Archive for ‘Taper’

March 13, 2015

I need a plan.

The New York Half is in two days and somehow I still have no game plan.  Despite the countless demi-marathons I’ve run over the years and having run the race last year, I just don’t have a  good feel for Sunday.  The fact that I’m returning from injury and have only been training for 5 weeks with limited mileage is the first question mark.  I’ve been hitting my paces on the intervals and tempos, but I do feel like my speed over distance suffered a bit with the time off for the stress fracture.  I’ve been putting in more training hours in the past few months than I ever have, but the bulk have been swimming, biking, and strength training.  Post-injury I’m still limiting my mileage only to the ‘quality runs,’ so my monthly totals are looking more like my weeklies were last year.   I feel like the change in training approach along with the added strength sessions has definitely made me leaner and given me more power in my legs, but the past few weeks have been almost like getting used to running in new body.

To top all of that off, I got hit with a cold this week, so my running didn’t so much taper as drop off a steep cliff.  I’ve been (for once) erring on the side of extra rest, so I did a short interval session Tuesday morning before the cold really set in, a brisk 3 miles Wednesday night in an attempt to shake the congestion loose, and another easy 3 on Thursday morning.  My last strength session was Monday and I’ve done no swimming or cycling this week.  I’m still feeling a little stuffy, but my five pronged defense of hot tea, Echinacea, vitamin C, bone broth, and frequent use of the neti pot seems to be working.

Still, the pacing question remains.  My last long run was an 8-miler, which I ran at 8:15 pace.  It felt quick, but not bad.  The half marathon A goal this season is sub 1:45, which basically means running 8 flats.  My gut tells me that’s probably a little too fast to sustain right now, but part of me wants to just go out like a Kenyan and let the chips fall where they may.  The course is fast—all the hills are in the first 5-6 miles through Central Park, and then it’s pretty much a gradual downhill to Battery Park.  That said, if I plan to negative split I’ll need to allow a little extra time for the terrain at the beginning and then really book it at sub-8 pace for the second half.  The Central Park hills aren’t that bad, but I know from experience that they can take their toll if you go out too fast.  My worry is that if I get caught up in the moment and take off at near 8’s through the park I’ll end up nursing a side stitch for the rest of the race.

So the real question is, how much can I actually handle right now? How fast is too fast in the park?  To add to the fun, thanks to my Garmin’s altoceloraphobia, last year I lost satellites for most of the stretch through Midtown, so I can’t really plan on reliable pacing once I hit the flat anyway.  In the end this race may be more of an exercise in just going with the flow.  Given the head cold and that it’s my first real race back since my injury, I think I’d be happy to run close to a PR (1:50:44), and then gun for 1:45 next month in the Women’s Half.  Still, the weather is looking pretty ideal—mid 40’s with some clouds, and I want to do my best and start the season on a high note.  This should be my first run in ages not done on tired legs, so maybe there’s still hope for some race day magic.

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October 16, 2014

Taper Thoughts

This week I’ve been trying to fight off the taper madness by focusing on why I’m doing the marathon, and why now.  I entered my first half over six years ago, and honestly never felt temped to enter a full until a few years ago.  I know plenty of people who ran their first marathon in their first year of running.  I’m always impressed with the courage and dedication that it takes, and I’m not in any way knocking it.  It’s just that the marathon has always had mythic proportions in my mind.  The 1984 Olympic women’s race is one of the first sporting events I ever remember watching, and the image of Joanie charging into the stadium (and later, Gabriela Andersen staggering around the track) stuck with me.  My mom explained to me how far they’d run in terms of a frequent car trip we’d take, and to this day, when I picture myself running a marathon, it’s along that stretch of road in Central Pennsylvania.  I’ve always had a huge respect for the event and the distance, and I never wanted to do one ‘just to finish.’  It may seem silly, particularly for a middle-of-the-pack runner, but it was important to me to be able to truly race the marathon and honor the tradition in some small way.

