Positive Derivative

Wouldn’t it be nice if running was predictable? If all the work you put in determined exactly what you got out. If, for example, a great workout always meant you were ready to run fast in the near future. Or if taking some down time always made you actually feel better. In short, if running was logical… If inexactly equaled out. But it doesn’t all the time. Call it what you want – a coefficient of chaos or a white noise term. It’s a deviation from expectation. Sometimes you’ll be above average, often below, and occasionally you’ll run about how you thought you could. I think that’s why people compare running to life. Because no matter how hard you try o control it, a certain piece will always be unpredictable. Celebrate the favorable outliers. But don’t dwell on the individual shitty ones. The goal should be to minimize the fluctuation and keep your average performance sloping upwards.

Check out the lap (400m) splits from my most recent 5000 in Palo Alto, California. You don’t have be good at math or know the first thing about running to see what happened:
64 64 64 64 63 64 65 65 65 65 71 72

I died. Payed the pied piper. Bonked. Blew Up. Contracted a case of Rigamortus Rex. I had been on pace for 13:25 and ended with 13:44, far off the US “A” standard of 13:32.

Looking more closely, however, I draw some positives. Up until 4k in, the pacing was impeccable (thanks Donn) Instead of tailing off the pace with a few 67s and a 69, the guillotine came down, taking me straight from 65 to 71, and that’s fairly unusual. Apparently I lost my head and forgot that there was another kilometer left. More likely, I was so dialed in against the pain that it took a tidal wave of fatigue to knock me over, and when it did crest over and fall it really pitted me. The upshot is that I made it 80% of the way to a great run. That last fifth can be fixed.

When I look at my trajectory’s derivative (can’t help but be a nerd), where I’m going, I’m very much encouraged. Two weeks before this race I ran 14:11 at Mt. Sac. Right now I’m fluctuating widely in my performance, but the average is definitely rising. By the end of the season I’d like to run more predictably by tuning out the white noise. I have a concrete plan for doing so.

We got to work this week with a ten mile progression run out on beautiful Todd Road, one of the few truly flat places to run that distance in the Blowing Rock / Boone, NC area. At a mild altitude of 3850 feet, Todd follows the New River basin and curves through forest and farmland. I ended up averaging 5:18 / mile with a few slower miles to start. The last couple miles were both 5:01 but weren’t easy, confirming my need for this type of run. We’ll keep strength sessions like these in our routine well into the year. I think a lot of people make the mistake of removing them prematurely in the racing season, and lose the backbone of the strength they need to finish well.

With no races until the Music City Mile in Nashville on June 7th, I’ve deemed this month “Momentum May” because the next few weeks are about stoking the fires of aerobic fitness before returning to racing in June and July. That means a few weeks of solid volume in the 90-100 range, some longer long runs, and a few good hilly efforts in addition to the event specific interval sessions we do on the track and grass. It also means getting in the habit of attacking the secondary but very important supplemental activities from now until the end of track season.

As I’ve become more and more settled into a life at Zap dedicated to running, the days have gone by surprisingly fast. I’m not spending any more time actually on my feet running than I ever did while I additionally had commitments to school or work. Yet the days get filled with the little things that support that running. A big conversation at Zap this year has been about nutrition and hydration. It’s one thing to understand the top level view of what and when to eat and drink, but it’s another to know how to use that information in your individual diet. What to bring to the end of a run. What to eat when you wake up; what not to eat when taking iron. How much to eat, when, and in what carb/protein amounts to maximize recovery. If I can eek out an extra 0.5% from a workout because I had food and hydration ready to go, awesome. It’s something I never did a good job of before this.

Coming out of Momentum May the racing starts and doesn’t stop until August for me. The next two races will be a mile in Nashville followed by a 5k at Portland Track Festival. Then there’s the US Outdoor Championships in Sacramento after which I’ll head to Europe again for some overseas racing. Here’s to keeping things moving upwards!

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