by Patrick Reed
Training in groups or solo – a reflection on with whom to train
“It stands true that my most trusted and reliable training partners are the shoes I choose to put on my feet. There at my beck and call, eager like man’s best friend, silent like a wise coach and ready to cushion all of my spiritual ramblings, they persist…”
This morning, did you run solo? How about yesterday? And how about during your last long run?
For me, the answers to these questions are all over the board, though I have a consistency of training solo. For starters, I haven’t yet run this morning. If I had my druthers, though, I would have been out there with my wife – enjoying the cool morning breeze, blowing up gently off of the Pacific Ocean, 7 miles away.
Yesterday’s run was, like most of my late-night efforts, necessarily solo. I fit the run into the end of the day, at the last minute. After putting the kids to bed, I got the sleepy thumbs up from my wife, and I rolled out of the darkened front door, into the soft moonlight, for just a bit over 5 kilometers of asphalt effort. No one, not even a best friend, could precisely match that haphazard running schedule.
During my last long run, I was with a friend, though I haven’t heard from him since. Perhaps that is because on that, our first training run together, I was test-driving my new Luna Sandals. Though I only pulled over on 3 occasions to tweak the fickle lacing system on the quixotic sandals, my usual break-neck training speed was diminished – which could be viewed as either a good or a bad thing. Usually, I take a lot of heat for “putting it to” my first-time training partners. It must be my “litmus test” for potential training companions. If we are running in a non-neutral site — and one of my choosing — then I often drag the unsuspecting harrier onto some gnarly climb to test them out. On this occasion, though, I was being tested out… by my Luna’s.
Our run was great – looping on a course familiar to both of us. Madonna Mountain’s Lemon Grove course here in SLO, California, winds up and down and circumnavigates the modest San Luis landmark mountain – most notorious for its plush Madonna Inn reclining at the mountain’s base where you can order up a slice of Black Forest Cake which would provide enough calories in itself to fuel one for several mountain ascents. As I had said, my pace was hampered by the delicate step-taking which my new sandals encouraged, and we both seemed happy with the effort level. Not until 75 minutes into the run, as we summited the 1300-foot top, did my feet begin to grow weary with their bare effort. Still, the plusses of running in 5-ounce sandals, the easy impossibility of dancing lightly on every terrain, and the novelty of the effort, had me – at least – excited about the run.
As we descended back towards our cars at the lake below, we talked heart rate training, and I shared a bunch of the wisdom which has been imparted to me from the likes of Dr. Phil Maffetone. I repeated that the pace which my Luna’s naturally encouraged – with a gentle, though effort-laden tempo, whispering foot falls, shortened stride and careful foot placement – kept me right on my target maximum aerobic threshold.
When I finally chimed my watch to stop GPS-ing our finished course, we exchanged goodbye’s – and I even handed my new found training partner information of Team FCA Endurance, for whom I have begun to run. But given that it has been 10 days since that first foray, it remains to be seen what his perspective of the run was and whether he was just as stoked as me about my new shoes.
Time will tell if yet one more running acquaintance jived with me on the trails. But a couple of things are certain: a training partner that works is one whose ability, inspiration-level and running outlook are compatible to yours, one whose schedule can regularly sync with yours, and one who – at the end of the day – accepts your quirky experimentations and personality traits as positives. And though I have had at least 5 training partners who met all of these criteria as I think back over the years, it stands true that my most trusted and reliable partners are the shoes I choose to put on my feet. There at my beck and call, eager like man’s best friend, silent like a wise coach and ready to cushion all of my spiritual ramblings, they persist.
No, I am not one taken with training in large teams, but give me a few best friends, some ridiculously steep ascents, and some faithful soles strapped anyhow to my feet, and I find my running bliss.