Marathon Training Journal: Day 18 – Hill Sprints
There was no reason to dread my hill sprints this morning. The bigger issue was how tired I feel right now. Well, this workout whipped me and I didn't even get through the whole thing. The funny part is that it wasn't the hills that got me. My run didn't fall apart as much as I never really got it together.
To add to the weirdness, the hill sprints I did complete were better than any I've done before. Yet the run, in terms of overall feel and more, totally sucked.
Trying to Motivate Myself
This isn't a post about motivation. It's not about positivity or anything with a feel-good factor. I'm talking about reality. My hill sprint workout today sucked. Yet it was an excellent training exercise.
Being positive may give you more peace, but it doesn't solve every problem. It's also very easy to look in the wrong places for the silver linings; they aren't always in the places you train yourself to look.
You'd think after last night when the run I didn't feel like doing turned out to be great that I'd be perfectly positioned to motivate myself. You would be wrong. You see, yesterday my mind was too tired to think about getting dressed for a run. Physically, I didn't really feel that bad.
This morning was different. My mind was trying to be logical and realistic at the same time. I know I'm tired. Even if it takes an extra mile or two, most of the time I get into it and then everything is fine.
Setting Up To Fail
This morning I was trying to address today's challenge with yesterday's philosophy. It didn't work. Today is a different day and the tough bits are not the same. In my defense, at 5 am it's not realistic to expect my rational side to fully engage.
I didn't think anything of it at the time, but most of the first 5 miles were spent pretty much wrapped up in everything going on from the outside. It was particularly humid. The heat felt more oppressive than usual. My mind wanted to go to sleep. Tight calves had my attention and it was my own fault for not rolling them last night. None of these factors are unusual for me. I deal with them regularly and usually more than one at a time.
In hindsight, what stood out today is that I was completely focused on them and never really let go of one gripe without locking onto another one.
When Fast is Slow
I ignored pace for the first four miles. They are supposed to be easy by effort, not by pace anyway. I think they may have been my slowest miles in over a year, but I didn't check the pace at the time. All I know is that they felt like way too much effort for slow miles. I threw in one more, hoping I would get into it because the next mile was meant to be comfortably hard.
Well there was nothing comfortable about any of these miles. None of them. My so-called hard effort mile was slower than the previous one that should have been in the ‘easy' category. I got to the base of the hill. I only needed to do six hill sprints.
“Only six,” I reasoned. And after the first one there would just be five … I could do this.
Of course I could do this. I didn't feel like it, but I was pouring with sweat, needed a shower and the clothes would have to be washed anyway, so I may as well just do it.
Great Hill Sprints with Recovery Flaws
I just wanted to get this workout over and done.
The first sprint didn't feel too bad. I looked down at my lap time and had a 5:45 for the 60 second rush to the top. I could live with that.
The second sprint gave me exactly the same reading. So did the third one. My body was actually feeling a bit better. The quicker pace was either spacing me out through lack of oxygen to the brain or things were getting better today. When I hit the fourth sprint with the same time it was almost too good to be true. Consistency. That's what I wanted from this workout when I ran through the plan last night.
Exercising My Right to Quit
On my recovery walk/jog back down I realized my shoulders were slumping and my feet and ankles were a bit sloppy. You know when you've had a long day and you're dead on your feet? That shuffle where you don't pick up your feet and you kind of sway side to side? Yes, that one. That's what I caught myself doing.
I had a perfect solution for this: I'm done.
A year ago I would have seen this as a failed workout attempt. I didn't finish it. That's how I know I've made progress. This is how the rough days give you results. Did the run feel good? Hell, no! It was hard, everything felt like and effort and just when things were going well, I had to stop.
So why was this a success? Well, as a workout in itself, it wasn't. But there is a line that gets very hazy where you learn the difference between pushing yourself to improve and cutting the run when a red flag shows up. Spotting the warning signs is something that I have learned to do. It doesn't necessarily mean quit for the day, but it's my cue to reassess what I am trying to achieve and the likely benefits and potential risks. You don't learn this stuff out of a book.
The Fuzzy Line Between Good and Evil
It' can be hard to define when it's good to push and when it's time to stop. Part of the problem is that the line that separates the two moves. This means being tuned in to your purpose for the day and how the workout fits into the big picture becomes your guide. In theory that isn't so hard. In reality? It's more than just a little challenge and you don't always know when you made the right decision.
During my last marathon training cycle I would have done things differently. I would have pushed harder and made sure I finished my workout. Had I done what I did today, there may have been a sense of guilt or failure associated with the decision.
This is how I determined the logic behind finishing my run early today.
Bad form is a red flag
It's a sign that I'm either too tired or have lost focus. This pushes me into higher risk for injury through bad posture. I am not toying with injury. Failing to get to the start line for the sake of a sense of satisfaction or boasting that I toughed it out through a difficult session (which I won't remember by the end of 16 weeks) is just arrogant and stupid. I'm over that.
What do I stand to lose from ditching this run?
The speed work is important, but burning myself out today will risk tomorrow's long run. My long run is more important to me than my hill sprints. At least this week they are. Most of the time this is going to be the case, unless it becomes a pattern; in which case I would need to reassess my priorities. This is the first time I've dumped part of a speed session. I'm good. I want my long run tomorrow.
I'm done for today.
What do I from going home now?
If I'm getting sloppy, there are bigger issues going on here. Maybe I need more rest. Perhaps I'm not well hydrated. I don't regret that I tried today, but I don't care if I don't finish. That in itself is a strong signal that I've done what I can and anything else has little or no gain, other than a feel-good factor. I didn't feel good on this run, so that last one isn't going to cut it.
Spotting the Good Points
Very rarely do I gain nothing from trying. Today, the key was knowing when to pack it in while there was still some benefit in trying my best.
I did try my best today and I gave the run more than a fair chance to turn into something great. Actually, it did; just not the way I expected. I was looking purely at the run itself all the way through. I was waiting for that great feeling of accomplishing something, even if it was just feeling good for part of it. That never really happened.
Accepting that I put in my best effort with what I had for the day is an accomplishment in itself. Bringing myself to a place where I could acknowledge that is not always as easy.
Soggy Buried Treasure and Cold Apple Juice to the Rescue
I was walking back towards home and tugged at my FlipBelt which was a bit twisted around my hips. Hmm … that's not a key. I slipped my thumb into the opening and felt paper. It was damp from my sweaty belt, but as I poked my index finger in there and grabbed at the edges, I remembered that I had a couple of dollar bills in there from yesterday. There's a 7 Eleven just behind me. Cold juice!
I turned around and crossed the street, back-tracking a little. Feeling a little sheepish in my less than presentable state, I wiped my dripping arms on my tank top. The gracious clerk didn't blink an eye as she rung up my cold Minute Maid apple juice, took my disgusting cash from me and told me to have a nice day.
I smiled as I walked out, thinking how many nice people are in the world.
Finding Peace With a Decision
Once you make your decision, own it. Don't second guess yourself; it's done. There is, and will be, no guilt trip about today. If anything, I really believe I did the right thing. Whether or not I did is irrelevant. I made the best option with the what I had at the time and I'm not demanding more of myself.
Life is so much bigger than one workout I won't remember. It's not the first time things didn't go to plan. It won't be the last. But it also won't ruin my day and it sure as heck is not going to ruin my long run tomorrow or my marathon in November.
So I smiled for the Suck Fest camera because now that it's over, it really wasn't that bad. And I got cold apple juice and a sunrise. I might just have saved my long run for tomorrow.