What I think about when I think about running

Sometimes writers raise the question, what is it that runners think about?  Often the writers are looking for something beyond the inner dialogue of effort and discomfort, they’re hoping for clues to deeper meaning in the runners’ lives or even hints of spirituality.

That’s fine, but why shouldn’t runners think about the act of running?  Call it being “mindful,” or just paying attention to what you’re doing.

In fact, there’s enormous interest among coaches, journalists, and psychologists in the best kind of “inner dialogue” for athletes.  Often this advice focuses on confidence, determination, motivation, visualizing peak performance, or getting into the “flow.”

I was thinking about this the other day when I heard about an emergency landing of a passenger jet which had lost an engine:  the pilot was lauded for keeping her cool.  A former fighter pilot, she had been taught to “exude confidence,” a practice that some attribute to legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager, who once commented that as situations became more dangerous, he would speak more slowly.

This line of thought led me to conduct an experiment:  I’d take some notes on my own thoughts while completing a high-intensity speed workout at the local track — an exercise that doesn’t carry the same risk as piloting a jet fighter, but which subjects the runner to high levels of discomfort and exposes him or her to heightened risk of injury.  The goal of the experiment:  observe how I talk to myself while running.

After the first try at this experiment, however, it became clear that what was going on in my head wasn’t a monologue, but rather a conversation among several speakers — all different parts of myself, admittedly — but with specific roles.  This segregation of duties, based on my military and corporate experience, seemed to help the decision-making process during the run.  Perhaps others will find it useful to organize their thoughts this way.

I’m a little nervous that this transcript may strike people as somewhat nerdy — but why shouldn’t I try to be as calm and collected as a fighter pilot?

See what you think…

 Cast of characters:

  • Executive: that part of myself which is overall in charge of the exercise; sets goals, makes key decisions
  • Runner: that part of me that focuses on executing the mission; reports on what he’s doing and feeling
  • Risk Manager: that part of myself that worries; this is an advisory role that is particularly helpful when data is available to help quantify risk

1:30 PM April 29, 2018

Executive

Today’s workout is ten 1/4 mile repeats at the track, the purpose of which is to build speed.  Also barefoot, to toughen the soles.  Bear in mind, this is a high-intensity training exercise, and we’re still recovering from an 18-month long injury to the left posterior tibialis tendon (PTT), so our overall appetite for risk is low.  Last time we did this workout, our fastest 1/4 mile split was 1:23, which is still a ways off from the 1:11-1:15 we were running a couple of years ago at our peak.  But bear in mind, Rome wasn’t built in a day — or in our case, rebuilt.

Risk Manager

Training log shows weekly mileage at 65, which is at the high end of what we’ve been doing since the injury.  Training status is 95% green over the last 30 days, green meaning no issues, however we did drop to yellow for a 9.6-mile trail run two days ago due to some sensitivity on the PTT, so obviously we are going to watch this.  Also, yesterday’s 10-mile barefoot hike went well, but we still have three toes taped from scratches suffered from hiking barefoot on ice about 10 days ago.  Hydration is good, nutrition is good, temperature is 50 and dry and not a concern.

Executive

Let’s initiate the warm-up sequence with one mile at an easy pace.

Runner

Starting warm-up lap.  Track is dry, soft and springy and feels good under foot.  Cloudy sky, cool breeze from the northwest….there are a lot of dead worms on the track washed up from yesterday’s rain.  I’m not complaining, just observing….I think I can run around them.  There’s also dog crap on the infield right next to the track.  I can’t believe college students walk their dogs right where their teams practice.

Executive

Can’t help you with worms or dog crap.

Runner

Going nice and slow, 13:00 pace finishing up lap 1….left PTT slightly tense…but feeling overall pretty loose…finishing lap 2 at 11:50 pace and 127 heart rate….that heart rate reading seems high…starting to feel a little warm.

Executive

Go ahead and strip down to shorts and t-shirt for warm-up mile 2.  You’re cleared for 50-meter strides as you see fit.

Runner

Starting mile two at 10:45 pace and 106 heart rate….I just heard a baseball bat, looks like someone’s practicing just past the north end of the track…sun’s out which is nice….picking up the pace to 9:20 and will do some strides…finishing second stride at 7:20 at 133 heart rate….stomach feeling a little full

Risk Manager

Breakfast was 5 hours ago, stomach shouldn’t be an issue.

Executive

You’re cleared to execute repeat #1, but I don’t think we’re fully warmed up, I want you to go out at 50% of max effort…and let’s start each repeat with an easy lap, instead of finishing with one.

Runner

Rounding the bend on the easy lap at steady 10:00 pace at 114 heart rate and getting ready to execute repeat #1….OK, engaging watch start button, picking up cadence, feeling a little more friction on the feet in the turn, lengthening stride on the straight-away.

Executive

Keep it at 50%.

Runner

Roger that, finishing repeat #1 in 1:47 at 144 beats per minute.

Executive

Take an easy lap and then execute repeat #2 at 65% of max effort.

Runner

Easing around the lap at 9:30, going to keep it easy, left PTT still feeling a little tight….here we go, executing repeat #2, accelerating into the turn, focusing on glutes, core, ankle alignment, stretching out stride a little on the straight-away….a little sun has come out, which is nice….finishing 1:52 at 141 beats per minute.

