log this.

the boston marathon is just around the corner.  as of this day it is only 78 days away.  this is my third time qualifying for the big event, but only my first time signing up.  the first two times i was just a kid and felt i had bigger fish to fry than running a classic.  now i am in my 40’s and i have big hairy audacious goals for this race, or i should say that i “had” those kind of goals…now they are more like little peach-fuzz-like modest goals.  it’s not that i lack drive or that i give up easily, but it’s more like i don’t want to kill myself.  i don’t mean jump off of a building-end-it-all kill myself, but more like drive-myself-onto-the-freeway-until-my-tires-blow-out-and-i’m-still-going-with-nothing-but-rims.  i got that metaphor from watching t.v. late at night, i think it was called greatest car chases or something like that…. if left unregulated i will run till my body falls apart.  in fact i think i hit that point 20 years ago when i told myself i would never race again…somehow i’ve made a comeback or sorts.  i race again, and last year i even “raced” a full marathon.  during my journey over the past 20 years, i’ve developed all kinds of ideas an innovations that have helped me to continue running.

everyone says, “listen to your body” but does anyone really know what that means?  i hear runners talking all the time about it. but does anyone really speak body-language?  that’d be cool if rosetta stone had software for learning body language.   listening to your body doesn’t just mean that if your ankle, knee or foot hurts during a run you should slow down.  it really means that you should perhaps stop, and consider not running till it stops hurting.  in fact at this point, the problem is probably screaming at you.  did you fail to listen to anything before the run?  even if there was no communications at all between you and your foot or whatever, did you fail to consider that maybe you ran too hard the day before, did you get enough sleep, was your body completely fresh? my point is not to criticize runners, but to bring about the point that listening to your body, has many many levels.  i am by no means successful at this point, and i actually have a confession to make.

i am kind of injured.  i say “kind of” mostly because i am still trying to figure out the severity of it.  i have considered various outcomes from stress fractures to it’s-all-in-my-head… and i still don’t know.  the only thing i do know is how i became injured.  it’s not like i am obsessed with mileage.  i am actually a very conservative runner.  i try to listen to my body, and as a result i have very modest weekly totals.  when i ran the san francisco marathon last july, i finished with a 3:12, and my weekly mileage was 30-40.  so how did i get injured this time around?

last week i had this epiphany of about my training and my injury.  i got injured because i stopped listening to my body and started listening to statistics. the statistic are all around me and i find it very difficult to avoid. how far did i run this week? how much did i run last week? how much do i need to run? how much did my friend run?  it is very easy to get caught up in this “rat race”.  in fact, i think most of us don’t even realize we are in a “rat race”.

the problem is that almost every training program out there is mileage based.  from beginner to elite… we have prescribed recipes for our workload.   the fact is, everyone is different, everyone has different obstacles in their daily life that effects their training. they could be sick, sleepless, hungover, stressed out…whatever.  weekly mileage is an artificial benchmark that was chosen empirically for the average person with similar goals.   before i have to debate this point, let me point out one thing…. every running training program out there falls apart when when you introduce cross training.  and what is cross training? cycling?  jumping jacks? shoveling snow?  unicycling? all of these are forms of exercise that benefit you greatly but usually can not be categorized by even the greatest of all programs. perhaps you could break down each of the muscle groups that are most worked in the said events, but can you really control when they happen? no, you can’t! what if you have to shovel your driveway to get to work? and you have intervals planned that same day? or what if there is a break in the weather and you want to go out for a unicycle ride (this only applies to me)?  what if you got drunk unexpectedly on a saturday night (maybe this only applies to me as well)? should you still go out and do your 20 miler?

so what are weekly mileage plans good for? they’re good for feeding the obsessive compulsive behavior in most of us.  we need something tangible to stroke our egos.  we need to quantify our efforts.  when i return from a lunch run how, unimpressive would i be if couldn’t tell the receptionist that i ran eight miles. “i ran at a good effort for me today”… not too impressive right? actually it’s not the receptionist or coworker, or spouse of friend that we are really trying to impress… we are trying to impress ourselves.

