Monday, June 11, 2012

Type B Running

If there was a definition in Webster's Dictionary for "Type B runner," it would be my photo. If a Type A personality is someone who is a driven workaholic, I would be around a Type W. I'm not a lazy runner; and I have the self-discipline to run and train for long races. I am very diligent about getting my workouts in every week. But I'm definitely one of the more laid back runners that I know.

When I was a new runner, I kept a log. I got a free log book for subscribing to Runner's World. I would dutifully write down my distance, time, and how I felt about my run. But that phase didn't last very long. Every once in a while I would get the urge to log my mileage, but I would lose interest quickly. I would start "fantasy runs," where I would imagine myself running from one city to another, but only managed to finish one (Prague to Constanta, Romania). As recently as two years ago, I started an Excel spreadsheet on my computer with a fantasy run from Vladivostok to Moscow following the route of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. I actually made it through the middle of last year (and to Lake Baikal). But when I was in the States that year, keeping track of my distance went by the wayside.

There is a little part of me that wishes to keep a log, mainly because it would be interesting to know how far I have run since 1989.  I know runners who have kept logs since their first day of running and know exactly how many miles or kilometers they have run and how long it took them. They write down their resting heart rates, average pulse rate while running, respiration, body temperature, and blood oxygen saturation. Some people write down the weather conditions and even the dollar to Tajikistan somoni exchange rate on that day in their logs. A lot of the new GPS devices even show your route on Google maps. Other people use various online tools and post their workouts for all to see. I have several Facebook friends whose workouts I know better than my own. There's nothing like seeing, "I ran 5.7381 miles in 49 minutes and 27.86 seconds and felt like I was going to throw up afterward" to convince me that I'm fine without a running log.

I also used to be fairly diligent about keeping track of my mile (in the States) and kilometer (in Europe) splits during races. I would click my watch's split button at the distance markers, then go home and write down my split times. But now I keep the times in my head. Here is what usually happens to me. I think about clicking my watch at the kilometer markers. But after about 4 or 5 kilometers, I realize that I forgot to hit the "split" button on my watch. I then look at my watch at the kilometer markers and then mentally calculate my split times. That has happened to me in my last several races. But I still finish the race regardless of whether or not I remember to save my splits on my watch.

If I'm so Type B, why do I wear a watch? There are a couple of reasons why my watch is a necessity. First of all, I run for time instead of distance. There are no distance markers on any of the paths where I live. Since I know my approximate pace through experience, I know how far I run on a given day. I may be off by 100-200 meters, but in the grand scheme of things that doesn't matter. But I when I'm on a 90-minute run, I can't accurately judge when I have gone 45 minutes and need to turn around. The stopwatch on my watch lets me know. I also use the watch for pacing because I have a tendency to go too fast on my long runs. I look at my watch at my various checkpoints to determine if I'm on the right pace or need to slow down. My perceived speed is often different from my actual pace.

Another Type B thing about me is that I don't set time goals for races anymore. I know my usual time range for a given distance. I'm also at an age where I'm not getting any faster. To me a race is a training run in a new and different location. When I used to set time goals, I would be ecstatic when I was faster than my goal and disappointed when I was slower than my goal time. With racing experience I realized that there are variables that can affect time, like the weather or muscle cramps. My goal for races now is simply to do the best I can.  I often see people at longer races (half-marathons and marathons) with strips of paper on their wrists, or writing on their arms, that show the times that they should be at each marker. Knowing how I am, I would forget to look at my wrist or arm to compare my actual times to the ones on the paper or my skin.

People often ask me if I follow a specific training plan. That's another Type B quality that I have. While I do run 4 days a week, I don't follow a formal training plan. I have had the good fortune to have had awesome training partners who passed on their knowledge to me. Even though how I train may seem old school, it works for me. I also have a variable work schedule and a rigid training plan would not work for me. The only thing that's "rigid" about my training plan is my weekly long run. But if I have to skip a long run, it's not a big deal.

Being a relaxed runner also helps me to discover new things. Yesterday I did my long run (1:40). I wanted to go on a route that I had cycled on a few years ago. But I ended up making a wrong turn and discovered a trail that is perfect for long hill runs. It's part of the Eibsee Run route. I didn't panic about the wrong turn; I just followed the trail until it was time to turn around. On the way back I made another wrong turn and ended up going home a different way than I planned. It was a very fun run and I discovered a new place for long training runs. Sometimes having a poor sense of direction (or as I say, "being GPS challenged") can be a good thing.

In my opinion, what has really turned me into a Type B runner is experience. After over 20 years of racing, I know that there will be good races and disappointing ones. There will be great training runs and ones where I will feel awful. My hope is to get the bad runs over with in training and save the good ones for race day. In my opinion, what has made me more relaxed about my running is that I feel like I have accomplished everything that I wanted to as a runner. I have worked my way up from running 5K races to marathons. I have won women's divisions of races, age group awards, and even won a team competition. Now I see myself as a model for what an older runner can accomplish. While others want to run beyond the marathon distance or qualify for the Boston Marathon, neither of those things really appeal to me. Even though I am a Type B runner, I am still quite happy with everything that I have accomplished over the last 20+ years as a runner. The important thing is pride in going out and doing your best regardless if you keep a log, have time goals, follow a training plan to the letter, or are a Type B runner.

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