August 25, 2011

On the edge - it happens

Having run an average of 104km per week in the past 7 weeks, I have felt the fatigue building. Training for endurance sports such as Ironman, marathon and ultras is tiring - I am used to the feeling of being tired. However, the past four days I was so tired that I began to worry I was pushing myself over the edge into overtraining mode where injury and burnout are just waiting.

On Sunday I had a 29km run, of which 23km were supposed to be at marathon goal race pace. After a 3km warmup, I set off at 4:22/km (7:02/mile) and remember thinking about being quite comfortable in the first 7km or so. It was a warm day and Tim, who was doing his own long session along the same route, and I were a bit late as it was already 11am by the time I started my 23km effort.

With a few undulations from 7km until 16km, I found it increasingly harder, and soon impossible, to hit my goal pace. As the mercury rose, my mood dropped. I knew I was tired but come on, it was only 23km. Surely I could at least hit 4:25/km? Frantic glares at Mr Garmin failed to change the numbers I saw and did not like.

I had brought a 500ml bottle of water and 3 gels. Given the midday heat, I probably could have done with better hydration but I am not sure if that would have been enough to lift the heaviness of my legs. At about 18km, I found myself annoyed and ready to cry at the same time about working so hard, and having done so much training, and still not being able to hit marathon race pace for half the distance.

I managed to stop myself from the crying bit, as that would have pushed my laboured breathing to hyperventilation mode, by focusing on effort, rather than outcome. It was a good reminder about how judgement and goals can make a training session, and a race, a lot harder if you're not meeting your own expectations and are beating yourself up over it.

With Tim's figure showing up ahead, I focused on catching him. We both did an out-and-back on the same route, but Tim had a shorter long run that was done at normal long-run pace (4:50 to 5:15) so I concentrated on bringing him closer, and passing. It helped to take my mind off the option to slow down further, or abandon the race pace altogether.

By the time I finished that 23km my average was 4:29/km, or 7 seconds short. I was not happy, in fact I was so unhappy and stuffed, both mentally and physically, that I could not be bothered to run the remaining 3km back home to complete the 29km I was supposed to do. I was glad I had finished the effort, but was also in a dark place.

This type of mood, plus my body's overwhelming fatigue, had me worried. I expect to recover in the taper that starts in 3 weeks, but what if I don't? Tim tried to cheer me up. That, food, drinks, a shower and a solid hour-long nap on the couch helped too.

Reading that afternoon in Advanced Marathoning that Catherine Ndereba ran a 32-minute 10km in the months before setting her 2:15 world record, which is about the same kilometre pace. Based on her capability, she should have been able to go a lot faster in the 10km but it wasn't a goal race and she shrugged off that time because she knew she was tired from her marathon training.

So that was what I reminded myself of too. I was simpy tired from the marathon training, a volume higher than I have ever run before. Still, after Monday's day of rest my legs were still concrete for Tuesday's 14km session, especially for the 5x 600m repeats at 5km race pace. My mood still fragile, I opted to focus on 5km race effort for the 600m to avoid another mental downward spiral about my watch showing splits that fell short of expectations.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I was supposed to run 23km, but decided against it and postponed the session until today. Initially I was going to take Wednesday off running, but then decided to run an easy 6.5km with Tim in the evening. My legs still felt stuffed and lacking energy, and I voiced my concern about my tiredness.

However, when Tim and I started on our run this morning, 19km for him and 23km for me, I felt so much better. I had energy again, and was able to hit my target range without problems. Today's run told me that swapping around this week's sessions, so I only ran 20km in the past 3 days instead of the 37km I otherwise would have, clearly had been the active recovery I needed.

It was not only great to feel much better physically, it also helped me realize I am just training on the edge, but haven't pushed myself over it. By moving around my training, I am only 2km behind on my weekly target and, most importantly, I now know that the two-week taper after another three 100km-weeks of training (including the current one) will be more than enough to help my body recover. That's a good feeling.

Guest post: Strength training

Reading one of my recent posts, Mindy Olson asked if I was doing any strength training as it has been something that has benefited her marathon preparations. Running a 3:15:38 in the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May (4th in F40-44 and 10th female overall), Mindy has been working hard with her coach Steve Di Tomaso (who incidentally is making his debut at Ironman Canada this weekend, good luck Steve!). 

