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Right effort

A friend of mine loves to tease me about my workouts, specifically about the ones where I'm trying to run or bike in a certain heart rate zone.

His advice is to run until you feel like you're going to throw up. Then you know you're in the right zone. Or so says the former football player who may have had one too many blows to the head.

My goal with training in heart rate zones is to learn first how to read my body. And then it's do my specific workout which has a specific purpose. Admittedly, it's easy to get tied to the numbers and absorbed in the minutia. But keeping a sense of humor about the situation, and knowing that no single workout is a referendum on your goal race, makes the variety in training enjoyable.

While there may be a few races in between, my next major race is a return to the ING Miami half marathon in January. This week meant a return to the long run -- an hour and 30 minute endurance-paced run. The workout plan said I could do the run on any course (hill, flat or, dread of all dreads, the treadmill) but the goal was to stay in a moderate heart rate zone, or run a rather easy pace.

I took to the hills around Orchard Park and Chestnut Ridge with my friend Sue. There was a temptation to pound up them. There was a temptation to run faster on the flats than I needed to.

But I made to sure hold my pace. Because my workout was not about running hard. It was about running smart.

It was about what triathlon coach Alan Couzens called "right effort."

In a recent blog, Couzens wrote about having the right effort in training, including his own tales of trying to stay with a pack of cyclists during a group ride. He worked harder than he was supposed to that day -- too hard in fact.

"After getting myself into a pretty deep hole following that camp, I wound up crashing my bike and never really regaining my mojo for my A race of the season after putting out several 'A' efforts on training days like this one," Couzens wrote.

Variety in training isn't just to keep from getting bored (although, frankly, it does help). Variety is built into training for specific purposes, to help you get better faster. And sometimes, improvement comes not by going faster or harder during training runs but actually in going slower.

"[T]he right effort in order to progress as fast as your potential will allow in day to day training is (perhaps paradoxically) never 100 percent effort," Couzens wrote. "When training with others who are willing and chomping at the bit to give 100 percent effort, this then becomes a spiritual task as much as a physical one, a task to abandon the ego and reaffirm your faith in your own training process on a daily basis."

Perhaps all-out 100 percent effort every training session is right for you.

I've learned, however, that it's not right for me. Oh yes, some days I am working so hard, I think I might just lose my lunch. But I'm totally at peace with running slower. Some times it's not about the number of miles but the quality of the run.

Ironman Cozumel: Two local athletes competed in the first Ironman Cozumel race held Sunday. Charlie Watson (29, Tonawanda) finished in 10 hours, 52 minutes, 49 seconds while Bob Willer (43, Grand Island) completed the course in 13:56:40.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz

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