Three years ago I entered the lottery for New York, got in, trained, got hurt, and had to withdraw.  I entered the lottery every year after that and have not gotten in, but there are hundreds of other marathons I could have done instead.  I just never felt like I was quite ready or that it was the right time.  Some of it, I’m sure, was the fear of injury and what happened last time.  Partly I just wasn’t enjoying racing all that much.  I hadn’t broken two hours in a half marathon in two years.  I was kind of making peace with it and was reluctantly accepting that 9+ minute miles were my limit.  This year, though, something shifted.  Before I had even signed up for any races, I decided to go back to training with the FIRST plan.  It’s rigorous, regimented, and not something one really does for fun.  For the first time in ages, though, I was getting faster.  I signed up for and ran the Chanukah Chalf last November, broke two hours, and nearly PR’ed it in 40 mph wind gusts.  That spurred me to enter another one shortly thereafter to see if I could get the PR in better conditions.  I did, and started slowly chipping seconds and minutes off my times all winter and spring.  When the snow started melting, I knew it was time.  I lotteried for New York and the day I got the rejection, I signed up for Baltimore.  I’ve been officially training for the marathon since June, but I feel like the whole year has led up to this race.  I’m nervous.  I’m excited.  I’m already a little sad that it’s going to be over soon.

October 14, 2014

Taper Jitters

Marathon Taper Legs

I’m one week into my taper now and staying reasonably sane, although I do keep thinking of those Restless Leg Syndrome commercials from the early 2000’s.  (What ever happened to that, anyway?)  Last week I ran a somewhat normal workouts, though at about half my usual mileage.  I did a 10-miler Sunday at race pace, and this morning I had one last interval session (4×400’s).  That will probably be it until the race, with the possible exception of some quick strides on Friday just to stretch the legs out.  I’ve been trying to bank some extra sleep this week as well, though the kitten seems to have other ideas at 5:30 in the morning.

Predictably, the jitters have set in, but I’m trying to face them head-on this time, rather than letting myself become the victim of my nerves.  The problem with anxiety is that it tends to put you in a circular bind that’s difficult to escape.  Aside from the feelings of panic and negative self-talk it can induce, anxiety also tightens muscles, quickens the breath and heart rate, and interferes with fine motor coordination—basically working against every aspect of athletic performance.  Of course, knowing this, my biggest pre-race fear is that I’ll get nervous and it will compromise my race; it truly is the fear of fear itself that gets me.

Yesterday I could feel the pangs of anxiety creeping up and I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns.  I’ve worked my ass off this season, and I’ve earned my place at that starting line.  I know I’ll be nervous.  There’s no point wasting energy wondering if it will happen; I need to just accept it as a given.  But it’s also a given that when I look around at the starting line at all the other runners, they’ll all be nervous, too.  Even the pro’s get nervous.  (Kara Goucher famously discussed her pre-race nerves in a Runner’s World interview, and Shalane Flanagan, who races as though she is completely fearless, discusses the issue here.)  Knowing that it’s not just me always helps.  I also realized that if everyone is nervous and some people are still  managing to race well—maybe even better—with the nerves, then it’s really up to me how I handle it.  Instead of looking at it as me against a force I can’t control, I need to take charge of how I channel my energy.  Of course, that’s always easier said than done.

Preparedness is always a good first step, so I started by making a detailed, day-by-day list of everything that needs to happen this week.  I’ve been working on my packing list for weeks, but there are a million other details to race day and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  There is nothing worse than realizing you don’t have cash for parking or that you don’t know where baggage drop is when you’re trying to get to the starting line.  Any stress I can eliminate through good planning is a major victory.  I keep reminding myself that physically, I’ve done everything I can.  I’ve run every workout, hit every pace, and despite the nerves, my body has delivered every time I’ve pushed it this season.  I have to trust my training and know that it will this time, too.

The thing that has really helped me calm to down and focus, though, was kind of unexpected.  On a whim, I googled “athlete inspirational video” and watched a few.  (And just for fun, I also looked for this.)  Attitude is everything, and maybe a good pep talk at the start line is just what I need.

 

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts!

-ModC

October 10, 2014

Let’s Go O’s!