Since Mindy shared quite a few long runs with Steve in the lead-up to Ironman Canada, she decided she might as well put that training to good use at the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon in October. Mindy and I haven't met, but I expect we will in Victoria. 

Here's a post by Mindy about her strength training:  

Mindy  (Amy Judd/The Times)
When Steve first approached me in March of this year I was doing weights 2x a week in the gym. I basically had been doing this for years just to stay toned. I kind of just went from machine to machine and never really changed it up.

He basically convinced me that I was wasting my time and that if I was on the right program I would see huge results in my strength and running. He put me through an assessment and then drew up my program based on what my weakness areas were.

The first thing I was introduced to was the foam roller. I use it before and after working out.  Before a workout it helps to decrease muscle density and after strenuous work-outs it aids in recovery. I love it and could not live without it now! 

Basically each phase of my program starts with a series of warm-up exercises called Mobility Activation and Mv-Prep which address areas of weakness that are determined from the assessment. My glutes were a big one for me. I was over-compensating with my thighs and knees so we really concentrated on certain exercises that would fire up my “ butt”. 

Next we moved to core training. He told me I had to give up all my favourite crunches as they are horrible for the spine. I now do many variations of the plank and other abdominal exercises which never involve a crunch. My abdominal area has never been so strong and these exercises are much easier on your back. 

We then did Elasticity and sport-specific exercises in phase one and power development in phase two. These included lots of upper body work with kettle bells and lots of jumping (on and off benches) with a quiet landing.

The last section is Resistance training where I really use my glutes and upper body. We do tons of variations of squats, lunges, pushups, chin-ups, deadlifts, TRX and kettle bell exercises.  Currently I have added single-leg exercises which are helping to strengthen my hips and knees.  They are extremely hard but they sure target these areas. 

In the last 6 months I have not once used a machine and with so many new exercises I certainly don’t miss that type of workout. I have now strengthened,and will continue to strengthen, the muscles I use for running. Now after a long run my glutes are sore instead of just my thighs and calves which tells me I am finally using these muscles. 

With added upper body strength I don’t feel the fatigue as much when I hit the 30km mark and my arm swing feels much stronger. My arm swing is something I really have had to concentrate on and it’s finally coming along. My speed sessions are definitely getting faster and I’m getting farther up the hill on repeats. In general I just feel so much stronger when running.

I have to say that Steve Di Tomaso is hugely knowledgeable in his field and I trusted him completely which is very important when choosing a trainer. He also runs with me 2-3x a week which has also been very beneficial. The last thing he has convinced me to do is change from a fully cushioned shoe to a more minimal running shoe. I’m loving the lighter feel and it definitely makes you feel faster!

Mindy's usual schedule:
Mon: 7.5km run. Then I go to the gym and do strength for about -1/2hr which includes a 15min. warmup and 10min rollout.
Tues: 40min powerwalk to warm up, meet friends for hill training session of about 14.5km.
Wed: 6km run, followed by 1-1/2hr of strength.
Thurs: 40 min power walk, by tempo or speed training with friends at the track or dikes of about 12km.
Fri: No run. Used to do spinning class. Now: strength day with 40min walk as warm-up. Then 2-3 weeks before the marathon I go back to 2 days in weight room & back to spinning my legs out.
Saturday: Long run: if training for a race, 19 to 35km. When not training, 13-18km.
Sunday: 13.5km run.

Thanks so much for sharing Mindy. Good luck with the rest of the Victoria Marathon training!

August 17, 2011

Another mid-week 24km done

I didn't get around to my 24km until the afternoon. It was a midweek long run so the pace was relatively easy. Still, I was tired, a cumulative tiredness that I recognize from Ironman training at this stage when the final 4-week training block before the two-week taper was the hardest to sustain.

There are only 5 1/2 weeks left until race day on September 25. The taper is still 3 1/2 weeks away. This week has 112km, and is followed by another two 100km-plus weeks. While this mileage is high for me, and any amateur marathoner, it's peanuts compared with what the elite marathoners are running of course.

In The Marathoners, for example, Hal Higdon writes about how Frank Shorter would run 150 miles (240km) a week. Wow.

