You’re doing everything right, but you’re not getting any faster…

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Every runner experiences a plateau in their running at some point during their running career. Sometimes it is due to external stresses at work or at home, and leveling off can be a good thing while you get things under control in other areas of your life. This happens when you are just physically tired due to other things in your life.

 

I’ve been getting my house cleaned up and fixed up so I can sell it and move closer to family and friends. Over the past week, I’ve noticed that I just don’t have the “get up and go” during my runs. This was really frustrating until I realized I have been putting in 12-15 hour days seven days a week between my job, volunteer work, and working on my house. When you add my running, swimming and cycling to this schedule, it’s well, a lot. So as much as I dislike a plateau, I understand why I’ve hit it.

 

Other reasons a runner can hit a plateau in their running is due to overtraining, overwhelmed or over-focused.

 

Overtraining is not only a physical condition, but it can be a mental one as well.  If all of your mental energy is going towards your running goal, in other words you eat, sleep and breathe running, you may need to remember other aspects of your life for a few days before getting back into running.

 

This is easy to spot. Just look at what you do every day. When you’re not running, are you icing, stretching, strength training, foam rolling, reading about running, and focused on your diet to maintain gains in running. Do all you’re social relationships revolve around running. These are good signs that your plateau is probably due to mental overtraining. Do something different for 3-4 days and then come back to it at a less intense level. There are other aspects to life and running will be there when you return.

 

Being overwhelmed can also stagnate your running. It’s hard to get the motivation to push yourself hard when you’ve got so many things begging and requiring your attention. If this is the case, it is easy to ease up on your running or get lost in your thoughts during a run and just “dog” the miles.

 

You only have so much time and energy each day and if you are burning the candle at both ends, you will run out of wick sooner rather than later. Your runs will feel harder and you are not going to improve during this time. You need to get some things off your plate and be aware of things that are coming your way as much as possible. Don’t over extend yourself. Don’t be a “yes” man.

 

Being over-focused is also a way you can level off your progress. Having a goal race and pace is perfectly fine, but be able to let it go if needed due to illness, injury, or crisis. If you are so focused on hitting a goal that missing it or the chance of missing it is causing you to alter your everyday life and not participate in other things that give you pleasure then you run the risk of losing more than just your goal time at the race. You can lose your motivation and friends or family.

 

Running is a beautiful and wonderful thing. Balance in essential in all aspects of life, running included, especially if you want to make progress and get better. Keep it all in perspective, my friends.

No “I” in team

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Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard the saying that there is no “I” in team, but it’s true. I love my running team I really do.

They are wonderful people who I love and adore. They are just  not consistent when it comes to running and that hurts the members of the team who are consistent and train hard.

I’ve never been the team captain who pushes my runners to be faster, better, or run as much as I do. I’ve always supported them in their personal goals. I do provide them with training schedules at their current level so they can get better and be comfortable when we do run relays or other races as a team. I encourage them along the way and give advise where I can.

I have total faith in each one of them that they are capable of reaching the next level of their running, which is different for each of them, and being able to take on new running challenges. My relay team has always been about having fun and bringing new runners into the love of running. It has never been focused on a time goal or a pace requirement. We always have a wonderful time and choose to immediately sign up for the next year.

However, every year I end up with the same problems on my relay team. Less than half of my runners train consistently. So what, why should I care, right. They are the ones who will be vomiting and running to the bathroom during and after every run. They are the ones who will be huffing and puffing every time they put one foot in front of the other, Right?

Well yes that is all true, but the other issue is that because they don’t train they have to take the lowest mile positions. This is problematic if I have a runner who gets injured during training and needs low miles. It is also a problem because there are only so many low mile spots.

The bigger problem is, their lack of support for the team through consistent training hurts my runners who do train everyday putting their heart and sole into each step. My runners who do train feel like they have to make up for those who do not so that we can finish at a decent time (before the finish line arch is down). My runners who train care about our non training runners and want them to stay on the team and over the last five years we have just “made up” for their slower times.

In order for me to give my inconsistent runners the low mile positions, my consistent runners constantly have to run the same legs of the relay. They always have to take the high miles. This impacts their ability to participate in other races close to the time of the relay. My friend and I were planning on participating in an Iron Man this fall, but the race  is a week after our team relay. Because my other runners haven’t trained and we now have to take high mile spots on the team, we cannot do the full Iron Man the next weekend.

