Running by feel
Hope y’all had a fantastic weekend. I was remiss last week in not mentioning some amazing trail run results: Seema and Val ran 17.5K, Madalyn ran the 25K and Meighan ran the full 50K in deep snowy conditions! Way to go toughies. And speaking of toughies, Zoë raced in the Nationals XCountry race this past weekend coming 4th in her age category!
These races segue well into what I’ve been thinking about this week. That is learning to run by feel and to trust what your body is telling you, and practicing the mental strength aspect of running. I like the idea of trail races and xcountry races because they force you to do that. When we’re aiming to run a road race (or track race for that matter), we get very caught up on time goals and therefore specific paces in training. Our training becomes focused on running a certain distance at a certain pace. And we have tons of gadgets and devices to tell us whether we’re on track. This can be useful as we ramp things up and get closer to the training specificity for our event. But what’s even more useful and powerful is learning to understand how you’re feeling and what you’re capable of without being told by your watch or the clock.
At this particular xcountry course for Nationals, we figured that the women’s times were about 1:30-2 minutes slower than they would run on the roads. This is usually how xcountry plays out because there are hills, mud, grass, lots of turns, … So how do these athletes know how to pace themselves? Every course and conditions are different. They have to rely on their ability to trust their bodies’ cues and just race. I’m quite certain none of them look at their watches for pace feedback. That would only create a negative mind-body reaction. Can you imagine working your hardest and your watch telling you you’re running 1-2 minutes slower than usual?
I can guarantee you one thing: your body is smarter than your watch. Many people who have breakout races are not at all aware of the time while they’re running them. They are listening to their bodies’ cues and are in the moment. That’s the only way to achieve something you might not believe is possible. Alex Hutchinson’s famous example from his book Endure recounts how he had a breakthrough performance on the track because the person giving split times was calling out the wrong times (he thinks it was some sort of translation glitch), so Alex believed he was running faster than he was, and his internal feedback told him he was therefore having a great race – and this then became what happened. He was unintentionally freed from the pace/internal feedback constraint and his body did what it was capable of doing.
Many of the top runners and triathletes are now training using lactate testing. They test their lactate levels multiple times throughout a workout to ensure they are training in the correct zone. I’m very interested in this and have read and listened a lot about it. What I’ve mostly come away with is this: the science behind it is supremely individualized and very finicky and specific. One person’s levels are not someone else’s levels and things such as taking in carbs, sweat on the skin, altitude and heat can all affect it. BUT, athletes are actually very capable of hitting the right zones/paces when they learn to go by feel. Your body is giving you all the cues you need. In labs the lactate curve is very closely related to the breathing rate and perceived exertion curves. Learn that first. THEN when you’re comfortable trusting yourself, you can add more and more external feedback as your backup. And when you find yourself at your goal race and it’s hillier than expected, or hot or cold or windy – OR you’re capable of a race no one predicted – you’ll be able to perform at your best level on that day regardless because you’ll be a pro at trusting your body.
How to do this: set the intention of each run (easy, tempo, long, progression, …) and don’t look at your watch until after. Tell your watch what you did – don’t let it tell you what to do.
On to tomorrow’s workout! Lakeshore and Leslie – 6:05 drills, 6:15 GO time!
The purpose of this workout: accumulate time spent at threshold. To that end, the pace of everything will be the same – tempo/threshold pace. What this feels like: to begin with, not hard. You can talk, probably for the first 5 minutes. The intensity builds as the volume accumulates. This is why we take breaks. We want to give as much stimulus at this level as possible. We are never going “Hard” or feeling that alarm or panic feeling (we will work on that feeling later in the season 😉 ) So this is a feeling at this point, not a pace. The idea at this point is to try to keep it consistent.
2 x 1 mile with 2 min rest, 4-5 x 800 w 1:30 rest ALL AT THE SAME PACE. Yes, this is higher volume than usual but it is NOT a V02max workout. If you’re panicking at the 2nd 800 you’ve gone too fast.
Beginners, do 1 x 1 mile and 2-4 x 800.
Finish with 4 x strides
That is all – see you in the am!