Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Taper Madness is Strong with This One

Sigh. Taper can be rough. This one has been rougher than most. Maybe because I just ran a 50K race 2 weeks ago. Or maybe it's because of my achin' knee. Oh yeah, the knee...

I have a tendency to pronate my feet and have my arches collapse down a little when I'm fatigued. Luckily, my trainer Donnie and I have worked very hard to make all my stabilizer muscles stronger so that doesn't happen over the last year of continuous training. But over 20-30 miles? Yeah, that's tiring for all those little muscles. Basically... I end up running a little knock-kneed when I'm tired!

See, this zebra probably just ran 30 miles. Look at his poor knees!
So the inside of my knees (posterior tibialis actually) got tired at the end of Woodstock 50 Mile. Then, they were tender during my PR at the Bartlett Park Ultras 50K. After a hard week at Showdown Half Marathon, they were tender again. And after the V-cut, rutted, rolling, narrow single track terrain of Palo Duro Canyon 50K, they were achy.

So with that background, here's what taper and race preparations for shooting for a big time goal have been like this go-around, for this race (because I do race quite a lot compared to a lot of runners), for the two weeks leading up to the race...

  • I'M INJURED - That darn aching knee!
Emotionally: Here's the place to emotionally freak out and fall apart. And it sounds a little something like this... I race a lot more than other people. People like to watch others fail. Everyone's sitting around waiting and begging for an overuse injury from me, from everyone, it's not even personal to me, and then they can all point fingers and say "See? She was doing too many races. See! I told you so. See! That wouldn't happen to ME." 
Yeah, that's so NOT pretty to say. 
Analytically: This is about me. Not about other people's hang-ups about themselves. And the whole thing is... I don't have an overuse injury. I'm hyper-sensitive to things that feel off, and I'm catching this before it gets bad. I'm not actively running through uncomfortableness these last 2 weeks. 3 chiropractor visits in the 2 weeks leading up to race day. Support kinesiotaping on Thursday to head into Saturday's race. I'm foam rolling (which is painful with my fibromyalgia but good to know on my anterior tibialis to help the knee get better) and using contrast heat and icing. I'm doing everything to get 100% by race day.
  • I'M OUT OF SHAPE - I ran right around 6 miles last week. I haven't run yet this week. Oh, nevermind that part where I ran 31 miles 10 days ago. 
Emotionally: I'm obviously completely out of shape - my lungs have shut down, my heart's filled with slow-moving sludge, and my muscles have evaporated.
Analytically: No one loses significant fitness in 10 days, and I'm actually letting my posterior tibialis recover so I DON'T go into this race risking injury.
  • I'VE TURNED TO FLAB - I'm up 4 pounds from a month ago. When I direct a race, I tend to throw myself 100% into it the last 3 weeks and my stress reactions naturally are not to eat, drink, or sleep. Rather than "stress-starve", I tried to focus on eating through preparations for The Showdown Half Marathon. So instead I was stress-eating.
Emotionally: There's no way I can hold PR pace carrying a WHOLE EXTRA FOUR POUNDS for 31 miles!!! And that 4 pounds gained is 100% fat, while the rest of my body in the last 10 days has also been turning completely to fat, so now I'm this big flabby mess.
Analytically: It's really hard to fight the numbers (said the mathematician). So I demanded my trainer Donnie take body fat measurements on Monday. And while he knew there was no rational reason, he sweetly did it anyway. 7 point skinfold measurements with the caliper and my body fat % hasn't really moved, and in fact, Donnie continues to notice that it's easier to get the pinch for each measure, to "pick the skin off", which is a sign of continued fat loss.
  • I CAN'T DO THIS! Yes, taper brings out the big wimp in me. A total lack of confidence.

Emotionally: A big part of me still thinks my race where I had a big 50K PR at a month ago must have been 4 miles short! ;-)
Analytically: I did a 7:18 in very rooty terrain with hot and humid racing conditions. Rocky should be better terrain and conditions. To regain confidence, my trainer Donnie, who has a degrees in sports psychology I'll add, has had me bench-pressing the last two weeks. You know, since you might have to lay flat on your back and push something away with your chest muscles in the middle of the race. Uh, no! It's a visible strength marker. Seeing the plates, the heft of the bar, and then getting it done at 75, 85, or 95 lbs... it makes me feel strong, in a way that's so much less obvious in an endurance event like ultramarathons. It has been such good medicine for me that I think I want it to always be a part of my taper plans!

  • I SHOULD BE ABLE TO RUN THIS IN MY SLEEP. My "A" Goal for this race will have to mean that everything's going right. There's no room for error, for things to be a little "off", or for hesitations.
Emotionally: When pushing and in pain, life becomes one big "just get to the next aid station" in an ultra. So shouldn't you know where the next aid station is? And when you want to wimp out, you want to be able to turn back on yourself and say, "Look, this is the hardest part of the course. There's a nice worn non-rooty Jeep fire road coming up!"
Analytically: Preparation makes perfect. I know that approximately 80 25K runners will probably catch me and pass me in miles 12-15 so I'll lose time there. Rereading last year's race report reminds me to be sensitive to the uphills in the dark in the first hour because I'm not so great at perception of an uphill in a headlamp's view only. With preparation, I can take the "get to the next aid station" feel and break it down further into "get to the Jeep road", "get to the marshy section", etc. On multi-loop courses, I've even broken it down to "get to that flagged marker by the big tree" and other crazy things.

So there's some insight into how these last 2 weeks have been. I blog things like this because it's fun to reflect a year or two down the road, and I have no doubt this post will be interesting, very interesting, to me later!

PR... Or Bust? Rocky Raccoon 50K 2012 Looms Close

I don't know why I'm putting such pressure on myself about this race. I have the Rocky Raccoon 50K on Saturday. It will be the first anniversary of my first 50K there one year ago. It's been an amazing year. Since then I've done 4 more 50Ks (Wild Hare, Gorge Waterfalls, Bartlett Park Ultras, and Palo Duro), my first 50M (Run Woodstock), and 5 marathons (Cross Timbers, Garmin Oz, Oklahoma City, New Jersey, San Francisco). I've slowly become a little faster. For months, I've been saying that I wanted to go back to Rocky Raccoon and blow last year's time out of the water (last year's time was an 8:22).

But a month ago, I kinda did that without intending to, finishing Bartlett Park Ultras 50K with a 7:18 and sobs of happiness. Since then, I directed a new half marathon, The Showdown Half Marathon, and directing a race is completely draining for me. I spent a week walking around afterwards like a zombie, then Palo Duro 50K happened, and it was 105 degrees, and I walked the last 9 miles knowing I still wanted to race Rocky Raccoon.

I feel like life hasn't really slowed down. But I hold on to big goals for Rocky.

GOAL A: Sub-7 (13:30 pace) -- yeah, I said it, I'd love LOVE love to go under 7 hours in a 50K. That to me symbolizes a lot in a move I've been making to the midpack.

GOAL B: Sub-7:18 (14:06 pace) - a new PR

GOAL C: 7:18 to 7:30 - establishing consistency with my current PR, even if I don't break it, would be good too.

GOAL D: Sub-8:22 - better my time from last year. Goal D should be achievable at this point for me even if the race conditions are awful.

I'm going to go for it in a way I haven't quite done before. At a push where I feel a much higher likelihood that if it doesn't go well, I will combust magnificently out on the course. Nothing like a crash and burn with a 5 mile death march at the end of the 50K. But instead I'll hope that I can keep that push up the whole 7 hours.