The busyness of life delayed my training post last week, so this is a two-fer. And, it somehow seems fitting since I really don't think of my training in weekly blocks. I really think of it in large cycles broken into 3 and 4 day chunks. A week is too arbitrary. Plus, I'm the only person in the world (aside from D) who counts the week Sunday - Saturday. I use an old school calendar planner, and the first day of each week is Sunday. Hence, Sunday is the first day of my training week. Again, arbitrary. Most of all, I think these two weeks will illustrate my point that weekly mileage is arbitrary and, really, nothing more than a number to impress or exaggerate your buddies. The week is a very rough guideline for me, as I'm more focused on making sure in my 3 and 4 days blocks I maintain a good mix of strength, speed and rest. The right combination of those ingredients balanced our over time pointing toward the larger goal. Then again, maybe this paragraph was me trying to convince myself that I don't just wing it...
Onto the numbers...
11/20, Sunday: 22 - 4:00:20, Bradbury Snowshoe Bad Ass + Bradbury Mountain Breaker. I met Jeff, NJ Dave, Jim and Zak at The Brad at 8:00...well, they were ready to go at 8:00, and I was admittedly unsure how this run was going to go based on my cold. I was pretty certain it was close to dead, but I wasn't certain how far I would get. Obviously, this worried me as I considered this a very important run with Lookout Mountain on the horizon. It was great to have company, and the pace was comfortable as I led the group on the courses that...well, are a touch hilly. Zak, still crippled by plague, peeled off after a couple miles, and Jim stuck around for a few more. Jeff and Dave ran with me for the entire Snowshoe Bad Ass, and I even got a boost from a visit from D and Sam out on the trails. Weather was unseasonably warm, so I was down to just a t-shirt by the end. Luckily, I'd brought plenty of fluids. The Snowshoe Bad Ass took a bit longer than I had hoped (about 2:20), and I knew that it would be a stretch to get under 4 hours. Once I lost Jeff and Dave, I definitely felt the effects of running solo, and my pace slowed a touch. However, I stayed fairly strong and only walked a few short stretches of the Summit Trail. I forgot/didn't grab an extra gel my last trip through the parking lot aid station, and I could have used it. I was definitely bonking by the end, but it was good to work through that in a training run. Happy with the effort, I didn't try to sprint the finish just get under the 4-hour mark, but I was happy to sit and devour potato chips as soon as I finished. Very solid run, and good confidence boost.
11/21, Monday: 11 - 1:17:41, River Road + Meadow Cross. In the mindset of ultra training, I wanted to follow up Sunday's run with a medium length run. And, I decided to up the ante by tackling it at marathon pace. Despite some heavy legs in the first two miles, this run couldn't have gone any better. The 7:03/mile average felt very comfortable on this relatively hilly route. Just great back-to-back efforts.
11/22, Tuesday: 5.75 - 52:58, TMR TNR @ Twin Brook. Trespassed (to our surprise) with a decent-sized TMR group for a run by headlamp, but ended up breaking off and running easy with Jeff. Legs felt great, and an easy run filled with plans for future training and over-analysis of current training (as he and I are wont to do) was just what I needed.
11/23, Wednesday: Off - planned, with drive south for Thanksgiving. I also pronounced my cold officially kicked.
11/24, Thursday: 5 - 39:04, Weldon Farm Road w/ D. I had mulled over running 4 or 5 different races on Thanksgiving morning, but I chose discretion not wanting to overtire myself or tweak anything so close to Lookout Mountain. So, instead, I decided to go for an easy 5 with D pre-turkey. Well, at some point, D turned my morning into a progression run and dropped the hammer on me. I did manage to out sprint her in the final meters for a small victory. It's not that the pace was outrageous. I just wasn't mentally prepared for anything more than a shuffle. Amazing what the mind can do...
11/25, Friday: 5 - 41:03, Weldon Farm Road w/ D. Same loop from my parents' house again this morning, but much different disposition. This time around, D wasn't feeling so frisky, but I was nice enough to keep things mellow. Nice loop around the neighborhood.
11/26, Saturday: 26.2 - 4:04:01, Bradley Palmer State Park. Nothing good to say about this run aside from the result. I basically felt terrible the entire way. I felt especially horrible miles 7 through 12, when my groin and psoas were so tight, my stride was basically a shuffle. I decided to run the GAC Fat Ass course, since I know it well and gave me the option of using the car as an aid station. D offered to come along for the first 12 miles, but, unfortunately, I wasn't very good company. Once she dropped off, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and just got it done. The final 14 miles were almost a minute faster per mile than the first 12, but I didn't necessary feel any better—I just stopped caring about how I felt. Getting through this run feeling so horrible was actually a huge confidence boost. If I can pull this off feeling like that, I'm excited to see what I can do when I'm rested. Possible cause for feeling terrible: Fundido.
