Written by Matt Lawder
I’m trying to get back to writing some regular updates from my training to post to the website. I don’t think I’ve written anything for a little over a year. Since my last post, I raced the Twin Cities marathon (not a great day), the Boston marathon (a really good day), and am getting ready to race the New York marathon in a few weeks. I’ll try to write a wrap up on those two races some other time to fill in the gaps between my last post and now, but for now I’ll just talk about what has been happening lately.
I’m racing the New York City marathon on November 1st and have finished all the big workouts and heavy training. With less than three weeks to go, now it’s just about tuning things up and getting rest before the race. It’s always been tough for me to get really well rested before a marathon. You see, I’m a grinder. The grinder’s general philosophy is “make it hurt a little now and I’ll be better for it at the end.” For runners who aren’t injury prone, that’s not a terrible mantra especially early in a training segment. When I’m coming back from an extended break, every run feels long and every workout feels fast, but I just try to press through them. I don’t mean to say go out there and train over your head until you develop a stress fracture, but rather don’t be too conservative early on. I think of it like saving for retirement, the more effort (money in the analogy) you can put in early on in a training phase, the better off you’ll be later. If you’ve ever been around SLUH XC (Class of ’07), we call this “putting the hay in the barn.”
So, I mostly try to just hang on to others in the group and press through the miles until they start feeling easy again. This means suffering through some bad weather (both hot and cold), early mornings when I’m tired, and some paces that I end up getting dropped from. I say stuffering, but a true grinder enjoys these endeavors. A good way to find out if you’re a grinder is to ask yourself if you often start feeling better and stronger during the second half of your runs. I’ll go through a week or two where I feel like garbage the first 50 minutes of every run and think I’m going to get dropped. But suddenly, after I reach the hour mark, my legs freshen up, I catch my second wind and feel great. Grinders are able to stack week after week after week of heavy training together and come out the other side in good shape.
Sometimes I’ll refer to training phases where I know I’m just going to put my head down and try to hit the mileage as my “Get fit quick plan.” It’s a catchy phrase, and sometimes it can appear that the fitness comes quickly. During this last training segment, I struggled through an XC 5k race barely getting under 17 minutes on August 1st and two months later I ran the GO! Halloween 10k splitting 15:56 for the first 5k and 15:52 for the second. But really this plan is the “get fit through continued repetitive training plan.”
While there are some advantages to being a grinder, there are drawbacks as well. I’ve been able to stay mostly injury free throughout my career and I often take it for granted. When I do have a setback, even if it’s just for a week, I stress out that I’ve missed so much training. It’s rarely ever the case that a down week affect my fitness as much as I’m worried it will, and in fact I don’t think I can recall a single training segment that was ever defined by a single week.
Another difficulty of the grinding runner is that we get a little addicted to the heavy work load. Instead of resting up before a race with a few easy days, we’ll roll into them without easing up and grind through the race. Sometimes that mean you leave some time on the table. And that mentality is fine to have for some early season races where you don’t want to break training, but it can be hard to shake the habit even when you get to your end of season races that you want to peak for.
That’s where I am now. Two and a half weeks until my big marathon for this season, and I know I need to back off the mileage and take it easy. I know my body needs it. Nobody can go through a marathon training phase and not have acquired some bumps and bruises that could use a week or two of healing. But I know that without some work these next two weeks my mind will start to second guess my fitness. Let me tell you, my mind is often out right paranoid and wrong. I’ve thought about these two weeks (and the race itself) more than enough over the past several months. There isn’t much need to think (or over think in this case) about it anymore. I don’t need to look up the course map with elevation and run through it again, I’ve done that too many times. I don’t need recount my mileage to make sure I’ve had enough good runs, I’ve done that too many times. I don’t need to go through the paces from previous workouts and compare them to older workouts, I’ve… well you get the picture.
So, I’m going to take it easy and relax. The tough part is done, all I have to do now is make sure I don’t over do it because there is almost no possible way to under do it these final weeks. Thanks for listening to my ramblings about the taper, my mind needed to vent this stuff. Now I can take my own advice and shut my mind off for the next two weeks.