Usually this blog is about general observations of the MPR universe, but yesterday I demonstrated something to myself so clearly, I’ve just gotta share it.
I’d been having a good running season, building up for the Salomon Golden Leaf trail hemithon in late September, a favorite event that I’d done seven times before, with gradually improving times. I managed a PR by a few seconds on the last scheduled event beforehand, then had planned six weeks to recover and taper for the GL.
Just about a perfect set up, except that somewhere in between there the local paper mentioned a nearby event I’d heard of but never run, just two weeks before the GL. Another trail run, 25k this time, with an even bigger climb in the early miles than the GL, and reputed to be the most beautiful autumn course around these decidedly beautiful parts Telling myself it would be a perfect last long run before tapering to the GL, I signed up and headed off for the Lead King Loop. Baaad ideaaa….
Mistake number one: I have learned over the years that for this MPR and this not-getting any-younger body, it takes three weeks recovery after a big effort to be ready for another biggie. If I make big efforts every two weeks, I end up hitting walls. But I’d been running longer than the LKL all summer so that shouldn’t be an issue; or so I told my nagging left brain.
Mistake number two: If you’re gonna shortchange recovery time, at least do it in a small way, maybe a quick short distance that exercises the muscles and reflexes but doesn’t tap out all your reserves. (Problem: the LKL is longer and has more climb than the GL – which is not the intended meaning of the term ‘reverse-taper.’)
Mistake number three: since I more or less knew those things already, I signed up for the LKL telling myself I was just there for the scenery, and that a slow time would actually be best so I could come back next year and beat it. Then in the first half mile I overheard a couple of folks in my division talking about who was gonna do what to whom, which tweaked my competitive radar, with the result I pushed all the way and ended the morning totally sapped.
Mistake number four: so here I am with a tired body and two weeks to the GL – every bit of advice I’ve ever heard says taper and recover, which for me at my age would mean nothing but short, moderate runs. Which I managed – for six days. Then, on the Saturday in between I decided I needed a little uphill to keep my edge on, so I ran a quick five miles, and because the summer had been going so well, I pushed that training loop faster than ever before. And then the week before the GL was so busy I couldn’t get out for a mid-day stress-relief quickie, and by Thursday was wondering if I might have completely forgotten how to run, so I squeezed in a gentle evening three-miler only to be shocked me by how tired and slow it felt. Well duh.
You can guess the rest. GL Saturday dawned sunny and perfect – neither cold nor hot, the trail dry and fast, but even as I ran a few yards to warm up before the start, I could tell what was coming – legs heavy and unresponsive, as if someone had inserted an extra mile of leaky-coax cable between brain and muscles. Still, I’d been having a good summer right, all those other events had gone well, so I must be fit enough to do this, right? Heck. I’d run a tougher 25K just two weeks ago…
Predictably, I hit the wall early, struggled to keep myself motivated enough to even finish, and did so with a time that would have been disappointing five years ago, and was much more so this summer.
Please don’t get me wrong here – Any day I can run is a blessing, for which I am truly grateful. And this year’s GL was pretty fantastic: a beautiful and challenging course, gorgeous weather and fall colors, wonderful people to run with and meet.
But it could have been even better if I’d stayed with the plan and not gotten greedy.
Recovery is training too, and every bit as important as wind sprints or that ‘75% of the goal distance’ long run two three weeks before a big event.
I may have learned that now.