Put Your Pre-Race Jitters Into Your Mobility Work

It’s taper time and for a lot of people it’s the most emotionally wrought part of the training cycle.

What if we didn’t do enough, we ask ourselves, maybe we should put in one last hard effort?

One this can set you up for injury but more likely you’re just nurturing fatigue to make sure you have it on race day.

I read a thing last night that said you lose about 10% of your fitness during the taper and yes that’s unnerving, but you gain 20% in performance by not being fatigued.

You want to have a great race and up until now more training was the answer. At 6 weeks out you can go nuts with hard training, fasted work outs, multiple sessions a day, and you feel like you’re putting huge deposits in the fitness bank and it feels great, you feel in control.

Now that it’s time to back off, two weeks from the race, it feels like giving up control. Because it is, because you have to. You can’t control the race and you know it. You tell yourself you can when it’s a far away abstract but up close and personal you know the truth. You are a very small and race day is very big.

Naturally to try and get back to that feeling of control you want to go back to the behaviour that induced it – in this case hard training.

But don’t give in to that urge.

Instead refocus it on mobility work. Take all the free time you have now that you’re not hard-training and finally get in all the foam rolling and yoga and shit you never get around to.

Exercise like a grandma, weird looking corrective exercises with tiny weights and lots of movement with toe taps. Hit the elliptical.

Use that meditation app, go get a massage, do a sauna. Do all the self-care stuff that’s great for running and fills up time so you’re not just sitting there fearful.

If you have running buddies then joke about how nervous you are. If you have a blog then write a post detailing all the things you could do to take your mind off feeling unprepared and frame it as advice for others.

And sometimes – sometimes – give in to the urge to blow off steam with pizza and beer. Don’t try to stay so sane you go crazy.

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The Importance Of Running Like A Complete Pussy

I am finally unlocking the Easy Run. The Ultimate Challenge of so many runners.

Ben Parkes was talking about it recently on his youtube that learning to actually do easy running and recovery running was the final step that unlocked getting to sub 3 hour marathons.

For me it’s about Connective Tissue. I read recently that connective tissue, meaning joints, tendons, cartilage, and whatnot, is the last thing to adapt. First is neuro-muscular (i.e, the mind-muscle connection), then the muscles themselves, then finally after 4 months your bones catch up after drilling tiny holes in themselves.

The body is weird.

This is why people end up injured. Their muscles have adapted so they’re stronger and faster so they go for bigger loads and stress out the still adapting connective tissue.

This is where getting a lot of light miles on your legs comes in. If you ran hard intervals or long runs in your comfortable-hard-fun-running-push-yourself-pace like I do you’d never get enough miles to adapt your legs fully.

Sure, we’re in the adaption zone for our muscles and our cardiovascular system but we’re leaving a precious third thing behind in our connective tissue.

So I’m successfully running at 10kph or below for some time everyday. And yes, I have to positive self-talk that no one thinks I’m a pussy. The struggle is running and NOT feeling like you’re getting any benefit, just leisurely moving.

It feels so good to lean into it and get that sprinter posture like you’re a fucking machine and just go. Yesterday I did 5k at 15kph. And even when it felt bad it felt good. I never believed I was going to make it without slowing done. It was a dog fight. I was dripping sweat and in my usual state of being so flushed in the face it unnerves people. I felt elevated the whole rest of the day.

Now two days of tapping along like a noob, being sure I could speak a whole sentence and/or take ten nasal breaths. Trusting that the work is getting done.

Running Update: The Trials Of Running 18kph

I did it for one minute.

I set the treadmill to 18kph thinking let’s see if I can get to three minutes and instantly was like let’s just hope for one.

It was an ambitious test, I’m doing my intervals at 16.5kph and it’s the right amount of strenuous. I’ll do six intervals of four minutes on four minutes off at that pace and call it a work out.

At the even faster pace I might do an intervals like 30 seconds on 2 minutes off. The belt on a treadmill takes 20 seconds to get up to speed so I’d have to get it going, stand on the sides, hop on, watch 30 seconds, hop off, slow it down. A tedious process and why I’ve avoided doing really short intervals thus far.

