Monday, September 28, 2015

Starting From Scratch

Whew, definitely need to clear out the cobwebs and sweep away the rat shit in this nearly abandoned place. Not sure why the need to write has gurgled up again, but it has. What led to this? A mid-summer epiphony that something fundamental needed to change, both with running specifically and with overall health generally. Motivation wasn't the problem heading into the summer, which is usually a time I try to keep the weekly mileage moderate and the effort consistent.  But by mid-July I was just feeling shot after every run.  And after a late-July "break" while visiting family in North Carolina, I just couldn't get it going.  Every run left me wrung out and I could tell I wasn't gaining any fitness.  If anything, my runs were slowing down. As a result, the motivation pretty much cratered.

So, I decided to tear it all down to the slab and start again. Having enjoyed a number of podcasts on Endurance Planet []discussing the Maffetone Method, I decided to buy my first ever heart rate monitor (a cheapie Polar model - Chris talked me out of the cool $400 Suunto) and adhere to the tenets of the MAF Method. 

What I wanted - so cool.

What I got - kinda fugly.  But it works.

I did the easy calculation of my MAF HR - 134, strapped the monitor on, and set out the door with a new plan.  And then I was struck by what trying to run at a 134 HR meant - namely, barely moving at all.  Slow as a geriatric fucking snail.  The most pathetic shuffle/jog imaginable.  12:00 min. / mile PLUS slow.  Holy shit.  It was immediately obvious that my prior running must have been well into the anaerobic/near-death zone.  I bet my HR was like 350 or something. 

At the same time, I also overhauled the diet (go big, or go home).  I never thought of myself as an unhealthy eater, but the more I researched, the more convinced I became that I wasn't actually eating that well.  For one, my love of refined carbohydrates (pasta, bagels, oh-so-delicious scones with my morning coffee) was a bad, bad, bad thing. I had it backwards.  Avoiding fats while gorging on carbs - no bueno.  I realized this almost instinctively, so finding the motivation to change wasn't difficult.  Giving up my yummy carbs was.  At least at first. 

Now, nearly two months into this experiment, I can honestly say that I rarely miss any of it. And the physical benefits have been real. No more spikey energy levels, weight loss (without really trying), and sharper mental focus.  The running is improving too. From 12:00+ / min. miles, I've worked down to mid/low 10:00 / miles - enough to feel like a "run" rather than a jog. 

More important, it's made running enjoyable again. Finishing a run feeling fresh rather than trashed makes a huge difference, physically and mentally. Both my mind and body are ready to get up the next day and head out the door. That leads to consistency & for me, consistency is the most important training factor. For the next couple of months, the plan is to gradually increase the volume and then see where things are at. If I'm running 50-mile weeks comfortably at the end of November, then another go at Bandera is possible.  If I'm not quite there by then, I'll look for something a little later in the year.