Taper report TNF Bear Mountain 2013

Oh wait, you’re supposed to down-train for an endurance race right?? You see, the problem for me when it comes to running is that I perform best when I feel fit, and I feel fittest when I feel tired… the more tired I am the more fit I feel. Of course this can sometimes lead to me feeling like super-man and running a training run like a super-old-man; which is probably why I need to taper. Also, something about glycogen, I think I read that somewhere. In a book. With pages. I’m not sure that I’ve ever gotten the taper thing exactly right… I’ve only done it for a few times… and one of those was for a race that didn’t even happen… I recall bitching about it’s cancellation with a whine of “BUT I TAPERED FOR THIS” but I’m pretty sure that I thought that replacing running time with beer drinking time constituted a taper… I’m not wholly convinced that this is true (but not wholly convinced that it’s not true).

You see, in addition to the very obvious correlation of my perceived fitness to my weekly mileage, a lot of other things are wrapped up in it.. Like my ability to handle stresses, an embarrassingly large part of my self-esteem, and my willpower overall. Since I’m obviously rambling, let me show you some charts to better elaborate my point.

First, here’s my actual Taper:

Here’s how that seems to work with my overall fitness:
Now, I can’t just sit around, and pretend to go to the gym, I obviously have other things to do, like prepare for a recital that I foolishly scheduled less than 24 hours before a 50 mile race…. Oh, and apparently I need to blog.

Running is obviously a big time and energy consumer, so obviously that time has to be spent on something, here’s a rough outline of how I’ve  been spending those extra hours.
The hardest part of the taper is that since I’m not tired, I can actually see how fit I am, but I’m not allowed to use any of this until Saturday.. This is like taking a fat kid, and putting him in a candy store with a hundred dollar bill, and saying you can’t buy anything…

 Tomorrow I plan to go out and run, because I do that every day, I’ll probably run for a half an hour… which is really the running equivalent of having “just one beer” it sounds good on paper, but in actuality it’s incredibly unsatisfying. Maybe I’ll do it barefoot, so I can pretend that it’s having some sort of positive effect on my biomechanics, but most likely I’ll run up a hill. With rocks on it. Then I’ll go and practice for hours on end, because I need to do that. 

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Recharge

I think for most people, the last few months of the year are always a logistical struggle. There’s the shortening daylight hours, holiday stress, obligatory beer guzzling, and for those of us in academia, the inherent stress of a semesters worth of procrastination peaking in a tremendous fury of papers to be written, tests to be taken, and TA duties to be attended to (after all, our politicians can procrastinate all they like, so seriously, could you expect any better from me?). This all combined means that I’ve either been too lazy to write, too lazy to run, ran too little to not feel like a poser writing about running, or just generally have decided that I am in fact boring and thus have nothing to write about.

That being said, in case you haven’t noticed, the blog is in a bit of an overhaul phase, and will continue to morph until I like it, sort of like Michael Jackson’s face, but way less good at producing pop music, and hopefully less likely to be the focal point of a South Park episode. Using the arbitrary restarting point of the new year, you can look forward to a few dramatic, and not-so dramatic changes. Running-wise, I’ve decided to change my “week” from a Sun-Sat week (a la calendar) to a Mon-Sun week. This comes after much deliberation regarding the separation of the weekend. Pretty much, I’ve decided that I do the majority of my long distance-running between Thurs and Sun, and I should probably keep those days within the same quantified week for logging purposes. Again, this is kind of arbitrary, but I think it’ll help me to better plan my weeks as a whole, and feel a lot less pressured to hit my “weekly” total on Saturday, then restart on Sunday, which I think led to some reckless running last year on my Friday/Saturday routes. I also plan to start counting vertical change as a “total” vertical change, rather than simply vertical gain. This should help to quantify my efforts a little more accurately (as well as make my numbers look less pathetic)

There will also be some additional cooking-oriented posts. Many of you already know that I’ve been a vegetarian for a long time (in fact, many of you have probably tried to convince me not to be over the years) and in looking at some running-related food sources I’ve concluded that recipe suggestions either are completely ridiculous, and require you living inside of a Whole Foods in order to cook, or are based on the idea that “hey, you ran today, eat some fricken cookies” neither of which are really my M.O. So with some luck, expect to see some simple, down-home vegetarian recipe’s that someone with little cooking experience and only access to the most basic grocery stores can make.