While tired, I knew I could run the 24km today. It's what consistent training tells you -- your body tends to be able to do more than your mind thinks sometimes. Still, I couldn't outrun the fact that my body didn't have a ton of energy but even though my pace felt like a shuffle Mr Garmin told me I was moving faster than I felt I did.

I did my usual out-and-back route, heading from Valleycliffe to the other side of Squamish, which is an area called Brackendale. While this town is small in terms of its 16,000 residents, the various suburbs are stretched out and getting from one side of town to the other takes a solid 10km.  

Tim and I were running on the farthest side of Brackendale on Sunday when two friends passed us on their bikes and were surprised to see us there on foot. "Did you run here?" is a question people have asked us more than once.

Today, I had just turned around in Brackendale after covering 13.5km, and was running along a road when a familiar gold-coloured Hummer slowed down and the car window was lowered. It was a neighbour from our street who goes for daily long walks, so we often see each other either on the road or on the trail.

While my neighbour knows I run often, I don't think he realized the distances I cover. Driving slowly, he looked at me and made a gesture with his arms that said, What on earth are you doing all the way here? and his face had an expression of genuine surprise. Then without a word, he rolled his window back up and drove on. I laughed out loud for the next 300 metres.

By the time I got back to our street, almost home, I ran into him, as he carried his usual hiking pole heading out for his daily fix. "How far did you run?" was the first thing he said. The answer surprised him.

I was tired when I got home, just before 5:30pm. The 24km had taken me 2hr 4min, for a pace of 5:10 per km. Time for plenty of fluids, shower, food, and some couch time. Tomorrow has a recovery 10km in the morning, and another 6km in the evening. I am looking forward to that easy day, which I expect to revive me for Friday's 19km session.

August 16, 2011

The challenge of a day rest

Yesterday was my first day off running after the 126km in the previous 7 days, a record for me. Today, the schedule called for 16km in total including six 1km repeats at 5km race pace. This is where the challenge of training comes in, it's not that hard to run a big week, or two, or five. The challenge is maintaining the volume and the quality when you feel, or think you feel, tired.

After considering swapping a few sessions around, so I could do just an easy one of as little as 8km (Friday's session), I finally decided to head out this afternoon with the plan to just do the session as planned, and run my 1km repeats by effort, rather than getting hung up about the 3:50 pace I needed to hit for each one. Race pace for a 5km is a pretty fast effort but it is not as hard as aiming to run, say, 1km all out.

I find that for some of the more challenging sessions it is all about getting started and cutting yourself some slack. Don't allow yourself to bludge, Australian for taking it easy, but accept that when you're tired you may just not hit the same numbers as when you are fresh. 

As long as it feels like the effort you're supposed to put in, you'll get the benefit that the session is supposed to give you. Warming up with a relaxed 6km around Valleycliffe, Mr Garmin told me that, as usual, once I start running I feel a lot better than I often expect to.

I did all six 1km repeats, most of them at an effort I'd be very happy to put in at a 5km race, and ended up running 17km, according to Mr Garmin. For each 1km I stayed well below 4:00/km, and I am very pleased with that.

Now I am getting ready for dinner, and am enjoying a Sleeman Cream Ale, or two. Dinner consists of rice with chickpeas, a bunch of veggies, in a lovely curry. That should fuel me well for tomorrow's 24km.

August 13, 2011

Time trials are tough

That this morning's time trial was challenging came as no surprise, these are tough workouts that require a lot of self-motivation. Thankfully I had company from another runner, which always makes them a little easier and a lot more enjoyable, even if you're not moving side by side. You know that you're both trying to run as hard as you can, which is comforting and encouraging.

Time trials in training are often harder than races, as in the latter you have an official time to defend, possibly spectators to cheer you on, and, of course, competitors that always help you dig a little deeper. In a time trial like my friend and I ran this morning, there is nothing other than your own willpower that's preventing you from slowing down and taking it a little easier.

Nobody is watching you, there will be no record of your time, and nothing is at stake other than the knowledge that you made this session as good as it could be by giving it as much as you had to give.

