Wednesday, September 10, 2014

When is giving up the sensible choice?

I have a problem with running on the track. I never go anywhere. I walk down a flight of stairs from where I park, and after that I am never more than a hundred yards from my car. I see it whenever I look up there. Pleasant, unassuming, not calling any attention to itself. Waiting for me like a well heeled dog.

Sometimes I go up and down the straight part of the track, sometimes I do full laps. The beauty of this arrangement is that I can custom fit the workout duration to my situation. The bad part is that I can custom fit the workout duration to how I feel. Lately, the result has been to cut it short.

Most of my runs are on the road, and these are always out-and-back or, occasionally, a big loop. If I should break down out there I have a long walk back to the start, but that never happens to me. My shoes never go flat from a glass shard. I never spin off on a wet manhole cover and end up covered with road rash. I never even cramp up. The worst thing that has happened on a run lately is when my heart rate monitor strap acted up. The great thing about running out-and-back routes is, I cannot cut it short. At least not anywhere near the end.

This morning my plan was to do a set of run drills, then finish with a four lap run, alternating one lap recovery with one at tempo. I would already be mostly warmed up, so I had it as cruise - tempo - recovery - tempo, followed by just enough recovery. Four laps, plus a bit at the end.

The drills went really well. So well that I repeated some. Balance is still an issue so I spent extra time on the marching drills, and with cadence still an major issue I did extra Fast Feet and A-Skip drills.  The result of all this extra time was that by the time I was ready to run the parking lot was filling up. Officially I am supposed to be out of there by 7:30, but when it comes to parking I am a squatter and I do not want to have my car towed or clamped. So it is 7:00 and I'm thinking I need to go. But I wanted to run.

I started out nice and easy, and felt so good I decided to kick it up on the first lap. Make it warm-up-and-tempo and lap one, then a lap of recovery, then a tempo. Done in three laps. By the halfway point of the first lap my HR was way up in zone 4; way too high, and my respiration agreed. I had gone out too fast. I'll take that as I sign of being stronger. So I slowed down, walked a bit, but finished at a tempo pace so that I could record myself with my GoPro. Yes, I had the remote. I did the second lap better but still had to back way off mid way around.

At the end of the second lap my mind was going crazy with excuses to stop. The parking. The traffic -- I'll be late to work. I've done enough. I don't want to end up injured. Yada yada yada. I did the third lap, but again nothing like what I planned. I felt fine and yet I was not running well. Too fast, recover, too fast. That was it. I was out of there by 7:15.

I just checked my Garmin. Splits for those laps were 3:20, 3:57, 4:24. You can see I was slowing down, but then I was not running or walking for any set distance or time, nothing like my plan.

A week from this Saturday I have a time trial. LTHR test. The last two I've done, on the same track, I cut short. I know I got plenty of data, but the plan calls for a fifteen minute warm up into high zone 3 then running all out for thirty minutes. The TT HR data is taken from the last twenty minutes. This method was developed back in the day of simple, non-recording heart rate monitors; every lap the runner would call out the value to an assistant taking notes on a clipboard, so twenty minutes gave just enough data points to be useful. My Garmin records data at one sample per second, and I can plot the results on Garmin Connect or Training Peaks. I can see that my HR during the test is very flat, and it isn't going to change if I run another ten minutes. My pace might slow down but my HR will be flat, and that is what matters.

But wait. The deal was fourty-five minutes, the last thirty all out. Isn't cutting it short just whimping out? Even if I have my data, shouldn't I use the occasion to practice mental tenacity? So what my legs ache? So what my mouth is dry? I really should finish the deal.

Should I? I already had what I came for. I will not be running my marathon anywhere near this pace or intensity. Doing so now presents a significant risk of injury. I am all about minimizing the risk of injury, but not to the point where it compromises my success.

Today, I am determined to finish my next TT, even if I know I have good data. I know my mind will go crazy with excuses to quit early, like I know I will be able to look up and see my car, silently taunting me. Yes, I can go whenever I feel like it. The question is, will I?

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