Training Grumble

After several consecutive days of less than stellar performances on my feet, I’m beginning to get increasingly frustrated with myself, and the form that my training has taken. Realistically, I shouldn’t be overly concerned, and should, in fact, be embracing the latent soreness, lethargy, and overall slog-like feeling I have going into my 2-ish week “taper” period leading into the NF 50, but after a few days of sub-par efforts it’s tough to stay positive.

In an attempt to justify my lackluster motivation, and overall shitty feelings on trail in the past few days I’ve been rethinking about my diet in the past several days (less than awesome, by a good amount) and my general stress level, which I think is affecting my running more than I’m willing to admit. Fundamentally, I really need to pick myself up by my proverbial bootstraps, and get my ass out on the real mountain, perhaps without the stopwatch for once, and just run, to really reinvigorate myself with the base level appeal of this activity. I know that my fitness is by no small margin better than it’s ever been, and that it’s mostly my head that’s preventing me from logging quality miles in the past several days, so hopefully I can muscle through this “funk” and get myself back on the train in time for the race.

Summary Feb 19-25

Sunday Feb 19, 1 Mile, 8:31 Typical shakedown mile, figure I should take a couple of days extra light after the 8 day 117 mile effort….. things felt good, legs a bit heavy, but nothing unusual


Monday Feb 20, 1 Mile, 7:46 Same as previous day, it’s strange how lacking my life feels without substantial mileage… In spite of a full day of class/rehearsals/practicing/generally doing things I need/should be doing, the omission of a morning and evening run makes the day seem… empty

Tuesday Feb 21, 6.4 Miles, 270′ 50:49 Had to get some work done on my car, landed a ride back home from dropping it off from the shop, and relied on legs to retrieve it. Tried to add as much vert as I could en route to the shop, but alas, only a few hundred feet. Everything felt very soggy, heavy legs, and general lethargy, could have sworn I was running 9+ minute miles… but apparently I was an eyelash under 8’s…

Wed Feb 22, AM 5.1 Miles, 740′ 39:53 Power Line Trails, slightly up tempo, not pushing too hard since this is supposed to be a “recovery” week, Again, things felt relatively soggy, not particularly weak, but certainly not what I’d consider strong.
PM 1 Mile, 8:02 Usual evening shakeout, just trying to get back into my normal rhythm/swing of things.


Thurs Feb 23, AM 12.1 Miles 1650′ 1:48:26 Allamuchy Double-summit, although I foolishly took a wrong turn adding a half a mile, and some vert, you’d think that I would know the trail system by now, but apparently my autopilot is lacking. Beautiful warm day, and it feels fantastic to be on the mountain proper after a few days of not really running/hitting the pavement/running the local power line trails. Things still don’t feel 100% strong, but then again, I think I’ve completely forgotten what truly fresh legs feel like, and they’re certainly no worse off than what I’ve been dealing with for the past several weeks, so I suppose I should consider myself fundamentally recovered from last weeks mileage stacking PR.
PM 5 Miles, 360′ 36:54 Broken Shin Loop. I started out with the group but after about a mile… maybe an eyelash more, a cloud of darkness seemed to cloud my brain, causing me to simply take off up the hill. I’m not sure what exactly it was, but I seemed immediately confronted with my own interpretations of personal failures, inequities, and all other such things that seem to linger in the sub-conscious. Needless to say, I felt an insatiable urge to continue to rest of the run in solitude, and picked up my pace significantly to earn some space/enjoy the rhythm of a few miles run harder than I would have planned for the back 5 of a 17 mile day….

Fri Feb 24, 5.1 Miles, 740′ 40:14 Feeling a bit beat up from the previous day, and having a substantial amount of professional commitments to attend to throughout the day, it seemed like a good day to lay low, nevermind the rain, and subsequent shiggy trail conditions. I did, however, manage to stretch my ever-sketchy left ankle more than I’d like on a slippery rock, and convinced that I had rolled it, found myself running while cursing in torrents and knotting my fists, only to realize after several hundred yards that it was feeling normal.

Sat Feb 25, 15 Miles, 620′ 1:53:32 Up-tempo pavement session with Dave and Jeff. Legs felt certifiably like crap (although extended flat pavement sessions typically have that effect on me) but then again, running when my legs feel awful is a substantial part of my training plan. Having the company is certainly advantageous for getting my sleepy self out of bed in the morning, as well as sharing the burden of pacing throughout a run. Also, ankle felt fine, good sign.

