Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Not Anemic. Probably Just Dumb.

When we last left our hero, he was trying to solve the mystery of his lackluster performances this summer. (That was the last sentence in the third person.) I went to the lab on Monday for blood work. I'm still waiting to get the official paperwork in the mail so I can see the official numbers, etc., but I did speak with the doctor. It turns out I'm not anemic. My thyroid is also AOK. So, good news.

Of course, that makes the problem, and, therefore, the solution less obvious.

That being said, I'm glad I've ruled out any medical issues. And, in fact, I'd already started formulating what I'm calling the "non-medical theory." The basis of the theory is that I'm over-trained, and that over training is causing fatigue and a major decrease in performance. Again, it has no bearing on my day to day life, so I'm not worried about my health.

So, how did this happen? Well, here's what I've come up with:

The first, and most obvious, cause is the massive increase in training volume. Or, actual training for that matter. Last year, was the first year in over ten years that I've actually trained. Ran a bit. Dabbled in a race or two. But, not trained. The increased focus, intensity and frequency would have been enough to lead to the fatigue, but I took it a step further. I trained for and ran a marathon in October of 2008. This was also my first marathon. On the heels of that, I trained for and ran a 50k trail race in May, my first ultramarathon. A look deeper inside this training, and I find from August 2008 through May of 2005 runs of the following lengths: 18, 19, 21, 24, 20, 27, 18, 20. Add into that mix some long races (10 miles, 14 miles) and a couple long runs/hikes in the mountains. It all adds up to a lot of running. Most importantly, a lot more running than I had ever done.

The reason for this is simple: I run with a group of crazy people. "I think I'll do three hundred milers this year." "This is my fourth 50 miler this year." "I ran a trail marathon yesterday, so I'm going to run an easy dozen today to take it easy." All of this is perfectly normal. All said matter of factly. However, this is not normal. It's utterly insane. I got sucked into the insanity. Completely. That being said, I owe the fact that I'm not sitting on the couch all the time to this group. Had D and I not found them, I'd still just be a dabbling runner, looking back at races from my heyday and never ahead to new challenges. It's been great, but I got sucked in. That was dumb. Now, some people can run a marathon every weekend, and perhaps someday I will, but not right now. I need to pull it back a notch or six.

Another step I need to take is something I mentioned previously: my diet. I have a great ability to eat. I'm really good at it, and I love food. I just need to make sure I'm eating enough of the right things. I'm in the process of making some changes, and more to come. For those of you thinking I've gone over the edge, I'm not giving up pork or beer. That's crazy talk.

I am talking something good from this: I'm not injured. Most of the time, it seems like a runner who overtrains to this extent suffers an injury. I'm free of major injuries. (Knock on wood.) I'm extremely encouraged by this. If I can get to this point without a stress fracture or other major malady, I'm strong. I've turned a major corner from how my "running career" has gone in the past. I was oft injured in college and those injuries are essentially what made me a dabbler for ten years. Injury free is stunning. That being said, I'm treating this current situation like an injury. I've done a couple short, easy runs since the Bruiser, and I'm going to continue to take it easy. I don't have any races on the calendar, and I'm not training for anything. I'm training to get healthy.

Looking ahead, I'm ready to get back into running the way I should have. I'm going to train for shorter races. Perhaps, I'll work my way back up to the marathon but not immediately. In hindsight, this is what I should have done in 2008, but I'm looking forward to it for 2010. In fact, I'm thinking the shorter races might be where I belong. Let's do the math:

In 2008 & 2009, I finished in the top 31% of the races in which I competed. My top 5 placings were 4%, 13%, 15%, 16% and 20% (twice). My bottom 5 were 57%, 49%, 48%, 44% and 43%. It most interesting, when you look at how those races break down:

4% - Feaster Five, '08, 5 miles
13% - Bradbury Scuffle '08, 6 miles
15% - Mid Winter Classic '09, 10 miles
16% - Bradbury Scuffle '09, 6 miles
20% - Mid Winter Classic '08, 10 miles
20% - MDI Marathon, 08, 26.2 miles

57% - Bradbury Bruiser, '09, 12 miles
49% - Mt. Washington, '09, 7.6 miles
48% - Muddy Moose, '09, 14 miles
44% - Mt. Washington '08, 7.6 miles
43% - Pineland 50k, 09, 31 miles

You can make numbers say anything you like, but here's what I think these say: I'm better at shorter races. Granted, harder races draw better fields, Pineland 50k, for example. But, I feel like I've performed better at the shorter races. (Discount the distance for Mt. Washington since it's all uphill.) Maybe that's where my talent lies. Then again, those could also be considered the easier races. That would be discouraging, but I wasn't actually training for those races. They were speed work on the way towards longer races. Take the Feaster Five, for example, I ran really well and finished in the top 4% with no 5 mile training. It was a month after the MDI marathon. I'd done zero speed work. So, the short races are what I'm going to focus on. Sure, MDI stands out as long race, in which I performed well, so that gives me hope. I do want to run another/more marathons. But, I don't want to run them until I'm ready. Plus, like racing. The atmosphere is the best. If I run shorter races, I can run more of them...provided I'm smart and not always racing all out. That sounds fun.

Wow. Never thought you'd read anything so thoughtful in this blog, did you? Needs more 80's music:


middle.professor said...

Good analysis. Even better news. Let's make sure to have a TM run at Cathance this Fall

Laurel said...

It's important to mix it up a little when your body and mind start getting burnt out on the long distances. I know, I've been there and I'm approaching that point again right now! Go with the shorter races for a while, or try some snowshoe racing or ski racing this winter.

sn0m8n said...

Jeff - You're a smart guy. Better measurement: top % of field or % back from winner? And, yes, I'm over thinking this.

Laurel - Already started looking at snowshoes. More gear! Any suggestions?

mindy said...

Not stupid, just human. Finding a place where it's fun is what it's all about. And there's a ton of not-so-far-away destination runs (North Conway, etc) that can be planned that would be a blast - and which would involve pork and beer afterward!