Another issue is, for the relay that we do, Red Rock Relay in southern Utah, the bigger harder miles are in Van Two. Four of the six spots have 19 miles or more. In Van One, two spots have over 16 miles. This means all my inconsistent runners will be in Van One. No big deal right? wrong! My inconsistent runners are of course much much slower (14-17 minute miles on FLAT). This results in Van Two running most of their longer harder(read as uphill with no shade) miles in temperatures over 100 degrees Fehrenheit. Running, fresh under those conditions is hard, but running them on two hours of sleep, some level of dehydration, and with irregular eating and you really find out what you are made of.

The final huge lurking shadow is their health. Relays are hard. You run all night in the cold and the rain. You run all day in the blistering heat with no shade. If you are not reasonably healthy/fit, you can potentially do some serious damage or die during a relay race. Some of my runners are bigger guys and I don’t want to tell their wives and children that they crumbled on the side of the road during their second leg of the race and never got back up.

I guess what I’m really tring to say here, is if you sign up to be a member of a relay team. You need to work as hard as the other runners. You need to support your team as much as everyone else is. Don’t make your team drag your dead weight along for 200 miles.

I’m going to have this hard conversation with my team at our prerace meeting in the next month because next year (that’s right they get an entire year to make the change to consistent training) if they don’t get their pace down to 12 minute miles (very very doable) for a flat 10k, they are off the team. If I have to run the race as an ultra team next year because none of them will nut up and do their training, then that is what I will do because I know I can count on my other three runners to put in the miles to run it as an ultra.

I know I’m going to hear excuses and at least two of them will say, “I thought this team was about having fun not about finishing fast.”

My response, “It is about having fun, but it’s about being a team too and if four runners have to carry the other eight it’s not fun anymore.”

A Vigil for Justice: Episode Forty-Seven

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A Vigil for Justice, is a serial thriller fiction novel. Updates of 1,000-1,500 words will be posted every Friday.

Recap: Sixteen-year-old Melanie Craig and her family live in the small Colorado mountain town of Blue River. Since the end of World War Three, the economy in the United States has dropped out making funding law enforcement impossible and increasing crime rates in all, but the smallest towns. The government passes a Law allowing anyone over 16 to kill three other people during their life. Vigilante justice doesn’t seem like the right solution to Melanie, but she has no choice other than to learn how to protect herself and her family.

The next morning brought more heat. Growing up in the mountain valley of Blue River hadn’t prepared them for working in the heat. The only person it didn’t seem to effect was Sam.

Melanie smiled as she ran around the cabin with a stick in her hand with Daisy chasing her barking.

“Be careful running with that stick,” Melanie called and sunk the shovel into the dirt. She wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand.

Her mom had decided this morning that since Zachariah was providing them with room and board, they would dig out his garden and flowerbeds, which were overgrown with weeds like sardines in a can.

Melanie had tried to explain to her mother that it was near on autumn and harvest season not planting season. But Jennifer had insisted they do something and since Zachariah was getting on in years he shouldn’t be digging out all these weeds.

“Cleaning out his garage and house seems more sensible and useful,” Mitchell had offered.

“That’s for tomorrow,” Jennifer smiled and handed him a shovel.

Somehow, Melanie had ended up with the shovel and Mitchel had snuck off to help in the garage. Jennifer stood up from sitting in the dirt throwing weeds out of the garden and into a pile. She brushed her hands off onto her pants.

“I’m going inside for some water. Do you want some?”

Melanie dropped the shovel. “I need to get out of this heat for a few minutes, mom.” She could feel the sweat running down her back and her legs.

“Come get some water Daisy and Sam,” Melanie called and followed her mom into the house.

Melanie flopped into a chair in the kitchen and Jennifer set a glass of ice water in front of her. She drank the whole thing and got up for more.

“Where is Seth?” she asked.

“He got up early and said he was going fishing in the river. I thought it was a good idea, so we don’t eat Zachariah out of house and home.”

Melanie rolled her eyes.

“What? I thought it was a great idea. Anyways, there has been some tension between you and he.”

Melanie raised her eyebrows. “Tension?”

It was Jennifer’s turn to roll her eyes. “It’s pretty obvious Mel. You can’t look at him without disgust or hatred in your eyes. You want to talk about it?”

“No.” Melanie stood up and went back outside. That’s probably why Mitchel has been acting a little off center. Melanie took a deep breath. No more, I’ve got to let it go. Seth is Mitchel’s brother. If we are going to stay together, I need to let my suspicions go. I can’t deal with a wedge between Mitchel and me.

Melanie continued to dig. It felt good actually. It was progress right before her eyes. She could see the results of her hard work. It was empowering in a sense, that she could make a difference, even if it was only turning dirt and eradicating invasive weeds.