Totals: 51.7 Miles, 7380′ Vert, 6h54m

It feels strange, and extremely self-righteous to say that a ~52 mile week is a down training week… even with 7380′ of vert. In addition to the mileage reduction, this week provided me with a noticeable amount of professionally-oriented stress, most notably agreeing to a Mock Audition in front of the Vienna Philharmonic coming up this Friday (3/2) which I’m still feeling substantially under-prepared for. This forced me to substantially increase my practice time (which was a bit easier to do given the mileage reduction, and abundance of energy I had as a result thereof) which is something I have no qualms with, but for reasons I cannot understand, I felt often overwhelmed both with the sisyphian amount of work I had to do, as well as consistently confronted with reminders of previous failures ranging from personal to professional to the fickle things, such as my mounting pile of laundry. As such, I’m forced to conclude that at this point in my life, ~52 miles in seven days is far too few for me to maintain a level head, feel balanced, and in touch with myself, my surroundings, my body, and keep my stress levels at bay. This being said, I don’t anticipate this upcoming week to be substantially better as far as base level stress is concerned, with a Mock Audition on Friday, an Audition to record, and a last minute orchestra gig on Saturday (there goes my chance to go for an indulgent weekend destination binge run!(but alas, I do need to pay my bills)) Hopefully an increase in general daily mileage will prove advantageous to my mental health.

Dave (left) and Jeff

Summary Jan 8-14

Sunday Jan 8, AM 5.2 Miles, 47:18 road running to retrieve my car after the Debauchery that was Freezing Cold Hash…. All I can say is… oof.

Monday Jan 9, 4.85 Miles, 42:48 Power Line trails, this route is becoming rather quick and familiar with each progressive run seeming a bit quicker. It’s also proving a great training ground for aggressive down and uphills, furthering my confidence, especially with regard to efficient injury-free high speed descent on technical trail.

Tuesday Jan 10, 9.2 Miles, 1:16:14 Run through Schooley’s Mountain, using access trail and outer loop. Originally intended a few more miles, but some lingering discomfort in my left ankle encouraged me to shave a few miles off and avoid a roll/twist.

Wednesday Jan 11, 10.15 Miles, 1:23 Hilly road-route through town, the parts on the ridge are nice, as well as the opportunity to stretch my legs with a more repetitive run, as opposed to the much more athletically engaging trail variety. Planned a double, but weather got the best of me.

Thursday Jan 12, AM 5.1 Miles, :47 Powerline Trail again, with a few tenths tagged onto the end to stretch out. Legs feeling rotten sore by this point in the week, No rest days since November, shortest run since 12/27 was 4.85 miles (Monday). PM 5 Miles, :44 Broken Shin Loop, hung with the crowd for the majority of the run, right calf uncharacteristically sore.

Friday Jan 13, AM 2 Miles, 14:30 Lack of motivation, sore, super-windy, officially abandoned pursuit of 70 miles for this week, sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you.

Saturday Jan 14, AM 10.15 miles, 1:15:19 I’d forgotten how fresh legs felt, running an average pace of 7:25 on hills barely felt like I was exerting myself, I think this bodes well for the future, and the emergence of a “rest” day into my training plan might be something I consider seriously. This also makes for a PR for this particular (and very new) loop. Having not felt like I was pushing myself at all during the run, I wonder what a pair of fresh legs, and a desire to run as hard as I can might do on this, and other courses.

Total miles:  51.65, 6h26m Far shy of my goal of 70 miles, weather, and prudence with regard to lingering soreness took most of the miles off, although that’s a rather weak excuse. Next week class starts in earnest, and hopefully I’ll be able to manage the mileage with coursework, I suspect my coffee intake will increase dramatically.

Schooley’s with the Sun
Limpy…. at FCH ’nuff said

Power Lines… trails are steeper than they appear

 
More power line, drops off dramatically about 5 ft from my shadow
Poor MT 101’s…..

