Friday, February 17, 2017

Two Weeks of Convalescence

With the marathon two weeks gone, my body is still reeling from the effects. Some of those effects are because of the grueling nature of the race itself, but I sense that the majority of them are due to the months of training that preceded.

The sharp pain in the nerve that sits under my third toe has yet to cease. The meat that splays across the outside of the same foot's sole has become sore in just the past few days, as if it has come out of hiding.

I have gained a bit of weight, but that has been my own doing. Beer and snacks after work have been the ultimate guilty pleasures, ballasts counteracting the effects of the training, medicine to get me beyond the pain of defeat.

My defeat is more than not achieving my goal time. My defeat is ongoing. It's coming to terms with my age, my ability, my mortality. Once I can get my head around these ephemeral concepts, I will be able to turn defeat upon its head, to claim victory.

If it takes until my hair is white and legs have lost all their spring, I am determined to claim this victory.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Reflection on My First Marathon

This past Sunday was the big day. To set the stage, the numbing rain was relentless. My hands were numb so that I couldn't feel my GPS watch vibrate each kilometer. Feet soaked even before the gun was fired, the conditions weren't enough to stop me from being consumed by happy thoughts that the day had finally come.

Goals

A) 3:20 (no)
B) 3:39 (no)
C) finish without walking (yes)

Training

I mainly used Matt Fitzgerald's Level 2 plan from 80/20 Running. I modified it here and there to allow for me to hit certain weekly mileage markers that corresponded to the Pfitz 18/55 plan. I tried to get in a tempo run each Tuesday, an interval workout on Thursday, and a long run on Sunday. No marathon pace work was put in on Sundays, this being my first rodeo and all.

I ran into some pretty annoying foot injuries and didn't have an ideal 18 weeks of training. Things to consider next time around:

1) Bring volume way down on recovery weeks (30 or 40km max those weeks with only 4 or 5 days of running as opposed to 6.

2) Try training closer to the Pfitz plan, the differences being: a) a mid-week medium-long run b) most weeks only doing one weekday workout (either tempo or interval, not both) c) incorporating speed into my long runs (except for the week that jumps up in mileage) d) make Saturday half the distance of the long run the following day

3) Staying healthy enough to get strides and plyometric work in more frequently (2-3 times a week for each).

The Race

Out with a bang, I quickly found myself dashing along at around 4:40/km pace. Finding myself with a group and not feeling out of breath, I decided to maintain this pace till the halfway point. My novice mind convinced me that I could then slow down to 4:50 or 4:55 and not ruin my goal time. Boy was I wrong. I was trained for 4:45 or 4:50 and should have stuck to it.

The first half consisted of running through ankle-high puddles (or around them through mud). This had to slow me down and wind me up emotionally. It was easy to stay cold, but hard to stay cool in the metaphorical sense.

At about the 25k mark I felt tightness in my hip flexors. Not an injury, just the early onset of fatigue. The hip flexors were my weakest link. So, I slowed down to 4:50, which quickly turned into 5:00 or 5:10. I maintained that speed until about 34km, at which point I was down around 5:30. The wall finally came at 38km and I was bringing it home at a miserable 6:30 pace. I cried inside when the 3:30 pacer passed me as if I was standing still. My finishing time was 3:38.

After the Race

I was disappointed at first, but thrilled to see my wife and kids waiting for me at the finish line. After sleeping on it, I feel proud of what I did. Changed, in fact.

My new goals are:

1) Improve raw speed this spring. Tuesdays I will do short intervals with full recovery. Thursdays or Fridays I will then do a more traditional short interval set. A new plyometric routine will be done on the workout days, and strides will follow each easy run. I hope to run a mile for time in late May and break 6:00. My weekly mileage won't exceed 70km during this phase.

2) After that, I will work to build my mileage up above 90km over the summer. I will do workouts but stick to Farklek style speed play as much as possible. In the fall, I will begin a Pfitz-style plan (as mentioned above) for a half marathon I plan on entering in early December with a goal of breaking 1:30.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Slay The Great Distractor

Image result for running
Run Carefree (Wikimedia Commons)

Walking into work today, I had my headphones on and was listening to an old Terence McKenna recording on the Psychedelic Salon. I'm paraphrasing, but he said something to the effect of:

It is absurd to be anxious about anything. We simply don't know enough to have the right to be anxious.