The ALCS kicks off tonight, and, for the purposes of this race, I’m now officially an Orioles fan.  (I promise this is just a meaningless fling, Red Sox.)  Caveboy and I received emails from the Baltimore Marathon race director yesterday detailing the various race contingencies, particularly if the series goes to Game 6, and I’m now rooting for a quick and successful O’s sweep.  There really should have been a flow chart, but the main points boiled down to this: As designed, the course starts and finishes at Camden Yards, so to accommodate stadium activity (regardless of the ALCS outcome), all race activities on Saturday will be moved an hour earlier.  I’m fine–actually happy–about that.  The cooler the course is, the better.  Things start to get tricky with a Baltimore Game 6 scenario, though.  The stadium could potentially be in use, so the finish will be rerouted away from Camden Yards and will close 6 hours after the start.  My heart goes out to anyone who is now faced with coming in close to the cutoff time.  Additionally, the Expo on Friday will be seriously limited.  There will be zero expo parking, and runners are “strongly encouraged” to pick up their race packets on Thursday or early Friday morning.  I realize this race is largely run by locals, but Caveboy and I are not leaving New York until early Friday morning.  It’s not that big of a deal, but I do like a leisurely Expo before the race…it’s one of those pre-race rituals that helps me calm my nerves a bit.   I look forward to the camaraderie with the other runners, and it’s fun to geek out over high performance socks with like-minded people.  The Expo always makes me feel like we’re all in this together.  I have a feeling this one will be in and out and leave nagging worries like whether my chip timer is fully functional.  I don’t like feeling rushed on race weekend, particularly in critical matters like whether to spend $13 on a sparkly headband.

None of this is earth-shaking of course, and it seems like race direction is on the ball.  Personally, though, I’m still hoping for some speedy Orioles dominance and very celebratory finish line.

-ModC

October 6, 2014

Fast

Last week was the final push of my overload month before the taper.  I had strength training Monday, intervals Tuesday, easy run Wednesday, tempo Thursday, and an easy run Friday, followed by the Yom Kippur fast on Saturday.  It took until Thursday for the soreness from the strength training to finally subside, and by Friday I was pretty wrung out and facing  26 hours without food or drink.  To top it off, I had my final 20-miler scheduled for Sunday, which gave me about 10 hours to fuel up and rehydrate.  Oh, and I needed to get a good night’s sleep in there, too.

I’m beginning to think that Paleo might be the answer to Jewish dietary laws, though… It’s easy to find dairy-free meat recipes, Passover is no sweat, and it turns out that being fat-adapted makes fasting much easier.  Friday post run I made sure I hydrated thoroughly, and I made us some Bulletproof herbal tea after dinner to kick up the fat-burning.  I got through it without too much difficulty this year, and as soon as it ended I started pounding water.  Sunday morning I felt surprisingly good, and it was time to get down to business, as I had a tight schedule to keep.

Grete’s Great Gallop – Race Report

I had signed up for Grete’s Great Gallop in Central Park, which started at 9, but I needed to get in another 7 make it a 20-miler.  I wanted it to be as continuous a run as possible, so I had worked out some fine-tuned logistics with Long Run Buddy.  Caveboy and I took the train into lower Manhattan, then started running up Hudson River Greenway toward Central Park.  I was hoping to hold a 9 minute pace for the duration, and getting to the corral on time put some pressure on holding pace.  LRB was also racing the Gallop, and had kindly agreed to pick up our numbers and shirts and handle the bag check.  I arrived at the park about 10 minutes before the start with three quarters of a mile left to run.  After a couple of out-and backs near the start I met LRB at our corral just as the Star Spangled Banner ended.  I was fastening the last pin on my number as our group shuffled toward the line, and we were off.

The weather could not have been more perfect for a race—it was 50 degrees and sunny at the start with a light, cool breeze.  My goal for the run was to do the 20 under 3 hours, and I was hoping the race atmosphere would keep me focused for a strong finish.  The course was just over two laps of the park, run clockwise (not the normal direction), presumably to emulate the end of the New York Marathon.  Looping that way, the hills are shorter and steeper, and I felt a little sluggish on the climbs for the first lap.  I tried to keep our pace right around 9’s, but like the Bronx run, the crowd and terrain made keeping a steady pace nearly impossible.  Also, LRB and I evidently don’t like getting passed.  Right around the start of lap two we caught the 1:55 pace group leader, who seemed to be running too fast and appeared to have largely lost his pack.  We decided to stick with him for a while, mainly just to outsource the pacing duties.  Maybe it was the psychological relief of knowing that I was ticking off each hill for the last time, but somehow during lap two I felt better and better with every mile.  We ended up passing 1:55 Guy a few minutes later and at that point I stopped checking the Garmin for the rest of the race.  I had a bit of a kick left for the finish, and by my watch it was 2:59:43 for 20.2 miles. I still haven’t come down from the high.

