This week’s training theme:
Food is fuel. Don’t put cheap gas in the tank.
This week I learned a very important lesson about the importance of eating properly. I’ve been experimenting with “carbohydrate cutback” days — lowering carb intake on some days and loading on others. The theory being (at least among bodybuilders who use carb cycling during their “cutting” phase) that if you cycle your carb intake it keeps your metabolism guessing. And if you do it right, you lose more fat than if your diet was structured around a static daily distribution of carbs, fat and protein.
Great theory. One which I’ve applied in the past few weeks. If the new prominence of my leg muscles and veins in my hands and arms are anything to go by, I have lost some fat since trying this method. But you need to be careful during high intensity training, because — as every runner knows — carbs are our friends.
The long and short of it is that I pushed the low carb envelope just a little too far this week and paid for it. I’ve never “hit the wall” in a race, but I do now know what it feels like, having hit the wall on Saturday morning. I ran 19 miles on Thursday, and obviously didn’t replace enough of the lost carbs. Then, on Friday, I did an eight mile easy run and also did not eat enough carbs.
The chickens came home to roost yesterday morning when I attempted a six mile recovery run. I didn’t feel well, and in fact was craving sugar. So I ate a PowerBar before heading out, but that was not enough to make up for two days of deprivation. I was slogging along at a 10:30 pace and thinking, “Wow, I feel like I’m working really hard just to run this slow.” I checked my heart rate and it was elevated to 76%! I normally can run 10:30 at around 62% max heart rate, so something was obviously very wrong.
I had absolutely no energy. It’s such a strange feeling, to actually feel as though you couldn’t run another step. Since I also felt foggy in the head, I turned around at 1.25 miles and walked home and right into the kitchen for a large plate of carbohydrates. My last major long training run was scheduled for the next day (this morning), and there was no way I wanted to feel like crap due to bad nutrition. The only thing I could do — despite the extreme sacrifice — was to consume as much bread, rice, pasta and beer as I possibly could. For my training, of course.
I was also in a slightly injured state all week, as the irritated right achilles tendon continued. It was bad enough to skip running altogether on Tuesday. It was actually pretty funny. I put on my little running getup, walked down to the bikepath and took two running steps in a pronounced limp. Turn around. Go back up the hill. Take off the running getup. Take the ibuprofen and get out the ice pack. *sigh*
Still, it’s only the second or third time in all these weeks of training that I’ve needed to take time off, and it was the smart thing to do.
These changes in plans conspired to bring my mileage down from the planned 91 miles to 73ish. C’est la vie. This training business has been a grand experiment on my body and mind. It’s a great program, but I recognize that I need more than a day after a hard race and, in weeks where I have lots of high intensity work, I may need to swap a recovery run day with a day of complete rest. It’s a lot better than limping.
Another notable aspect to the week was my third speed session, which went very well and resulted in yet more learning. This time around, rather than running a six mile warmup before hitting the track, I just ran straight to the track (less than two miles). I felt much fresher than last time, so that’s what I’ll do from now on. I think even six very easy miles can take the wind out of your sails to some extent. I did 1200m intervals at a 6:45 pace and darned if I didn’t hit all my splits again. I thought I wouldn’t like speedwork, but I’m beginning to like it. Probably because it’s so prescribed and it’s easy (and quick) to evaluate whether or not it’s going well on a given day.
Finally, this morning was my last big, serious, long training run before the race in three weeks. I’d originally scheduled to do it in Central Park, but the weather was iffy. So I lay around all morning, consuming carbohydrates, and noting the weather in an attempt to avoid rain (which I did, save for some sprinkles in the last two miles).
Side note: why do none of the weather sites agree with each other? There was a swing of 10 degrees and 15 mph wind speed between Accuweather.com and Weather.com. It’s a shame that the artist Henry Darger isn’t still alive. I’m sure the moral outrage at his local weatherman’s inability to accurately forecast the weather, which he cataloged daily in his Book of Weather Reports, would be felt and expressed even more keenly today in light of the technology at meteorologists’ fingertups nearly 40 years on.
Anyway, back to my swan song long run. I decided to make it special: a progressive run with some one mile intervals at or below marathon pace. I did a few 1-2 mile surges at marathon pace, with one mile 8:20ish pace “rest miles” inbetween. And since I’m an overachiever, I did the last mile at 20 seconds faster than marathon pace (7:28). All of this was physically encouraging to me; I had no problem with the paces and still felt good at the end of the run.
But I suspect the run had the most value in the mental realm. I ran 22 miles in just over 3:07. The miles flew by. No tedium, no having to play mental games with myself, no urges to stop. There’s also the issue of time: A rule of thumb says that if you can run 22 miles in your goal marathon time, you’re probably in very good shape to achieve it. I ran mine in around 20 minutes faster than my goal time, so I’m hoping this means I’m in great shape to achieve it.
Taper starts tomorrow. If I’m not ready for April 6 as of today, then I’ll never be.
A look back at the week:
- Monday: 6.1 miles recovery pace (AM), 3.6 miles recovery pace (PM)
- Tuesday: 11.8 with 4 x 1200 at 5K race pace; no rabies shot this week — next week is the last one
- Wednesday: took the day off owing to an inflamed (and complaining) right tendon
- Thursday: 15 mile long run (progressive pace) (AM); 4 miles recovery pace (PM)
- Friday: 8.2 miles easy pace (AM)
- Saturday: Disaster run of 2.5 miles due to severe glycogen shortage; 2+ hour nap in the afternoon
- Sunday: 22 mile long run (progressive pace) with 5 miles at marathon pace
Total mileage: 73.2 miles
Paces this week:
- Low carb: 10:30 – 14:00 (!)
- Recovery: 9:35 – 11:00
- Speed: Intervals at 6:45 pace
- Long: 7:58 – 9:38
- Marathon pace: 7:28 – 7:48
This week’s quote:
“There’s no such thing as a bad carbohydrate.“
— Don Kardong
Coming up in training week sixteen: It’s not Easy Street yet. I have a 10 mile easy run on Tuesday with strides, a 14 mile midweek long run, a 10 mile tempo run on Friday and a 17 miler on Sunday. With the exception of tomorrow, I only need to run once per day this week. What a luxury!