Running up, over and through the cogs

Posts tagged “Taper

We Interrupt This Training Cycle to Bring You INSANITY

Exhausted runner (male), lying on trackOn Saturday, I ran my last 20 mile training run before the Boston Marathon. It was pretty terrible.

During the three hour plus ordeal, every single muscle ached at some point. My legs were heavy. My pace was slow. My mind was adrift.

Runs like that don’t happen often for me, but when they do, I now know enough to pay attention. I ran a little bit on Tuesday, but again, didn’t feel all too great. An overwhelming sense of blah has seemed to take over my body. The crummy weather, lack of sleep and 16 weeks of primarily being stuck on a treadmill are probably the usual suspects.

Instead of dwelling on it and feeling sorry for myself (like I would have done in the not too distant past) I will just stick this one in the “deal with it” file and focus on recovery.

deal-with-it61

And what better way to focus on recovery than to watch my friends and loved ones torture themselves on 150 miles of trail?

Yes, you read that right.

ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILES.

(image courtesy of Jaime Quarandillo)

The Potawatomi Trail (image courtesy of Jaime Quarandillo)

Starting Friday at noon, my girlfriend, Edna*, and a whole host of other dear friends from the New Leaf and M.U.D.D. groups will descend upon the Potawatomi 150 at Pekin, IL’s McNaughton Park for 150 miles of… Fun? Exploration? Masochism? Transcendence?

I assume it will be some combination of all of the above. As Edna’s crew chief, I will have a front row seat to the type of pure guts and determination it takes to even attempt something like this, let alone conquer it. And I have no doubt in my mind that once this expedition comes to a close, the minor aches and pains I felt last Saturday will be but a silentious memory.

 

*To read Edna’s blog in English, check out THIS PAGE.

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Reality (or Why I’m Not Too Upset About My Wonky Heels)

chicago marathon 2012 epic sign

Ah, reality, how humble and distraught thou can render me.

Current reality will reveal the following: My race pace 20 miler three weeks out from the Chicago Marathon was an absolute disaster.

I could not hold 6:50 pace. I got about three miles in before both of my heels (especially the left one) became extremely stiff, limiting mobility, sending sharp pains through both Achilles, and ultimately, slowing me down. A lot.

Running with a partner, I felt quite embarrassed that I wasn’t going to be able to accomplish what I set out to do. I worried that I was letting her down, that she might be better off running ahead rather than slowing pace to accommodate my wonky state and subsequent moodiness.

I told her she should carry on, to leave me behind. I didn’t want to hold her back. But she stuck with me, slower pace and all. She even helped me find some peace of mind despite the compounding frustration setting in. For that I am grateful.

It is no secret: the sub-3 hour marathon is my white whale. And facing yet another injury setback while training for this lofty goal just feels like a low blow.

Despite the diminished demeanor, I finished the 20 miles. But in the immediate aftermath, my calves didn’t seem to work very well. I hobbled around like a newborn calf for three days and am just now back to walking normal.

This monstrous hybrid failing of my body — some sort of calcaneal bursitis mixed with Achilles tendonitis and tight, cramping calves — has been hindering my training off and on since July. But it really struck me down after my PR half marathon on August 25. That was one of my best run races to date, but by the time I got home, my entire left heel had swollen to the size of a tennis ball and I could hardly walk. Recovery became laborious. In fact, worried I would lose my fitness, I didn’t allow it to fully recover before picking up with more speed work.

Unfortunately, this heel nuisance seems to be exacerbated by speed work. The more I run up on my toes (inevitable at faster pace), the more load is placed on the Achilles, the more inflamed the bursa becomes, leading to slow, stiff, swollen bouts of BLAH. I have been giving myself extra rest days and dialing back the mileage, but, as proved to me by failing the most important workout prior to race day, it ain’t gonna happen — not right now anyway.

When I hobbled home from my 20 miler Saturday, in between foam rolling my calves and getting on with my day, I budgeted a good hour to feeling sorry for myself.

