Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Running distractions

I was talking to another runner over Christmas break.  He mentioned that he was trying to minimize all of the trappings that come with running that are not running.  He wanted a running experience that was pure:  no mental energy spent on the sport outside of the run itself.  This “naked running” ideal, where all you need are your feet and a desire to run, sounds so zen.  To run for the sake of running, without pace, without plan, without distraction is this almost holy pursuit.

And when I compare that ideal to my running, my watch, my hydration belt, my mapmyrun routes, my trainingpeaks evaluations, it feels like my training is missing the point.  Shouldn’t I just run for the love of running?

At the time, I said I didn’t think my goals could be met with that sort of training.  But what I felt was that my running was inferior to the naked run.  But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize that, for me, part of the joy of running is the accoutrement.  It’s the planning.  It’s the evaluation.  It’s executing the details perfectly for the optimal training.  

If you don’t read Mother Running Rampant, you must.  I LOVE her blog.  She is a far better runner and writer than I am.  Last week, she posted about being less ambitious in her running and how that’s counter to her experience:

My intrinsic love of this sport is shrink-wrapped in minutes, seconds, and that lovely little colon in between them. I’ve tried taking off the wrapping, but as when removing food packaging, that just makes my insides start to turn.

I read that, and I thought “EXACTLY.”

For me a run includes:

  • Reviewing the plan from my coach.  
  • Selecting out a route.  I have some standard routes (10 mile loop around the Mystic lakes, 2.5 miles to the river then loops, out and back on the bike path), but regardless some thought and sometimes some online mapping goes into route selection.  This step often includes reviewing similar workouts in the last month to get the most accurate expected pace.
  • Planning a time (sometimes with a buddy).
  • Checking the weather and making apparel choices: heavy gloves, thin gloves, no gloves; earband, thin hat, thick hat; pants, capris, shorts; tank top, shirt, long sleeved shirt, windbreaker, insulated jacket.
  • Programming watch with workout (optional).  Depending on the type of workout, I may program my watch so it alerts me when my HR exceeds or falls behind the desired window
  • Preparing nutrition.  Water, sports drink, gel and how to carry all of these
  • Selecting safety gear.  Road ID, reflective vest, blinkies, headlamp, if it’s dark, T pass and money if it’s a long run.
  • Entertainment:  I used to listen to music on my ipod.  For a while I was trying to select music with the right beat to keep my cadence up.  But, as tri season got underway and many of my runs were part of a brick, adding headphones just got in the way.  I spent the summer running mostly without audio input.  With marathon training demanding longer and longer runs, I’ve started listening to podcasts.  It gives me some distraction when the going gets tough but is also easy to tune out if need be.
  • Reporting and analysis of the workout.  I upload my workout to trainingpeaks and provide feedback to my coach on how it went.

The funny thing is all that prep is what allows me to focus on my run when I’m out there.  I’m not distracted by the weather or deterred by having to make route planning decisions.  Once I’m out there, the running is pure and and the preparation makes it perfect.

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