Saturday, February 25, 2012

Albany Snickers Marathon - Taper Plan

This is just my second marathon build-up, trying to improve a 3:41:40 initial performance to somewhere between 3:22 and 3:35.  So take this for what it's worth.. me testing a plan to see how it works.  Based on experiences with shorter races, I've learned a few things about how I respond to different stimuli, and I've also picked up a few habits that may help, but who knows.  With other aspects of tapering (particularly the mileage and paces), I'm mostly trusting the free Runner's World Smart Coach app, keeping in mind that that particular plan had me going for a 3:17 finish, which I don't think is likely, but you never rule things out. 

Soo... the general idea for tapering is that you have a 3-week taper for a marathon after your last long run (of 20 ish miles).  The first week, you do 2/3 of your peak mileage week's mileage (for me, 2/3 of 30 = 20), and you long run goes down to 12 miles.  The second week, you do 1/2 of your peak mileage week's mileage (1/2 of 30 = 15), and the long run is 8 miles, which is what I did today.  In the week of the race, you do 1/3 of your peak week's mileage in the days before the weekend race (1/3 of 30 = 10). 

I'm a low-mileage person compared to real marathoners.  I'd like to do more because I think it would help, but it takes time to build up, and I've overtrained in the past in my over-eagerness to get better, and what I'm doing gives me good enough results, so whether I stay at this mileage in the future or increase it, I'll be fine.

Recovery from different types of workouts takes different amounts of time.  For hard efforts (like races), a good rule-of-thumb is 1 day per mile.  So after a marathon, it'll take a month to recover.  After a half, it'll take 2 weeks.  A 5K takes 3 days.  From my experience, that's a good rule.  That philosophy is kind of built in to the taper training plan.  The last 20er was 3 weeks (21 days) out, the 12er is 2 weeks (14 days) out, and the last "long run" is 8 miles, 1 week out. 

Going a bit deeper, different body systems take different amounts of times to adapt to stresses.  Overwork any one aspect (nerves, bones, muscles, tendons/ligaments, cardio), and the injury or over-stress may cause you to not run at your best or not be able to run at all.  Questions to ask yourself... if you do a hill workout X days out from the race, will you recover/adapt in time for it to do any good?  Same question goes for speed, endurance, plyos, etc.  To answer that question, I recently found this article:

Here's a summary on how quickly it takes to get the adaptations:
- Repeats (sprints with full recovery) targeting the nervous system take 1-2 days.
- VO2 max (including those induced by hills) targeting the cardio and muscular systems take 10-14 days.
- Tempo runs are a bit less taxing than the VO2 max workouts and take 7-10 days.
- Long runs targeting all sorts of stuff take as long as 4-6 weeks.

Tapering is an art, since there are so many factors going into how quickly you recover... work stresses, sleep, nutrition, massage... all that on top of the mere training aspect.  Peaking is something I don't have enough experience with to know how to hit correctly.  Coaches probably know how to do this, since they've seen many athletes respond to training plans.  The best I can do is to just trust the plan.

My Habits:
I do 1-hr strength sessions everywhere from twice weekly to once every two weeks, and I've noticed that if I wait 2 weeks, I'll loose a bit of strength.  1.5 will maintain it.  1 is what I average.  Doing a strength session within 8 days of a race saps some energy from the race, so for this build-up, I scheduled my last strength session for 11 days out.

I like to be as light as reasonably possible on race day.  I go as far as to get a haircut right before the race.  I don't compromise on fueling, though.  With my history of over-doing it one way and the other in the past, I now just stay at the happy middle.  It's a narrow middle -  a bit of swaying to under-fueling or over-fueling, and I feel it, so I stick with the middle.  I don't try to lose or gain weight - it may shift down a couple of pounds over the course of the training cycle naturally, though. 

I normaly run at night, since I don't run in the dark outside, since I'd only be able to go on roads (vs. grass) safely (ankle-wise).  It's best to train at the same time of the day as the race.  Won't work for me.  I'm normally stiff when I wake up, so I don't know how others do it.  But on race-days, I'm able to loosen up really well with a hot shower, so that's a must for me on race-morning.

I normally eat whatever I want and kind of eat what I feel like eating.  Most of the time, it's always the same - fat-free or low-fat dairy, whole grains, soy products, lots of fresh produce.  Sometimes, I'll feel less inclined to have produce or more inclined to have protein.  I'll probably stay away from excessive fiber the day before the race, and I'll proably only have soy-based protein... no dairy, no meat.

