January 12, 2012

Lazarus, Introduction to Second Act

I didn't make a New Year's resolution, but if I had it would have gone something like, Don't be a pussy in 2012.

So here we are, two weeks into 2012 and 13 weeks before the Boston Marathon, and I'm already a pussy.

I'm hiding out from the track.

Here's the deal. When I first started running I read something like, don't laugh, a dozen books about how to run. One of the best was Brad Hudson's Run Faster. It's great because it says over and over how you have to keep your training program responsive and flexible to the needs of your body. (And it has sample training schedules - which I of course blindly follow regardless of my body.)

But Hudson led me astray in one critical aspect: he doesn't believe in periodization.

Actually, I don't believe in it either. And it's not that Hudson doesn't periodize, it's just he doesn't do it in linear fashion.  Most training programs divide the weeks into distinct periods with a different emphasis in each. Pete Pfitzinger, for example, has endurance, lactate threshold, and specific endurance phases, pushing one neurophysiological adaptation at a time.

Hudson overlaps and overlays the phases, so that even in a week where you concentrate on endurance he'll have you doing at least some speed, hills, and lactate threshold. "I believe it's extremely important never to allow any single aspect of your running fitness to fall too far behind the others in your training, because they are all so deeply interdependent."

Right? Interdependent! What could go wrong?

For two marathon cycles I dove right in. As I very methodically upped my mileage I also did light hill work, some speedwork, and a tempo run or two every week. Inevitably, about four weeks in, some muscle would tense up and refuse to let go, which kept me off the road for at least a week. I backed off the mileage.

The fact is, I was that formerly rare bird, the masters novice. I didn't run in high school or college. I was over forty. Hell, my running career was less than a year old when I ran my first marathon. So the kind of ramp-up that might work fine for even a hardened masters runner or a novice in his 20's broke me down too much.

Now I'm in my fourth year of running, sure, but I'm coming off a six month break followed by a low-mileage season.

So for this year's Boston Marathon I'm training old school. I'm upping my miles without trackwork for a few weeks and laying off the hills (as much as anyone can who lives at the top of a hill). I had planned to hit the track every Tuesday, but now I'm doing medium-long runs instead.

I still believe it's better to overlap training stimuli to stay fit. But I guess, like Hudson keeps trying to tell me, you have to be flexible. Even if that makes you a pussy.

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