We used the course from the Squamish Days 10km two weeks ago, when I ran 40:14. Today, I ran about 41:30 on the out-and-back flat course, feeling like I struggled a lot more today than in the race. That came as no surprise and I was pleased with the effort.

My friend ran 11 seconds/km faster than he'd planned, so was very pleased as well.

With another 7km for the warm up and cool down (the latter included a 600m uphill back to Valleycliffe on which my tired and sore legs could only manage 7:30-8:00/km), my volume for the past six days is 97km (though I prefer to count Monday's 18km with the previous week's mileage).

Tomorrow I have a 29km long run to finish the week, before Monday's rest day!

Time trial tips:
- warm up properly, I did 4km today before starting;
- you'll run your best time with even splits, so tame yourself in that first 2km, and try to run as steady a pace as possible throughout. Time and again, I find that even or negative (i.e. running the second half quicker than the first) splits make for the best times, both on the clock and in your mind;
- maintain positive thoughts, and concentrate on the task at hand -- especially between halfway and that final km focus your thoughts with things like, I am strong, I am relaxed. Trust me, it works. Negative thoughts like, I am so tired, Are we there yet, I don't think I can keep going, slow your pace;
- while pace is important, it is not the be all and end all: your body may be tired, as mine was today, and focusing on putting in the best possible effort each moment can then be more helpful than staring at your Garmin. Ask yourself, is this the best I can do right now;
- cool down, give your body a chance to recover with a slow jog for a couple of km.
- refuel and rehydrate within the first hour. 

I am tired from this morning's effort, and am having breakfast and tea and some hammock time in the backyard, so I can rest up before driving to Whistler this afternoon for a guitar lesson by the awesome Papa Josh at gorgeous and welcoming The Artist's Point.

August 12, 2011

Feeling a jump in fitness - I think

This week began with one of those rare runs that just feels effortless, you feel you could do anything, run anywhere, at any pace, for any length of time. Fantastic, amazing! Of course I slightly dreaded my session the following day, knowing that even if I felt great, it would feel worse than the day before.

So, after Monday's effortless 18km run, I did my Tuesday session which was a total of 14km including five 600-metre repeats at 5km race pace (or 2:18 for 600m). I felt good, just not amazing. On Wednesday I had 23km. My goal pace for these medium long runs is between 4:50 and 5:15.

Feeling tired before the session, I was glad to feel much better once warmed up and pleased to stay comfortably under a 5:00/km (8:00/mile) average pace. My body felt efficient, strong and light from the routine of six days of running a week.

Without obsessing over my nutrition, I like a pre-dinner glass of red or a beer in summer and dark chocolate desserts, an overall healthy diet combined with plenty of running has my weight now at 60kg (132 pounds), which is at the lean end for me (I'm 5' 8" or 176cm). It feels good.

I've been considering cutting all alcohol and sweests from my diet for the past couple of months but haven't done so yet. Maybe I will in the final four weeks before the race, maybe I won't. One thing's for sure, I certainly won't be cutting my caffeine intake as some athletes do leading up to a race.

Starting my day with a coffee, or three, as I work on my latest manuscript is a ritual I love too much. 

Yesterday had a 10km in the morning, finishing with six 100m strides, and a 6km in the evening. Both were meant to be at recovery pace, in my case about 5:30/km, but I found myself very comfortable closer to 5:15/5:20. It's important to avoid doing your recovery runs too fast, so I tried hard to stay near 5:30.

Today I only have an 8km easy session, as tomorrow my schedule calls for a race of between 8km and 15km. Since I haven't been able to find an event, I plan to do a 10km time trial on my own (though would welcome any company). Hopefully it will confirm what I think my body has been trying to tell me in this week's 71km so far.

I'll be finishing the week with Sunday's long run of 29km.

Bored? Try to concentrate

The MarathonersI'm reading Hal Higdon's The Marathoners on the Kindle, and am loving many things about it already. Retelling the story of Frank Shorter's marathon victory in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Higdon writes:

"The reporters who write about the marathon (at least those reporters who do not run themselves) talk often about pain as though it is something a marathoner must endure constantly for 26 miles... But a well-trained distance runner like Frank Shorter does not think about pain. He may not even feel it..."