Boo hoo. Woe is me. Life sucks.

Except, life doesn’t suck. Life kicks ass. Sure, it’s a roller coaster — one that induces vomiting from time to time — but being down is where we have an opportunity to get back up.

There will be other marathons. I still have plenty of time to run my best races. Right now, I need to focus on lining up at the Chicago Marathon 100% healthy, so that’s what I’m going to try to do. I might aim for a 3:05 finish, or a 3:10. I don’t know yet. My calves and heels will tell me what I am capable of on that day; but to expect a sub-3 finish with such little dedicated race pace training the last 6 weeks is a bit unrealistic at this time.

Of course, all of the above truth and rationale is made more palatable by the fact that I GOT INTO THE 2014 BOSTON MARATHON, baby! Whew! Just barely! But I’m in, and that’s what counts.

Having run the race this year (and negative split), I already know it’s a PR waiting to happen. If sub-3 is in my near future, it’s more than likely going to come on April 21, 2014. That gives me plenty of time to heal up, take some time off from heavy training, and to start over new (and healthy) next year.

Whatever happens on October 13th will just be a bonus.

boston marathon finish line 2013


Follow That Unicorn!

BM_YEAR_ONLYWhen I first took up running a few years ago, qualifying for the storied Boston Marathon seemed about as realistic as making out with Mila Kunis.  This seemed especially true after barely completing my first marathon in just under a grueling 4 hours.

Well, maybe it’s time to give Mila a call.

In eleven days, I will take my rightful place among the upper echelon of marathoners whose communal zenith rests atop the peak of Heartbreak Hill and reaches maximum dopamine levels somewhere along Boylston Street.  To say I’m excited about the impending experience would be quite an understatement.

Considering how hard I worked to get to this point, I decided to take some vacation time so I can really soak it all in.  Soon I’ll be heading to New York before making my way to Boston where my ultimate crew chief and number one fan (my dad) will meet me.

Clam chowder, Sam Adams and Red Sox baseball all await.

Despite my training leading up to this race being limited due to the ITBS issues I’ve been battling since late last year, I am still determined to have a great time, to be present throughout it all.  Instead of firing out of the gates hellbent on setting a personal best, I’ve decided to lay back into an easy, comfortable pace for the first half and decide from there whether or not going into a higher gear will be possible.  Recent efforts would suggest I should be able to run Boston somewhere around 3:20 to 3:30, but I really won’t know until race day.  If I am slower than that, that’s cool too, as long as I leave with a unicorn around my neck.

Considering how different this race plan is compared to all those I’ve run before, I think it will take more discipline and concentration than I’m used to.

But I’m always ready for a challenge.

And Mila Kunis.

mila kunis jeff meme


Mindful Perspective, Reinterpreting Pain

During U.S. Olympian Aly Raisman’s gold medal floor routine, NBC commentator Tim Daggett mentioned her unique ability to view the nervous energy associated with such daring gymnastics (something most of us call “pressure” or “anxiety”) into something much more performance enhancing.  He called it “excitement”.

What a novel yet extraordinarily simple idea!

Embrace the nervousness, the anxiety, the pressure and transform it into something positive.  Use it as a springboard for optimal performance.  Face it.  Take it.  And run with it.

Digging deeper, I know that, for me, most of that pre-race energy comes from knowing the type of pain that will be involved.  If you have ever raced a race, I mean, really put yourself out there, leaving nothing behind, then you know the type of pain I am talking about.  It’s the type of pain dictated by the central governor, that annoyingly present theoretic portion of the brain that says, “Stop! Are you crazy? This is unnecessary!”

It’s also the type of pain that, when challenged and overridden, leads to bouts of ecstasy.  That’s one of the reasons why I love racing.  I love pushing myself beyond what I think I can do.  Even in failure, I am guaranteed to experience something most people never will, a satisfying feat all by itself.

