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Training Tweaks, Peaks and Troughs


What a running/training roller coaster this season has been! Between the excessive heat and gym running, bout with tendonitis and venturing into weird, new training experiments and physical challenges, it is nice to eat oats again, and will be nice to try for a regular, old fall marathon: a dip back into more familiar territory I know won’t completely destroy the last shreds of my trashed, tread-less, last season’s Newtons, tired feet and weary brain.

I plan to run the Freedom’s Run marathon a week from today. It’s all around my old stomping grounds: Harper’s Ferry, Shepherdstown, the C&O Canal tow path.  Despite it’s proximity to my old home, I have never run it before, and I look forward once again to a new run giving me a fresh perspective on some old and beloved, if familiar, ground.

Some of my friends in the Reston Runners ultrarunning crew are running it, as it is a good prep for the JFK50–sharing stretches of tow path, and thus a good familiarization run as well as an aptly timed training marathon for the next month’s ultra. While not needing the familiarization, I do need a good training marathon well enough in advance of  November 6 as well as the JFK, and time-wise, it seemed like a good fit. In addition, my husband is running the 10K, while some of his friends are running the 10k and half-marathon as well. And we can stay with friends.

So it will also be a social event. It should be a fun time. I should be looking forward to it, and I suppose I am. But there has been this disturbing lack of enthusiasm for me–a flatness to my thoughts surrounding it that I cannot explain. Perhaps it is simply that it is a training run, and not a race. I will not attempt to run it for time–neither hard or fast, but still with a little more umpf than I would a regular 26-mile long run. Perhaps it is that the setting is TOO familiar. And maybe perhaps I am a just bit over trained.

My tweaks it seems have left me a bit “tweaked,” and not completely in a good way.  In the long run, I am hoping the whole experience will have made me stronger–or in the least, wiser. The amount of mileage I have been taking on has not been excessive for me–since the midsummer bout with tendonitis, I have been very careful about adding mileage slowly and have kept the hill training to a cautious minimum. But I have tweaked my training in other ways that have been adding what could be excessive stresses–like running carb-depleated for a lot of my runs and eating more fat to train my body to burn it readily, and running back-to-back long runs Sundays and Mondays to help me train through fatigue. Though the Monday run has not been seriously long, still putting in 12 to 15 miles before breakfast–e.g. sans carbs, after Sunday’s long run has been some of the most tiring running I have ever done.

I have been trying this in accordance with some reading I have been doing on the latest research on recovery runs and how the body responds to fatigue, and to a few training plans for ultras I have discovered online. In a nutshell, the idea is to learn to adjust to being on your feet for long periods of time and to learn to deal with (e.g. burning more fat) running on low levels of carbs by following a long run with a next-day, long recovery run that forces you to adapt to extreme fatigue.

Some of the research behind this is explained by running guru Matt Fitzgerald in an article on the subject of recovery runs that appeared in, in which he writes:

“The real benefit of recovery runs is that they increase your fitness–perhaps almost as much as longer, faster runs do–by challenging you to run in a pre-fatigued state (i.e. a state of lingering fatigue from previous training.)…there is evidence that fitness adaptations occur not so much in proportion to how much time you spend exercising but rather in proportion to how much time you spend exercising beyond the point of initial fatigue in workouts. So-called key workouts (runs that are challenging in their pace or duration) boost fitness by taking your body well beyond the point of initial fatigue…Recovery workouts, on the other hand, are performed entirely in a fatigued state, and therefore also boost fitness despite being shorter and/or slower than key workouts.”

In addition to these, I guess I have been doing some rougher stuff–fast trail runs, even tried a little parkour training. And not to mention that life in general is particularly busy and tiring this time of year for me. It’s a busy season at work, and also the music season for me, and that has taken up some time and energy as well. I have been having a lovely time, but have been recouping rather slowly. At first, I thought it was just my age getting to me.  I seem to like to blame things on my age. :) I even gave my old, tired self an extra rest day during the week. When I still seemed to not be recouping well enough,  I cut my mileage back to 50 a week, and added some more carbs back into my diet, and cut the recovery/fatigue run down to a mere 7 miles. This helped.

Since cutting back has helped, I decided to do a taper for the training marathon. Spring! One good week–tapered back to 47 miles and some biking, add a few good nights’ sleep, and I have had so much energy, I can’t sit still.

I’ve made it through the first week, though I pity my poor husband and coworkers who have had to deal with my anxious, talkative behavior and hyperactivity. Only one more week, and I’ll be back to normal, folks!

(Here’s hoping!)

: )

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