"Pain is standing at the plate with a bat in your hand and being struck by a pitch thrown at 100mph. Pain is throwing a forward pass and getting buried beneath a 250-pound lineman... Pain is sudden and sharp. Such pain does not exist in a marathon, despite what reporters who cover these sports think."

"What does exist in a marathon is discomfort. And fatigue. And the feeling that you are not having a very good day. And the feeling that you have been running a long, long time."
"Frank did not worry about pain, discomfort or fatigue. Instead, he focused on the art of running. He concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other as smoothly and with as little effort as he could. Then he brough the rear foot up equally as smoothly."
"... the top runners focus their minds on the act of running. They concentrate on maintaining balance, on swinging their arms properly, on keeping their knees low, on holding a smooth stride, on breathing in rhythm.... The ability of some people to concentrate is one reason why they are superior runners."

"This is true in other sports as well. The single most important trait common in all sports, other than raw talent, is an ability to concentrate. You must have talent or you will not succeed. But you must also concentrate on what you are doing."

August 08, 2011

Running effortlessly - it takes work

I started running this morning and felt fantastic. By that I mean that my legs felt as weightless as they did powerful, I was a cheetah, a gazelle, the prey and the predator, all in one. I could run forever as fast as I would like to. It gave me goosebumps. Few runs feel that good. That sense of effortlessness and speed lasted for the whole 90 minutes, or about 18km, of my session and it was awesome.

I didn't expect to feel that way.

In my current marathon schedule I have one day off per week, always on Monday. Last week I ran 97.5km in five days, from Tuesday through Saturday. Tuesday had 24km, over 2 sessions: 11km on the road in the morning, and another 13km in the evening mostly on trails (I was naughty as I should have only run 16km in total that day).

On Wednesday morning I ran 35km (in 3:02) and was suitably tired for my recovery run of 10km the next day. Friday had 19km in total, including 11km at half marathon pace. Saturday was another recovery run, I did 9.5km (1.5km more than the schedule called for).

Immediately after my Saturday session we left for Vancouver Island as Tim was racing the Sooke Half Ironman on Sunday - that was also the reason I had done my long run on Wednesday. I didn't expect to be able to run on Sunday and didn't even bring my running shoes, which is highly unusual.

I did plenty of walking as we brought our dog Luka. On Saturday evening, for example, I didn't mean to go for a long walk but my body was keen, and my mind didn't object, and neither did Luka. Taking a left from the road of our hotel, we ended up on the triathlon run course that followed the undulating Whiffin Spit Road before dropping down, just past Sooke Harbour House, to the Whiffin Spit, a beach park with a soft gravel path that separates Sooke's harbour from the Juan de Fuca Strait.

The views of the Olympic Mountains were spectactular. On the other side of the spit, it was hard to miss the Prestige Ocean Resort, the brandnew modern colonial-style hotel where we lucked out with a last-minute deal on a swanky room in seagreen and bright white with 14-foot ceilings, king bed and balcony with sweeping views.

Luka and I kept walking, and followed the path all the way to the light house, sniffing up the salty fresh air. It was quiet. It was perfect. It was dark by the time we got back to the hotel.

Sunday had more walking, as we cheered on Tim who ended up finishing second in his age group, a great result on the challenging course since this race was also BC's provincial championship. By the time we got back in Squamish on Sunday evening, it was past 11pm.

Since I hadn't run on Sunday, I decided to run today (though it means I will run 7 days in a row this week until next Monday's rest day).

With such a spectacular start, that rare effortless run that is the reward of plenty of hard training, I couldn't be more motivated to tackle this week's 100-odd kilometres.

If I count today's 18km run with the 97.5km I covered in the previous six days (Tues through Sunday), I've run 115.5km in the past 7 days.  

August 04, 2011

It's all in a name

So, I've changed the title of this blog. Why? Because a guy, who refers to himself as a 'one little persistent bugger', made the following comment on my post yesterday:  "Remember sub-3 ...still has a 3 in it. Think and believe in yourself as a 2-hour runner :). Go get it. I believe you can."

His name is Kristian Manietta, owner of TriSpecific and an 8:57 Ironman. We met in John Hill's triathlon squad in Sydney, Australia, about 10 years, and many many triathlons and marathons, ago and shared many training sessions.