Overriding the central governor, attempting to accomplish extraordinary goals, I remind myself of Dave Terry’s wisdom as told by Scott Jurek: “Not all pain is significant.”

And just in case you don’t believe that, consider the fact that Jurek won the 2007 Hardrock 100 on a severely sprained ankle, or that Thomas Voeckler’s captivating Stage 10 victory at the 2012 Tour de France — the one that had him making all sorts of uncomfortable faces towards the end — was done despite a bum knee.

I know a thing or two about pain myself.  Just look at my face as I crossed the finish line during my current marathon PR.  That was a painful race, no doubt.  But the pain has long subsided and all that is left is the purest joy I have ever come to know.


A Big Giddy Bag of Playful Nerves

Since my last long training run nine days ago, I’ve really been taking it easy, which has made tapering for the Ice Age Trail 50… well, EASY!

Having made overtraining mistakes in the past that left me feeling as stupid as I was hobbled, I made it a point to stay focused this time.

The most important thing about last week was preventing a nagging/weakened plantaris from getting worse by… just chilling out.  As hard as it was on my psyche, I only ran three times last week: 10 miles on Wednesday, 12 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday.

And today, as I try to juggle the constant, vivid daydreams about Saturday’s upcoming 50 mile adventure with the actual preparation (gear, nutrition, instructions for crew), my body is thanking me for all the rest.  For the first time since Earth Day, my right leg feels pretty strong.  The plantaris strain has healed enough so that it isn’t painful.  There are still some occasional signs that it is weaker than my right, but such orthopedic mysteries seem to always pop up for me during race week.

What matters the most is I’m gonna be good to run on Saturday.

For a long ass time too.

Since this will be my first dance with the 50 mile distance, I’m going to be conservative.  I don’t want to screw anything up.  My goal is to finish.  That’s it.  I won’t be racing or killing myself to stay with the lead pack.  Having never run more than 32 miles at one time, I will be entering the unknown for at least 2-3 hours at the end of the day, and I can’t tell you how excited I am about that.

Hell, I’m just excited about everything associated with this event!  I’m ecstatic that this is all finally happening!  Finally!  The day I’ve been looking forward to for almost a year now is finally going to be here.  And while the race week nerves try to flip my stomach, an actual flip through my training log reassures me that I already DID all the hard work necessary to finish this thing strong, to accomplish what I set out to do.

And isn’t that what all this crazy running is about?  Isn’t it about accomplishment?  Isn’t it about surprising yourself?  Isn’t it about nature and about community and about love?

Hell yes it is.

I can’t wait to share my experience!


Taper Madness, Training Clarity

I once dated a girl who got real weird during her taper before the big race.  As one who was already quite prone to the overly dramatic, she blamed everything on “the taper.”  I’m irritable because of the taper.  I can’t sleep because of the taper.  Don’t talk to me because of the taper.

Jeesh.

Of course, everyone is different, but by the time I get to my typical three-week taper before race day, I’m so damn tired that I need some accumulated rest.  In fact, I train to get to the taper, pushing myself hard in the weeks that lead up to it, knowing the reward will be a respite.

I welcome the shortened sessions on my feet, the dialed back tempos.  Get me a foam roller, a bowl of pasta and a bottle of Two Buck Chuck and I’m good!

Only once race week comes does a hint of that taper madness anxiety slip into my conscience.  I’m no psychiatrist, but I feel that most of what I feel is simply a case of the race jitters and nothing else.  I mean, what good would I be doing myself by running more miles when I’m supposed to be saving my energy for the upcoming race?

Still, whenever anyone (myself included) mentions any symptom of that dreaded taper madness, my universal go-to cure is to open up that logbook and look at all the great work that’s already been done.  As any seasoned runner will admit, the guts of one’s training comes before the taper, not during it.

If you’re not ready to tackle your goals three weeks out from race day, you might as well treat the race as a fun run.

So take pride in all that hard work, relax as race day approaches and tell taper madness to take a hike (preferably along the entire Appalachian Trail, so it stays away for a while).