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July 3, 2006

Return of the Tempo

Before today’s post, I wanted to wrap up a few loose ends related to some recent posts...

* I watched the finish of Portugal’s shootout victory over England on Saturday. I had thought that England’s exit from the tournament would be reason to mercilessly heckle my British friends during our next few runs – but after seeing the heartbreaking fashion that they lost...well, I don’t think I’ll have the heart to do it. I mean, I was bummed for those players after watching it. I just can’t imagine how disappointed real Englanders must feel.

So now I’ll probably pass on a ideal opportunity to sharpen one of my primary talents. You know, sometimes I hate having a conscience.

* I wrote an entire article about devising a cool nickname without thinking of my 5-year-old daughter. She has a toy killer whale that she named Kindkill, because, in her words, “He’s kind, but he'll kill you.” Talk about a cool nickname for an athlete. And she was four years old when she thought of this. Sometimes I reach way too far for creative inspiration, when it’s sitting right under my nose all along.

* People have suggested that Hoot and Ringo might like sharing a cage, since doves are known to be highly social animals, and since they clearly like spending the day talking to each other. We asked the birds’ owner about this, and she said that when she kept them in the same cage, they fought with each other constantly.

Apparently they couldn’t get along together without bickering and dragging each other down, but since they were separated, they’ve each become happy in their own environment, and they seem to respect each other again. Perhaps we should have renamed them Shaq and Kobe.

* Our kids’ bedrooms are down a hallway, and they sleep with their doors shut, so luckily the doves don’t often wake them up in the mornings. Plus, it’s one of those weird type of sounds that isn’t enough to wake you up on its own, but once you are awake it’s impossible to ignore.

* Finally, Robb Runner, I’ve reported you to PETA on suspicion of avicide. (PETA has a Canadian branch, don’t they? Do they ride on horseback like the RCMP, or does that go against their philosophy?) That story about your bird's "unexpected" death seemed a little too convenient.

OK, enough of that. On with the real post…

I wrote to Matt last week about the importance of event-specific training. Namely, to succeed at a particular event, your training must feature workouts that replicate the conditions your body will experience during the race. If you are doing an ultra, practice long, slow runs on hilly terrain. If you are marathon training, run a lot of miles near marathon pace; and so on. The physiological rationale is that the body gradually adapts to specific strains placed upon it.

Unfortunately, the body also tends to forget these accommodations quite rapidly, as I demonstrated over the weekend.

I set out on my 4-mile tempo run course that I do on a regular basis while marathon training. I run it at a speed somewhere between 10K and marathon pace. It’s a difficult workout, but I can usually sustain a steady effort and maintain a strong pace throughout.

This weekend, the workout just destroyed me.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this particular run. It has been three weeks since the Dipsea Race, and since that time I’ve done a lot of biking, swimming, and easy trail running - but nothing excessively strenuous. I certainly haven't been slacking, but I also haven't done any hard running in quite a while.

The first mile of my tempo run felt pretty typical, as I set out at a pace that felt difficult but sustainable. During the second mile, the effort increased a bit, but my pace dropped significantly.

In the third mile, I realized my tank was pretty much out of gas, and in the final mile, instead of pushing hard to the finish, it was all I could do just to keep my legs moving. Several times I felt like walking, but I somehow struggled through it and kept running to the end. My time was the slowest I’ve done for this workout in 2006, by almost 30 seconds.

The obvious take-home lesson is that I need to do more tempo runs again. It also highlights some of the difficulty in transitioning from a pure runner to a triathlete. Even though your overall volume of training remains high, it’s easy to overlook specific workouts that eventually erode the abilities you had as a pure runner.

And I suppose a lot of triathletes - well-adjusted triathletes, less neurotic triathletes - either don’t notice, or don’t lament the fact that their race pace is 15-20 seconds per mile slower than when they were dedicated runners. But it bugs the crap out of this triathlete.

So there’s one more item on my to-do list now, in addition to the miles on the bike and laps in the pool and continuing track workouts and everything else I’m trying to cram into a finite amount of hours.

My mindset is that I won’t compromise my running standards while I’m transforming into a triathlete. I know it may not be realistic, but it will surely keep me driven.

And when it comes to producing results, I think that's the most important factor.


robtherunner 7/3/06, 12:04 PM  

As long as you are keeping the running as a priority we will give your tri-phase each year. I still would rather see an ultra phase, but I know you're your own person.

backofpack 7/3/06, 1:11 PM  

See what happens when you forsake your true love?

It'll be interesting to see if you can get that running time up with all the extra tri training. Keep us posted!

Darrell 7/3/06, 5:13 PM  

that's hilarious that you called Robb out on the suspicion of avicide.

All this mental aguish over 30 seconds, you are one driven dude and a true inspiration.

matt 7/4/06, 4:49 PM  

i have to keep going back to your advice, donald. i have been mixing things up quite a bit during my training during the week, but need to focus on long, slow hilly trail runs during the weekends.

do you think there could have been other factors not related to triathlon training that could have slowed you down? is it difficult to maintain your peak marathon shape while you are training hard on the bike and in the pool? if you worked out harder on your runs, would that impact your performance on the bike and swim? are you pretty balanced between all three or do you pass a lot of folks in one particular section? sorry for all of the questions...you know me :)

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