To borrow a term from my good friend Mike Kahn, I am in what you might call “Fun-Run Shape” right now. If I were to say, lie about being older than 10 and signing up for the children’s dash that comes after a local 5K, I could win if the conditions are right and Usain Bolt’s children (not sure if he has any) aren’t also in the race. It’s a good place to be. I’m not complaining.
To get out of fun run shape and back into local 5K shape, I am doing something I normally don’t recommend. I’m coaching myself. Let me preface this by saying I am a strong proponent of having a coach. Any runner who wants to take training and racing seriously should find someone to fill that role; even really smart runners. It’s more for a dissenting opinion than anything else. Someone to give you the OK to take a day off or someone to look at the big picture and adjust accordingly. I find that runners tend to get caught up in the “right now” instead of the “two weeks from now”. It often takes an objective voice to keep us from doing something stupid.
I am only coaching myself until I graduate from the Fun Run Phase. I have been injured more than my fair share in the past four years. But, I have made sure to turn each of those injuries into a positive learning experience. In doing such and through trial and error, I have become sort of an expert on how my body recovers and how it adapts to running after an extended period of time off my feet. I’ve taken the “jump right back into it approach” and pulled my calf and I’ve taken the “low volume/high speed” approach and pulled a very large and painful muscle in my back. Now, I know the cues.
Patience. This week, I finally topped 50 miles. It’s my seventh week of running. In my first week, I ran six miles. To say I’m being conservative is like calling “Call Me Maybe” “Slightly Catchy.” But it has worked. No Garmin. No expectations and working off a “training plan” that is day-to-day instead of month to month. For someone who craves structure, this is a tough adjustment. There are some basic rules. I set a mileage goal, the type of workout or workouts and one long run. Then, I try to color in between the lines with whatever crayon looks best for the overall picture.
Some key runs have helped me arrive at Fun Run Shape. A three-mile tempo last week at an average of 5:35 pace didn’t blow anyone’s doors off, but was encouraging. Two double-digit runs that both included significant pickups have been key to restoring endurance. As the distance and the intensity increases, I hope to feel and see a transition, and then put it to the test in the fall. I’m going to toe the line at a couple of Cross Country races to get used to racing, then shoot for a 5K PR the day before the New York City Marathon. I’ll need a coach for that though, because that’s about the time I get crazy and irrational with my training.