Easily my biggest week of the year, but again, that's arbitrary. Forty-eight of those seventy-five miles came in two runs. Rarely do I get two long runs in within a 7-day stretch, but that's just how the schedule worked out. Having my parents to babysit was certainly helpful. Of course, now I can say I've done a 75-mile week.
Week two of this post is the start of my taper. I agree with Jamie that a three-week quasi taper is good for the body and spirit. Yes, your mileage is cut back a little bit, but no so far that you start freaking out about it too soon before the goal. So with arbitrary weekly mileage and the quasi-taper in mind...
Onto the numbers...
11/27, Sunday: 10.75 - 1:46:29, Willowdale State Forest w/ D. Once again taking the opportunity to have my parents watch the kiddo, D and I headed out to run something resembling a lap of the Stone Cat course. I was very curious how I was going to feel after Saturday's effort. And, honestly, I felt pretty good. It took me a bit to warm up, but after a creaky start, the miles just rolled along. Some of the course markings were still posted, but many were not. Plus, I'd only been to Willowdale once before and D (despite having run the marathon) is, admittedly, directionally challenged. Needless to say, we got off track but did manage to get back on course and to the car despite grumbling at each other a bit. I bonked big time at around 1:30, but thanks to an extra gel from D, I managed to hang on until the finish. Admittedly, I'd hoped to get the full Stone Cat course and about two hours, but this was good enough. Another solid back-to-back.
11/28, Monday: Off, planned, traveling home.
11/29, Tuesday: 5 - 41:52, Highland Green. Back home for an easy spin around the neighborhood. Felt a bit tight, so I took it very easy.
11/30, Wendesday: 5.25 - 48:34, Mt. Ararat. Since it's just a quasi-taper, I thought I get in a shortish hill session on Mt. A. The overall pace was slow, but that was mainly due to my caution on the downhills. With rain the previous day and overnight, the trails were very slippery. Aside from some tight calves, happy to report that the body felt good. Saw a fox on three separate occasions.
12/1, Thursday: 8 - 56:03, Meadow Cross. Again, going on the quasi-taper theory, the plan was for 8 at marathon pace. Mission accomplished despite having a lot of trouble getting out the door. I just wasn't feeling it, which I'm attributing to a couple late work nights. However, after the first half mile or so, I got in a good groove, and this run actually felt pretty easy. I'd noticed that in my past marathon pace runs on this loop, I would lag a bit in mile 6, so I made a conscious decision to push it a bit in this mile. The result was a 6:56, which set me up nicely for a 6:47 and 6:44 on the way in. I did feel a bit tight, but nothing major. Good run.
12/2, Friday: 5.75 - 51:18, River N Back. Easy run down to the Cathance on a really nice day. Kept the pace easy, and despite another late night, felt really good. Let the real taper begin.
12/3, Saturday: Off, planned. Needed to save my energy with our six-year-old niece spending the night. Um...I mean...tapering...
Seems like a really short week, but here's that word again: arbitrary. With no long run with that seven day block, it drops that number. The more important number is 50. I've averaged 50 miles per week for the last 4 weeks, following a full recovery from the MDI Marathon. Admittedly, that recovery took longer than I had hoped, but I'm glad I didn't push it. Solid training in the month of November, and I'm feeling as ready as I can be. I would have liked to have gotten one more solid back-to-back weekend in, but I've decided to err on the side of rest rather than risk overdoing it going into the 50. The mental edge from knowing I'm rested will be more valuable.
One thing I haven't mentioned in this post is my right knee. (You didn't think I'd get through this without my "injury of the week," did you?) The good news is that it's feeling a lot better. The bad news is that it's not feeling 100%. It really comes and goes. One run I won't notice it at all. The next it will be a bit wonky. Some runs will start fine, but it flares up then subsides. It's very random. I've still been foam rolling, stretching and icing, and while I'm certain I'll feel it during Lookout Mountain, I doubt it's going to be an issue.
So, I'm officially tapering. Focus right now is rest, stretching and hydration. All the remaining runs will be short and easy, and I'm going to try not to go crazy. (Does looking at the Chattanooga forecast a couple times a day count as crazy?) I'm starting to formulate a race strategy, but it's tough not really knowing the terrain. I think I'm going to have to formulate a plan and figure out what that means pace-wise on race day. I have an elevation profile, so I know what to expect for hills. But, I don't know exactly how technical it is. Reports vary. My assumption is smack in between Pineland and The Brad...which leaves a lot of possibilities. I'm just going to have to be smart on race day. Uh oh...