The night-before-the-night-before is supposed to be the most important for sleep.  It helps you adjust to an early sleep time the night before the race if you move up your bedtime one hour per day for a few days prior to the race.

I'll try to eliminate risks of injury and energy-sapping by getting good sleep, stretching, avoiding sick people, and eating high-quality foods in the days leading up to the race.  I hope work is more relaxed than normal, but I can't control that much. 

Things I'm Trying:
Tart cherry juice for recovery.  I had a wine-sized bottle with 4 servings (110 cal ea).  I normally don't drink juice (rather eat whole fruit), so it's taking me a long time to finish it.   I don't know how much it's helping, but I figure it can't hurt.  I used it last cycle, too, for Houston.

Beet Juice for better race-day performance.  I think you're supposed to take in the days before the race.  So that's what I'll drink this coming week, once I finish off the cherry juice.
I also tried this last year, having my last bit 2 days before the race.  Didn't particularly feel any impact, but maybe I didn't have it close enough to the race.  Since I won't be traveling by plane this time, I can bring it with me and maybe use it closer to the race.

Carbo-Loading.  I may try to do more to actively carbo-load, though.
To max out, I'll need 10g/kg of body.  We'll see... I'll just do what feels comfortable.  That's a lot of carbs.

Hope that helps!  Do any of you have other things you consider and plan for?  Any things you're testing out?  Anything you've found particularly effective?  Disagree with anything?

Feb 21-25: Taper Week 2/3 - p

Tuesday: Strength session... last one before the race. 

Wednesday: 5.0 in 40:01, 8:00 ave.  About race pace (if I go for a 3:30).  So tired before the run I could cry.  It was a good run, though.  I went moderately hard, hard enough to feel my heart working, but not pushing it.  Splits>8:24, 8:02, 7:55, 7:53 7:45.

Thursday: 3.5 in 27:13, 7:47 ave.  Last bit of speedwork before the race.  It was a baby speed session, since I won't get any big gains at this point, the only thing I may do is overwork myself or risk injury.  I did a 1 mi warmup in 8:34, then 4 x [1/4 @ 7.5mph, 1/4 @ 9 mph] (vs. 3 x [3/4 @ 9mph, 1/4 @ 7.5mph] I do at most), 0.5 cooldown in 7.5mph.  Had tart cherry juice afterwards to help with recovery.

Saturday: 8.25 in 1:09:44, 8:27 ave.  At the park.  The mid-50s temps were fine as the sun went down, but it's a bit warm when the sun's out.  Highs in Albany on the day before the race will be 80 degrees.  Right now, the estimates for race-day is 43-70 with 40% chance of rain.  I hope it stays that way.  I could deal with that.  Friday's weather (52-80) turning into Saturday's weather would be rough, though. 

This morning's breakfast:

 French toast (made from the middle half of a whole wheat bagel), with chocolate twigs (see the recipe from a couple of posts back), sugar-free syrup, cinnamon, and a strawberry.  Served with vanilla soy milk.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Feb 15-19: Cutting it Close - p

13 hrs per day of work makes getting in runs reallly hard, mostly just because it sucks up almost all of the gym hours.  I don't mind working out late at night - just not out on roads, in the dark.

Feb 13:
I got in one weekday run - a speed session.  Haven't done one in a month!!!  But it's a good time now.  Hopefully, it'll let me peak speed-wise at the right time.

1 mi warmup in 8:19, 3 x [3/4 @ 9mph, 1/4 @ 7.5mph] (equivalent to 5 min hard, 2 min easy).  4.0 in 29:19, 7:20 ave.  Good results.  This was after 16 hours of work.  It felt hot in the gym.  I had finished dinner 45 minutes before but felt okay.  Probably some impact, but okay.

Feb 17:
Strength session at 6am.  I meant to run the previous night, but I didn't wake up after the catnap I tried to take. 

Feb 18:
I had 2 days to get in a 8er and a 12er.  It was sunny on the Saturday morning, and I didn't start until 9am, so I just did the 8er that day... it was really 7.5.  I thought the other run this week only called for 2 and that I was already 2 ahead, but I was really supposed to do 8.  It was a nice park run.  I felt like I may be getting out of shape, though, after only having one run during the week.  My heart didn't feel as strong. 

