big basin

Funner with another runner

Everything is funner with another runner. Particularly, well, running. While I am definitely not against running alone, running with training partners and friends can't be beat. Especially on long run adventures.
Clearly we are having fun. That or we picked a route that is uphill the whole way.

Nathan and I decided in the spring that we were going to set aside specific weekends over the summer to go on long running adventures outside of our usual routes. Once the snow melts in Tahoe and Yosemite (ha, someday), we will be heading up there to run and explore. In the meantime, we plan a little closer to home but find places to explore we've never been or rarely go. Nathan is training for Hardrock and I am training to, well, not die while trying to pace the speedy Baker at Hardrock. My next 'A' race isn't until September, so while I do a few targeted workouts towards that goal each week, the rest of the time I am getting in as much trail time as I possibly can. Over the past few weekends we have been doing some amazing trail runs both close to home and on some trails that we've never been. 

Over the past two years of knowing Nathan, we have been on many adventures and shared many long runs. Nathan is the perfect training partner for me because he has opposite strengths from me (and is faster than I am) and so I am pushed to improve those skills (like uphill running) to keep up. I feel like I have grown as a runner because of training with him and also a person. That is not some overly sentimental schmoopy-ness, I think it is a reflection of what one should get from a good training partner. I have had many excellent training partners in my time as a runner including my sister and bestest everest. It made me think, what are the fundamentals of a good training partner? And how can you be a good training partner?

Fundamentals of a good training partner

A lot of the time, training partners naturally emerge when you run with other people and larger groups. But there are a few more factors to think about than just someone of similar speed.
  • Relatively close speed and endurance. For both partners to get the most out of training and running together, being of similar speed is a primary thing. In hard sessions, you want to be able to push each other (speed) and in longer sessions, you want to be able to cover the same distance (endurance)- i.e. a 10k runner and a 100 mile runner might be poorly matched in a long training run. This past wednesday, Nathan and I met up with Brett, Peter and Mike for Strawberry Hill repeats and we all were able to stay within 5-10 seconds of each other on the repeats throughout the workout and push each other.
  • Communication and understanding. I personally think that before heading off with a training partner, that the rules of the game should be established. It is best to discuss the nature of the run (how hard you'll be running, mileage, intensity, etc), whether or not you will stay together the whole time (if one person is feeling good and the other not, for example) and also goals of the run (getting in miles, specific workout, specific distance, etc). It is good to be on the same page.
  • Patience and positive outlook. The perk of running alone is that you only have to listen to your own body and adjust to your own needs. When you run with someone else you have to adjust to their needs as well. They will need to eat, drink, use the bathroom, etc at different times. They will feel good and bad at different times. Having patience and a positive outlook (i.e. save the hyper intensity and strict commitment to time/pace for your runs by yourself) means those differences don't have the power to change how you feel about the run.
  • Positive, encouraging, mutual respect.  In my head, I am always worried that I am slowing Nathan down. I know this is an irrational, neurotic fear and is completely unfounded. I also know where that fear comes from (not from him that is for sure). Instead of fostering those kinds of bad feeling, a good training partner (like Nathan) will be positive and encouraging. They will lift you up, push you to better yourself and will be honorable and respectful partners. 
  • Desire to grow and to be pushed. I think running with a training partner is in part for the company (especially on the ultra long runs) and part for their capacity to bring out the best in you and you in them. When I played basketball, I always wanted to play against stronger players so that I could improve my skills. The same is true in running, I run with training partners because I want to grow and be pushed, but also to help my training partners do the same.
I think being a good training partner means adopting these good fundamentals and thinking beyond yourself and your own needs when running with a training partner. 

In the end running with a training partner or partner(s), can change a run into an adventure or a training day into something you will remember for a very long time.

To that end, our weekend adventures last week (in short):

Day 1: Big Basin

We ran from Park Headquarters in Big Basin (near Santa Cruz) and did a 34+ mile loop (thank goodness we had a map) which managed to be pretty much uphill the whole way with the exception of about 2 miles were we lost about 2000 feet. The first 18-20ish miles felt like a bit of a struggle to me. We both were feeling more tired than we'd like but then turned it around nicely once we hit Skyline-to-Sea trail and hammered it uphill for 10 miles back to the car.

That's what she said

We followed up the run with Kung Fu Panda 2 in 3D and then an epic amount of sushi at Naka in Santa Cruz. It was an absolutely ideal day.

Day 2: Pine Mountain
Sunday we headed north to Marin to run on Pine Mountain. I have run the 14 mile Pine Mountain loop a few times with my good friend Penny but Nathan had never been there. Earlier in the week, I emailed Penny to find out ways to make the loop into a 20+ mile run. We added on a very steep (both down and up) loop to the beautiful Carson Falls. The run was about 21 miles and we had a lot of fun.

My latest obsessions are Salomon Buffs and Rudy Projects that weigh nothing. 

We followed the run with a trip to Sol in San Rafael and then went to see Pirates of the Caribbean in 3D.  All in all, it was a fantastic adventure weekend. We got a lot of running done, ate great food and stepped away from every day life and still got to sleep in our own bed! I am looking forward to more adventures this weekend and all summer long!