Thursday, October 8, 2009

Undertraining - or how to lose your mojo.

There are no shortcuts in running. Yep, I found this out the hard way. At the end of the tri season, all was dull and gloomy, and I still had 2 more goals on my list before the end of 2009. I had hoped to do 2 half marathons this year. It seemed a bit of a push to try and squeeze in 2 in 3 months, but I had a plan - or as Baldrick in Black Adder would say, I had a cunning plan!
I found a brilliant programme on runner's world - a beginner's half marathon programme. So far so good, except that this programme is aimed at building a base. There are no fartlek or hill workouts. The aim is to run 3 times a week, and cross train for 2. Two of the 3 runs are no longer than 35 minutes and the third run is a long one.
This is an excellent programme for anyone starting out - it is a death knell to someone who already has a few miles in the bank. I know I could always do with a few more, but this is not the way to go. I went from running an average of 5 miles 5 times a week (mainly before starting to run and swim, and then ran 5 miles about 4 times a week), to running 3 miles twice a week, and a long run on weekends. I cycled on the cross training days.
It started feeling awful pretty quickly. I felt tired and sluggish and running was no longer fun. So where was the cunning plan? I thought I could improve my speed: I would run shorter distances at a greater intensity. I also started running the 3 miles uphill. All well and good, but it was just not a good fit. There was no challenge in it, or if there was, I did not have enough experience to know how to tweak my running so that it would still be fun and interesting.
Slowly I slacked off - yes partly due to my feet (see previous post), but in part because I was bored, and running seemed a chore. Stuart, oh sage one, had warned me early on that this was not the route to go. I fobbed him off, and went my own merry way, only to find that he was right. But hindsight is a wonderful thing of 20-20 vision!
I am happy to say that I dragged myself to 2 races - sore feet, out of shape and unmotivated. I forced myself through the races as I tried to rediscover with why and wherefore of running. Alas, there is no magic formula. But doing the races kept me connected albeit by a slim thread, to the wonderful tribe that is the New England running community. It was therapeutic to watch others push themselves, it was marvellous to cheer the fleet footed who had already passed the halfway mark and were halfway home before I even got to the turnaround point and above all, it was good to experience that sense of possibility you can only feel at a race. It is the feeling that maybe you can chop 10 seconds off your time, it is the feeling that maybe this is 'your' race - the one where you get to be a rock star.
I spent a few more days thinking about what I wanted to do - mostly about how could I start again. Well, Tuesday night I found a great programme in the September edition of Women's Running. It had speed, hills and distance - a great programme covering all the bases. I will officially start next Monday, but I went for a 5 mile run last night. What a great run! And what a great feeling - I cannot remember the last time I felt so good after a run. Tonight I did 3 miles and some fartlek. That was good too. Although it is early days yet, I think I can safely say - I am getting my running mojo back!

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