Friday, April 2, 2010

Addicted to Runners' Crack

As a runner who has always believed in quality over quantity, I used to ascribe very little significance to the number of miles I run in a given month. Like I do with my utility bill and bank statements every month, I would take no more than five seconds to find the number at the back of the last page, register its existence in my subconscious for a brief second before tossing it aside, never to be heard from again. I've always figured this to be the best way to handle this little predicament since my monthly miles often pale in comparison to those of more experienced and seasoned marathoners. Why would I subject myself to such embarrassment? Ignorance is bliss as far as I was concerned.

Yesterday however, after I logged my final miles for March and calculated my total for March, the number that inhabited the last cell kept me perplexed and dumbfounded. 230.6, the spreadsheet said. I stopped and took notice. It isn't simply that 230.6 is a rather big number. It's actually the 3rd largest in my personal history, surpassed only by a 245.3 in August'09 and a 241.0 in September '09. It isn't only that it was in March which is traditionally not a high mileage month for me. After all, I logged "only" 194 in March '09 at the height of my training for the Boston Marathon. The real reason why 230.6 for March is so astounding is that
we had two Nor'Easters separated by a rainstorm to end all rainstorms!

Hmmm...yeah, so how did I manage 230.6 despite all that horrific weather? I'm not quite sure. All I know is that I'm not entirely as happy with this extravagant mileage as you might think. On the one hand, I know I should be thrilled that I'm stepping up the mileage, building a strong aerobic base and more importantly, not getting hurt. But on the other, I hate the fact that 200+ monthly miles with 50-65 mile weeks is now the new norm for me. There's no going back to 30 or even 40 mile weeks without feelings of failure, self-doubt and unfulfillment. This is absolutely absurd to me! Where's the guy that PR'd and/or BQ'd the marathon for 4 years straight running less than 40 miles per week? Where's the guy that thought he could get by just running 3-4x per week? Honestly, I don't even recognize him anymore. Not only so, but this insidious transformation to higher volume training was more a matter of preference rather than choice. It's not that I feel like I have to train and/or run more. I just feel more comfortable with myself when I do, as strange as it may sound.

So where will this lead? Is there an end in sight? Or will I just be running more days and logging more mile until I literally break down or sustain a life-altering injury? I don't know and I'm not sure. For right now, my body is feeling healthy and I'm taking care to run purposefully, train intelligently and avoid running miles that serve no identifiable objective. That is all I can do and all I can hope for.

In the back of my mind, I am all too aware that one day I will no longer be able to do this, so today I must do all I can with what I have so I can live life with no regrets. That is the mantra of the modern athlete. That is how I define awesomeness!

On a lighter note, I am starting to see MILEAGE as runners' CRACK. After all, once you score or get a high, you really can't go back. Not to mention the tolerance, the addiction, the depression, the's all right there, written in the shoes! Haha! Quick, is there a Runner's Anonymous agency or website set up yet? Maybe one of my blog readers should get on that and accept me as its first member...Just a thought.

Finally, it's race weekend for me. It's so exciting! But whether you're racing, running, or none of the above, go enjoy the sunshine and have yourselves a fantastic weekend!


Julie said...

Hi Lam,
I read your title and couldn't help but smile:) Addicted to runner's crack!!! Yes, I think I could use some of that! Nice job this month...can we say, "Holy Miles!" I don't know how you do it!! My goals have been to hit 100 miles a month and I find this challenging at times!

Woo hoo!! It is Friday and the weekend is finally here!! I hope that you have a wonderful Easter Lam:)

EZEthan said...

Dude... you always get way to introspective about training... just enjoy the fact that you're building your mileage and your body is cooperating.... I don't think you should worry as much about your "peak" until you actually get there... "If you can fill the unforgiving minute... yada yada yada..."

Also, have you ever considered focusing on the shorter distances for a while (5k, 10k)??? I remember you were pretty enthused about your 5k PR... I'm sure if you actually focused on the 5k for a training cycle you'd cut a great bit more time off of it. If your really feeling like the mileage is weighing you down you could put all this marathon training on the back burner for a bit, and focus on the shorter distances (i.e. more tempo and speedwork, shorter long runs...).

Just my 2cents...

Morgan said...

...and with this post you are CRACKing me up. Lam you are outta control! I've never seen someone look at his running so analytically as you do! I say you just look at it, celebrate that your body is letting you get away with all this beat down and go do a victory lap around the park. :) Have a great Easter weekend!

Adam said...

I'm bad about commenting, but I HAD to comment on this one....because I totally thought that it was going to be something about plumbers crack and how they should pull up their pants. :)

That is really awesome that you cranked out that many miles. I actually DO keep track of my miles pretty close so it is cool to see someone put one foot in front of the other for that long.

kevin f forde said...

you are the poster child for the thinking mans runner!!
Having recently upped my weekly mileage I know where you are coming from,what worked 18 months/2 years ago won't cut it anymore if we want to keep pace w/ the aging process,it just goes w/ the territory,we have a choice not to do it but it seeems we do anyway!
Athlete's Crack??Hell I'm an addict,gotta get a hit each day,b4 a one day detox and then I'm looking for another hit!
Seriously there are worse things we could be addicted to in life.
Good luck this weekend,look forward to hearing about it on Monday.

Anonymous said...

You may be onto something there! Good luck this weekend!

J said...