Back then, I had yet to break 4 hours for the marathon: I ran 4:18 in the 1999 Ottawa marathon and 4:44 in the 2001 Sydney marathon. 

I take his point, and I like it when people make subtle but big changes in your thinking. So there you have it Kristian, a new title. Thanks! 

August 03, 2011

Following your body - long run

It's easy to forget that rest is as important as our training. On Sunday I did just that. After racing the Squamish Days 10km in a time only 23 seconds off my 39:51 PB (set in 2008) and cooling down with an easy 7km to bring the week's volume to 93km, I could have easily spent some time on the couch or in the hammock.

But the big job of painting the exterior of the house doesn't get done from the hammock, unfortunately. So after a shower, a quick brunch of a cheese omelet on bread, I got out the paint brush and spent a couple of hours changing another section of the siding from the current soft grey to the dramatically chique poppyseed (dark blue/purple).

It's helpful to have a marathoner  / ultrarunner's mindset when repainting a two-storey house -- it gets done one brush stroke at a time. Eventually. Preparing the siding, by scrubbing it clean with a hard brush and hot water with a dash of Mr Clean's multisurfaces liquid, is half the battle. 

Next comes the painting with two layers of Behr's Premium Plus (poppyseed for the house and an offwhite for the trims). It's not gruelling work, but it's tiring - especially with all the marathon training.

After two hours of that, it was time to walk the dog for the second time that day before getting in the car to drive to Vancouver, where I had a lovely dinner with my sister, then went for another walk with both our dogs. By 8pm I drove to Vancouver airport to pick up Tim who'd been on a 12-day visit to his brother, who lives in NYC, and to cheer him on in his first Ironman at Lake Placid a weekend earlier. (John had a superb Ironman debut, finishing in 12:32.)

Then we drove back to Squamish where I realized just how tired I was. Thankfully Monday was a rest day in terms of running, but there was painting and work of course. Tuesday (yesterday) my program had a 10km recovery run in the morning (I did 11km and felt tired) and was supposed to do a 6km recovery run at night.

Joining the Squamish Titans for their weekly summer trail sessions, I ended up running about 13km - a gorgeous 12km on some of my favourite trails, and another kilometre jogging to and from the meeting point. Hm, I hoped I wouldn't have to pay for it too much on my long run the next day.

The schedule called for a 24km medium-long run today, but with Tim racing the Sooke half Ironman on Vancouver Island this Sunday, and of course Luka and I there to cheer him on, I had decided to do Sunday's 35km run today instead. (This swap doesn't upset the hard/easy rhythm of this week as tomorrow only has a 10km recovery jog).

Having said that, I did feel the result of the lack of rest following Sunday's effort and my greediness yesterday, running a total of 24km instead of the 16km I was supposed to. Also, I felt mentally more challenged because of a new focus in training. In the previous six years I've always done my long runs based on time, i.e. a 3-hour run meant simply that, running for 3 hours. There were no pace or distance requirements.

Now, my training calls for a certain pace and a certain distance, which brings an extra layer of performance measurement. The pace for my long runs is between 4:50/km and 5:15/km (based on my marathon goal race pace). I hoped my tired body would be OK with the 35km today, I wasn't sure how it would feel about sticking to the required pace.

I allowed myself to ease into the workout, and tried to suspend any thoughts of doubt and concern. While tired, I was glad to notice a spring in my step once I warmed up so I decided to completely trust my body and let it do its thing, trying to keep my mind - judgement - out of it as much as possible.

It felt good, in a tiring way of course, as only long runs can do. Listening to my iPod, I had found a rhythm that had me moving at a speed perhaps best described as slightly ahead of the tiredness. I've found the recovery jogs, done at the slowest pace of all the workouts, really bring out the sense of fatigue in my body, while the faster-paced workouts (those at 5km, half marathon or marathon pace) have so far released surprising strength.

And today, I also often found myself surprised at the pace my Garmin showed, positively surprised that is. That didn't mean it was an easy session, absolutely not. But at about 15km into today's run I thought of an analogy: when you're dancing with a partner, it only works if there's one who leads while the other follows, so I thought today my body had the lead, while my mind followed. During my run, this analogy made perfect sense:-).

