Do Work

Oh Well (2) by Lydia Komatsu

“Oh Well (2)” courtesy of Lydia Komatsu

Sometimes, you read a publication and think that’s where I want to be. The first time I read Meter Magazine, I knew I’d found an aesthetic that matched mine. It was writing focused, which is to say that of course all magazines feature writing, but that doesn’t make the writing worth reading. And when it comes to writing about running, the last thing I want to read is another 250 words on how to train for a marathon on 10 miles a week.

The heritage of the running is so rich, so ancient, for crying out loud, that I’ve wondered why writing about it has gotten so damned boring. Anybody remember The Runner’s Literary Companion? My goodness, there was some incredible work in there. Sure, we had to put up with AE Housman (groan) but we also got  some killer writing by Whitman, Sillitoe, and Joyce Carol Oates. And of course, no discussion about running writing is complete without mention John L. Parker, Jr. and my favorite sleeper, Haruki Murakami.

Reading Meter, I knew I’d found a publication that believed running was worth art. Immediately, I started thinking about how to write for the magazine. The magazine is published by Tracksmith, a new running apparel company out of Wellesley, MA. My initial queries to customer service didn’t get too far, nor did I expect them to jump at that chance to publish someone untested when they could get Toni Reavis or Chris Lear on board. Regardless, I started drafting something about a very cold run I took one winter day in Alaska.

When the time was right, I pitched the editor on the piece, which had morphed into something I didn’t foresee when I began. It started as a pretty straightforward exploration of what it takes to run in the Alaskan winter. But as I added context through layers of scene, I realized there was something else about running I wanted to get across. How it has been there for me through a lifetime of war, a common thread even. And how sometimes it has felt like running has gotten me through difficulties along the way.

In other words, it grew legs. Took on a life of its own.

“42 Below” ran on the Studio Tracksmith page a week ago, and I’ve had some very nice feedback since then. Which is nice, but not really the point of this blog post. The point is that when you believe in a project, you find a way to make it happen. Do the work required to make the project come to life. Write and edit and write some more. Go exploring and use social media to establish connections. Exercise patience with the knowledge that time tends to make all writing better.

Hopefully, you’ll see me in the pages of Meter some day soon. But until that day, this little victory is going to keep my hope meter at least half full.



Running: Month 4 of the 5k Training Plan

The final month of your training is all about fine-tuning. You’ve got a good base of running under your belt – probably 200+ miles, dozens of quality sessions, and a good sense of race pacing. That’s a decent list of accomplishments so far, and a good reminder that good training is about accumulation. One workout will never decide the fate of a season. But a season’s worth of workouts certainly will.

1) Intervals. Week 1: 3 x 1600m(1 mile) at goal 5k race pace with 3:00 rest. Week 2. 3 x 1600m at goal pace with 2:30 rest. Week 3: 3 x 1600m at goal pace with 2:00 rest. Why the decrease in rest? Couple of reasons. One is to evaluate your ability to maintain that pace as rest decreases. It’s a technique Roger Bannister used to break 4:00 for the mile, and certainly good enough for us. Another reason is that it will help attenuate you to race-day demands, at the pace you intend to run. Not to say it’s going to suck, but it certainly might. And you never want to save the suffering for race day. Week 4: Race week. Take it easy. 6 x 400m at goal pace with plenty of rest, no less than three days out.

2) Long Runs + Tempo Work. This month we combine the two, in a little Matt Fitzgerald technique for late-season adaptation.  I won’t get into the science because a) I don’t fully grasp it as a Humanities major and b) it’s probably more than you care to know. Weeks 1 and 2: 80-90 minutes, with the last three miles at tempo pace. Week 3: 80-90 minutes

3) Race Week: Ensure you do the intervals prescribed above. There’s this dumb idea engrained in our heads that week of a race, you should rest completely. As in no running. Call it “peaking,” “tapering,” whatever. It’s bollocks. For 5k, there’s really no such thing as a true taper like there is in a marathon. In fact, taking complete rest is counterproductive because after a few days, your body will begin to discard the gains you’ve made over the past four months. If you’ve ever taken a week easy before a race, then shown up to the line with flat legs, it’s likely because you haven’t stimulated your system enough the week of the race. Enough said on that. Day before the race, do a short run and finish with a couple of easy wind sprints.

Show up  to your goal race, and kick some ass. Race with confidence in your training, and leave nothing on the course.

Running: Month 3 of the 5k Training Plan for Time Scrooges

Scrooge says his 5k PR is faster than Jean-Luc's.

Scrooge says his 5k PR is faster than Jean-Luc’s.

Halfway through the program is a great point to take stick and make sure things are going well. Do you have any little injuries that refuse to go away? If so, how are you managing them? Do you feel weak in a particular phase of racing, maybe in the hills or the last mile? Don’t get me wrong – you can take stock on a daily basis, it’s just that after two months you actually have some data to work from: two races, 16 total quality sessions, and eight long runs. Not bad.

This month, we’re going to extend the intervals to 1200s (3/4 of  mile), while tempo runs will stay pretty constant and long runs will lengthen slightly. Some might wonder why I’ve structured the program in such a rote fashion, and the answer is brilliance in the basics. The workouts are repetitive so you can 1) build a sense of pacing and 2) easily track your progress and 3) remember your workout even if you only have 40 minutes on a lunch break to sneak it in. This program isn’t quite the lipstick and eyeshadow of Jogger’s World (“train for your marathon on ten minutes a week!”) but it also isn’t Jack Daniels (some of his marathon workouts have left me in an existential crisis).

1) 1200m Intervals. The pacing is going to be weird the first time, but you’ll get used to it. Once again the track is preferable but a verified distance of flat ground also works. Week 1: 3-4 x 1200m at 5k pace with 2:00 rest. Add one more repeat each week until you have a max total of 4 miles in total interval distance.

2) Tempo Runs. Continue with a weekly 20-30 minute tempo with the pace changes as noted last month.

3) Long Runs. Week 1: 65 minutes. Week 2: 80 minutes. Week 3: 85 minutes. Week 4: 85 minutes.

4) Racing. If you haven’t raced yet for whatever reason, now would be a really good time to log a 5k race and see where your fitness resides.