Sunday, April 30, 2006

Diary of a Taperist - The Beginning of the End

I came out of my slumber this morning to meet up with Team Boyden - the crew that keeps me going when times are tough. As Mike mentioned, a flurry of emails resolved the issue, and we had our "reunion" run. This was one of the first times we were all together but in vastly disparate stages of running. Mike and Stephanie, just back from devouring Boston (though Mike claims it may have taken a chunk out of him as well) were in the "active recovery" mode - or the 'anti-taper', a mirror (yet oppositely charged) image of the standard 'taper'.

Jon and I have yet to compete in our marathons. Mine is next on the docket, racing next Sunday in Holyoke, Massachusetts. My friend Marc will run this one with me having just come off of an amazing 5k PR that's been 2 years in the making. A side note here - Marc has challenged his PR before unsuccessfully. But this time, there was no doubt in his mind (and therefore mine) that he would nail a new personal best. It is a testament to training: no surprises. You have a good indication of how things will be. This is not to say that there aren't some unknowns that stem from racing inexperience, new tactics, or even training methods that don't directly address key racing issues (fuel status in the final miles, say). But overall conditioning, endurance, speed, and strength can be gauged with some sort of accuracy from the feedback of training. Marc's training feedback had all the markings of a 5k PR under his control. Well done.

Well, let's see how his taper goes for Holyoke - ha! He doesn't like to taper and I'd be surprised if he did. Now Jon's holding out for the Sugarloaf Marathon. While I was dealing with my right leg, he was dealing with some sort of flu-bug. He lost 12 pounds over two weeks. Now he has 3 weeks to go and will be running the lightest he's ever ran. Perhaps he'll gain a few pounds as he recovers and tapers over the next 3 weeks.

We met at the usual time and place and we all padded out to Pulpit Rock per the advice of Stephanie. A rock formation sitting by itself on the beach about 20 feet high directly across from St. Andrews, NB. Crowned with an osprey nest, it is a sight to behold. The osprey thought we were a sight to behold too as they circled above blocking the sun with their wings and playing evil games with their shadows. A scene from The Birds was getting ready to happen as aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relations of chez Pulpit all arrived to look at the four beach runners. (I use the word "beach" loosely here because at flood tide there is no "beach").

Luck held out and we safely arrived onto the highway and the subsequently safer environs of speeding 18-wheelers, Sunday sleep-at-the-wheels, and other normal everyday hazards like dead porcupines. It also turned out that additional luck was with us as we found out that the owner of our path to Pulpit Rock isn't very pleased with "trespassers". Perhaps that's why she put out the sign, No Trespassing, at the entrance of her property. But did that mean us? "Not really" was Stephanie's reply. It appears she's had the pleasure of requesting permission to enter the vast estate unchaperoned - only to be denied unrestricted access. She must call first and let her presence be known. Well, as it turns out, the owner's away for the winter, and Stephanie has declared the rule to be "not in force" at this moment. Pleased, we followed her with confidence down the dirt road into the felon zone.

Jon: "When she due back?"

Stephanie: "Not until the beginning of May!"

Jon: "Uh, that's tomorrow."

About that time we picked up the pace. But all's well that ends well. The four of us managed to blend in with our environs and possibly (if seen) were taken for a group of odd deer heading for the ocean. Or perhaps we weren't seen. Either way, another Sunday, knowing the trusty keyholder will be back in residence, we'll rouse her early pleading for permission to traverse her property for one last glimpse of the ocean and perhaps see if her bathroom's free. But I digress...

So how's my leg? Yes, that's what you're wondering. Well, it's fine. Not great, but fine. In fact, it feels a lot like it did just before the half marathon I ran in the beginning of April. This is a good sign and a bad sign. Good: I can run on it briskly for a long period of time. Bad: I'll probably need another ice bath after the marathon [shiver].

Since I'm feeling better after taking a mandatory 1 week rest, I intend to get out this week for some brisk 3 milers to loosen up the muscles and prepare for battle.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Diary of a Taperist - Day 3 & 4

There's not much in life more dull than then musings of a runner during the taper period.

I can barely stand it.

It is worse when the runner is also trying to recovery from an injury. The runner requires sympathy - which most are willing to give. Yet he doesn't let up. His complaints continue; he continues to dawdle. Worry and anxiety, mixed with periods of delusion, are the mainline emotions. Fears of becoming slow, never (ever) recovering, losing all that training, and other nonsense clog the synapses. He occasionally becomes determined - but to do what he is not sure. Should he be determined to get out there and run a few miles - stretch things out? Or should he be determined to just let things heal, take their course, not upset the delicate balance? Conflicting thoughts embattle the runner:

"The work is done, rest up, keep a full tank."

"The small stuff matters."

"Either you have the training or you don't."

"Race day conditions can severely impact your performance."

