Rob's Blog Archive

August 25, 2013

The End of Late Night Jogs










I refer to Montana as Alaska-Lite.  Socially and physically, there’s a lot to this.  Mountains cover much of both states, but so do plains.  People are independent verging on bizarre---often from the wrong side.  There’s a strong culture of self-dependence.  And we’re as far north as any other state in the union, except Alaska. 

With the geography, our mid-summer days are quite long---sunrise at 5:38 and sunset at 9:34.  But it goes beyond this.  Our twilight continues well after sunset and starts long before sunrise.  We do get dark, but you have to wait---it’s a long time between seeing the first star and making out both bands in the Milky Way. 

Throughout the summer, I could put off my workout until very late.  And I did.  By virtue of one thing or another, I’d often push and take my driveway with just enough light to make out the stones I had to avoid. 

During July, none of this changes much.  The nature of the calendar, the orbit of the earth, and some very basic mathematics, mean that the hours in a day don’t change at all at the solstice, and don’t start changing by any noticeable amount until the end of July.  It’s a good long time to set habits. 

The flip side of that coin is that the hours of daylight change most rapidly during the two equinoxes.  At less than a month from the fall equinox, we’re pretty much there.  Sunset is already an hour earlier and we’re losing a minute and a half each day.  The rhythm I had developed during the summer telling me when to start my workout is worthless.  I have to check sunset times daily to figure out when to start my workout so that I’m down my driveway—it holds for either biking or running---before dark.   The end of summer is on the horizon.

The good news is that while I have procrastinated on some of my summer goals, it looks like I’ll accomplish the main ones.  My procrastination particularly affected the goals I set in terms of finances, but I have finished enough so that it won’t be overwhelming to finish everything on the schedule I planned.  My ability to gauge this hasn’t yet diminished.

The one critical task was always going to be conditioning.  While a pulled calf has kept me from running as much as I wanted, I’ve been biking a lot.  During the past five weeks, I’ve done my three rides per week and my average weekly totals have been fifty miles and 3,150’ vertical, all on dirt.  Nine of the fifteen rides have been longer than an hour and a half and I’ve gone for as long as three hours. 

Last night, I came in from my ride just at sunset.  It’s nineteen miles with 1,350’ vertical and includes a section that verges on single-track with thick grass everywhere and trees forcing me off of my bike---one of my longer standard rides.  Throughout the ride, I worked hard, particularly on the uphills.  With this, I expected to drop a couple of minutes off of my best time.  It ended up that this was my third best time and three minutes slower than my fastest.  Surprised and concerned, the thought that I had been overtraining quickly came front and center. 

One of the joys of modern technology is, if you know how to use it, there’s a lot of information available.  Just like I do for my dogs’ runs, I GPS every bike ride.  It took me about five minutes to set-up a graph comparing speed vs. distance for last night’s ride and my best ride.  With this graph, overtraining would be easy to spot.  I’d be slower on the uphill sections, particularly the last one or two climbs. 

What the graph clearly showed was that during last night’s ride, I climbed as fast or faster than I had during my “fastest run.’  This included the last 200’ climb of the ride, the same hill I use to gauge my dogs’ heads when I’m training them.  I took this a full mile per hour faster.

It ended up that I had taken the downhills slower last night than I had previously.  Maybe I’ve gotten more conservative about pushing my speed on downhills.  Maybe I reacted to it starting to get dark---I hit all but the very last downhill sections well before sunset but there was still less light than midday when I had my fastest time.  Probably both.  The calf pull that kept me from running as much as I’d like also reminded me that I have to train with an absolute minimum of injuries.  A spill while trying to push on a downhill would feel pretty stupid at this time---I can wait until next year. 

One can argue that the secret of life is to learn how to cope with change and adapt to what’s needed.  I will have to get out of my office a few minutes earlier each day, but I’ll manage.  And I have adapted to the reality that my training is about regular improvement, not peaks risking injury.  Taking downhills at a fun but manageable speed will work for me, too.   

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