Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Recovery or Prep?

Last year, most of my races were separated by at least 3-weeks. I am about to enter my third race at Ohlone with Miwok 2-weeks back and Ruth Anderson 2-weeks prior to that. Now, compared to some folks I know this is no big deal. At least a few folks from the aptly named Yahoo! Group "Ultraholics" are doing what they call the "May Triple". That is Miwok 100K, Quicksilver 50mi and Ohlone 50K on three consecutive weekends. Maybe it's a sort of taper for those truly addicted to running ultras. Not only do I feel like the every other weekend is too much from a personal (and family) time commitment, but I also feel like I can't really get back into the groove before my next race. With the three week split, I had a recovery week, a normal running week and then a prep week. Now I feel like I am going right from recovery to prep and not really sure which stage I am in.

I was feeling pretty beat up after Miwok and took a couple of extra days off followed by a couple of days of very easy running. A Friday 5-miler was a check run to see what I might be able to handle for the weekend. I wanted to try to at least get in 1/2 my normal weekly target, but it would be a challenge with a busy family schedule and Mother's Day on Sunday. Saturday was one of those days were you just fit the running in wherever you can and see what it adds up to in the end. I actually did 3 separate runs and managed to total close to 21-miles on the day and a weekly total of over 35, but most importantly, I felt pretty good in the end. Each run was unique and out of the ordinary routine. However, I enjoyed them all and always love those days where I feel like I am "sneaking in" the miles.

Run 1
5 miles very easy with my wife along the very flat Coyote Creek Lagoon trail in Fremont. My wife wanted to "baseline" her fitness since she hasn't done any running since the start of the year. I really didn't expect her to go beyond 4 miles, but she has such an easy, consistent pace that she just kept going confirming multiple times that she felt good and wasn't pushing it. Why she is starting to run is a story unto itself involving a trips south, lots of asphalt, giant mice and The Happiest Race on Earth. At any rate, it was a beautiful morning and I am going to enjoy training with her with the bonus miles to my schedule along with easy paced running that I have such a hard time doing on my own.

Run 2
After the morning foray and a quickly scarfed breakfast, it was time to take my son to basketball practice and then drop my wife at work. Some poorly-timed traffic accidents on the roads between my two errands meant that this was all I had time for having to rush back home after my son's practice to make sure he had time to get ready for his friend's prom that he would be attending that evening. While he was busy preparing, I did some quick mental math and decided that if I could notch a few extra miles I would still be able to hit 20 miles for the day without extending my planned evening run into the dark. I jumped on the treadmill, turned on the TV and managed to get in 3 miles before I had to grab the camera and head down the street to take the obligatory pre-prom pictures.

Run 3
You gotta love daylight savings when you can hit the trailhead after 5:oopm and still get in a descent run before dark. It's starting to feel like summer. My plan was to go up Mission Peak following the start path of the Ohlone 50K. I wanted to take it easy and simulate the race start as much as possible to try to remind myself not to push on this all too familiar hill. I tried. However, there were a lot of hikers out there and I just have such a mentally hard time containing myself when I just want to push past a large group. I definitely took the first bit harder than I will next week, but I did walk the steepest hills and did the mental exercise of imagining my pace on the various bits of the first climb. Once out on Horse Heaven it was easier to get into my own zone and practice my walking paces. I did go straight up the direct, steep bit even though I have heard the race is going to take the longer, but slightly easier, route over by the horse trough. I hit the peak in just under 65 minutes. I should definitely target a slower time for the race as I know I will open it up on the downhills. My plan for the day was to continue on course going a bit past where the Laurel Loop aid station would be before turning around. I wanted around 12 miles to hit that 20 for the day. The weather was near perfect, a bit warm going up, but breezy at the peak. I always enjoy the downhill section even though it is on firetrail and I probably would have gone all the way to Sonol and back if I had the full day to play with.

On the way back, I played with my uphill pace some more and discovered something that I am going to have to experiment with. I've noticed that on moderate hills, my power-hiking has gotten better. I can maintain a pretty good pace at a maintainable level of effort where my breathing and leg turnover feel in sync. However, when the hill gets steeper, to the point where I can't really keep a flat step, my effort level for a descent walking pace feels really hard and this is reflected in my breathing as well. In fact, I confirmed that it is on these steeper hills where I seem to be able to maintain a sort of shuffle pace with much greater ease than I can a walking pace. It puts a bit more strain on my calves, but the shortened little steps up on my forefeet can be maintained with an easier breathing pattern and at the same or even faster pace. So, here is the experiment I am going to work on. If I just need a walking break or the hill is such that I can maintain a strong stride at a faster pace than my jog then I am going to power-hike it. However, if the hill gets steep to the point where I find myself taking big steps up in order to walk or if I find myself going up on my toes while walking then I am going to switch to the shuffle and see if the effort is easier. There are some obvious exceptions such as going up steps or over large rocks where I would have to jump up if I were shuffling, but I am going to try this out over my next few trail runs and hopefully come to some conclusion before Bighorn 100. I probably shouldn't experiment during a race like Ohlone, but knowing myself I probably will. I mean, where's the adventure if you don't try at least one new thing in each race!

1 comment:

Baldwyn said...

Nice report, Steve!! I sometimes don't give enough attention to recovery or prep, which is probably why I'm plagued with achilles and knee issues :) I think experimentation is great before a race, it adds to the whole "meta-race." If you don't change it up before a race, you might not find something works better (I found an aggressive taper doesn't work for me). Thanks for the great outlook!