It makes me think that when the weather is runnable again I should do some acceleration work, just practice going from still to race pace at my own tempo rather than the glacial pace of the mill.

In marathon news: it’s 3 weeks away and this weekend will be my last long long run, then the taper begins. I’ll reduce the number of intervals I do and other than that I don’t know what else to do to taper. I’d like to get in a few more saunas and even a massage before the race I know that. And before every previous race I’ve cut caffeine for the week leading up so that it’s nice and effective on race day.

What I’ve read lately is that you want to be doing race-level efforts every three days in the taper. So maybe 10k at 14kph on Wednesdays and weekends is what I’ll do. But I’m just gonna play it by ear, keep doing tabatas on the air bike and use that to check if I’m recovered or not.

Okay, 23 days remaining…

Being A Cafeteria Runner, Self-Programing Vs Following A Program

I’m a cafeteria everything.

In case someone isn’t familiar with the prefix, cafeteria refers to someone who browses a lot of stuff and picks what they like. It should actually be buffet. I first heard it in the term cafeteria christian; someone who seemed to be all denominations or none at their convenience.

And last night I read the advice, it was 6 on a list of 10 I believe, to not be a cafeteria runner. Don’t peruse a bunch of different programs and take the things you like.

Timely since I’d been feeling worried about the run and somewhat envying the security my program-following friends seem to have. Maybe I’d missed something, maybe I’m under or overtraining, blah blah blah…

But confidence does not a good runner make. Deriving confidence from a running plan I think is just so it’s not your fault if the run doesn’t go well. After all, you did everything you were supposed to do, you were just following orders.

I agree that running season is like baking; you control what you put in to – as best you can and with a little hope – control what you get out. You don’t get better muffins by doubling the flour because you feel like it.

Running is a martial art though and who am I to disagree with the great Bruce Lee who told us to be water, to bend and flow, to draw from everywhere and put it all together.

Have one master and you’ll always be their student. Study under all the masters you can and you’ll eventually be a master.

I think the spirit of the Don’t Be A Cafeteria Runner advice is to not reject the things you don’t like, don’t be a totally unstructured, whimsical, pleasure-guided runner. Eat your vegetables, sprint the stairs.

SPRINT THE STAIRS!

Programing for yourself still means programing, being uncoached means you gotta coach yourself. Look at a bunch of programs and tips and guidance and experiment. Experimentation will lead to diversity and put miles on your legs, even if you hate everything you try in a week you still did a week of running.

And you can back off when you need to with less anxiety. Following a program to the letter can cause you to override injury signals.

Furthermore on that idea I think following one program can take some of the joy out of running because you’re checking off boxes instead of checking in with how you feel.

Maybe though you’re someone who wouldn’t run without the push of a program, maybe you don’t like any of the hard stuff… In which case why are you running? There’s other sports. Experiment with some cross-training and maybe you’ll find something you do love.

In the meantime though all that experimenting with cross training will still be adding to your fitness and the world of running isn’t going to die if you don’t water it, come back when and how you feel like it.

I think there’s a danger in buying one book, running it’s program, hating it, and thinking that you then hate running. No, you just hate that book. Get 5 books, watch tons of youtube, make-up your own intervals, and it all adds up to a love of running.

Testosterone Levels In Female Athletes, The Ruling Comes Down

Caster Semenya will have to suppress her testosterone to keep competing as a sprinter. (CBC Article)

This echoes something I was saying when I wrote about the The Virility Paradox, eventually we may have to organize sport not by gender but by hormone.

It’s not fair to Caster to have to medically dial down her natural athleticism and it’s not fair for others to have to compete against someone who has testosterone levels as high as someone doping testosterone.

But this ethical question then has to be applied to other sports as well. Dean Karnazes, one of the greatest runners in the world for those new to the blog, mentions in his TedTalk that he’s been examined and found that his body clears the by-product of exertion (commonly called lactic acid but is actually hydrogen ions) at an absurdly efficient rate. Or there was a runner mentioned in what I was reading last night, a multiple record holder who simply had the highest max heart rate ever seen. What do we do about them?