I had tart cherry juice before the run.  It was a needed pick-me-up, and it's supposed to help with recovery.  If I'm putting my body through back-to-back runs like this, I need to take extra care of it.  It's supposed to be the taper period, so I'm not supposed to be doing 19.5 in 2 days.   

My legs felt kind of banged up the rest of the day - felt it a bit during the last bit of the run, which is part of the reason I stopped at 7.5.  I massaged and stretched, and the massage felt good.

Feb 19:
It was rainy pretty much all day.  Rainy and cold.  I don't mind rain, but I don't want to get my car wet and dirty, and it's probably safer to not get sick at this time.  It took me a while to feel energetic enough for it, but I was going to wait for the evening, anyway, to get in max recovery time after yesterday morning's run.

I've watched many Brooks-Hansons videos on YouTube, and in their preparation for the Olympic Trials, they did workouts like 5x2, 3x3, 2x6.... something like that.  And specificity is supposed to be good as you get closer and closer to your marathon.  So, I decided to try that kind of long-run workout for the first time.  It might help me get some of that fit feeling back, and maybe it'll recharge my fitness one last time before I really start to back off.  In Desi Davilla's 5x2, she did 10s faster than race pace.

I mentally goofed, and instead of doing 7.7mph as my goal for the workout, I did 7.8.  But 10s out of like 6 min miles is probably equivalent to my 15s out of 8 min miles, so maybe it was good after all.  In any case, I could hit anywhere within a pretty wide range of marathon times.  A BQ requires 8:12, a better goal is 8:01, and my best-case scenario based on my HM times (which I've pretty consistently gotten for like 6 HMs) is 7:43.  So doing the 2 mi reps at 7:42 is fine. 

The workout: 1 mi warmup @ 7mph, 4 x [2 mi @ 7.8mph (7:42), 0.5 mi @ 7mph], 1 mi "cooldown" that was really just pushing what felt comfortable a bit.

To add to the whole specificity thing, besides the workout itself, I wore the shoes I'll be wearing - Saucony Kinvaras.  I've worn it for many HMs - super light, cushiony, comfortable.  I also drank every 2 mi, for a total of like 2.5 cups, made of 1:1.5 tart cherry juice:water+salt.  That's the drink interval I'll get on the race.  It went down well.  I noticed that I needed more and more fluid as the run went on.  The gym was 69 degrees but fine.  That'll also help - that'll probably be the temps during the end of my race.  Albany's race-day temps tend to range a lot, from upper 40s to mid 60s, maybe.  My body needs to be acclimated to it. 

My right knee had some alignment issues at about mile 11, and it got a little better. 

After the run, I did an ice bath in the pool.  Again, every bit of recovery I can get.  Last time, icing didn't seem to help and if anything brought kinks out even more, but I'm willing to try again.

After the icing in upper 30 temps outside (wearing a jacket while icing, by the way, makes the experience waaaay more comfortable - why haven't I done it before?),  had skim milke+instant decaf+cocoa+vanilla.  And a hot shower.  And then salad, some eggs+onions, goldfish and peanuts, oatmeal, and a few soy crisps.

I also massaged.  My right butt is off - maybe that's what caused the knee issues.  And I foam rolled. Okay, taper starts for real now.  I got in the miles this week - barely.  I think it's safe enough to do at this point.  Still 2 weeks to fully recover.

12 in 1:35:10, 7:56 ave.  Maybe that was a bit overdoing it.  Not as much as a race would've, though. 

RECIPE: Chocolate Truffle Twigs

- Chopped 70% Dark Chocolate (3oz)
- Chopped Prunes (10 ea)
- Chopped Almonds (1/3 cup)
- Cocoa Powder (1/4 cup)
- Instant Oatmeal (1/2 cup)
- Warm Water (1/2 cup)

- 2 tbsp Instant decaf powder
- 1 tsp Cinnamon

The quantites are estimates... I always just put in what looks right.

1. In a stove on low heat, melt the chocolate into the water.
2. Add the powders and stir.
4. Add everything except the oatmeal and stir.
5. Add the oatmeal and stir.
6. Once it cools to room temp, use saran wrap to help you shape it into twigs.

> The prunes are a really nice mix of sweetness and tanginess. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Feb 6-12: Last Big Week - p

This week....
Work's still pretty busy - 13hr days every day, so I didn't feel like reporting after each squeezed in workout.  Here's a recap of the week.

