Tuesday, April 3, 2012

YOUR grass is always greener when YOU water it

After last Sunday's race, my legs needed a few days to recover. Racing always takes a lot out of me, no matter what the distance is. Years ago I used to wish that I was a runner who could get out there and race every weekend, now I'm glad that I'm not.

Mental focus. Race buildup. Extra planning and unnecessary stress. Mini-tapers and mini-recoveries that interfere with quality workouts. 

Yes I like racing, but in the past year I've come to realize that races come at a high cost for me. They cause me to add excess bulk in some areas to ensure that all the work is done in order to earn my finish, and that can wear my body down quickly both mentally and physically. Not to mention that keeping the legs sharp for multiple distances is tricky, and finding the fine balance between what is best for each race while still paying attention to the body and not over training could really make a sane person go crazy.

Last week...
I wanted 2 quality workouts. But I only got one semi-decent workout in.
I wanted 3 strength sessions. But was only able to find the time and desire for 2.
I wanted 2 yoga classes. But only managed one that made me feel sick and dizzy.

Learning to let go of the space between expectation and reality is what makes intuitive training work for me. There is no guilt, no shame, and no need to find time to squeeze in extra miles or workouts that I know would be of very little value to me. Teaching myself the difference between pushing myself outside of my comfort zone smartly and beating myself into the ground physically has been challenging because in my mind there never used to be a difference.

Now I find myself frequently asking why.

Why do I need this double day?
Why do I need to hit x amount of miles per week?
Why do I have to load this day this way?
Why is this cross training activity important to me?

If the answer is simply and only "BECAUSE"...
then I know that I'm not making the best long-term decision for myself.

It makes little difference to me how many miles I clock a week or if I can do 10x1 mile repeats at race pace, instead my priorities lie in getting to the starting line of my race in May healthy, stronger then I've ever been before, and confident that all of the steps I've taken up until that point have been the right ones to prepare ME for MY race.

Lately I've been feeling like others around me are always in competition with me or others during their training. And it's starting to bother me. On Saturday I took to the lakefront during the late morning/early afternoon hours to get in a long run and somehow got caught up in a lot of runner traffic that doesn't usually exist on weekdays. There was a 50k race on the lakefront where the runners were doing 3x10 mile laps in addition to plenty of other runners out and about. While most of the ultra racers were very friendly and cheerful, it was the other runners that seemed to be making me a bit loopy as I slowly trotted along at my own pace and begun to carefully observe my surroundings.

Why is it that runners will sacrifice their workout just to have the glory of passing a few people?

I was getting passed left and right by people, which is really no big deal until I started to feel like a target. There was a man who was dead set that he must be running ahead of me clomping along in his what looked to be brand-spankin new New Balance Minimus kicks. His feet were hitting the ground so hard that it could hear him over the waves crashing along the lakefront for several minutes as he trailed behind me. When he passed, his arms were flailing all over the place and he sounded like he was going to have an asthma attack. Several minutes later he stopped ahead and begun to play with his feet, which I'm sure were cursing him for pushing so hard in unfamiliar shoes, and I caught up the distance and passed him by. Then this whole process repeated, two more times.

This man prompted a thought in my mind that stuck with me for the remaining 10+ miles of my run as I begun to suddenly notice others runners a bit more...

Is speed really more important then quality and control?

Watching the other runners from behind the shade of my sunglasses, I noticed that this seemed to be the norm. Usually I pay little-to-no attention to the other runners around me and instead put myself in a bubble of seclusion where the only thing that matters during those precious moments of labored breathing are me, my workout, and what my goal for the day is. But it seemed like most of the runners surrounding me were somehow in competition with one another.

As runners we are all so hungry for speed that it seems like we often go to great lengths to get it.

For me, I find little value in running balls to the walls everyday. I once trained like this and it burned me out well before race time ever appeared and turned me into a mental mess. So I now take to the lakefront of my city for my workouts minding my goal for the day. Other runners don't really matter to me on my workouts, there is little satisfaction here.

This is my life, and I run for me.


If it's an easy day
I conserve the hell out of it and often times clock nearly 9 minute miles. Pass me all you want, my pace isn't going to change.

