80/20

Something weird happened. After work this evening I went for a run. That’s not the weird part, I do that all the time. Eli and I are taking a longish bike ride tomorrow so I wanted to save my legs—my run was really a slow jog. That’s not weird either. I recently started following the 80/20 running plan. In this plan, you jog eighty percent of your miles. The other twenty, you run. It’s not clear to me how hard I should run on my twenty percenters. I’ve only taken one of these runs so far. I guess I ran pretty hard. I felt great the whole way. Maybe the plan is working.

On the other hand, my eighty percent pace is well defined. I should run below my ventilatory threshold (VT1). I got this book out of the library: 80/20 Running. I expected a bunch of charts and graphs I could browse that would give me a basic idea of what I’m trying to achieve. No charts, no graphs. There weren’t even any pictures. Just hundreds of pages of dense text talking about VT1s and VO2 Maxes and RPE. My brain shut down.

As we drove to Vermont to take Sophie to college, Susan read enough of the book that she could explain VT1 to me. Since that’s eighty percent of the plan, it seemed like the most important part to understand. For eighty percent of my running, I should run at a pace where I can conduct a comfortable conversation.

For people like me who never run with anybody, the author suggests counting out loud while running. Seven hundred seventy-six, seven hundred seventy-seven, seven hundred seventy-eight, etc. If my breath gets in the way of my counting, I’m running too fast. Here’s what I learned, running below my VT1 is really slow. Running, for the first time in my life, is really easy.

Back to the weird.

So today, as I slowly ran one of the Gettysburg Battlefield roads, counting, a woman flagged me down. “Are you from around here?” Fifteen years ago I would have said “Yes, less than a mile away.” I’ve since learned that No, I’m not from around here, I’m from DC. Eli is the only one in my family who is from around here. He was born at Gettysburg Hospital. The rest of us will NEVER be from around here.

I gave her the universal palm towards the ground teeter-totter hand signal for ‘ish,’ I’m from around-here-ish. And I stopped running. That’s the weird part right there. I stopped running to talk with a tourist. I’ve been running for forty-one years. I’ve never once stopped in the middle of a run to talk with a tourist.

“Last time we were visiting, we went down a flight of stairs into a dark restaurant. We can’t remember what it was called” As she talked, she kept getting closer to me. I gave her another universal hand signal which I’ll call Back off, Jack. Covid and all. She repeated the same description, down stairs, dark, two more times while her husband stood to the side looking embarrassed that his wife had interrupted a perfectly good run with this inane question.

“To me, it sounds like you’re describing the Dobbin House.” Her husband lit up. “Yes, I remember the name now, that’s right!” The woman began to apologize for breathing in my space, how she forgot about the disease. I told her not to worry about it. I jogged off feeling great because I acted completely out of character and helped someone, and my run was easy-peasy, and it was a pretty fall evening, and because I’m going on a longish ride with my son tomorrow morning.

80/20 running seems to be a positive change.

21 thoughts on “80/20

    • I frequently get hard workouts while coaching the bike team, so I don’t feel a lot of pressure to fit in 20% runs. But when I did, it was eye opening. I’ve made some noticeable gains in the past month.

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  1. Way to go, Jeff! There is a lot of new in that scenario. No one has ever stopped me to ask a question, but I think I have developed a pretty serious RBF (resting bitch face) to keep people away. I have been doing 80/20 recently as well and haven’t realized it. You would be proud to know I take all my runs outside. And I run how I feel. Sometimes I am just glad to be outside and go pretty slow. Other times, I am winded and am thinking, “Wow, I am going pretty fast for me!” Glad to know there is a name for it and I will probably look into it as well. Enjoy your ride today!

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    • I get caught in that “are you from here?” question too. Mine is “Where did you grow up?” I grew up in Kansas and moved here for high school. So I am always torn on how to answer it. My formative years were in Kansas – sometimes I say Kansas. Sometimes I’ll answer with the high school I went to in PA. I might just start going with your ish answer.

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      • I didn’t know about the Kansas thing, but it makes a lot of sense. You seem very midwestern. In Gettysburg, to be a local, not only do you need to be born here, but born into a family from here. Lot’s of snobbery on the subject. I’ll never know why.

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      • I was thinking about having midwestern traits and I couldn’t think of any. Then I realized I had a conversation with Declan today about Halloween when I was growing up. His mind is blown that I wasn’t allowed to go out for Halloween because my parents called it “The Devil’s Holiday.” So yeah, I guess I do have midwestern traits that I don’t even realize.

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      • When Jeff said I had midwestern traits, it really made me think about what they could be. I mean really think. I’m not sure what traits I carry myself, but I thought about the ones that my parents cultivated. It was a deep connection with religion. Not Christianity, but religion. Halloween was out the window, dinosaurs never existed (because they weren’t in the Bible) and when we moved to PA, I was advised not to read, or share with my kids, Harry Potter because God doesn’t believe in magic. I think that is all silly. But I guess I did carry some traits to my kids. I don’t believe in luck. God blesses us. My mom always told me that “Why me?” is a dumb question. Everything is meant to be learned from. (She actually said, “Why not you?”) but I think I figured out her point. I don’t know why I associate these things to my midwest upbringing. If we lived in PA our whole lives it very well could have been the same.

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      • So to qualify what I meant by midwestern traits, I’m going to use one simple example to extrapolate over your whole being. You frequently write ‘oh my gosh’ instead of ‘oh my god’ – that’s your nature and it comes out in most of your communication. It’s nice.

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      • Ah! Gotcha. Yeah, I always steer myself and the kids from any statement that involves God and using His name in vain. It’s the third commandment and all. Good catch! I even have a hard time with Catelyn sassing me on text with an OMG! Because I know she is not changing that G. Thanks, Jeff!

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    • It’s unusual that someone would stop me. I usually wear a RBF too. I must have looked quite pleasant jogging along on a cool, sunny evening. My outdoor runs are awesome right now, but I’m trying to harden my resolve for the winter weather. Eli has said he wants to ride right through the winter so that should help keep me outside. This morning we drove to the C&O canal and did a 30 mile out and back. Eli’s longest. It was a really nice time.

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      • I love the weather right now. With Declan’s zoom schedule I can only get to my gym every other day. I am out running the opposite every other day. With the weather change, I skipped a gym class for a run. I am starting to feel like myself again. Summer is awful in that running respect. I haven’t thought about winter, but I guess I’ll be out in it too. Glad you had a nice time today! Sounds like good exercise!

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  2. Win-win, Jeff. Good for you! I ran with my 81-year-old friend Heide at running club last week. I felt like I could have run forever. It’s amazing how slowing down a little bit (or a lot) has such an impact on how we feel during a run.

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  3. First of all I would be the non-runner who had no clue that you shouldn’t stop a runner in the zone. I would have no problem asking you about where to find a restaurant. My husband would definitely be the embarrassed guy in the background, probably going back to the car to hide.
    Secondly, I’m glad you found a running pace/system/mode that feels good for you.
    Three, I’d probably wonder why you were talking to yourself. LOL

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