Time vs. Distance: A Shift In Focus

Posted: July 13, 2012 in Run
Tags: ,

I hate him.

Ridiculously Photogenic Guy

Where does he get off looking so good?  What I wouldn’t give to have, like, even a minute fraction of his seemingly effortless smile at any point in my own events.  Lord knows that, even at the best of times, I closer resemble Clyde the orangutan when I run.

This recent photo of a ‘Ridiculously Photogenic Guy’ taken during a Charleston, N.C. 10k  race has recently gone viral and, with it, the notion that running is, somehow, enjoyable.  And where it may be tolerable and *ahem*  fun for some, it’s definitely not for this guy…particularly lately.

Lately, it’s about going long – for hours on end – and it’s very doubtful that I will ever successfully achieve any degree of ‘looking good’ while doing it.  If you were to take my picture, I’d probably fall somewhere between the walking dead and someone in the throes of a full on cardiac arrest.  But be that as it may, I still have to get ‘er done.  And this is becoming quite the challenge, largely because there also has to be a shift in my mental focus now from the pace and distances that I’m accustomed to completing, to simply that of running for time.

For example, while I was training for half iron distances in previous years, I would practice at a specific distance (21.1k) and then maintaining what I thought was my half marathon running pace throughout and, maybe, even improving on that pace.  But now, I’m training to do that distance twice (off a 180k  bike ride no less)…something I have never attempted before.   This will be a completely new experience and realm of ‘suckitude’.  Realistically, this could equate to four (or more) hours of running just to cap off the day.  Fuck me.  Even at the Around the Bay 30k events I have competed in so far, the longest I’ve ever run has been 2:39:04 and – believe me – that was hard!  How I am going to manage another 12.2k  (or another hour plus) beats the living shit out of me.  I must be an idiot.  But therein lays my greatest challenge now.

I have to learn to trust that all those mid-season tempo runs and speed workouts have provided me the base for my long distance endeavors at this point, and now rely on that training to carry me through these long training days.  With my focus now shifting to that of time versus a specific distance or pace, my legs, while having no idea how far they have actually traveled, must become painfully aware and equipped to deal with every minute of it.

But it’s not easy.  Should I ever glance at my Garmin at any stage in my long run I begin to immediately feel frustrated and disappointed with myself.  Why am I going so slowly?  I should be about 3k  ahead at this point?  Am I totally tanking here or what?  My mind is a flurry of doubt given that, up until this point in my three years of training, I have trained to maintain a particular pace or distance.  Now, I am trying to push beyond that mentality and accept that to go longer, I also have to go slower and that equates to more time.  After all, I’m no Crowie.

Part of this whole difficulty of focus falls back to the decision I made earlier this year not to marathon prior to my Ironman event in September.  I figured then that the demands of a ‘standalone’ marathon bear little resemblance to that of a marathon following a 3.8  kilometer swim and 180  kilometers on the bike – the only real similarity is the actual distance covered.  I still believe that.  The way I preferred to think about it, was to consider triathlon as one sport, not three individual sports.  Therefore, I have to train to be a triathlete, not a swimmer, cyclist and runner, and in keeping with that perspective, I now have to shift my training to be more time-based, not distance specifically. In the pool and on the bike, I am finding this easier, but running?  No so much.

The best I can do at this point, is hide my Garmin (or not wear it altogether) and, instead, just run to my stop watch.  If the schedule calls for two and a half hours, then so be it; three hours, let’s get ‘er done.  Who cares what the pace is or how much distance I’ve covered.  The challenge now is to simply go forward, not necessarily how fast I am doing it, or look while doing it for that matter.  Easier said than done though.  But, hopefully, I am successfully training my legs to deal with the rigors of running to the point of collapse and then, continue to push on.

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