If it's a fartlek or speed work day
 I'm pressing hard and have blinders for what is going on around me. I won't notice you unless you are feeding off of me and your clomping feet and wheezed breath break my focus. If you mess with my workout here, I will say a few choice words to you. So it's best to leave me be.

Maybe I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed...but with running blogs, Facebook fan pages, twitter, DailyMile, I'm starting to feel like most runners are turning their training into competitions with one another.

I'm a strong advocate of doing what works for me and me only, but all of the training competition I'm seeing is starting to bother me...


Anyone else feel this way?

In the words of my wise yoga instructor last night, YOUR grass is always greener when YOU water it.


  1. oh I love your wise instructor too.
    Far too many of us (never me right? :-)) lament our lack of water and do nothing.

  2. I know how you feel. When I started blogging I feel like my running became a complete mess. I felt like I wasn't fast enough and constantly compared myself to other people. One day it hit me and I just don't care anymore. I run because I want to and I run because I can. I am not trying to prove anything to anyone except myself. My training has changed drastically. I rarely ever wear a Garmin because I find it takes the enjoyment out of my runs sometimes. I've learned to embrace my abilities and if people want to pass me or beat my times, so be it! I am happy for them and their ever so speedy legs :)

  3. I think most if not all endurance athletes are super competitive. We just all need to learn to be competitive at the right times! I try to stick to the quality over quantity saying. Right now I'm more focused on strength training than running and after my marathon my legs didn't bounce back like I expected. I knew either I could keep logging miles, but not make any strength gains OR take a few days off and get everything back on track. So what if I missed a few runs, in the long run, it doesn't matter :)

  4. this is such an important post and i'm SO with u in getting annoyed when i feel that others are just trying to compete with me (or anyone) for no reason. the person who has to one-up ur mileage just 'because' and on the easy day runs the guy who is across the street and has to just prove he's not going to let a chick run faster than him. but when u're actually in training, i think as tempting as it can be to get sucked into the competition, we just have to 'be the bigger person' and stick to what we know will benefit ourselves the most in the long run. but it sucks to have to be the bigger person sometimes, and so it's nice to blog and vent how annoying these randomly competitive people are...hehe. :) keep doing ur thang girl, and keep rocking ur own training! :)

  5. I just entered the blogging community and Dailymile. I liked them because I found that connecting with other runners who are passionate about running is motivating and inspiring. I hope it never turns into a competition, but I do have to remind myself to stick to what works for me. The are plenty of runners that log more miles or do faster track workouts but to compare myself would kill the excitement I have for running right now. I'm glad runners on the trails near my home don't try to race me. That would upset me too!

  6. An enjoyable and sensible piece, Chicago. And thoughtful comments as well. Like the others who've tossed in their ten cents here, I'm a runner because I enjoy running. And I run every day, usually managing to get in an hour or so. But my thing has never been how many miles I could run in a day. I'm just into how many days I can run a mile. Kansas City

  7. this is a fabulous post.

    I loved every bit of it.

    well said, for sure.

  8. I'm a Chicago lake path runner as well although Ive never really noticed competition on the path. Like someone else said, many runners are super competitive so I guess this doesn't really surprise me. A little competition while training definitely helps me although I'm sure super annoying when someone randomly just chooses you to race against!!

  9. I suppose it's human nature to compete an compare ourselves to one another. Unfortunately the people insecure with themselves must make efforts to make themselves feel better, usually at someone else's expense.

    I don't understand this type of mindless "competition" and stay away from it and not think about it. As you said, your workouts have purpose, and that purpose will get you to the start of your half stronger and healthier than ever. Try not to let people bug you- easier said than done I know! (gosh walking to work each morning gets my blood boiling between all the smokers and much slower or inconsiderate walkers)

    As always, very well written article. :)

  10. I think there is a lot of truth here, and I can see how competition can be an issue in blogland. But, it does make me laugh that people can compete with each other when they don't even know each other (and no one is wearing a bib, LOL). I do think that open training logs like daily mile, running ahead can really foster comparison, if not competition. So, if Brit ran such an awesome 8K, maybe I can do her training and run the same 8K. Well, you are not Britt and you will likely get injured. This is why I am no longer sharing my training on line, and also why I am shying away from posting times and paces on my blog. Like you, this year I am starting every run by asking myself what I am trying to accomplish with that run: recover? build my aerobic system? VO2max? pace? I then stick with it. Having a coach has really helped with that.
    You are growing into such a strong runner, Britt, both physically and mentally and I see 2012 as such a break through year for you! Exciting!

