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The Next Race!

17 September 2015

Sunday morning at gawdawful early o’clock, BB and I will be lining up for the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon, in our nation’s capital. We wanted to do a half-marathon during training to spice up and break up the training schedule. The same reason we did the Philadelphia 10K a few weeks ago. It’s a good thing to put in a different kind of run and break up the monotony of the long, slow distance runs on the weekends. Having gotten up to 19 miles for our long runs, I’m looking forward to this weekend being a “short” long run at only 13.1 miles.

Shorter weeks are really useful in training. They let the body recover and build from long stretches of punishment. Or so I’ve been told. When it comes to exercise science, I know there’s a lot of science mixed with a lot of experience, a lot of untested basic wisdom, a lot of anecdote, and a lot of absolute snake-oil bullshit. Lots of athletes and coaches write about what has worked for them as if that makes it evidence-based. Lots of scientists make really specific recommendations based on really noisy, messy data. And I’m just one runner.

So, here’s what works for me.

  1. I run to finish, without worrying too much about how fast I go. Because I started running when I was about 37, and any chance I ever had at being fast (not much) dwindled away long ago. I have found that to stay healthy and not end up with painful overtraining effects (which don’t really rise to the level of injuries, for me, but do hurt a lot) I need to have a few short runs at medium-slow pace every week. If I try to get a lot of mileage in while doing mostly 6+ mile runs, I end up hurting.
  2. I increase my mileage when training gradually. I mostly follow the “10% per week” rule, within a mile or so. That is, from one week to the next, don’t increase your mileage by more than 10% from a recent high. This may seem really conservative, but if you increase your weekly mileage by 10%, you increase your monthly mileage by 46%. That’s a big jump in a short time. Weeks are not long, from a fitness perspective. We’d all like to see massive progress over the course of a week, but thinking in months had made a big difference for me.
  3. I take days off when I’m gassed. If I’m not training for anything specific, I’ll run 3-4 days a week, and work out 2-3. But then I’ll take one of those off whenever I’m not feeling up to it. Giving myself permission to relax and be human matters a lot to me. I can’t just keep going at a machine pace week after week. When I am training for something specific, like now, I’m a little more diligent about getting all the workouts in. But even in this training period, I’ve skipped at least two runs and a crosstraining day. I’ve also added in a run on a day I had a rest scheduled but really wanted to run.
  4. I drink a lot of water while I run, and consume things that have electrolytes. Because I sweat lakes, and if I didn’t I’d probably be in actual trouble from a health perspective. You can’t sweat like I do, not drink, and expect your kidneys to just suck it up and keep making piss. Hyponatremia is a motherfucker, and I don’t want it. Badly corrected hyponatremia can result in some of the most terrifying health consequences there are.
  5. Now that I read about what can happen in 4, I’m seriously thinking of never ever running again ever for any reason.

That’s it! That’s how I run. And this weekend I’ll run a race and make sure I have a little bag of salt and enjoy myself while not thinking about horrific brain injury. Jesus. I need a nap now.

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