Training Ruminations

The past week I’ve had several conversations with other runners about my seemingly lacksadaisical approach to training. I’ve decided that although my approach to training for a race is slightly unorthodox, mostly due to its lack of traditional structure, it’s still proven itself effective over the course of the past year, and allows me to run more, and plan less. With that being said, let me explain how I go about planning my weekly mileage, and why I run where/how I do. Fundamentally my training is based around a few VERY important runs, and a lot of recovery/junk/lazy miles. (I hate the term junk mileage, my implication is that these miles are slower, and over easier terrain than my more ambitious runs, but are very important for maintaining my fitness, as well as a time where I hone in on form issues, lower leg flexibility, and turnover rate)
The runs I deem as “workouts” are the following: Tempo Runs, Hill Runs, and Long Runs. Note that speedwork is NOT included here. This is for a multitude of reasons, the first and foremost being that speedwork isn’t why I run, I don’t find it enjoyable in the least, in fact I find it more masochistic than anything else I could run. this is not to say that speedwork isn’t an effective means of building strength, both in the legs and the cardiovascular system. Many (almost all?) people I run with, follow, read about, and admire do speedwork,and I don’t necessarily recommend my lack of interval training/mile repeats. Instead of doing speedwork, I do an abundance of hill running. I deliberately seek out inclines, and refuse to let these inclines have a significant effect on my pace. This in turn, forces my cardiovascular system to work much harder for the ascent, and allows me to relax some on the descent, in effect not being tremendously dissimilar from interval training as far as heart-rate is concerned. In addition, the races I’m eyeing for the next year exist primarily on mountain trails, so being comfortable with both ascending and descending, especially on trail is abundantly necessary, and there is no other way to get there, than by simply doing it. That being said, I think for my purposes the Hill run is both more functionally specific (for my training goals) and forces me to take my cardiovascular training to a higher level, thus alleviating my need for traditional interval training, and considering the physical abuse of hill work, and speedwork individually, doing both in the week would most likely lead to a higher risk of overuse injury.
Tempo Runs:
These are very self-explanatory, my tempo runs are traditionally shorter in length (5-10 miles) and depending on where I am in my training, can be anywhere from 30-90 seconds/minute faster than race pace. The shorter the run, the faster I run. It’s a simple plan, increase turnover rate, maintain a high heart rate. Since I’m primarily concentrating on trail running, I try to do these runs on technical terrain, but sometimes I don’t have the luxury of driving to a trailhead, and end up running on the road, in which case, I run as quickly as I can for  the prescribed distance.
Long Runs:
The long run is typically the corner stone of any endurance/long distance runner, and I am no different. Although where most people will typically take a “light” day before the long run, I’ve found it more effective to enter my long run in a state of moderate soreness/depletion. This is fundamentally to train me for the end of the race rather than training for the beginning, and builds strength, both mentally and physically. I also make a concerted effort to keep my long runs relatively close to intended race pace (+ ~10-20 seconds/mile) again, the intention being to train my body to move at or near pace, while already beat up.
The remainder of my mileage is typically slower, more relaxed runs over a variety of terrain, usually determined by time/ambition. These miles allow me to keep my legs loose, and since they’re often run with a degree of lingering soreness/stiffness, encourage me to work on bio-mechanical efficiency, and diagnose any potential red flags before they become a significant issue.
So how does it all break down? Typically each week has at least one of the above runs, although the long-run is sometimes replaced with two back to back medium runs (especially at the early onset of a training period). In addition to this, I often maintain a “streak” running no fewer than 1 mile per day, period. I ran consecutively from 5/23-10/9 this year, and presently have not missed a day since 11/30. I also try to maintain a relatively high mileage during spurts of training, preferring to hang in the 60-80mpw range.
Lastly, Since I’ve been trying to post these for weeks, Here are my monthly totals for Dec, which was fundamentally a recovery month with regard to my (now no longer!) sore foot.
12/1    3.2
12/2    4.85
12/3    8.4
12/4    4.1
12/5    1
12/6    7.1
12/7    1
12/8    5
12/9    1
12/10   10.62
12/11   4.05
12/12   1
12/13   6
12/14   1
12/15   9, 5
12/16   3.21
12/17   1
12/18   5.18
12/19   2
12/20   15
12/21   1
12/22   4.1
12/23   5
12/24   4.1
12/25   6
12/26   4.05
12/27   4.85
12/28   8.6
12/29   5
12/30   7.1
12/31   11.16

Totals: 159.67 miles, 26h 19m

Binge Runs

Thankfully, the semester is over, which means that I have some more time on my hands to run/recover/sleep/eat/drink beer. Now that my foot is feeling (almost) normal again, I figured that since I have no immediate running goals, just the long-term desire to run faster, farther, and harder in some trail races next year, a few really long runs should be in the forecast. Having the lack of running-related pressure allows me the chance to basically run what, where, and however far I please, at least for the next several weeks, and the Binge Run seems to be the answer.

