Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dogs Don't Like Interval Training...And Other Oddball Marathon Wisdom

Unless this is your first time reading the blog, you surely know by now that I'm training to run the New Jersey Marathon for a second time. A couple of advantages come along with not being a noob:
  • I've been able to compartmentalize how training fits into my life better. It's still a dominant part of my life, but it's not all consuming.
  • I have a better sense of how I should and shouldn't alter my training plan.
  • I'm simply a better runner than I was two years ago. 
But the best part, for me at least, is all the oddball wisdom I'm acquiring. Silly stuff that I was simply too focused, too dialed in, to notice the first time around. And I want to share some of it with you.

Getting ready for a run
Dogs Don't Like Interval Training
I run with my dog Lily as often as I can. But she's really not welcome on a track or a treadmill, so she'd never done interval training with me -- until recently. There's a loop of streets around my home that I've mapped out to be just a hair under a mile. And I figured out that the midway point is a convenient landmark, a VFW hall. So I can do half-mile or mile repeats, give or take a few yards, and she can come along.

Problem was, she couldn't keep up. She's in great shape and generally has to hold back to stick with me. But doing a full mile at well under an 8-minute pace was tough! The final fast interval, she was dragging. "Come on, Dad, slow down. I'm not gonna make it. Can't we just jog?" Well, she made it. And then proceeded to spend the next three hours in her favorite chair.

Don't Tie Your Shoes While Wearing a Backpack Water Bladder
Maybe it's just the model I have or the way I had the hose configured, but on my most recent long run, I leaned over to re-lace my left shoe, and water started pouring out onto the ground and my sweatshirt. You don't want a cap on those things, because you want it as easy as possible when you're huffing and puffing. But sheesh!

Lesson learned. If I have to do that again, I'll take the backpack off.

I'm Frequently the Fastest One at the Gym
This is kind of fun, in an ego-boosting way. During the cold months, I often have to take my running indoors. It's not just the weather, but a function of my and my family's schedules. Generally when I get on the belt at the gym, there are a handful of other people using treadmills -- some running, some walking. But most people on treadmills fall into two categories:
  • Folks who are just trying to be a little more active.
  • People who focus on strength training and are just working in the cardio they need.
Among dedicated runners, I am decidedly average. I hope to finish in the top half of my age group in my next couple of races (a half-marathon before the full). But it feels pretty good to look like the "real runner" once in a while.

A neighbor and another Loyal Son of Rutgers
You Learn About Strangers' Lives
If you run in your own neighborhood frequently enough, especially at roughly the same time of day every time, you're going to start seeing the patterns in your neighbors' lives. You'll get to know who has to get their kids onto the bus, who's out on the front porch for a morning cigarette, who warms up their car and who just drives off. You will have encyclopedic knowledge of where every dog in your neighborhood lives. You may even catch a glimpse of people's TVs through their front windows. 

I'm not sure what good any of this knowledge does me, but I feel like I know a lot about where I live.

Just some basic race gear
I'm Like a Prop Clown
One of the things people always tell runners who are just starting out is that, unlike just about any other sport or form of exercise, you don't really need any equipment. Yeah, right. On any given run I could have on my person:
  • Backpack water bladder
  • Handtowel for wiping away sweat
  • Gloves
  • Hat or balaclava
  • Armband with phone inside
  • Glucose gel packets
  • Tissues
  • Car key
  • Identification (I carry an expired driver's license.)
And that doesn't even count if I'm with the dog, in which case her leash has a carrier for poop bags.

Maybe I'll Get Serious Next Time
This is just a little bit of the useless knowledge and wisdom I've collected over the past month and change. Of course, you learn some more important lessons about your body, your life and what you're truly capable of, too. We'll get to those another time. 

What silly stuff have you learned while working out? Talk about it in the comments below! 

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