Even deeper though we have to ask what is the point of sport? What question are we seeking to answer by having people run arbitrary distances or score meaningless points?

Near as I can tell we’re trying to answer who trained better. That’s why it’s not okay to get a technological or chemical advantage that lessens the work of training. You can hire a coach and that gives you an advantage – their knowledge as opposed to your own – but the training workload still falls on you, we still declare that you earned the victory.

But then really someone who trained badly – ran themselves into the ground with overtraining while you recovered – should actually earn the victory. If it were purely about who worked harder.

Like I’ve said this is a bigger question than I can answer and I could write about it all day without getting to anything so I’ll let it go…

The 61k Run For Water Here In Calgary

I just learned about it the other day and I find it quite alluring. I can’t do it this year but I’m already half-decided to do it next year.

I haven’t even run a marathon yet but I’m eager to bite off an Ultra, and not even a mere 50K. And I think it’s just because of the odd number. I was planning on doing a 50K next year because but I wasn’t excited, I don’t feel enticed to run 50K.

And I don’t feel enticed to run anything super long either. Not currently at least. A friend (the same friend who mentioned he was thinking about running the half marathon last year then didn’t sign up when I did) mentioned there’s 100 mile mountain races in Lethbridge and in The Rockies but I have no desire to run them. I actually don’t have much desire to mountainous running. I mean, Melissa’s Road Race in Banff is a great view of the mountains but the race itself is the asphalt path around a golf course.

Local races A) are really convenient, and B) feel like a celebration of the city. When it comes to nature I’ll hike.

I’ve got a lot to learn about Ultra running before then though. I know nothing of fueling and I’m bad at running slow. I think 61K might be a distance where it’s good to change your socks too.

You know what though I gotta let next year be next year. I’m sure part of this is merely a way to replace nerves about the upcoming race with excitement about something far off. Something I can train for with all the time in the world and imagine being my best self for. Not something 27 days away for which I’m basically as ready as I’m going to be, which feels like 6 out of 10.

Ah well, it’s time to go run right now as a matter of fact.

My Literary Interest In The Appalachian Trail

We go to the bookstore every other week at least. It’s supposed to be once a month for budgetary reasons but it’s just our favourite place to be so sometimes it’s weekends in a row.

And at our beloved Westhills Indigo there’s a dedicated running section. There’s also running and work out books in Wellness (Between Sex and Diet across from Medical Memoirs) but in Sports, three knee-level shelves labeled Running.

This is how I started reading about the Appalachian Trail. I found two books boasting on the cover about setting the trail record, Jenn Pharr Davis in 2011 and Scott Jurek in 2015. They both had endorsements from people I admire as well, Christopher McDougal and Dean Karnazes respectively. So I bought both to read in chronological order.

Turned out Jenn wrote her book after Scott had taken her record and after Karl Meltzer had taken Scott’s. Meanwhile Scott also ends his book with Meltzer taking the record.

And to be succinct: I like Jenn’s book and I love Scott’s (I should say Scott and Jenny’s because his wife co-wrote it detailing her experience heading the support crew and that’s a big part of what makes the book truly great) and I love them together as companion pieces. Davis gives more history and introduces key figures while Jurek gives a much better in-the-moment narrative.

So after passing it a million times on Netflix I felt I really had a reason now to watch Made To Be Broken, a movie about Karl Meltzer’s record setting run on the AT.

And I’m not super glad I did. I mean, I’m glad I did so that I’m not curious but it’s meh. It’s 41 minutes long meaning every day is summarized in less than a minute and it feels like there’s nothing there. It’s cut like a trailer for a better movie.

I was more aware of it than an average viewer because it’s mentioned in both books that Karl is sponsored by Redbull so I saw the beverages and the logo and the fact that his dozens and dozens of identical shoes are in the Redbull colours but I don’t think it’s actually overstated or obvious.

I guess I’m sucked in though and now have to read or watch things about the trail and it’s speed runs whether they’re particularly good or not.