Monday, September 5, 2011

What's The Point?

Anyone who follows my blog with any regularity knows how much I like to point out there there is a point in pointlessness, or there might not be a point in having a point. In the end, there might not be any point, but sometimes having no point is the point. Maybe a trip to the pointless forest is in order to clarify things.

Today I went to the track. I was having one of those very off days that led to much indecisiveness, an enormous amount of complaining and loads of nagging worried thoughts. I was in a negative mood. Last night, I considered running a race. However, my foot was a little sore, so I tried some Advil to see if that might help without upsetting my tummy. A few hours later, my stomach was throwing a tantrum, so I decided racing probably wasn't the best idea. Instead, I slept in and went to the track with my new running partner. Even there I was very unsure of what I wanted to do. We warmed up, did some strides and finally decided to do a mile on the track. It was one of those workouts where I started out OK, and sort of fell asleep after the 2nd lap. I'm still so unsure of my pace, capabilities and my foot. I know I could have run faster in the last two laps, but I just didn't. I have these funny thoughts that go like this: "Am I running fast? Am I going hard? Maybe I'm going TOO hard! I better slow down. Oh wait! I feel OK. I should pick up the pace. Wait! I have two laps to go. THAT IS FAR!!! What if my foot falls off? OMG!!" That's when I settle. I would like to get to a point where I don't feel afraid to push it. Confidence and practice. That's what it usually takes- that and a healthy foot. Really, that is my main concern, because I'm not running with an even stride this way. It's not like I'm hopping the mile, but there is still some imbalance.

After the mile, I kinda felt done. We did some little pick-ups on the roads, but I was already feeling tired and concerned about my foot. I like to feel on top of my workouts, especially if they are harder ones. I was somewhat on top of this one, but I wasn't pushing it like I wanted. Again, it's a matter of doing what my foot can manage, and that tends to leave me a little frustrated. (Can you hear those little nagging fears?)

The strange thing is that after witnessing one of the most disturbing workouts ever on the track, I'm more OK with the way I ran than I would be had I pushed past my limits. I really need to just sit back and be patient. When we got back to the track, a Japanese woman who had warmed up about the same time we did, was pushing it pretty hard. God knows how many laps she had already done, but she was whimpering as she ran lap after lap at a pretty fast pace, much faster than my 6:57 mile. I'm guessing she was running closer to 6 min pace or under. At first it was almost funny to hear the porn-like noises coming out of her, but I soon grew concerned as she struggled through more laps-the noises increasing as her pace slowed slightly. At this point, I was wondering why she continued, but more importantly, I wondered why her male coach/companion/friend jumped on the track in an effort to pace her through two more laps. Eventually, she slowed to a walk with him in front, and first bent over, then sort of collapsed on the track, squatting down in full-on emotional break down mode with tears and everything. After a few minutes when she didn't appear to be moving from her crouched position, my partner and I ran over with water to see if she was OK, but we were waved off as if this was all part of her grand training plan and all was fine.

I don't get it. Why go to those kinds of extremes in training? It's as if her coach said, "Warm up, do a few strides and then run until you have a complete emotional and physical breakdown." Two people helped her off the track. She was still crying by the time we left. I found the whole thing very upsetting, and not just because there's a part of me that wishes I could push without the limitations of my foot. No, it was upsetting to see that anyone would go that far in a workout. What is the point? Really- What. Is. The. Point? I can't figure out what purpose this kind of workout would serve- knowing she can go to her physical limit? Knowing she can run past what her body can handle and then be unable to walk off the track? I don't think I have ever had a coach that would have allowed me to continue to the point of complete breakdown like that. Most of my coaches were wise enough to hold me back in workouts, so I could go for it in races. Well, if that's what kind of training she thrives on, so be it. I don't see the value in going to that kind of an extreme in a workout though.

In a race? Then I can see it, sure. Something like this comes to mind, but these ladies were at the end of the Ironman World Championships going for the bronze medal, not doing a track workout on a Monday afternoon.

Sigh. I'm icing my foot. It was pretty sore today. Still, if I can keep the swelling down, it will help. Yeah, there's a part of me that wishes I could push it. I'm not there yet though.


  1. When I lived in Ned, I would often see the Japanese training up there. What you describe here I would see often up there. Many times a guy would drive by in a van or something and shout some angry Japanese while this waif of a lady was going through self torture.

    I reconciled it as comedy.

  2. Yikes. That's definitely not the way I would want to train!

    It reminds me of the one dressage lesson I took in which a German lady yelled at me the entire time. Even if I did something right, she would scream, "SEE THAT'S HOW YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO DO IT!!!" AAAKK! I switched to a different instructor immediately, even though I ended up paying double what that lesson cost. It was worth it.

  3. While the sounds emanating from women runners in extremis are often funny -- they sound like they're being rummeled by some guy who really knows what he's doing -- the subtext is indeed disturbing. I have to wonder about the career longevity of competitive runners who hurt that often, that badly, in training. But then again, some don't value longevity like Americans usually do, and that's fair.

  4. I guess so. I don't think that kind of training makes for truly great athletes. If it does, I'd be surprised. Who knows though? I would definitely agree that longevity with that kind of training isn't likely.

  5. I can hear those nagging little fears. I think you managed that session pretty well. It's best to start off small and build up with track training anyway, never mind if there's an injury problem.

    I don't get it with training to the point of tears/collapse. Don't see any value in that at all - if anything it might reinforce to the athlete that they might end up like that in a race. Joe Garland said recently he wants to change the "Train hard, win easy" saying of Kenyan runners to "Train well, win easy" - I like that.

  6. Thank you, Ewen.

    I don't get it either. I like the motto train, don't strain. I think the no pain, no gain type training is unproductive.