Monday - Strength session. 

Wednesday - 3.5 mi of some hills on the treadmill.  It was 30 min after dinner, which made me feel borderline ok.  Felt kinda warm in the gym, 74 degrees.  I did 0.5 @ 7.0mph as a warmup, then I did 3x[ 1/2 mi @ 5 degrees, 1/2 mi @ 1 degree] @ 7.5mph. 

7.5mph @ 1 degree is 8:00/mi, and 7.5mph @ 5 degrees is 6:54/mi.  Source:   I was excited to do hills after reading blog that she had a big marathon PR after really just doing a lot of hills. 

The last hill repeat was hard, and I did a cooldown walk outside afterwards to literally cool down, I felt a bit queasy in the tummy, but it was fine.  I like how the hill reps break up monotony.  3.5 in 28:16, 8:05 ave. 

Friday - Tempo-y run on the treadmill (1 degree as always).  5.8 mi in 46:35, 8:02 ave.  It was 30 min after a second dinner (had a snack at 5:30 and the 2nd dinner finished at 8:30).  The dinner still digesting probably had some impact on the run, but it was okay, maybe because I broke up the dinner into 2 sessions.  I felt pretty fast from the start and kept up the pace.  I stopped mostly because the gym was closing, otherwise I would've probably gone on to do 6.2.

Saturday - I love Saturday night church.  I look forward to going very much, I'm sad when it's time to leave, and I wish it was on more days.

Sunday - Last long run before the taper!!!  20 miles.  No real looking forward to it... just know that it's there to do.  The plan was to go in the morning right before sunrise, but it was going to be "feels like 8 degrees" outside, and I was cold and not particularly energetic.  I did eat breakfast at 6:30 (toast with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, plus warm skim milk with instant decaf and cocoa), and I wanted to see how long it would take for it to digest and make me feel ready to go.  It probably took like 1.5 hrs - good to know for the big race.  I won't have dairy on the day of the race and maybe the day before, but I'm normally big on getting my calcium and all of that.  I felt tired and cold, though, so I went back to sleep until 10am.  I ate some more, and I decided to just go in the middle or end of the day.  I went for the end of the day so that I could maybe minimize sun exposure.  I cleaned up a bit around the apt and waited it out. 

Eventually, I went out.  Had my fuel and gear and water prepped.  Started going.  It was warm by then... upper 30s, probably.  A long sleee tee was enough, and at times, even that felt too hot.  I wanted to practice race-day fueling, so I had one chocolate-covered expresso bean at mile 2, a mini-Clif bar at mile 5.5, 1/4 bottle of water+salt+lemon juice at mile 10, a PowerBar gel with 50mg caffeine at mile 13 which went down nicely and was okay even without water, and another 1/4 bottle of water at mile 18. 

At first, my inner left ankle was tight - need to watch out for bringing back my plantar fasciitis, which I got over after about 5 months.  My right butt was tight for most of the run - need to stretch out that piriformis, and I may want to rethink doing a bike session next week, since that always irritates it. 

It's crazy when you say to yourself "oh good, only 9 miles left".  The first part of the run always feels like it takes a long time.  My Garmin was supposed to have like 3.75 hrs left, but it died at about mile 19.5.  Good thing I set my watch as a backup.  I read about someone's experience with Boston and how during the hills, he just watched the painted lane line and didn't look up to get through it.  The last part of my run is this long, steep uphill, and I liked that tactic. 

After the run, it was mostly relief.  Finally done.  $ is mostly in the bank.  Thanks be to God for bringing me through the training cycle.  I'm ready for the race to get here already, done with training. 

20.7 in 3:00:09, 8:42 ave.  I did this run 3 weeks ago in in 3:03:14 (8:51), so that's good.  My legs were tired.  Hard to imagine how I'll keep it up for another 6 mi while going a good bit faster the whole time, but it'll work out.

After refueling a bit with whey powder+cocoa+decaf, plus a few carrot sticks, I went to Publix.  My left shoe was tied too tightly, so it made me limp.  I couldn't make it comfortable, and after feeling the relief of taking off my shoe in the store, I contemplated walking around the store with one shoe.  I loosened up the laces a bunch, though, and that provided relief.  Next, I contemplated curling up somewhere in the store and resting for a bit.  I was chilled and kinda tired.  But I didn't.  Once I got back into the car with my groceries, relief from sitting down came over me, and I kind of wanted to just sit there and rest.  I wanted food, though, so I started driving, and the Kelly Clarkson song "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, stronger" came on, and it wa apt, and I couldn't resist...

