Spring Race Training: Week 5

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I originally wrote a beautifully worded and utterly fascinating post for this week. But then WordPress failed to autosave it and it’s gone forever. So the clumsy, awkward presentation that follows will have to suffice.

I ran a shade under 90 miles this week and it feels quite natural to do so. To be fair, this was my average mileage over the summer, so it’s not a new experience. However, what is different this time around is that I’m not completely flat-on-my-back exhausted all the time. I’m doing three days of doubles per week now (and that’s set to go up to four days soon). Over the summer, I was doubling at least six days a week, sometimes seven, and I think that was way too much. I also didn’t have as much variation in the mileage from day to day as I do now, which I believe also contributed to an inability to truly recover.

Previous posts already talked about the bad run on Tuesday followed by the good one on Friday. I was thinking about these two runs and what made one bad and the other good and remembered a subject I’ve meant to write about but haven’t gotten around to. So I may as well do so now. The topic is hormonal fluctuations and how they can affect athletic performance in some women.

As I’ve tracked my training over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a distinct pattern of performance degradation or enhancement depending on where I am in my menstrual cycle. To put it in simple terms, I run with all the speed and grace of an arthritic platypus in the days before and during my period (luteal phase), after which I gradually, but quite dramatically, evolve into a gazelle hopped up on speedballs in the four days or so before ovulation (follicular phase). If you find that you mysteriously run better or worse at certain times in the month, you might try tracking where you are in your cycle to see if there’s a predictable relationship. On a related note, some studies have shown that women taking oral contraceptives may also experience lower VO2 max during the luteal phase and/or elevated body temperatures (which can affect hot weather running), so there’s a double or triple whammy for some of us.

So you know all about Tuesday and Friday already. To bring this full circle: If you look at the four days that are outlined in red, that’s my period. Tuesday fell on the first day, which is often my nadir in terms of running performance. After that, things start to look up. I hope this means that I’ll be at my apex come the weekend.

Apologies if this is way too much information, and more than you wanted to know. It took me awhile to figure out that there was a connection between cycles and performance. I wish I’d read something similar much earlier so I could have cleared up some mysteries (and timed my races a bit better).

What’s left is a few recovery days during which I was pretty tired. But that’s what they’re there for. Today’s long run was a blast, actually. I woke up after 9.5 hours of sleep feeling great. The predicted inch of snow didn’t materialize overnight and we instead had a day of light rain, but never heavy enough to soak me through. I felt so good on my run that I threw in an extra mile, and picked up the pace in the second half, running several at 7:50 or well under. I’d like to be doing my garden variety long runs at a slightly faster pace than I’ve been doing them thus far (a flatter course on a clear path with no wind certainly helped today), so I’m going to be trying to get my average down closer to the 8:00 and below range over the coming weeks.

Week 6 bumps things up to 95 but removes the tempo running on Tuesday, adds a speed session of 300m repeats (for which I may break out the shiny new spikes), and ends with a 25K race/training run on Sunday.

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