Keeping it Honest

Since I'm building a base for Vancouver Marathon training right now, I've been running on a mixture of roads and trails. This has been a departure from the purely trail running that I've been doing for over a year, and I have to say I am enjoying the combination. Both types of running keep me honest, but in different ways. Brendan gave me a Garmin watch for Christmas, so I've been entertaining myself by mapping the routes and graphing the profiles of my runs. Here are two typical ~10k routes that I've done this week, the first in Squamish on the trails and the second in Vancouver on a mixture of roads and paved paths (note the elevation scales are not the same):

10k on trails - 1h10
10.5k on roads - 53 min
So how do these both "keep me honest"? On the trails, sheer grit and focus on footing are paramount. It's as much a mental game as a physical one: there is very little easy, zoned out running (at least not on Squamish trails - if my attention wavers for a second I can easily trip on a rock, or slip on a root, or slide over the edge of a mossy, wet rock outcrop. Seriously.). On the other hand, in trail running you really can't worry about pacing, because the terrain changes so often and in such extreme ways - you can go from flying downhill one minute to struggling up a rooty, rocky mountainside the next (mind you, the downhills are often extremely technical, so in practice are sometimes as slow going as the ups). Running a 7-minute+ kilometre is not uncommon, and is certainly not cause for concern. If I decide to power hike up a steep incline instead of wasting energy trying to run it, that makes perfect sense and also gives me a bit of time to take in a gel and some fluid if I'm out on a long run.


















In road running by contrast, there is (relatively) nowhere to hide. Sure, there are some hills, but overall everything is nice and smooth and not cause for the pace to vary by much more than a few seconds per km. This requires a different kind of focus, because zoned-out easy running is possible, and very tempting. When I'm on the roads, I am much more in-tune with my pace and goals for the marathon and, as such, find myself looking at my watch regularly. I am still running relatively slowly right now as I come back from my layoff, but have started incorporating some faster workouts into my weekday runs to get my legs used to turning over quickly again. It's hard work, but very satisfying to see my times getting incrementally faster each week.

Roads have pretty amazing views, too

In one week, I'll be 12 weeks away from the race, and will start training in earnest. I have always loved the grind of marathon training - it is without a doubt a gruelling 3 months, but what keeps me going is the knowledge that I'm working hard toward a goal. Vancouver will be my 10th marathon, and I want to try to set a PB. I am going to keep doing long runs on the trails on weekends, which I think will save my legs a bit from the pavement pounding, and which I know will regularly rejuvenate me. I also can't bring myself to fully give up these trails! 

The plan, then: to keep it fresh, and keep it honest. And, of course, to have fun along the way.

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