A re-enactment:

"Ohhh, it feels so good to sit down.  I want to stay here in the warmth and sleep.  No, my hunger wins out.  I'll drive home.  [radio turns on]"

"Stronger what doesn't kill me makes me stronger"

I went home, made a quesadilla with fat-free cheddar and hot salsa, had decaf, strawberries, a few peanuts, then I took a nice hot shower.  After that, I had some tart cherry juice.

I normally don't drink juice, but I throw in some beet juice and tart cherry juice when the marathon nears. 

Round 2 of refueling: Morningstar Farms Asian Veggie Patty, Banana, Goldfish, Mixed Greens, Graham Cracker. 

Round 3: Tortilla Chips topped with Smoked Salmon and garlic or onion, Tangerine, Warm skim milk with vanilla.

Maybe 1300 calories over 6 hours.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Feb 1-5: Squeezing in Runs - p

This week was crazy work-wise.  The go-live of a big, year-long project was on Feb 1.  Monday and Tuesday of that week had reasonable hours, as we were just making final preparations.  I didn't sleep well the night before.  Praise be to God, the project went well.  Sometimes, something is so massive and complex, with so many things that could potentially go wrong no matter how much time and effort into it, and when it goes about as well as you can expect, it makes you know that it was all God. 

The next 3 days, I worked 13-14.5 hrs/day and slept 5 hrs per night on average. 

Wednesdy night, I did a strength session.

Thursday night, it had been 3 days of no running, so immediately after having dinner at 8pm after I got home, I squeezed in a 3.1 mi run.  I was tired, and at one point, I was actually jolted awake by the sensation of being pulled excessively back by the treadmill.  No falls.  Running right after dinner, plus the fatigue of long workdays and little sleep made the run VERY difficult.  3.1 miles took what felt like forever...  I remember one point where running a mere 0.03 miles seemed to take a long time as I watched the distance meter.  Eventually, I finished the long 3.1 run.  It was difficult, and I was breathing hard.  I was going at 8:15 pace.

Friday night, I was tired and knew that I'd be trying to squeeze in two ~8mi runs on Saturday and Sunday to try to at least partially hit this week's planned runs of 8, 8, and 7 mi.  So I just rested.  For the first time in like a week, I didn't dream about work that night.  Working long hours and then going home to sleep only to dream about work the whole time made for what felt like 24/7 of working.

Saturday, I went on a run in the cloudy and chilly morning.  I started slowly, but it got easier.  I felt like I needed a mini-Clif Bar at mile 4.5, so I had it.  I ended up eating a lot over the weekend, maybe making up for the workweek where I didn't drink or eat or have time to go to the restroom very much.  It was busy.  I didn't have much fruits or veg, either.  I didhave restaurant food, though, which I usually only eat if it's through work.  I was at the park, on grass, and the distance wasn't that hard to cover.  Splits> 6:51, 31, 21, 21, 18x2, 24, 13, 06x2, 02, 01.  These are ~0.75 mi splits, taken at each lap around the park.  8.9 in 1:15:37, 8:30ave.  I went to Saturday night church, which I've really been liking.  Unlike on Sundays where I think about lunch for much of the sermon and about getting on with the rest of my day (major distractions), on Saturday, I can focus much more, and I feel like I wish that the worship time at the end could keep going and not stop.

Sunday, I didn't know if I'd run in the morning, afternoon, or vening.  In the morning, it was slightly raining, maybe, so I figured I'd wait til the afternoon, since it was supposed to be cloudy, which I wanted, to avoid sunlight.  But it got sunny, so I waited until the evening to run.  I thought it might be harder today than it was yesterday because my body would still be recovering, but today felt easier.  I again was hungry during the run despite having first dinner like an hour before, so I had a mini-Clif bar at mile 4.5 again.  It was in the low 60s, but there was some wind, so it wasn't too hot.  I did 8.2 in 1:09:14, 8:27 ave.  It was getting kind of dark, and my legs were starting to get a bit iffy, so I didn't do another lap around the park to match yesterday's distance.  Splits> 6:29, 25, 26, 26, 21, 18, 23, 12, 10, 01, 5:57.  Thirsty afterwards.