Failure is, in fact, an option
I read a lot of running blogs, and they’re basically all glowing prose about how special running is, about how wonderful life is, and about how they’re setting one PR after another after another…
This will not be one of those posts.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written those posts in the past, and I’ve made posts to Facebook. I’ve put on the happy face when I’ve been struggling, when I’ve been down.
This post is about reality.
Up until about 2 weeks ago I had the Vancouver Marathon on my calendar. Not only that, but I had breaking four hours, a lifetime goal of mine, circled in pen for that race.
I had to surrender that goal, and the race itself. I stepped back to the half marathon instead.
There’s a host of reasons for that. Part of it was a lack of motivation when I fell out of my rhythm. Part of it was a brutal travel schedule. Part of it was a couple of mistakes at the outset that didn’t set me up for success.
Before I get into any specifics, I’m at peace with failing. Shit happens. It’s not about failing, it’s about learning from that failure, getting better, and not doing it again.
My first mistake came in December. I decided to go with the Hanson Marathon Method for the first time. For those not familiar with the plan, it’s a 6x/week program, with a heavy index on speed work and marathon pace running, and a cap on the long run at 16 miles. Oh, and there’s the mileage - lots and lots of mileage.
Hanson is easily the most popular program in Seattle Green Lake Running Group (SGLRG). The group runs are aligned with the plan, and most runners are doing some variation of the program. Doing Hanson makes it easier to find runbuds, which is of course a necessity for all runners. And the group I was going to be attempting to break four hours with was doing a variation of Hanson. It made perfect sense for me to fall in line with everyone.
But a 6x/week program leaves no time for cross-training, and I missed yoga. It also leaves no room for moving runs to fit a busy schedule, especially a busy travel schedule, which I have. Where I am today work and life wise, I simply can’t do a 6x program.
I did not set myself up for success from the start. Being stubborn, I stuck with it for too long, and when I finally reached the point of backing away from the plan it was too late. I wasn’t in a good spot to switch to another plan at that point.
First and foremost, I need to be realistic. I can’t do a 6x program right now. And, if I’m going to be really honest, I probably can’t get myself to a point where I could do a four hour marathon. But the former is simply fact. I need the flexibility provided by a 4x plan, and add in a little bit of cross-training, to do something other than running all the time.
Second, I need to fail fast. I knew things were going to be a struggle two weeks into the program. If I’d have readjusted at that point, I might have been able to salvage this training cycle.
My job involves travel. That travel comes and goes in bursts, and the start to this calendar year saw four trans-oceanic trips between January and April. Add to that a trip to Montreal, and daylight savings time. My body truly has no idea what timezone its in, and since late February I haven’t been on the same timezone for even two weeks straight. That’s a grind.
In addition, trans-oceanic flights mean losing at least a day, if not two or potentially three, between timezones, datelines, and simply time on the plane itself. Remember that whole conversation above about being able to have flexibility? Well, not only did the 6x/week not offer it, I didn’t stop to truly accept the lost time due to travel, or the fact that the morning after I land I really don’t have much energy. I went in with a laissez-faire attitude, believing I’d just figure out how to fit in my runs on the fly. That simply doesn’t work.
I need to spend a lot more time planning out a running schedule, taking everything into account. And I need to keep it up to date as my travel plans change. I need to accept that the morning after a long flight I’m either not going to run, or only have the energy for a slow few miles. My calendar needs to be built, accepting realities.
If you looked at my Strava log, you’d notice that when I was home for extended periods of time I managed to get in all of my runs. Part of that was having my amazing runbuds, but a big part of that is I’m all about routine. Once I’ve got it, I keep going. While there was a period of time where my body just wasn’t adjusting to the training rigors, I still kept up the number of runs if not the total miles or intensity.
But, once I lost that routine, regaining it is difficult for me. It’s a weakness I’ve struggled with for quite a while, and one that becomes a bit of a self-perpetuating downward spiral. Once I miss a couple of runs, it’s easier to miss a couple more, and then a couple more… It’s not a good situation.
I need to be more assertive about controlling my schedule and routine. When I’m travelling with coworkers, I need to prioritize running over dinners with the team. When I’m home, I need to drag my ass out the door, even when I’m not feeling it, even if it’s just three miles. And I need to not get down on myself for it only being a short run if that’s all I have the time or energy for.
At the same time, I need to be a little tighter about not allowing myself free passes. Three miles is better than zero miles. And I can always do three miles. ALWAYS
For now, I’m going to run the Vancouver half, and try to get in under two hours, which I think I can accomplish. I’m going to run the Vermont City Marathon relay with a dear friend of mine, and enjoy that experience. And I’m going to pace the Seattle Rock-n-Roll Marathon with 3 of the best runbuds anyone could ever ask for.
Then I’m going to turn my attention to a 4x plan with eyes on the Chicago Marathon. I’m going to be realistic, and set a goal of having a good run, rather than an explicit time goal. And I’m going to run/walk/take pictures during the New York Marathon with one of those amazing runbuds.
And I’m going to rekindle my love for running.