Saturday, September 10, 2011

Change is good, right?

It's back to school time in our area, and for our household that means both kids are in school - at least part time. With the little guy starting three-day-a-week pre-school this past week, my running schedule has changed for the first time in years. While I have always done two mid-week runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I suddenly find myself needing to complete these runs on Wednesdays and Fridays. This has had a domino effect on my weekend runs, the consequences of which I have yet to figure out.

Before, with the Tuesday/Thursday schedule, I was able to do back-to-back runs on the weekend on Saturday and Sunday. That worked out pretty well for me. I didn't always take advantage of that, but when I did, inevitably one of those days would be my long run, and the other day would be some easy miles - usually on trails, often in my Vibrams. Now, with the Wednesday/Friday schedule, I am not sure what will happen. For the short term, i.e., before my October marathon, that will mean long runs on Sundays with no easy miles Saturday. After the marathon, we'll have to see what happens. The logical thing would be to do those easy miles on Monday. However, since I already have yoga on Mondays during Ian's pre-school and since I was hoping to do some swimming after that, I don't see how the "easy" miles would work. Also, with pre-school, trail running is definitely out. Ah well, food for thought.

Those are the negatives. As for the positives, for the first time in years, I am no longer under the gun to finish those mid-week runs within a certain timeframe. The downside of my Tuesday/Thursday runs had always been that I was either getting up before the crack of dawn to get in a quick 30-40 minute run, or I was dropping Ian off at a Y class and then running - again, hurriedly (note I didn't say quickly) - so that I could get back on time for his class to be done. With this new schedule, I have a luxurious two hours and fifteen minutes to do what I want. I have fantasies of building up to two-hour runs mid-week, although I am sure that is not advised somehow. Just the idea that I could do it is enough to make my heart go pitter-pat.

So far, for this last long week before taper begins, that meant that I could head out for 45 minutes of running (the max I allowed myself under the old schedule) with not a care in the world - completely and utterly relaxed. Strangely, I think this longer time slot has had a positive impact on my times. This thought occured to me as I was reading Johathan Beverly's Editor's Note in the October issue of Running Times. In talking about trail running and the positive benefits of letting go and the pursuit of innocence, he refers to the ability to be "unself-conscious" as something to work towards. He states, "[Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow] argues that self-consciousness blocks the ability to achieve flow, for as soon as you worry whether you'll live up to your expectations or what others think of you, you withdraw from the focus of the task to defend your ego." Where running is concerned, I interpret this to mean that if you get all worried about how you are going to do, you're more likely to choke.

I see some evidence of this in how my mid-week runs have been going. All summer long I have had to squeeze in three to four-mile runs, always conscious of the fact that I needed to be somewhere else before long. Perhaps as a result, I have struggled to get through these runs, and my times have been awful - even for me. I have been consistently disappointed with runs that have averaged out to 10-11 minute-per-mile pace. And, I haven't understood why they've been so slow. Shorter runs should be faster, right? Well, by contrast, during my two runs this past week, I have floated through 4.5 or more miles each day, feeling like I could run longer, with an average pace of almost a minute-per-mile faster. So, maybe there is some truth to relaxation leading to better running. If you can drop your expectations and truly not worry about how the run is going - just lose yourself in the moment without worrying about what is next - then maybe you run better. I don't know, but I look forward to exploring the possibility in the months to come.

Anyway, that sounds better than the other option, which is just that the weather has been better lately - in which case winter will soon slow me down again.

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