Yes I think we are all in some shape or form addicted to miles, times, etc. If you are feeling good keep it up! You are always telling us to listen to our bodies so you should do the same and just continue in the way that is the best for you! Great job on the march mileage! Very impressive!

B.o.B. said...

Crack is whack people. LOL! JK I have recently found that I HATE cutting back mileage after my marathons so I can see how you have become addicted. I say go Lam! (And not getting hurt with that mileage is a feat in itself.)

Brian Morrissey said...

I'm not sure I agree with the crack analogy. You ran some great marathons w pretty low mileage. It's a testament to a certain amount of natural talent. I think you should look at the 230 as a sign that you've taken a step back and adjusted your training, in a thoughtful way, to take it to the next level. Following you on DM, I know that 230 isn't chockfull of junk miles that the mileage weenies lard into their training. I have no idea what will happen in NJ, but I suspect you're in store for your next big step in performance, thanks in large part to that 230. Meanwhile, I'm staring at a mere 170 leading into my Boston taper. I'd rather be in your shoes.

Anonymous said...

wow what a great month you had. super impressive given the weather and that march is a blahhh month (at least for me) in general.

i'm somewhat in the same boat as you. as i've racked up tons of miles this training cycle i'm wondering if i'll be able to tone it down a bit once the marathon is over

DumpRunner Matt said...

Interesting perspective but one I do not share. While I did hit 214 last month (would’ve been 234 had I been able to do all of my runs), I know in the back of my mind that this is untenable for the long haul. Having 2 young children and an awesome wife means this many miles requires time away from them. So while 200+ means I am pushing myself, >200 means I have more family time.

I’ve never really chased miles anyway. For most of my running life, I always took 1-2 months off. The process of improving is as much fun as running fast all the time. I still love the cycle of going from nothing to something; The ebb and flow of fitness. It doesn’t offer your best chance at a PRs but it is still a challenge.

That said, the last 5 years (the last 5 of my 30s) I dedicated myself to a consistent effort- year round effort. Outside of a major injury it has worked wonders. But I’ll come back to earth sooner rather than later and I’m okay with that. I am still in search of the Perfect Mileage Week. One that allows me great fitness, little impact on my family as possible and a chance to do great things on race day.

Matt said...

Great month of training!

I can completely relate to wanting to see the mileage increase every month, but if I ever get to the kind of numbers you're putting up I wouldn't have a choice but to slow down. That's some serious mileage - Good luck in your half!!

T-na said...

"... and avoid running miles that serve no identifiable objective."

I'm not a runner, per se, but I do enjoy logging a few miles here and there. I follow running blogs for inspirations to keep moving.

I am a little surprised by the above comment about avoiding miles that serve no identifiable objective. Do runners get to the point in their training where they lose the joy of running for the sake of running? Must there be a purpose or objective to every mile?

DumpRunner Matt said...


There is joy in purpose. (and results)

Colin Hayes said...

Count me as an addict. I'm not quite at your mileage level (and nowhere near your speed), but I went from a former PR of 163 miles in Feb. of this year to a new PR of 206 miles last month. Wasn't shooting for an actual number. It just worked that way, as I build toward a mid-May marathon. I will say that I also have a concern that I may have trouble ramping back down (gee, the taper should be joyous), but considering that a 30-mile week used to be a high week for me, but is now a "cut-back" week, I guess perspectives change.
Anyway, good thoughts, and good luck w/your half this weekend!

T-na said...

DumpRunner Matt,
True, there is joy in purpose.

Guess I just never thought that was the case with running; especially with all you hardcore runners. I thought runners have their own reasons to run but most do love the act of running itself, not necessarily just for the end results. The end results are more icing on the cake, extra frosting. Otherwise, would running cease to bring us joy if/when we don't have purpose? I was surprised to read that the miles need to have an identifiable objective.

As I said, I don't train and not anywhere near the level of most readers here. Guess it would make more sense if you are in training, 'cause you would have to have goals. Just more curious than anything else.

Jesse said...

I can definitely see how addicting the miles can be. I'm amazed at your ability to log such intentional miles and workouts, while staying injury free - I hope I can learn to listen to my body as well as you seem to.

lindsay said...

you already know i am of the opinion that miles are addicting! i am definitely in the "i'm so worthless now - only running 20, 30, 40 mpw" group :-/ not cool! i know i need to personally be more accepting of it, it's not like "low" mileage is unacceptable/worthless.

congrats on the new mileage. maybe we can at least get some help to adjust to cyclical training so we don't beat our selves up in the 'off season' when our miles are lower?

Michael M said...

I lived the Blog (oops Freudian - I meant "Loved" the Blog).

Seriously you ask "Where does it end?" Well, I can't speak to end, but how about a missing list on the right side of your Blog? I see "Marathons Completed" and I see "Half Marathons"

Where is "Ultra Marathons...? (yes I have a big smile on my face)

Katie said...

I chuckled a little when I read this, because I am having a similar issue. This last month I ran over 200 miles and many weeks I was running between 48-55 miles. And cardio wise I'm feeling incredible, but I'm also pregnant. 19 weeks. And I'm having some other aches, so the last couple weeks I've only managed 40 miles a week. Now I'm all ugh, 40 miles, awful...I know 40 miles isn't bad, but I think it's hard too because I do feel so cardio wise. Anything besides running feels like I'm doing nothing.

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