Using cooking as a metaphor for running, I love to embellish the recipe. Especially the spices! One eighth of a teaspoon of pepper? Please… How about EIGHT teaspoons!!! …OK. Maybe that IS a bit much… but I like peppers :)
So it is with running/triathlons/othercrazycrapIliketodo.
I have tried lots of different recipes. Focus on one big “A” race for the year… Race my way to fitness… Mix up the race types… Challenge myself with longer/different races… and so on.
But I really think it all came together this year and, just like a good recipe, it’s all about balance. Leaving the cooking metaphor behind, I found that most of my struggles in motivation come when I either focus everything on training for one HUGE event or when I forget that there is life AFTER such an event. But I had to be careful in that different races require different training. Running a 5K and then a Half Iron Tri and then a trail race on the same training plan does not work. However, with balance and a little planning you can actually make all of them better.
It’s hard to understand at first, but cross training has been a key to keeping me healthy. Swimming, road riding, trail riding, trail running, track running, street running, etc. all use different muscles and keep you from beating yourself up.
So I took a training “plan” for each type of event I did this year. I ran 4 5Ks, a 10K, a duathlon, a couple of sprint triathlons, 3 half marathons, a 25K trail race, a 7K trail race, a Kayak/run, and the debacle in Chicago (3 triathlons in one weekend). And as I looked at the schedule for the year, I tried to spread them out so that a real “plan” for each would overlap with the others. Remarkably, save for the odd long run or a transition practice, they actually meshed well. So even as I was training for an event coming up in a month, I was also doing an occasional workout for a different event a month or so after that.
It sounds crazy and it took more planning than I’m usually capable of, but it worked. Except for the odd “you’re getting old” pain, I came out injury free, at least from repetitive stress injuries. Yes, there were some days when I worked out 3 times. But there were also WAY more break days than I usually take as well. There were points when I was tired, but in general I felt pretty good most of the time.
So moving ahead to next year, things slow down and stretch out. I’m trying desperately to get my 5K time under 22 before the year is out so I won’t obsess about it next year. So I can focus on big distances again. So far, my spring looks like a 7K trail run in January, an offroad marathon in March and then a 50K in April. Then I change back to triathlon training but with longer distance runs so that I can do club nationals in late summer and MAYBE even Heart of America on Labor day. And finally either another shot at a Half Ironman in the fall, another 50K (Rock Bridge?) or even a 50 miler someplace… If I haven’t destroyed myself by then.
Regardless, I think I can make it all work if I slow down, relax, and overlap the training plans so that they become cross training for each other. This recipe worked well for me in 2014 and I’m willing to try the same thing again in 2015, just with longer mileages. I’m also going to REALLY focus on core work. I think it is one of my biggest weaknesses and I’m going to need it in longer distance races. I found a workout online for ultra runners and I’m going to give that a shot.
So anyway, here is my recipe for training and racing. I pick races so that they overlap in training. I try to focus on the “now”. I don’t look back at past performances unless there is something to see (i.e. a really good/bad race to learn from, etc.). I look ahead far enough to plan out my races but I’m always looking for something different. I don’t do mud runs, etc. but an offroad tri or duathlon, something with a kayak, a multi-day bike ride…? Maybe. Balance and variety seem to keep me interested more than anything else. What kills me most is training for a big race (triathlons are the worst) for MONTHS on end gets really monotonous and I lose focus or interest. Then I either get hurt, disheartened or both. And that is NOT good. Especially since I am paying for this crap… :)