And to top it all off, if the runner keeps a blog, he cruelly lures decent people to read his drivel. For this he apologizes. And having thus properly prefaced this combo entry of the Diary of a Taperist Day 3 & 4, I herewith proceed with more typed taper talk.

The good news: When descending stairs, I no longer have acute pain in my quad. The bad news: My entire right leg is aching similar to a Rheumatic predicting an approaching rain storm. (It's sunny out just now - so it appears my barometer's broken).

I've been busy doing all the proper taper chores:

1. I've made my training plan for the Fall marathon.

2. I've selected my summer races.

3. I've dissected, chewed, memorized, crumpled, and finally burned my log as being inadequate for any real improvement.

4. I've thought pleasantly at how fast I feel when I'm running.

5. I've had deep concern over my ability to run fast.

6. I have re-created my log to go over it one more time.

7. I have read and re-read all the news reports, webcasts, broadcasts, podcasts, and comments on the Boston Marathon and the London Marathon.

8. I have focused on my game plan.

9. I have try to forget I have an upcoming race.

10. I have buried myself in work.

11. I've stared disconnectly out my office window at Canada. (Canadians, by the way, have a most awesome pizza joint called Pizza Delight - which seems to be where my gaze rests most often. When I think 'Canada', I think 'Pizza Delight!')

And it's only day 4.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Diary of a Taperist - Day 2

Uneventful day. It rained. Instead of running, I went to the library. Read the beginning of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. Then idled away some time in Wodehouse's Very Good, Jeeves! Sauntered outside along the river and stared at Canada. It stared back at me. Went back to the bank and ate some soup. Leg feels like it's getting better, perhaps. Took my first Motrin of the day two minutes ago.

Yep. Not much happening on day two.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Diary of a Taperist - Day 1

It may be day 'one' of two weeks rest, but I've been a cheat I must confess. "Through no fault of my own", I quote with grace, for why my shoes have not moved from their place. A soreness persists from late in March; not knee, not shin, or medial arch. A quadricep issue of lasting effect has me curiously lame and down I detect. I've rallied at points on speedy short bursts, proving I can run at the pace to reap my desserts. Yet, for the past month my miles don't exist beyond just enough for me to subsist. Ah, just what will happen in two long weeks? After continued confinement - a spoiling of peak? At least I rest with a conscience clear; I cannot return for out of fear of ruining whatever chance remains of recovered injury and a race day of gain.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Drastic Measures

This morning, after an unusually sore recovery run, I did the unthinkable.

I took an ice bath.

I've heard about things like this, but never imagined doing it. I recall seeing a photo of an elite runner dumping ice into a hotel bathtub after a marathon to speed recovery. The implication - he was going to sit in that bath. Other fine running articles, coaches, and commentators have said this method of recovery shortens the time required for recovery and allows the athlete to get back to hard training. So there must be something in it. There is.


And cold? Man, that was cold. I must have been in a fog as I poured the ice into the cold water without aplomb. Plunk plunk splash. In went the ice. In went me.

I'm amazed I stayed in. Just shocking. But it must be done. I've got start taking measures that help me to recover. This is why my leg's been bothering me for too long of a period. Not enough / right kind of recovery. And I am certainly not going to help matters by running a marthon in 2 weeks - but shy of canceling the race, there's not much to be done.

I won't cancel. I think I'm quick enough even with the right quad issue to do well, and since the soreness abates when the leg warms up, I feel the distance won't be an issue. I have been on a major taper these last 2 weeks and have 2 weeks to go. This will be the longest taper for me. I have switched to shorter runs at good brisk paces to keep me fresh but to limit the amount of time on the leg. The only exception being the weekly long run which I truly enjoy - and the leg doesn't mind it too much since it's not coupled with blazing 10 milers midweek.

Last night I went out with foolish dreams of running some longer miles at MP - but with the soreness in the leg, I immediately changed the plan and ran 5.2. I sped up a little for turnover sake and finished in 34:02. Felt good to be running faster than I plan to do on marathon day. Hopefully, I can play it "smart" and relax the first 20 miles at a good brisk pace without pushing. Easier said then done. I've been reading several reports from Boston. Most had the same plan but somehow those first miles just get blistered. Positive splits for many - and I know what that's like!

Another thing I have decided on is too drop the watch again for this race. A lot of comments about Boston were the disappointment felt when the runners looked at their splits in the 2nd half. That's got to have an impact psychologically. The danger of running without a watch of course is *not running faster* to squeak beneath the wire of some time goal. But honestly, I have yet to finish and say "I could have run faster".

Training this week:

Mon. 2.6 miles with intervals
Wed. 5.2 miles tempo
Thu. 2.5 miles recovery
Fri. 2.6 miles with intervals (planned)
Sat. 20 miles long (planned)