Monday, June 22, 2009
What I Really Learnded at Western States Camp
The last three weeks have been awful for me. The week after WS, my legs were like Jell-O. I told myself that was to be expected. But a week later, things weren't better. My quads had no power, I couldn't do speed, and my thighs would be quivering blobs after about 40 minutes. So I took a few days off, then did 8.5 miles with my brother-in-law on a fairly flat paved road and my leg were stiff and leaden the last 2.5 miles. It was so bad, I actually made a doctor's appointment. Excluding OB stuff, that is my first one this century! The good news is that I am healthy as a horse. My hematocrit, iron and protein levels are all about as good as it gets, which is encouraging as a vegetarian - at least I am getting my diet right! And I had a moment of pride when the EKG flagged my test as "sinus bradycardia" (slow heart rate). The downside to being healthy is there is nothing to blame, and no quick fix.
After talking with my doc (herself a BQ marathoner), we came to the conclusion that I just "trashed my quads" - really ripped up the muscle fibers big time with a lot of lingering muscle injury. Hmmm - it seems like a pretty bone-headed thing to do, especially when I was running so well. I don't think the mileage was really the problem at camp, but all the altitude, especially those quad trashing descents - not to mention I probably pushed myself a bit too hard all three days and my downhill technique could use a lot of work!
So what I really learned:
1) Train on the downhills: I have been doing "hill work" the last couple of months, some of it running and some of it hiking, but it is always UP! A lot of the workouts I do on the treadmill, so I never have to go back down. Time to reverse that and get these quads in shape!
2) Take it easy: I did the 74 miles at WS camp at a pretty good pace (14:08 total time, including all stops except the river dip), faster than I would ever expect to race that course. I am sure I could have gone slower and gotten the same value out of the training (maybe even more if I had spared my muscles!). Also, my recovery runs probably need to slow down a bit, too, after talking to a few people about this.
3) Mental energy is everything: Not going to lie, I've been pretty bummed out. I thought I had a pretty good plan for the year: Do 50k's and other short stuff early on, train hard and ramp up the miles in May, June and July to be ready for the long stuff at the end of the year (PCT50, WW100K, and AC100) and then recover/reassess through the winter. At one point in the last week, I was ready to cancel all three of those races! But I finally sat down and thought about what I could be doing. It seemed like there was still plenty of things I could do to help my fitness, plus it was good to remind myself that there are still five weeks till PCT50 and 3 months to AC100.
4) Running Slow is Hard!: Accolades always go to the fast guys and girls, but I think the slow runners deserve a lot more credit! Running at a slow pace adds a lot more time to my workouts. Being stuck at 10min/mile pace on the treadmill has certainly got me thinking about what changes I would have to make if I end up needing to run races slower than expected. In a nutshell: more time, more food, more water, more planning! Just think: if you run a 100 miler in 18 hours, you still have time to get in a hot shower, a good meal and a nice nap before the day is over. No such luxury for the 30 hour runners! Hats off to those at the back of the pack!
So this week has been a lot of very slow three mile runs, some light lifting and lots of stretching. I am hoping by this weekend, I can go "long" which by that I mean something like 8 or 10 miles. That's the distance that used to be my easy Tuesday and Thursday runs with the girls! After that those little muscle fibers will have had 4 weeks to regrow and I'll have four more weeks to get them in shape for PCT50. I'll admit I was hoping for a top 3 finish, but at this point I'll be pretty happy just to finish...and still have working quads at the end!