With the [nice] weather, I decided to occasionally push on the gas a bit today. Not too hard, and so maybe not hard enough. I was chewing on this today during one of the push sections of this fartlek. I used to be able to really make myself hurt. I mean, I could drive myself to a point of really breaking. Not actually breaking but really leaving myself worked over. I recall track workouts where I sat in the car for a 45 minutes afterwards unable to do anything. Probably too much (I had races like this too). Now, it seems that I have forgotten how to do that. Not only that, I seem to avoid it, and get a bit scared when I even get within 5 zip codes of it. Or HR zones of it.Man, where do I go with this? I have always been a very intense person. My intensity has been both a strength and weakness in terms of how I live (just ask my wife) and how I run. I am rarely "relaxed." I love the feeling I get after a super hard workout, when I'm totally wiped out and depleted. Like GZ, I'll push it hard now and then. In races, I'll go deep into the pain cave. And like GZ, I can remember some vicious workouts where I pushed myself to the brink. Mile repeats at the Chagrin Falls High School track back in Cleveland come to mind. Here in Parker, I've put in my fair share of envelope-pushing tempo runs and track sessions. I've tasted blood going hard up the Incline (last summer's 26-minute effort comes to mind) and climbing steep mountain trails. But, over time, the number of intense sessions I put in has gone down--and for good reason. I am afraid of injury. I've been injured enough to know that it sucks big time not being able to run!
These days, as I'm now 40 and only a few months from 41, I know I can still perform at a good level (relative to my abilities) but I have to be judicious about when I put it on the line. Unlike when I was 35 or 36, it's hard now to get in a really intense workout on Tuesday and then again on Thursday (my old formula), on the heels of long runs on Saturday and Sunday, without some recovery issues piling up on me over the course of a training block. Whereas I used to be regimented and force myself to do certain things on certain days (which isn't smart!), these days I keep my running a bit more fluid. When training for something, like now as I'm beginning to ramp up for my spring and summer races, I try to do at least one tempo run and one long run a week. If my body is up for it, I'll squeak in some fartleks or intervals on other days. But, for me, the key now is listening to my body--there are days when I feel beat up and so I run at MAF or even slightly below MAF. These days, I don't even need a heart rate monitor to know I'm at MAF; I just know.
I know that when it counts I can bare down and go into the pain cave. I just can't go into the pain cave as much as I used to because it'll land me on the injured reserve list. And then there's the even bigger issue: What will this do to me in a few years? I want to be able to enjoy life and be mobile. At some point, I know I'm going to have to really scale back my training and start mixing in lower-impact stuff like cycling (I was obsessed with my bike as a kid). The last thing I want is to be a broken down old man at 50! So I have to be smart and avoid risky training practices that could take me down. It's taken me a few years to figure that out. I'm glad I did!
Here's to a healthy 2014 racing season!