This idea struck a chord with me, for I have been anxious about the upcoming full marathon (my first) and the myriad injuries that have arisen throughout my training. The latest injury reared its ugly head after the biggest week in terms of mileage of my career (88km/55mi). I hit a demonic wall on the final two kilometers of the 32km long run, I had two solid workouts during the week prior, and enjoyed the cool winter's night air on the easy runs in between. Being my biggest week, I knew that I was rolling the injury dice, and I should be thankful that this extensor tendonitis isn't something worse.


I'm still on schedule to run the marathon, only missing one workout this week with race day about ten days ahead. Yet, part of me pines for anxiety. A sliver of my being needs this nervousness as if there is no alternative way of spending my days than with a brooding undertone of weariness and worry.

I'm not a fast runner, though I want to be. Lord knows I will try to be one. And, I am positive that I have a lot to learn -- yes, of course, about the science of running and all that goes with it, but also with the philosophy of living in a way that is free from anxiety, fearless about failure.

Camus puts it like this: "Weariness comes at the end of the acts of a mechanical life, but at the same time it inaugurates the impulse of consciousness...one day the "why" arises."

Therefore, my takeaway is that I should try to drop this anxiety like a sack of potatoes, yes, but I should also, somewhat ironically, be thankful for it. For, as Camus said, this weariness and anxiety that I am feeling is sparking my truer self to ask why.

Why am I anxious about minor injuries and imperfect training cycles? Because, like many other runners I suppose, those nervous thoughts and feelings are nothing more than distractors of the present moment. The Great Distractor is an adept shapeshifter, making its presence known in all aspects of life. It wouldn't be crazy to suggest that life is nothing mroe than a duel between the Self and the Great Distractor. Dropping the anxiety (i.e. slaying this mighty opponent) may allow me to run carefree, but such action may do something even more beneficial: It may allow me to use running as a teaching tool, an experience that instructs me how to live a more engaged life. Wish me luck.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fat load preceding the carbo load

From Matt Fitzgerald:
research has shown that a short-term high-fat diet that immediately precedes the traditional pre-race carbo load offers the best of both worlds. 10 days of fat-loading are enough to increase the muscles’ fat-burning capacity, while the subsequent three-day carbo load ensures muscles also have plenty of glycogen available.
In 2001, Vicki Lambert, an exercise scientist at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, tested the effects of 10 days of fat loading followed by three days of carbo loading on endurance performance in cyclists. After warming up with two hours of moderate-intensity cycling, Lambert’s subjects were able to complete a 20K time trial 4.5 percent faster after using this protocol than they did when carb loading was preceded by their normal diet.
To get these benefits in your next marathon you’ll have to get 65 percent of your calories from fat every day for ten days starting two weeks before your race. This means virtually everything you eat will need to be high in healthy fats. Recommended staples for fat loading are avocadoes, Greek yogurt, cheese, eggs, nuts, olives and olive oil, salmon, and whole milk.
Read more at http://running.competitor.com/2013/11/nutrition/the-new-rules-of-marathon-nutrition_67841/5#2mjd2EUpypgfsTpK.99
This will be interesting to try (and tasty). Good thing avocados are cheap at the moment. I will be indulging in this diet immediately after my long run on Sunday.

Foods high in dietary nitrates have shown to have a positive effect on muscular performance; therefore, before I leave the house I will whip up a small spinach smoothie (something I have quite regularly anyway, though this time I will skip the fruit to avoid intestinal issues).

As for fluids, Fitzgerald says that we should drink often, but not overdo it. Drink when thirsty, basically.

As for eating during the race, eating roughly 120 calories worth of banana or orange slices (they'll even have chocolate at this race) every 45 minutes or so seems to be the agreed upon amount. Of course, some people rely on gels, though I'm just going to stick to the freebies at the race and not burden myself with having to carry gel packets. So, since I want to finish in under 3:20:00, I will need to eat at 45 minutes, 1:30:00, 2:15:00, and probably something small again at 2:30. The body takes about 45 minutes to process the sugar and release the energy to the muscles.

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