere near KC you know about the race and its history. If you're not from the area, or somehow have managed to avoid hearing about the race from your friends, then you're in for a treat. This year marks the 40th running of the race, and that is quite a streak.

I'll tell you a little about myself over the next few months and offer up why I think I was included in the group.

But first, promise me something: don't freak out when I tell you the kind of races I like to run. Also, don't call me crazy and don't think that my experiences won't be relevant to you. Well, I don't really care about the crazy part, just don't go thinking I'm operating at a different level than you, because I'm really not. I'm just a normal person who enjoys running long distances...just like you.

At Hospital Hill I'll be one of the 2:05 pacers. I do a lot of pacing and I really enjoy it. It is a fantastic way to get to know people and a fantastic way to help people achieve their goals. I'll likely spend some time convincing you that running with a pacer will be beneficial for you and I will encourage you to seek them out on race-day.

As far as running goes, I really enjoy running ultra-marathons. Technically, that's any distance greater than a marathon. The traditional ultra-distances are 50k, 50-mile, 100k and 100-mile. Lately I've seen longer races popping up, 150- and 200-milers. I tried a 200-miler once. It didn't go so well. We'll get to that. (You didn't realize this was a bit of a therapy session, did you?)

Locally, there's many ultra-options to select from. One of my favorites is Brew to Brew, put on by the KC Track Club. The KC Trail Nerds also put on several ultra-distance races throughout the area, as do the Lawrence Trail Hawks. Finally, the North Face Endurance Challenge has run a 50k here the past two years.

Full disclosure: I am the Race Director for the Hawk Hundred, a 100-mile, 50-mile and marathon put on by the Lawrence Trail Hawks. I get paid exactly zero for doing this. I do it because I love it. As a RD I can really feel for Beth about how difficult it is to put on a good event. I CANNOT imagine what it's like to put on a race with thousands and thousands of runners. I had 141 last year and thought I'd go insane. I realized the trick is to surround yourself with good people, they're key.

OK, I want to keep this post short, so I'll talk about my life outside of running, training plan and how Hospital Hill fits in with my summer and fall running plans in a later post. All of that will be in the context of helping you plan out your spring, focus your training, and get you ready for June 1st. If there's anything specific you'd like me to cover drop a note in the comments and I'll address it.

One thing to note: if you're new and doing a Hal Higdon-like training plan you won't start until March 1st. Although, you need to keep in mind that those plans start with 3-mile runs, so you've got to have a base built up by then.

I'm glad you're here. I'm glad you're either signed up or thinking about running this race. I like Hospital Hill because it's a challenge. The climb up Gillham at mile 2 tests whether you packed your brain with your running shoes - are you smart enough to not waste it all on that first climb? Then the short jaunt up to the Nelson checks your tank near mile 5, ensuring you have enough to hold your pace right before giving you another nice climb up Rockhill, past UMKC and The Stowers Institute. You then feel pretty safe as you cruise through Brookside back down to the Plaza right before what I think becomes the problem for most people, the long climb up Nichols and Broadway. It's not super steep, we're not climbing Pikes Peak or anything, but it does wear on people, especially at mile 11. After that, it's a little climb up to the Liberty Memorial, past the Fed, then down to the finish. Bliss.

This, friends, is fun.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Plans

Thought I'd share some of my 2013 plans. The year promises to be equally as stressful as 2012 was, but in different ways since I'm only focused on my PhD work at this point in my training.

I'm pacing several races this spring:
All great races and I have no financial interest in any of them. If you're looking for a low-key fun event in the spring I'd suggest Running With The Cows. Lincoln is already sold out. Amazing. 10,000 spots went in 12 hours.

The most interesting race is going to be the Kansas Half the day after Olathe (Oz). That 2:00 pace is going to be a little painful.

I've got three ultras on the calendar this spring, but I'm only going to be able to run two of them. I'm signed up for both days of Brew to Brew as a solo, but because of a conference I need to attend I'm only going to be able to run on the last day. Both days are 44 miles. 

I'm also going back to Los Alamos for the Jemez Mountain 50-miler. You may (or hopefully not) remember the pathetic performance I put on there in 2009, dropping at mile 18. That was my "hey, I ran a 100-mile a few months ago, I really don't need to train" attitude. In case you're wondering just how screwed up I really am, this is my birthday present. I think it's quite a good present.

Finally, I'm signed up for Grandma's Marathon. This is my goal race...I want to Boston Qualify. comes another wrinkle. My PI (the person who runs the lab I work in) wants me to attend a course at Cold Spring Harbor that overlaps with the race. Dammit. Well, I have to apply for the course, so there's always the chance I won't get in...but I do really want to go. So, I'll be searching for a fall race that would still qualify me to run Boston in 2014. According to this webpage, I need to qualify by early September, 2013.

I do have one race to look forward to in the fall, Heartland. I deferred my 2012 100-mile entry for 2013. 

There's also The Hawk, which I'm race directing again this year. That'll be September 14th and 15th at Clinton Lake State Park in Lawrence, KS. Good times were had by all last year.

Ah, one more thing. I'm stil leading the Wednesday Night Beginners Run for the Trail Nerds. Well, "leading" is a bit misleading. I think I make it about 75% of the time, with folks like Wael, Chris, and Brian making up for my slack. Whatever, it keeps me in shape and honest with my running.

So, that's it. The big question is: can I run a 3:05 marathon this summer?