Monday, June 23, 2008

Mr. Pfitzinger, We Meet Again

Tomorrow is the first running day of my modified Pfitzinger training plan as I prepare for the 31st Annual Chicago Marathon. Instead of the standard 18 weeks, I shortened it to 16 (so that I would have enough time to recover from Burlington), but I nearly ran the first two weeks' worth of mileage without following the plan exactly. I'm looking forward to being back on the schedule, but I worry about being able to stick to it throughout the summer. While the early sunrise and mild temperatures are a runner's dream, summer is a time where the usual routine goes out the window. As any dedicated marathoner knows, we thrive on routine. Shake things up, and we get off our plans, or we have to make herculean efforts to stick with the program. I suspect that with vacations, long weekends, kids' camps, friends & family visiting and other unforeseen developments, I will need to be somewhat flexible. This is one reason why I chose not to do the 70-mile per week plan. If mid- to high-50's will feel challenging logistically (if not physically and psychologically), then another 15 miles (or 2 hours) of running would be nothing more than me courting a training disaster, or at least a major disappointment. Once I "master" Pfitz's 18/55 plan, I'll decide what's next. Also, running a decent marathon after a successful training cycle will help me decide that my body is ready for additional mileage.

Last week I ran nearly 40 miles in 5 runs, and my hips feel a bit fatigued, but not sore. I have been to one yoga class per week, and have done lower-body weightlifting the past few weeks, too. Squats and lunges made me sore last week, but not too bad, and I tweaked something in my lower back at the gym today. Wouldn't you know it, I felt fine until the very last set of exercises, regular dips (working mostly triceps, along with shoulders and chest, too), where I felt a little something as I dismounted. It's slightly tight right now, but I'll foam roll and stretch after I finish this.

Tomorrow calls for 8 miles, with 4 at tempo (or threshold) pace, which I'm going to do conservatively at about 7:30/mile. I would hope that is around my current half-marathon pace, which is the slow end of Pfitz' tempo range, but I don't want to jump back into fast running without being sensible. I have dropped a few faster miles into a few of my runs in the past few weeks, but the idea of averaging 7:38/mile for 26.2 miles is tough to wrap my mind around right now.

Which brings us to the mental aspects of training and racing. I just started reading Chi Running, by Danny Dreyer, a philosophy/running style designed to help runners run injury-free by releasing their natural chi, or energy, and getting all distractions (physical and mental) out of the way. I like the idea, but worry that I am simply not going to be able to focus and "believe" enough for it to work for me. My psyche is constantly at war between skepticism and a desire to believe. I realized earlier today that such tension may be my own little Yin Yang, but I'm not sure that's what Dreyer and other proponents of Eastern philosophies have in mind.

Given the dedication, discipline, passion, desire and energy which I have devoted to running (and which I remain committed to devoting for the foreseeable future), I would like to find a way to get from running something close to what I put in. That means faster times, yes, but it also means extending the running-as-relationship metaphor (be it the old "jealous mistress", or the current "love-hate" New Balance ad campaign; click here to see one ad in the series) so that I don't feel like the hyper-hormonal teenager constantly courting the object of my affections with no reciprocity. I hope and expect this relationship with running - especially at longer distances - to be requited someday, and soon.

In less than four months from now, as the air holds its pre-winter chill and the leaves have turned, I will be ready to run the marathon that I know I can run. I'll gladly make the sacrifices and do the training, but I'll need some luck along the way, not to mention on race day itself.



rdn5cents said...

ESG, I've been following your blog for a few months now. I think I came upon it from Steve Runner. I'm also running Chicago, and hopefully we'll be running side by side as my goal is a 3:20 too. Check out my blog I will be checking out the Chi Running, very interesting!
Thanks, Ryan

Greg said...

I have a difficult time getting into the whole "chi" thing myself, but what I did take away from the book was the techniques for striding throughout my run. Has been incredibly helpful for helping to reduce my injuries. Hey one quick question... I know we are following the same program (Pfitz 18/55). What paces do you try to keep for your mid week ML runs? I am very skeptical of the 10-20% of MP... so what I have been doing is keeping my long runs around that prinicple, but my mid week runs closer to low 8's/high 7's.... what do you think???

Victoria said...

Check out the science of sport blog-- they did a series on "The Pose" and "Chi Running" recently. (

Chris Russell said...

Hey man - couple of points...
I got the Chi book when it first came out - mostly becasue my friend Lynn Molloy from CoolRunning wrote the review - I was recovering from a severe ankle sprain/evulsion and was looking for a way to "run injury free" as the book suggests.
Funny story - first time I went out running after studying the book, because I had my head up in the proper posture I stepped in a hole and wrecked my other ankle!
But - that being said I picked up a few posture and relaxed running pointers that have come in handy.
This past Boston I was able to "run lightly" and "keep my feet under me" to great success.
The religious bit is a little hokey - but running is a mental game, right?
Good luck at Chi-town - I ran it in '98 b4 it was famous.
It's a zoo - don't expect to run fast.