Saturday, September 19, 2009

Now We're Making Progress

Yessiree! Saturday morning I laced up my shoes and got out in time to meet with the Cal Coast group. It's been a number of weeks since I've run with the group. I've got to admit - it sure beat running double digit miles by myself. I've been running on my own ever since my long runs crept up over 12 miles and the weather started getting hot. Best I can tell, it's been about 8 weeks or so since running with the club. It was strange to actually talk to others while on the move.

Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I'm primarily a lone runner. I like to put my shoes on and head out on the trails myself. I use the time as my therapy. I can use the hour or two a day to detach myself from the daily stresses of the job and to keep from biting my wife's head off when I get home after a tough day.

But, it wasn't until this weekend that I realized there are benefits of running with a group. Since I was coming off an extended two week illness, I really held back on my pace. But I found myself out with the lead group. Huh? these are the "fast" folks. Okay. The really fast folks may not have shown up today, but still - I shouldn't be out here running comfortably with this group! I never would have guessed that my running has improved to this point if I had not run with the group.

My point is that a runner can certainly use a group as a way to gauge improvement. Sure, there's always the watch and checking your pace this week versus last week, but it a totally different effect when you can actually see the improvement. Now, I still think there is a big drawback to group training. One of the ways that I have been improving the past months is by running long and running slow. Other than a quality workout, I use my watch to make sure I am not running too *fast*. I spend a lot more time paying attention to my heart rate than I do my pace. I really try to keep my aerobic workouts at a heart rate less than 85% of max, and my long runs at less than 75% of max. Add the group dynamic and it would be tough for me to hold back. Especially when all the nubes leave me in the dust. And there is nothing that can hurt your training more than to be running too many miles too fast. A lot of people run out of gas on a nine or ten miler. It's because they are running in lactate threshold trying to keep up with a group thinking that running faster is better. Well, by definition, lactate threshold is the speed you can hold for approximately one hour. For most of us weekend warriors that is max pace for somewhere between six and seven miles. Beyond that your body will start turning from glycogen to lactate for it's primary energy source, which really defeats the purpose of the long run.

So my advice? Group running can be fun. There are the obvious social benefits. You can use the group to gauge your improvement over time. But, avoid the need to compete with your running pals. Remember the goal of the long run - to be on your feet for extended periods of time. This stimulates your body's ability to produce, store and use glycogen - your primary energy source in long distances. You should not be running so fast that you run out of gas. Slow down and enjoy the scenery with your friends!

Oh - the stats? 10 miles at an easy pace. I picked it up the last three miles and dropped sub 9:00 just to blow the old pipes out. The cold seems to pretty much be a thing of the past. I had to deal with a little *snooze* (snot ooze), but otherwise had a decent run for the first time in several weeks!

Now that the weather is cooling down and my miles are winding down, it will be nice to run with people again.


  1. Great Glenn. Sounds very positive today. Keep kickin'.

  2. Great job on the run. Glad you're feeling better. I'm looking at possibly joining the running club in my town. Could be interesting. :)

  3. Way to go -- I'm glad you're feeling better.

    Your insight on group runs is interesting as well.

  4. Running groups are fun and motivating. I discovered them a few years ago and now I'm hooked. You don't always have to talk but it is nice to have people scooting you along!
    Glad your run went well! Gorgeous weather today, isn't it?

  5. Glenn-- Thanks so much for your advice today and the advice left on my blog last week. I am very glad you spend the time to help all of us out-- I am a better runner because of it!

    I, too, have recently discovered the joys of running with others. I have not yet started the group thing but will soon. I have though, started running with a pal and it really helps pass the time!

  6. I always find I run better when I'm with the group, even if I'm running by myself (which I do quite often). I think group runs keep me honest.

    LB is looking good for the herd. I'll keep you posted.

  7. I definitely like running with a group...but I definitely like running alone too. The variety of both is good.

    Glad you are able to get out and run now and that you can see your improvement. That's always fun.

  8. I ran with a group for the first time this weekend. It was actually kind of funny because I ended up running the first 6 miles with a guy who reminded me a lot of you (or at least my perception of you based on your blog and tweets).

    It was early in the morning and we had a good chat. There were a couple of times I made a comment that he didn't really get because he wasn't actually you. LOL

  9. i'm the same. i like running alone, but i like running with a group every now and then. helps with accountability and also a little camaraderie/competition never hurts either! glad you're feeling better and had a good run.

  10. After a few years of running alone, I found that group running helped with the mental aspect, especially when deep into the higher miles. It's good to have that support. Last year I did use the group as a gauge of how I was doing, somewhat based on where I was in the group, but now (since the injury) I just mostly pay attention to what I'm doing and not worry so much about keeping ahead or being behind.

    Glad you're feeling much better!

  11. You make a good point about being able to gauge progress by running with others. I always run alone as well! And I enjoy the solitude and having my thoughts to myself. But I would like to jump in on a run with a group to see how it feels. Thanks for the post!

  12. I admit I prefer to run alone but sometimes I really enjoy the group running b/c of just what you said: its a measurement of my current pace and effort. And I love eavesdropping, though usually I'm the one doing all the talking.