In which I follow a training plan

As regular followers of this blog know, I suck am well known for my infatuation with any and all alcoholic substances ability to train hard. Therefore it came as a surprise of momentous proportions no surprise a few weeks ago when I took on a running coach reluctantly enthusiastically took me on and assigned me a half marathon training plan.

I’m now into my third week of working with my legs are well and truly fried. Oh, that’s not Project PB’s fault. As always, I must accept all the blame.

Not that that’s so unusual: my entire life has been a recitation of guilt – but I won’t get into the details here (and stop pleading; it’s very unbecoming, really).

The hardest part hasn’t been the easy runs or marathon pace workouts – heavens, no, those are far beyond my capability – but rather the recovery runs. How in hell am I supposed to run that fast? You call that recovery?!!

Seriously, the first week of the program went to hell. I had to teach seven spin classes that week. Not surprisingly, I failed to hit the mark on a couple of workouts.

My second week, Coach Greg chewed me out for burning my semi-long Tuesday run at marathon pace. “You miserable weakling,” he said. “If you blow a hamstring trying to run with marathoners a good 15 minutes faster than you, you’ll destroy my reputation.”

Actually, Greg didn’t say that at all. He cautioned me about running too hard, too soon in my plan and observed early on I might feel great, but that the miles could catch up with me later.

It feels good to be back training, to be following a plan. I love aimless running, the freedom of setting out with no pace, time or distance in mind. But when you’re competitive, that works for only so long. Pretty soon the urge to run with purpose, to push yourself a little more every run, comes over you.

That’s where a structured plan can help. For one thing, it’s mindlessly easy to wake up every day, look at the plan and go: that’s my run today. On the other hand, things happen. You don’t complete the workout. Or your legs aren’t what they should be, so you switch stuff around. I think that flexibility can work, so long as you don’t try and cram hard workouts back-to-back, or skip them altogether to lay on the couch and eat potato chips while you watch Boston Marathon replays (not that I would ever do such a thing).

Plans also give you purpose. They remind you, not so much why you’re running – that’s a much more complicated topic – but the goals you’ve set for yourself. A particular pleasure ensues when after a particularly tough run you get to return home and check off that day on your plan. It’s sweet.

I do that pretty much every day.

Am I getting faster? Well, if today was any indication…uh, well…at least I didn’t collapse. Today called for seven km recovery, which is a ridiculous goal in Westwood Hills. My friend  Bruce gamely slowed down to a plod to keep me company as we trotted up and down the clear roads on what felt like one of the very early days of spring. The sun beamed down on us; the wind decided it would visit some other locale this fine day; and we could do away with hats and gloves – a sure sign better weather and finer running must be around the corner.

A splendid summer may just be in store.


About subthree

A multiple award-winning journalist, I'm currently a contributing editor with both Canadian Running and Canadian Cycling magazines. My articles have appeared in Explore, Canadian Geographic, enRoute, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, and many other magazines and newspapers. Formerly a competitive cross-country mountain biker, I switched to running in 2006. I've run seven marathons, qualifying for Boston five times (and which I've run once). Generally, I've placed or won in my age group in races, in distances ranging from five and 10 kms to half and full marathons. I've also taught spin classes at a number of leading Eastern Canadian gyms. Sub-three was a 2012 #Runchat finalist for Best Overall Blog.
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