Now, there are a lot of runners out there, and I believe I’m in the minority when I tell people that I really enjoy running long, this is not to say that I don’t end my runs bonking, sore, stiff, dehydrated, and that bonking, being stiff, sore, and dehydrated doesn’t feel bad. It does. In fact, it feels really bad, and not to imply that I’m a masochist, if I were, I highly doubt that unnecessarily long runs would be my preferred method of discomfort and self-destruction (I think I’d choose the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man…). The reality of it, is when I find myself running for long time frames, it teaches me a lot, and allows me to fully decompress. It also helps me to jump-start my fitness, or at the very least stay relatively on-track.

Now the binge-run is a special case, typically it’s an obnoxiously long run (3+ hours?) preferably without any specific purpose. This allows me to not worry about pace, run where I want, and throw in the towel whenever I feel like, allowing me to only concentrate on running, and enjoying the trip. There are a few disclaimers to the binge run, in case any of you are thinking of attempting it.

It DOES require some planning, if you run trails like I do, run in a system you’re familiar with, or at the very least bring a MAP (best plan, do both!!)

Food and Water are imperative! I always bring way more Gu (or whatever I’m eating this week) than I think I need… and carry at least 1, sometimes 2 handhelds.

Let someone know what you’re doing! This sounds like a no-brainer, but the more comfortable you are, the less likely you are to let someone else know whats going on. There is some risk involved, especially on trails, the last thing you need is to roll an ankle 10 miles from your car, and have no one know you’re missing…. not exactly 127 hours, but in the case you get hurt/lost, it’s nice to know someone will eventually start looking.

Lastly, even though this usually goes against my M.O. this run, I was talked into bringing a cell-phone with me. They’re useful in the OH SHIT situations, and most cell-phones have GPS so you can either be located, or map your way out of the woods… Maybe this is worth the weight… although my inner minimalist is still anti-technology.

Phone, Food, Water, Garmin, Map


Trailhead

TURN LEFT!


Mid-Run Snack

Saw this 2.5 hours in… I couldn’t help but yell it out loud

Mountain running may be hazardous to your pedicure


Advantages

Many of my friends (okay, namely the Highlands Hashers) ask me how my running effects my “professional” life. I’ve always found this to be a difficult question, short of giving the usual stock answers: lowers stress, keeps me fit, etc etc. Now these are NOT the reasons I run, the reasons I run will likely be documented in a following post, but I can assure you that fitness/stress are not what gets me out of bed at 6am to hit the trails…. This past week however, with the start of the school year, comes the usual ring of academic-related auditions, mostly for seating/ensemble placement within the department. Anyone who races has an idea of the stress level associated with auditions, however, the engagement of the fight/flight mechanism is (in my experience) advantageous for a footrace. Unfortunately, as a clarinetist, the fight/flight mechanism is extremely disadvantageous for a performance, increased heart-rate, adrenaline, sweat, none of this bodes well for musical performance.

How has high mileage helped this? Well, as a result of my weekly mileage, and the ensuing fitness level, my resting heart rate is low, I refuse to check it, since I don’t really dig the whole numbers thing, especially regarding heart rate, VO2 max etc etc, but trust me, its low. This means that when my flight mechanism does kick in during the audition setting, the ensuing heart-rate increase begins from a much lower level, resulting in a stressed heart-rate being substantially lower than I can recall ever having in that situation! Not to mention the additional confidence from knowing what you’re really made of. Having run a self-supported ultra-marathon, hiked solo through the Whites and Mahoosucs, grown a massive beard, and lost my fair share of auditions where more than pride is on the line, I’m able to approach the audition in a much calmer fashion than I would have as recently as a year ago, nevermind 6 years ago.

The (relative) success of last weeks 2 auditions, and how I think my running has affected my energy levels throughout these has motivated me to run, and practice more. I’m now more thoroughly looking forward to upcoming races (50k’s 50 milers and a ?hundred?) recitals, and whatever else life throws my way!