I drank more than usual, finishing my 500ml water bottle by about 18km. Thanks to the Red Bench Diner where a woman refilled my empty bottle with deliciously cool water. After that refreshment, I came across a three-time Ironman world champion, and thinking about his incredible accomplishments helped me steel myself for the homestretch.

I ended up hitting 35km in 3:02, which I was very pleased with, for an overall average pace of 5:12. It showed that the mind can often worry while the body is much more capable than we expect it to be. So it's good to let it take the lead, even if it does take two to tango. The best thing the mind can do sometimes is to not do too much of anything, other than be.

Needless to say, I am of course tired after running 59km in two days and am very much looking forward to the recovery day, with only an easy 10km tomorrow.

August 01, 2011

Racing without taper - 10km

Last week was another solid week of training. On the Advanced Marathoning training schedule I began following a week earlier, it was a recovery week - still clocking in at 93km. While the schedule didn't include a race, I had already planned to do the Squamish Days 10km, a flat certified road race that is part of the Lower Mainland Road Race Series.

So I made a couple of changes to last week's schedule to accommodate the race: I swapped the days of the long run (24km scheduled for Sunday) and the medium long run (18km scheduled for Friday), doing the 24km on Friday, and the 18km on Sunday by warming up with about 2km, then racing the 10km, and cooling down with a 6km run immediately after.

As mentioned in the previous post, last Tuesday I had a surprisingly good 800m session. Wednesday's recovery run, of 10km at a very easy pace, was a blah workout, which left me dreading Friday's 24km run. However, that turned out to be a great session too, in which I made sure to stay toward the slower end of my 4:50 to 5:15/km pace window.

On Saturday, the day before the 10km, I had a 13km easy run that finished off with 10 x 100m sprints.

So, having run 75km in the five days before the 10km, I was curious to see how I'd feel in this 10km which I also ran in 2009 and 2010, finishing in 41:39 and 41:00 respectively. I expected to be in better shape this year, similar to the Vancouver Sun Run in April, though I wouldn't be as rested as I had been for April's race.

I arrived a bit late at the race start, so it was a rushed warm-up of a five-minute jog, followed by 5 strides. Then it was time to line up. There were plenty of friends and Squamish Titans training buddies racing, which was nice.

Usually I take splits every kilometre but this time, without making a conscious decision beforehand to do anything different, I chose to simply look at my watch at each marker but didn't bother to press the button to see, and store, the exact split times. Having made an effort to start strong, but not too fast, I saw about 3:52 or 3:55 at the first km marker. A touch fast, but not too bad for a first km at the start of a 10km.

My watch showed about 7:55km at 2km, and, I believe, still a hair under 16:00 by 3km. I was in a good rhythm, and felt comfortably uncomfortable. While it wasn't hot, it certainly was warm and sticky enough. By now, the course hit the only undulation, a bridge, which you cross again on the way back.

I hit the 5km mark, near the turnaround point in 20:15. Now it was time to see how the legs really felt. After getting the bridge out of the way, I tried to relax as the 7km mark came into sight. This is where one finds out if the chosen pace is the right one. At this stage I was definitely more uncomfortable than comfortable, but felt strong, both mentally and physically.

I was slowly but surely reeling in a few people, and was able to make a final push in the last km as well. Super-pleased with my 40-something time, I didn't immediately feel so hot crossing the finish line but recovered quickly and set out for a 6km recovery jog that brought the week's volume to 93km. I felt good.

Bald Eagle trophy - Neil Baker
My official time was 40:14, fast enough for third in my age group. And for the third year in a row I was the lucky recipient of a beautiful Bald Eagle carving by Squamish Nation artist Neil Baker for finishing fastest local female.

Pre-race breakfast was 2 mugs of coffee, which I always start the day with, and a couple of bananas and of course I had a couple of glasses of water. In the race, I had a sip of water at each aid station, pouring the remainder over my face, and took 1 gel just before 5km. 

This 10km confirms what I've felt over the past month: I'm on the right track with my marathon training. I'm feeling fantastic mentally and physically. I'm excited for the coming week which has 113km of running, which will be a personal record of weekly volume.

Here are the results of the 25th edition of Squamish Days 10km, again superby organized with great volunteers.