This week it’s on to the taper, and I’m planning to follow the Runners’ World recommendations here. I’ve never tapered for more than a few days for a half marathon, so I’m curious how I’ll handle two weeks.  If only I could apply all that excess energy and enthusiasm to cleaning out my closets.

-ModC

September 20, 2014

Taper Tips

And I thought Run Less, Run Faster was deranged for including an interval run during marathon week…
http://m.runnersworld.com/marathon-training-plans/how-to-taper-for-your-next-marathon-or-half-marathon

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August 27, 2014

Tired Legs

In theory this week was going to be a cut back/mini-taper before the Dirt Dash in South Carolina this Saturday.  Since it was an extra week that I added to the marathon training schedule, I planned just to wing it on workouts based on how I was feeling.  Sunday I decided on a 16-miler, which seemed long enough to be hard, but not completely leg-deadening.  Rather than doing my usual steady pace, even-split approach, I opted for a fast finish run, which I thought might get me primed for the half this week.  I started out running 10 minute miles with the Caveboy, then dropped to around 9’s after about 5 miles, and mid-to-low 8’s for the last 4.

I finished the long run feeling great, and I headed into this week flush with optimism.  I also happened to catch this article on Runners’ World this week on increasing training just before a taper, and I started getting ideas.  Monday would normally have been an off day, but instead I decided to go for broke and scheduled a strength session.  After 45 minutes with Gillian my legs and core were quivering and I was high on endorphins.  I chased that workout with an easy 5 on Tuesday, and then decided this morning to squeeze in an interval workout.  I now have two days of travel and enforced rest, and if you count the rest of today, it’s really almost 3 full days before the half.

I’m generally a worst-case-scenario type of person, but I’m feeling uncharacteristically optimistic about the Dirt Dash.  I hadn’t planned to really race hard on Saturday, but once I got the runner instructions email this week, I realized two things:

1. This race is really small.

2. It is on an access road through the woods and swamp.

The course, on I'on Swamp Road.  Not making that up.

The course, on I’on Swamp Road. Yes, that is the actual name.

For some reason, that got me really excited.  I know I’m completely in denial about the heat, humidity, and pterodactyl-sized mosquitos we will likely encounter.  Still, the idea of just running through the woods sounds like a nice change from stampeding through Central Park with 4,000 other people and being pampered every step of the way by New York Road Runners’ fabulous volunteers.  (Not that I’m knocking it.)  I know I could totally melt down in the heat, and I may have pushed myself too hard this week to recover in time.  Still, I feel like this is going to be fun.

May 12, 2014

Taper Panic

Tuesday: Tempo – 5 min warm-up; 3 mi @ race pace (8:29/mi); 5 min cool-down
Wednesday: Easy 3-4 mi
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Brooklyn Half

It’s taper week, otherwise know as the-week-I-have-a-valid-excuse-for-being-cranky-and-irritable.  Like a lot of runners, I have a love-hate relationship with the taper.  Through the final high-intensity training weeks, I find myself counting down the hard workouts remaining until the glorious relief of the taper.  When it finally comes and I am suddenly without the structure and discipline of track repeats, though, I’m immediately uncertain of everything:  “Am I running too fast?  Too long?  Not long enough?  Should I even be running at all today? 12×400’s sound like a good idea…”   

Ultimately, this race is fairly low stress for me, and my goal is to run well and have a smile on my face throughout.  The course for the Brooklyn Half is fast, I know the Prospect Park loop like the back of my hand, and the last five miles are a straight shot to the finish line at a gentle downhill slope.  I’m trying not to think too much about a PR, though, since my pace and strategy will largely depend on the weather on Saturday.  New York has warmed up very quickly this spring, which means that I haven’t had much chance to acclimate yet.  I’m expecting it to be about 20-25 degrees warmer at the start than at the NYC Half in March.  Doing my interval and tempo runs at the gym all winter has definitely helped the transition, but adjusting to the humidity is a further challenge.  Still, I feel like I am as prepared as I can be and I’m looking forward to a fun race on Saturday.
Given that I am chronically under-rested and that I did my runs this weekend a little faster than I meant to, I’ve decided to take a pretty aggressive taper this week and focus on resting and re-energizing for Saturday.  That means not much running, early bed times, and trying to find new and exciting recipes for beets, which inevitably ends in me googling “beet cocktails” in desperation.  Let the tapering begin!
-ModC