Monday, February 08, 2010

Thomas Kuhn, Harvard Physicist, Designs My Training Plan

I can’t say that it has been a lifelong ambition to quote Thomas Kuhn, father of the concept of “paradigm shift”, in a blog post but it has certainly been near the bottom of my life goals. But, on the list! If I had a bucket list, it’d probably fall somewhere below “start a web campaign to demand that Pauly Shore make Son in Law 2: Baby Makes Three” but above “approach Whoopi with a script to Sister Act 3.” Clearly, I like movies and sequels to horrible films (and 1960’s scientific theory.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about paradigm shifts lately when it comes to running. Kuhn describes (scientific) advancement as not organic or evolving but a “series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions.” During these revolutions, “one conceptual world view is replaced by another.” A paradigm shift is a sudden, rapid change in the way of thinking (or doing). World views change. Old beliefs give way to new beliefs. Think Industrial Revolution. Think Bannister breaking the four minute mile. Think “Pants on the ground.”

What does this have to do with running? (Great, Mr. Rhetorical is back.) Well, as you know – and will continue to know as I hammer this into your heads over the next several months – this is the year of the Y.A.K. If you think I’ve run out of clever Y.A.K. references, I’m just getting started here. I haven’t even broken out my painfully obvious “Y.A.K. Attack” post or “Y.A.K.fest” references. Or “Y.A.K. Sack” when I’m feeling particularly ballsy after a strong run. I could go on…and will. How about “Y.A.K. Snacks” wherein I discuss my favorite race fuel? Or “Back to the Y.A.K.” when I overcome my inevitable injury? I could go on…but won’t.

I decided last year that I was in need of a paradigm shift. I’ve been following a pretty consistent running schedule for the last several years. Every marathon, I create a largely similar training plan as the race before it. It has netted me decent results – a few BQ’s, some age group awards, consistent times, etc. – but any new PR’s have been incremental. I’m barely nudging the PR boulder forward inch by painful inch.* If I want to continue following the same schedule, the same plans, I can look forward to small gains – maybe a few seconds shaved off my PRs – for the foreseeable future. I’ve plateaued. I’m in the midst of a “series of peaceful interludes…”

Time for a nuclear bomb. A “violent revolution.” I’m talking about full scale Che Guevara stuff (except without the douchy ‘look at me, I’m so anti-culturalist by displaying his image on my t-shirt and/or poster which, even though I know was created by a large capitalist corporation, the irony is lost on me’). It’s time to pick that paradigm up, like a mysterious island in Lost, and plop it right back down in a different spot. If I want ass kickin’ results, I better replace my old, comfortable “run view.”

Previously, I outlined my marathon training plans for this coming Memorial weekend’s race so I won’t go into it again. And you all know how I hate repetition around here. (Y.A.K.! SOS! Llamas!) As each scheduled run approaches, I’m asking myself why am I doing this run? How have I done it in the past? What can I change about it to accomplish my goals? Shifting a paradigm is not easy work. I’m surprised how stuck in a rut I’ve become. I head out the door not even knowing what I’m hoping to accomplish. Training plan says: Run 5 files. Okay, I do and pretty much at the same pace I’ve run every five mile training run over the past three years.

No, no, that will not do. I’m making a conscious effort to shake things up. Even with a snow covered high school running track, I’ve taken to turning a normal five miler into a few hard intervals around the ole football field. Really, why the fuck not? Why run past it at steady pace? Like always. I’ve bumped my mileage up. I’ve taken medium distance runs up the intensity scale while being more diligent about pulling back on the pace of my long runs (which have always been near race pace.) I’ve been questioning everything I normally do. And then changing things up.

Yesterday, I took the kids to a sledding hill and, as they were spiraling down the side with gleeful shrieks, I was scouting out the perfect angle to take to do some hill intervals - something I don’t normally do but should.

And then Mrs. Nitmos made turkey tacos last night before the Super Bowl. (Verdict: Delicious!)

Times are changing around here. Paradigm shifting is difficult but necessary from time to time. If I want to replace my current run view of what I can do – and what is possible – I need a seismic revolution in my approach to training.

KABOOM! There’s a mushroom cloud billowing up over F.M.S. A "YAKplosion", if you will.

Happy trails.

*That’s what she said. (What? Poor taste?)

After last week’s race pace 12 miler long run, I decided I needed to get serious about easing back a bit on the long runs. Paradigm shift! Also, after the near frost bitten appendages, I decided to treat myself to a nice, warm indoor treadmill and some Super Bowl pre-game TV at the gym. Long run of 13 miles at moderately easy 7:28 pace with incline fluctuating between 1.0 and 2.0 (and maybe a few pick-ups, or 2.0 incline “hill charges” @ 7:00 min pace thrown in. Shhh.)

First week of marathon training complete. So far, every run hit for 2010! Next weekend, 15 mile long run before a step down week to follow (timed to a nice R & R weekend out of town – more on that later.)


Viper said...

Y.A.K. all over those preconceived notions and live on the threshold.

Roisin said...

I hope when you do Y.A.K., you don't lose the delicious turkey tacos.

gene said...

"Training plan says: Run 5 files". how the HELL do you run 5 FILES? no wonder you are getting frustrated. forget plantar fasciitis. you need to worry more about paper cuts.

NY Wolve said...

Well, good luck. I think the change and variability in training makes training harder and less enjoyable for me, but I definitely see results from workouts rather than just running. So good luck!

Vava said...

You're like Opposite Man (aka. George Costanza in that episode where he did the opposite of every instinct he ever had and, invariably, succeeded like never before).

George: "Hi. My name is George, I'm unemployed and I live with my parents."
Blonde: "Hello!"

Jamoosh said...

Wasn't there a Congressional Act to neuter Pauly Shore?

mr loser said...

I never expected to see Kuhn's name in running blog. Now, I'm looking forward to your piece on using occam's razor to cut the Gordian Knot of Wilford Brimley's colon. That's coming soon, right? lol

prashant said...

, you don't lose the delicious turkey tacos.

Work From Home

sRod said...

I could use some paradigm shifting right about now. Thanks for the inspiration.