When the sun began to dip below the horizon, Melanie stood at the sink washing the dirt from beneath her nails. Mitchel’s hands moved around her waist and he kissed her neck. She smiled. She missed being close to him as much as they had been, before her mom was always hovering.

“Come with me on a walk to the river?”

She turned in his arms and kissed him on the lips. He brought his hands up her back and tangled his fingers in her hair.

When they broke off from one another, she took his hand and smiled her crooked grin. “Let me tell my mom where we’re going so she doesn’t freak out.”

His smile grew and he squeezed her hand. “I’ll be out front.”

After telling her mom where she and  Mitchel were going, Melanie rounded the corner of the house and found Mitchel and Seth speaking in hushed angry voices. Mitchel was gesturing with his hands. His back was to her. Seth saw her first and stopped talking. He nodded to Melanie and walked away toward the back of the house.

“What was that about?” She asked watching Seth disappear.

“Nothing, let’s forget about all this,” he waived at the house and all around it, “and think only of you and me while we frolic in the woods.” He smiled and brushed a strand of her hair out of her face.

She stole a quick kiss and ran down the trail laughing. He chased after her.

Melanie hadn’t run for a long time. The wind pulled at her hair and her body fell into its rhythm. Yes, it seemed to say, we remember this. She pushed harder pulling away from Mitchel.

He laughed. “You’re not getting away from me that easily.”

Not wanting to slip on a rock, she slowed down when she reached the river there was a rock bridge and only a few inches of water flowed over it. She risked a quick glance back before stepping into the water. He grinned at her like a wolf closing on its prey. Mitchel didn’t slow at all. He was always more reckless than she. It was one of the things she loved about him; his willingness to take risks to get what he wanted. And that’s when he caught her, and they both fell into the pool created by the rock bridge.

She let out a gasp as they hit the cold water. She got a mouth full of river water for her girlish sound as their heads plunged below the water. Mitchel pulled her to the surface with him. Her hair was plastered to her face and he began laughing, a full and deep laugh, that waved through his entire body.

Melanie splashed water at him. He grabbed a hold of her and pulled her to him. She hadn’t realized how much she missed this or even that it had been gone from their relationship.

She looked up into Mitchel’s eyes.

He wrapped his hands around her face cupping her chin where the base of his palms met. “I love you so much.”

Never again would she allow the retched chaos of this world steal the precious happiness she felt in his arms. It was that feeling that made all of this, each day, worth struggling through no matter how nightmarish it was.

Pool Running?

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I’ve posted on pool running before, but I thought I would hit it again during the peak racing and training season for those of us in the northern hemisphere.

What is pool running?

It’s exactly what it sounds like, running in a swimming pool. Many pools have a floatation belt you can use while you are there. They keep them around for their water aerobics classes. Clip the floatation belt around your waist and cinch it up as tight as you can. You don’t want it to slid up while you are running.

Once you’re clipped in, get into the water. You need to be deep enough so your feet do not touch the bottom of the pool. Now start to run. You should not move very much despite how fast you move your arms and legs. If you are moving quiet quickly (really it is still slow compared to running), you are leaning forward too much. I run back and forth in one lane, my head bobbing just above the surface of the water.

Pool running is pretty boring so take a friend, play some type of mental game, have a list of problems you want to think out, or get some water proof earbuds. Most pools are either 25 yards or 25 meters. You can’t run for a particular distance because you are moving so little, but you can run for time.

In order to keep things interesting, do intervals or get a bungee cord or other elastic to pull against as you run. Race the swimmers, you will lose badly, but at least it’s something to do.

If it is so insufferably boring why would anyone want to run in the pool?

Pool running is the BEST way to give your body a rest from the impact of running while maintaining your running specific fitness. Now, with that, you can’t get into the pool and run leisurely. You need to break a sweat and that requires some hard work when you’re in the pool.

Pool running is excellent if you have an injury like a stress fracture or twisted ankle. Anything that requires you to take time off because of the impact of running. It is also the perfect way to recover from a race. It gives your muscles a well deserved break. Running in the pool is great for injury prone runners because they can maintain fitness while preventing an injury.

Typical training plan structure has runners taking what we call a rest/recovery week. So you build miles by 10% for three weeks and then reduce miles by 20% for a week to allow your body to heal those micro tears and become stronger. This reduces your risk of injury and overtraining. By running your rest/recovery week in the pool, you are adding another level of protection against injury while allowing your body to become stronger.