Hazardous PRs

We have our link for submitting your PRs — Personal Records — over on the left, or its own tab up top. Thinking about PRs is often a good idea. The thing is, it can also be a hazard.

The good part, which is very large, about PRs, is that it puts your attention where it belongs — on your own running, rather than on the speedy folks. I was introduced seriously to this when I ran in high school. Our speediest (ran jr. national cross country, and finished in the top 10) guy was loafing through the 2 mile race as I was racing full out. He lapped me and easily won the race. For him ‘loafing’ meant a 10:20 or so 2 mile. I, on the other hand, turned in my PR, breaking 12:00 for the first (and only) time. Since mine was the PR, the team — winner included — were cheering me, not the winner. (He lapped me as he was finishing, so I had a good view of his finish 🙂 He’d loafed, I’d set a PR (11:56). Even if much slower, mine was the harder effort.

The hazard, which I’m very familiar with as I violate the rule so often myself, is to focus too much on your PRs. This is especially a danger for beginners and for people returning from layoffs (injuries, getting married, graduating from school, vacations, moving, … whatever).

For beginners, if you start looking at PRs, there’s that attraction of trying to beat the previous one — every time you go out for a run. The thing is, when you’re beginning, you’ll naturally beat your prior times pretty frequently, without increasing your effort. It’s also, unfortunately, easy to beat prior times by running harder and harder. The problem is, you’ll get injured.

For returners, depends on your layoff. I didn’t run at all for 15 years after setting that 11:56 best at 2 miles (or, more accurately, my 2:21 half mile at the conference meet two weeks later). I remembered all the numbers. And my first figuring was that ‘Ok, I’m slower now, for having not run, but that means, say 8 minute miles instead of the 7:30s I ran in training then, and a 6:00 mile race, instead of the 5:30 or so I turned in back then.’ Horribly wrong, it turned out. It wasn’t until I was able to ignore those old times that I was able to train regularly. (There’d been a few 1-5 run spells in the 15 years.) If you’re coming back from a long time layoff, the one plus here is that your body simply will refuse to do what you think it should. The down side is, too much looking at those old times is depressing and will prevent you getting out enough to train. And, once I finally did train routinely, I did start getting much faster. But it was the routine training that was the key. Not the paces.

For shorter layoffs, the problem I’ve found is, my mind knows in detail how to extract the most from my body, and the body can pretty much respond to do it — even though the next day it’ll be hard to move, or, worse, even though it’ll create an injury for me.

So .. Saturday, the 23rd, I went out after my warmup with the club and visited the track for ‘reasonably hard’ efforts at 100 m, 200 m, and 400 m. If you look over at my PR list, the 100 m, 400 m, and 1500 m bests were set on the same day, within about two hours start to finish. They were all flat out efforts (100%) not ‘reasonably hard’ (should be 90%), and I felt good then and after. After ‘reasonably hard’ efforts, you should be able to run normally the next day. On the 23rd, I turned in 18.5, 41.1, 95.0 for the distances. These are all close to what I expected. And that’s the problem. Given my current base (very little) and such, I should have slowed down substantially from these marks, more like 21, 48, 105.

Having over-pushed for what the body can really tolerate, I didn’t run again until Wednesday, rather than being out again Sunday and Tuesday evenings. There’ll be 2 runs this week instead of the proper 4. Halving my training is not a good idea! So it will be some time before I run any faster than ‘brisk jog’, for any distance.

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