Sunday, June 19, 2011

Week in Review: 12-18 June 2011, and Anatomy of a 100-Mile Week a 100-Mile Week

Deep breath; here goes . . .

Sunday: 6 miles (45 minutes) Canton/Fells, early p.m., then 11 miles (75 minutes) fast-ish around Harbor East

Monday: 6 miles (45 minutes) at APG, hot car ride home, 11 more miles (80 minutes) out to the Fed Hill Run and back (but not with the Fed Hill run, since my timing was so far off . . .)

Tuesday: 5 miles at APG; 4 of those on the treadmill (hill program - 1438 feet of vertical in 35 minutes, plus another 10 minutes warmup/warmdown); hot car ride home, then 10 more around Patterson Park and such (70 minutes)

Wednesday: 1 very slow mile that wasn't very fun (10 minutes)

Thursday: 7 miles at APG; 20 minutes warmup/warmdown, plus another 35 minutes on the treadmill (hill program - 1459 feet of vertical), hot car ride, then 10 more from the Falls Road Running Store with fast people (65 minutes) after Baltimore 10-Miler packet pickup

Friday: 15 miles in the morning, around the Inner Harbor, up Fed Hill, and all that business (105 minutes)

Saturday: 6 miles to the start of the Baltimore 10-Miler, along Monument Street (45 minutes), Baltimore 10-Miler in 1:09:40 (pacing the 1:10 group with Keith McBride), then 6 miles home, carrying my silly Fila vest down Madison Avenue (45 minutes)

Total Time: 755 minutes

Total Distance: 102 miles

Normally, this is the part of the blog entry where I write my race report, but (without any disrespect to the Baltimore 10-Miler), the race wasn't a particularly epic experience (which is not to say that it wasn't fun, only that it wasn't a struggle to the finish that would make for a compelling read). But in short, the last two miles are difficult, but not a surprise, since you run them (downhill) on the way out, there were cold, wet towels and watermelon at the finish, two beer tickets for every runner (many of which were being diverted to a few runners trying to collect as many beer tickets as possible), and a band that opened their set with that Ramones song "Blitzkrieg Bop" and didn't bother to censor the lyrics. (Nobody seemed to be paying enough attention to care.) I had a lot of miles on my legs coming in, so I was a little worried about the uphill finish, and that, combined with most of the mile markers in the first half of the race being wrong, led to a first half that was slightly faster than pace, but it all worked out in the end. And, Fila "running vest."

Because that was a crummy race summary, I'm going to leave you with something a little more substantial: the anatomy of a 100-mile week. I may not speak for everybody else when I say this, but in a typical 100-mile week, accumulating mileage at a steady rate throughout the week (as opposed to running very little on some days, and "binging" on other days, particularly with long races), the thought process ends up being something like this:

Day 1 - 15 miles total - Wow, that was a solid day.

Day 2 - 30 miles total - Another great day; almost a third of the way there!

Day 3 - 45 miles total - Um . . . 3 days and I'm not even halfway there?

Day 4 - 60 miles total - Another day, and barely over halfway . . . this is distressing.

Day 5 - 75 miles total - Seriously, when does progress happen? 5 days, and 3/4ths of the way there?

Day 6 - 90 miles total - Okay, wow, that snuck up on me; now I'm almost at 100. And I only have to run 10 miles tomorrow!

Day 7 - 100 (or 105, or something) miles total - I did it! I feel great! And now . . . do it again next week?!?!?!?! Then again, on second thought, it doesn't sound quite so bad now . . .

Given the mind game involved in reaching 100 miles in a week, you may be wondering how anybody can deal with it, week after week. As it turns out (and as I type this, I already have 25 miles in for this coming week, in one day), it gets easier and easier the more frequently you do it. After a while, your body gets used to being in motion that often, and the mileage becomes strangely comforting. Once you find yourself running in the moment, and not thinking about your weekly total, you can fully submit to the task; you accept that, at any given moment of any day, you might be on your feet and running - through sunrise, sunset, rain, wind, sleet, snow, jeers, catcalls, noise, silence . . . and in this submission, there is a profound peace. (For me, anyway.)

And along those lines, given than running a lot of volume is a strategy for success, optimizing the payoff for the volume becomes a concern. After all, in order to run fast, you need to run fast. ;)

This is where an insight from an unlikely source has been guiding my training lately. A couple of weeks ago, when I was called for jury duty, in the excessive wait time, I was reading a book called "On Studying Singing" by Sergius Kagen (a faculty member at Julliard). The author makes a number of interesting points that seem strangely applicable to running, but one in particular stood out to me. Kagen claims (in slightly different words) that there is a certain element of futility in teaching somebody to sing better, because the actual skill cannot be taught directly. Instead, teachers must come up with metaphors and visualization tricks as guides to help students improve technique. These teaching methods act on the conscious mind, but this is only to steer the unconscious mind (which does all of the actual work) in the right direction.

In a way, running a lot of miles has this effect. Physiologically, yes, it strengthens the body, but subconsciously, it strengthens the mental faculties that enable a person to run quickly and efficiently. As usual, these variables are confounded, but I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that both aspects of running are equally important, and developing them in tandem has a synergistic effect on performance, yet most people focus only on the physical aspect of the sport. Most likely, most people have a fair amount of untapped potential as a result of this myopic view.

Or, you know, I could just be making up a bunch of stuff to fill up space. But it seems to be working for me . . .

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