i look back at my old logs and i must say that sometime i am quite impressed.  sometimes i feel that i’ve kicked ass, and sometimes it’s a shocker to see how little i’ve run.   this is actually what caused me to get injured.  i looked back at my mileage and looked at my friends’ mileage…looked at my goals, looked at my friends’ goals, and felt i needed to step it up a notch.  i ran a very modest little 3 mile run with my vibram five fingers. the next day my calves were a little sore as usual, but i had a last minute plan to run with my friend.  i didn’t think i should run, but since the weather happened to be nice, and i don’t get to run with her that often, i ran.  the day after that i had a planned 15 miler.  i didn’t wake up that morning feeling like i wanted run.  the weather was cold and crappy, my legs were tired, but i had planned it….so i ran it.  i knew it was wrong when i started and the last two miles of that run confirmed my initial feelings…. that’s when my left shin started to really hurt.

the moral of the story is….. mileage isn’t everything.  statistics are very vague indicators of your fitness.  especially if you cross train.  please don’t think that listening to your body is going to make you into a “lazy” person unable to push through pain.  there is good pain and there is bad pain.  listening to your body does not mean to run conservatively all the time.  if your mind and body are up for it…. let ‘em go!  by all means take advantage of the days that you feel good! don’t hold back because it’ not in your training plan to run fast this particular day. however use common sense, if you are tapering for an upcoming race.

what is my plan for boston?  (if my injury turns out to be minor) i plan to work as hard as i can for the next 78 days.  i am not going to log any more miles, no more dailymile, no more rigid plans, no more mileage based workouts.  i have many activities besides running that i plan to get me closer to my boston goals, but i will go as i feel, i will try to balance my mental and physical attitude before and during each and every thing i do.  i don’t need statistics to tell me i am not working hard enough,  i don’t need motivation from others, i find my motivation from inside me.  i want this to be a very enjoyable journey to the boston marathon finish line.

feed back is welcome.

3 comments on: log this.

  1. Donna D

    Hi Leo, I really enjoyed this post because, as with all posts I enjoy, it made me stop to think about my own actions and behaviours.

    I have tendonitis, and I train through a lot of pain as a result. There are two schools of thought – give it a complete break, or just do the volumes and levels that work for you (a summary of what my doctors have told me!). I work with my injuries, knowing their severity and how much will merely aggravate versus really make things bad. I have become very aware of exactly what types of pain I feel and if I think that it is manageable.

    It is so true that, when it comes to sport and training, we can focus on everyone else’s game or compare ourselves with others, forgetting that at the end of the day so much of what we are doing is about self improvement and betterment. I try to stay focused on that – leaving the comparisons to others and others plans to one side. This attitude helps me to stay focused and motivated without feeling like I’m in a rat race. I am fortunate enough to have support that keeps me focused on just that – what I can do, in terms of time not pace, in terms of improvement not competition.

  2. Lara

    I think you covered much of the gist of this today during our run, but I agree everything you said. Looking at others to decide how to approach our own goals is, in and of itself… crazy. It’s best to look inside ourselves to see where we are and where we want to go. Everything else is by-product.

  3. David

    Hey Leo! GREAT Post…. a little ironic coming from me, the guy who tried to run a 100 miles this week! But ultimately, my little quest, broadcast on DM as though trumpets on top of tall buildings through Big-Ass speakers were not loud enough (see, I totally agree about how we try to impress, even if we are unconsciously doing it)is proof of your point. I failed in my quest (finished at 92) because not finishing it felt like I had more control than if I had… It was nice for the DM crowd to tell me to wise up when I started having knee pain by the way. I am only sorry if WE, as in me in particular, who is one of the believers of big miles on DM made you feel the need to run that third day in a row… you are right to back off and do it the cross-train way — besides you are a natural runner, a faster runner than most of us… I may be able to log long miles without getting injured, but I sure wish I could run as fast as you w/o having to run so darn much! Hey buddy, when you are ready to run again and want a social run, let me know, I am up for anything… although this week looks pretty frigid!

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