Double, interesting thoughts.
At one point in time, I was probably the exception to what you're saying but that didn't last. Who can keep that kind of thing up and hold down a full time job and a life outside of work and running? I made my choices and one of the choices was to not be a full time runner so I knew that wouldn't last. I know some might read that and say you're dismissing base training and periodization. I know that's what the winter is all about for you, it's all base training. I also see periodization in your overall yearly plan, with base training in the winter, strength in the spring, then rewinding to a short period of base before pounding out the speed for the fall.
There are so many ways to make it work. While I believe 100% in periodization, I do think (and I'm as guilty of this as anyone, though I'm breaking the habit) a lot of people overthink this, which results in two things. First, confusion. There are so many ideas out there and some contradict each other. Try different ideas in different seasons and see what works for you. Second, overdoing the “by the book” approach.
Double, you are great at knowing the general shape you want your training plan to take but letting the details fall into place as the season progresses. I used to overanalyze and even have my next 2-3 months of training posted on the refrigerator. Not all the details but on this week, I want hill repeats and a tempo run. On that week, I want intervals and an MP run. Even this amount of structure was limiting. This year, I've been doing things similar to how you do but maybe even to more of an extreme. So far, it's been paying off. I had a general idea that I wanted to lay a base into the summer before truly starting the speedwork and racing in July. Other than that, I've been playing it by ear, both with races and workouts. Just yesterday, I was warming up and I didn't decide what kind of workout I was going to do until about 5 minutes before setting off on my first 1:00 repeat. I've been doing workouts I haven't done for years or I've never done. I know I'm not in the best shape of my life but my average week is about half of what it has been in the past. I'm doing things I wouldn't do at those higher volumes but these are things that are working for me specifically because I'm not at those levels anymore. I'm running faster in workouts than I have in quite some time even though my easy and long runs have continued the progressive slowing I've seen over the past 5-10 years and my race times are as fast as they have been since my last bout with regular 120-140 mile weeks. I'm accepting the fact that the structure of an optimal training plan changes when you place limits on the amount of time and energy you will give to running and it's making me a better runner. It doesn't mean you don't periodize or you don't base train but it does mean that the structure of the periodized plan changes. When limiting your training time and energy, I think you need more flexibility. You're not going to be able to cover all of your bases so you have to go almost day by day, assessing what you need most and working on that. I've been doing a lot more fast work in the past couple of months because that's my weakness. It's been fun trying to sprint around and pretend to have speed this summer. Last week, when I realized that I was doing my 1:00 repeats at around 4:40-something pace, that was a rush. I haven't developed that kind of speed in years. We'll see if it pays off this Saturday and into the coming weeks but it's been fun actually feeling fast for the first time in a while. Maybe I'll actually have a kick at Al's Run this year. I just hope I'm kicking to a low 27 time and not to a high 28 time.
Wow, what a stream of consciousness post. If anyone can follow all of that and not come out with a headache, congratulations.