Our Sunday morning run yesterday consisted of seven miles from North Aurora up to Batavia and back. Sue had a modest tempo run planned after the previous day’s 40m time trial and 10K brick run on Saturday. I rode 32 miles at 17.5 and was happy with that. It was windy as heck on the way out and a fun joyride on the way back.
At the turnaround point during our run on Sunday, we met up with a fellow triathlete and chatted for a quarter mile. Then I decided it would be good for me to put in some hard effort on the way back.
If taking off on a whim like that seems a bit haphazard in terms of an overall plan, it’s because I train mostly by feel these days. Senior athletes like me need the flexibility to run hard on days that we feel good and take it easier based on the messages we’re getting back from our bodies day to day.
The days of mapping out 70-mile running weeks and hitting those numbers come thick-or-thin are gone. That’s fine by me. I don’t really miss the obligatory aspects of training. I’m not sure my testosterone levels sustain it these days.
All that horndog sexual and physical energy in my teens and twenties, combined with the need to prove myself on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis has shifted to a more appreciative mode of training. Now I run hard when I feel like it.
Yesterday that meant three consecutive sub-8:00 miles. I ran 7:48, 7:57 and 7:47, but didn’t have that much more speed at hand, to be honest. Earlier this summer I ran a 22:00 5K on a bike path and that’s as fast as I got this year.
Hard effort and Red Zone games
That’s seven minutes slower than my all-time best, but here’s the funny thing. Even at these slower paces, the sensation of a hard effort still feels the same. Yesterday while humming along I thought back to all the races I’ve run over the years and the feeling of running at the edge of my aerobic capacity has always felt the same. I was playing Red Zone games.
My heart rate reached 178 at its peak, somewhere in the middle of the second hard mile. That’s where the breathing got tough. We all know that sensation. To manage that Red Zone challenged, I shortened and smoothed out the stride, increased the breathing rate, took it deeper into my belly and regained the oxygen needed to keep up the pace. It worked. That’s associative compensation.
As a person that has been doing this stuff for decades, I still find it fun (if no less uncomfortable) to run at the edge of my abilities. It’s also fun to actually race when the opportunity comes along.
That’s the main point of all this. Testing ourselves is what this endurance stuff is all about. No one says that has to be done on any sort of schedule to make it have value.
You should to that too. Take off on a bender once in a while when you’re feeling good. Make the effort hard, and embrace the moment. Don’t worry if you can’t go on forever. No one can. Hard effort feels the same at every age, and age itself disappears when you let it go. That’s true no matter how many years you do or don’t have under your belt.
As for results, my casual approach to training works for me. This past summer I completed two Olympic triathlons and my first-ever Half Ironman 70.3. My Olympic was just over three hours and my Half Ironman in the 6:15-6:20 range. I was self-timing and had a water bottle cage fly off in the last ten miles of the bike, so there was some play in there in terms of time. My main goal was to finish.
Isn’t that fun?