  11. I really like this post. While I encourage competition and think it CAN be great, I think it's so important to remember to do what works for you.

    I am with you in that 8 minute miles do not feel like recovery for me, and that is not something that will allow me to recover. I've been trying to run more miles because I feel like that's what everyone else does, but honestly after this marathon I think I'm going to go back down to 30 MPW. It makes me happier and I think I'm about the same speed.

  12. what an amazing, heartfelt, and thoughtful post. i think many of us have felt this way more than we'd care to admit. Often times people's competitions only distract my goals!
    Thanks for this...

  13. I really appreciate this post! I have been feeling this was lately and have thought about not reading blogs anymore. I find that sometimes I get caught up in comparing myself to others and feeling bad when I don't do as much as someone else. Thank you for the reminders that this is my journey and no one else's.

  14. Way to organize thoughts into a great post, I could definitely relate from internal pressure to train a certain way to meet goals. Intuitive training should be honored. We should listen to what our bodies are telling us and go with the flow. Push, but not outside of the lines. It's a slippery slope. I love that a dedicated and speedy runner like yourself is this honest about running and your feelings.

    Someone recommended your blog since I am moving to Chicago and I am loving it. I want you to train me!

  15. Can't tell you how much I love this post! From the need to pay attention post-race and really recover (this is so me) to the issue of passing others during workouts. I just posted about how I used people as targets during my tempo run yesterday. And I pointed out that I don't do this during an easy workout. Today during my recovery run, there was a woman just up ahead of me. yes, the temptation was there to catch her, but my legs were tired from yesterday, I have Boston in 12 short days--there could be nothing dumber than trying to get her. So I didn't and my legs are happier!

  16. Amazing post as usual:) I could never race every weekend...it takes a lot out of me too. Being pregnant I have really learned to let go of getting upset if people pass me. I am learning that I need to pay attention to my run and my goals rather than everyone around me. It has also helped me to really pay attention to the quality of my workouts and not just going crazy each workout with speed...maybe that is how people avoid injuries ha:) You are amazing Brit and I hope you have a great day!

  17. Uhm, have you read your own blog? You're part of the problem.
    Maybe the guy "clomping" past you on the lakefront was bothered by YOU. Why are YOU so concerned about everyone else's work outs?

    Get over yourself.

    1. Because it's her blog and she can write about whatever is on her mind. Why are YOU here anyway?

  18. I have one running buddy who always wants to be faster. We'll do a fantastic 6-mile run, and according to Garmin (which isn't even totally accurate!) our pace will average 9-minute miles on the nose. I'll tell her, and she'll reply "darn, I was really hoping for under 9 minutes." Although I don't know WHY. I think just to hit a certain number. I've tried to explain to her that all of your runs shouldn't be at the same pace (she'll do a long run at her goal half marathon pace). Sometimes it's good to go slow! But she's always so hard on herself.

  19. Interesting post. Part of learning to race is learning to listen to your body and train your way. We are all different and what works for someone else may not work for you. There is a lot of competitiveness out there and I've learned to just ignore it. Some people are naturally competitive and some are just insecure and use competition to make themselves feel better. Try to not let it get to you. It sounds like you are running your way without comparing yourself to others and are on track. Hopefully you will inspire others to do the same.

  20. Britt, I loved this post, thanks for sharing your thoughts, as per usual.

    I was reading a certain running blog today and it made me feel BAD/SLOW about a recent run and I realized that it is TOXIC to read stuff like that. So I have made a choice not to read that one blog as often, as long as it causes me to have such a ridiculous emotional reaction.

    I signed up for daily mile, but I have been really bad about updating it....and I realized that part of why I'm so bad about updating it is that I feel sort of weird about putting all my runs out there for everyone to see. On my blog, I tend to put up highlights of runs that I particularly enjoyed or felt proud of. I usually include my long run info, because those are something that I like to reflect on and look back on. But anyway, I run for myself and I know that everyone has something different that works for them, so I don't want people to compare themselves to me or for me to compare myself to other people!