Executive

That’s not quite what we wanted, we’d like to see each repeat a little bit faster.  Go ahead and push up to 75% max effort

Runner

Left PTT still feeling a little tight

Risk Manager

We’re monitoring that but not overly concerned, we’ve seen initial tightness in previous workouts even up to 3 miles

Runner

Starting repeat #3, accelerating into the turn and into a stiff headwind….focusing on alignment: ankles, big toes to engage peroneals, rear adductors, lower abs….winds shifting around….showing 1:48 for the repeat, but I missed the button and hit it a few yards after the finish so it might be a second off.

Executive

For repeat #4, I want you to go ahead and look at the pace readout on your watch and target a mid-6 minute pace.

Runner

Starting repeat #4, watch indicating 8:00 pace into the first curve…probably needs a few seconds to catch up…showing 7:20 pace entering the straight-away…down to 7:00 in the far turn…6:20 on the back stretch and finishing the repeat at 1:41.  I missed the heart rate.  Seems like the lap started out pretty slow.

Executive

I would say we’re off to a little bit of a slow start with this workout, but that’s OK.  You’re cleared to 90% of max effort.  Target pace in the low 6’s.  And don’t grimace, relax your face.

Runner

Left calf feeling a little tight…cold wind blowing from the north…band of dark clouds over the ‘Gunks but some clear sky over the Catskills….OK, starting repeat #5 into the turn and already at 6:20 pace…fighting some cross wind on the first straight-away…loosening face muscles…finishing at 1:36 and 154 beats per minute.

Executive

No risk, no return. Clearing you for 100% max effort. Put your watch display on heart rate only.

Risk Manager

No objections.

Runner

Roger that, 100% max effort and heart-rate only on the display.  Cold wind…thinking it will be nice to get this workout finished.  OK, executing repeat #6, accelerating into the first turn, focusing on stabilizing trunk with lateral core muscles…watch is reading 139 beats per minute…143…starting to breath a little heavy….finishing strong 1:36 at 155 beats per minute.

Executive

OK, put your watch back into speed and heart-rate display.  You’re cleared for another lap at 100% max effort, with goals of finishing at sub-6:00 pace and getting heart rate above 160.  Bear in mind we might only do 2 or 3 more repeats at 100% before dialing back.  How’re you feeling?

Runner

Feeling OK, eager to get through these next four repeats and be done….easing around the track on the easy lap, starting to feel some friction on the soles of my feet…here we go on repeat #7 and we’re going out fast, exiting the first turn at 6:20…trying to let the body go and relax the face…in the second turn heart rate still 150….there’s some kind of bird off to the side making a squealing noise…full effort on the final stretch, watch showing pace down to 5:55…finishing 1:32 at 159…the wind feels really cold.

Executive

Good job.  You’re cleared for repeat #8 at 100% effort with goals of sub-6 finish and heart rate over 160.

Risk Manager

We’re monitoring tightness in both left and right calves.

Runner

Feeling good…starting repeat #8 really hard, feet hitting the track hard, stretching out into the first turn…cold cross-wind on the straight-away….pushing into the second turn, heart rate still 150…picking up cadence, leaning forward, watch reading 5:55, 5:40….finishing 1:28 at 160 beats per minute.

Executive

That’s a good effort.  What do you think, Risk?

Risk Manager

I think we can do another at 100% and then reassess.

Executive

I’m pleased with what we’ve accomplished this afternoon, and we can abort the workout at any time and still call it a successful day.  Let’s go for another repeat at 100% but pay attention.

Runner

I’m taking off my shirt for some extra adrenaline….easing around the track and getting ready to execute repeat #9…springing off from the start and lengthening stride right into the first turn, already at 5:30 pace, left calf a little tight….

Risk Manager

Let’s watch that calf…

Runner

Feeling some hot spots on the right pinky toe stabilizing through the turn…finishing hard…1:26 at 160….out of breath

Executive

This has been a good workout.  Let’s go ahead and finish the tenth repeat as per plan, but let’s dial back to 50% of max effort.

Runner

Fast start to repeat #10, rounding the turn into the straight-away

Risk Manager

50%, 50%, 50%

Runner

Finishing 1:37 at 154

Executive

Good job.  Put your shirt and sweater back on.  This was a good workout.  We didn’t break-through on the fastest pace, and I think we’re a little ways off from a max cardio effort.  But that’s OK, we’re building a base of high-intensity training and making sure muscles and tendons are strong enough first; faster speeds will come with time after we’ve fully recovered from the PTT injury.  One-mile cool-down at an easy pace and we’ll call it a day.

pace
Pace
heart rate
Heart Rate
respiration
Respiration Rate

 

400 m splits.JPG
400-meter splits at the track, time on vertical axis, heart rate on horizontal axis

Running the Long Path is available on Amazon — click on the image to check it out

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What I think about when I think about running

9 thoughts on “What I think about when I think about running

  1. Anonymous says:

    Word, my crew either has the heavy metal blaring or it’s telling me to get F focused and knock this bleep down. I don’t think I could post the commentary. Cue my Rick Flair WHOOOOOOOO!!!

    Like

  2. MC says:

    My crew has the heavy metal blaring while the Regulator tells me to F up and get busy. Time to get this bleep done yo! Sorry the conversation can’t be printed for public view. Cue my Rick Flair when done WHOOOOOOOOO

    Liked by 1 person

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