Tuesday, 8 May 2012

#66: Words of Love

The post-marathon blues set in...

Now that the marathon is over, I've been forced to face a lot of things that I put off for far too long leading up to Sunday. I am now faced with the immediate prospects of having to move out of my home of three years, start a new (essentially full time) job, finally finish and defend my MSc thesis as well as several other responsibilities/obligations I have taken on for myself (bitten off more than I can chew?). To make matter worse, I am currently physically and mentally drained and have limited motivation to move forward but know that I must. 

And yet all I seem to want to do is relive over and over the seconds, minutes and hours of past glory...

You really can't imagine how completely happy I was on Sunday not only for myself and the incredible result I got but for all my friends and team mates who I got to share it with. It isn't just about personal satisfaction but group satisfaction. Anyone who sets a difficult goal and then works so hard for so long to accomplish it will know precisely what I mean and we runners are unique in our ability to do this. 

It was an amazing day that unfortunately had to end and waking up on Monday, I couldn't help but be a bit saddened by the fact that the long adventure had come to a close, that the journey had concluded and it was now time to move on. The post-marathon blues had already set in.

So many mornings I had woken up knowing I had to run a certain distance or do a specific workout that would all eventually lead to the one day where all the hard work and dedication would be put to one final test. Now that the day is over and the test successfully passed, it's hard to wake up with little to do but sit still, to rest and recover and think about the next journey, the next goal and the long road ahead...

I can however look back and take note of everything I did which led to my success in hope that I can emulate it again in the future as well as to share it with others, with you, who share my passion for personal improvement and satisfaction through the sport of distance running.

So here are just some of the things that undoubtedly let to my success this season and which I hope you can adopt and learn from:

1. A training plan. Rob Campbell put together one hell of a program for us to follow and I was extremely fortunate to be able to follow it almost perfectly. I won't give away our secrets but it involved a huge amount of mileage (more than 10 miles every day for 18 weeks; 2100k total), strategic doubles, pick-ups during long (but not too long) runs, speed and strength specific workouts, tune-up races and even the occasional day off. Needless to say, following the program took a tonne of hard-work, commitment, dedication, organization, sacrifice, persistence, and physical and mental energy/effort.

2. A training group. I would guess that I ran more than a third (66%) of my mileage with a group, predominantly Doyle and Darren, my training partners and best friends. But also with the guys at Longboat (Rob C, Roger, Davey, Bellamy, the Belg, Metz, Gerardo, Hiddleston, Simion, Simon and several others). This was essential for nailing tough workouts and for the long runs but also immensely helpful for knocking off the easy and recovery runs especially on double days. I'm not sure I would ever train as hard as I do without these guys pushing me constantly and as a source of inspiration and motivation. The group/club environment is vital for being a better runner and it certainly made the difference this time. Thank you Longboat.

This photo is so cool that I had to add it. From left: Rob Campbell (2:47 at age 52!), Jutta Merilainen (2:47, women's winner) and Anthony Davey (2:45 at 49). Simply amazing.
3. Tune-up races. As mentioned, I ran 5 races (RB, Chilly Half, ATB, Good Friday and Yonge St) during the training period and was allowed to run them "all out" in order to test my fitness and see my progress/improvements as well as test eventual race strategy and fuelling. I managed to PB each and every race which indicated that it was going to be a good season and the results were used to calculate what I might expect come marathon day. Racing is also just great fun especially with the group/club and is always something I look forward too. It's a skill that like everything else, needs to be practised and fine-tuned.

4. Diet. I'm not particular crazy about my diet but I do eat pretty healthy and make sure I am eating well and staying properly fuelled (and hydrated) for running. I had an iron deficiency that likely effected my running last year and I stayed on top of this time by getting my levels tested and taking supplements when needed. I reintroduced lean red meat sources and found foods that increased the supply and absorption of iron and it made a massive difference. I drink a lot of beer which I feel is an important part of the socialization process and so I wouldn't dare cut back on that. Note: I try to avoid all hard alcohol and especially shots! I also cut out candy which I used to eat leisurely and think this may have had a small (positive) impact. Lots of carbs for sure, especially breads, naan, chilli and crunchy PB is a staple for me!

5. Weight. I don't obsess about it (I used too!) and not owning a scale means I only sporadically check it, but keeping one's weight in check is surely important for running success. Being evenly mildly overweight and racing do not go well together and anyone training seriously for a marathon should be running enough mileage that weight should not be an issue (and if it is, you're eating too much!). My ideal race weight is about 61kg (134lbs) and my body seems to be happy to stay around 63kg (139lbs) all other times. I feel sluggish greater than 64 (141lbs).

6. Sleep. Yup, it matters too. Being well rested for a key workout or long run is pretty important and can make a huge difference. This makes for some pretty lame Saturday nights! With all that mileage, there are often days when I am asleep before 10pm. I do what my body tells me. I definitely made sure I got tonnes of sleep in the last week before the marathon and was well rested on race day.

7. The Taper. Getting ready to peak for the marathon after many weeks and months of hard training just makes sense. And that means tapering. We did 3 weeks and although the mileage was fairly high (134, 112, 92 (including the marathon)), it was mostly just easy running with a few strategic workouts and a tune-up race. I also carbo loaded like crazy and ate tonnes of carbs on Thurs, Fri and especially the Saturday (700+g) before race day.

8. Race day strategy. It's vital to have a race day plan going into the marathon which is less than a race and more a test of good pacing. I/we decided in advance to hit 3:45/k's for as long as possible (at least until the half and hopefully all the way to 30k) but also would take advantage of the course and attack the downhills (which were numerous at Goodlife). We did more than a few k's in the high 3:30's/k range and even one in 3:29! We ended up going through the half in ~1:18 which was a full minute faster than we planned. I had kept things relaxed and comfortable to that point, and so I was able to attack or at least maintain my momentum heading into the second half and especially the last 10k of the race. I managed to hold on to do a 1:19 in the second half which is pretty darn close to an even split, which is generally a good pacing strategy although many prefer to go out slightly faster to accommodate a gradual slowing down in the last bit of the race. In terms of fuelling, I took one gel (~25g of carbs each) 15min before and then 4 during the race (~ every 8k) and drank only water at aid stations.
Breaking away from my crew shortly after the halfway mark. Everyone is flying!
9. Drugs. Haha Just kidding. I'm sure they would help but I didn't take any. I'm trying to get to 10! 

10. And finally: Random things like having ambitious (yet realistic) goals to constantly work towards. Goals should be both long and short term and be celebrated at every step of the way whilst always keeping an eye on the final prize. Having support is crucial. It might come from family who know next to nothing about running and think you're crazy for doing it; from friends who make fun of you all the time (left foot, right foot, repeat!); from the Longboat running club and it's amazing members; from the running community at large; and especially from close running friends (family!) who help guide your goals and then reach them). It's also pretty important to have a Garmin (GPS watch) as a means of objectively measuring and documenting ones training and a log (or dailymile) to keep track of it all. Good shoes are critical (for me that was two pairs of Adidas Boston 2 and later Adidas Adios 2 for racing and speed workouts) as is good running apparel (Adidas and New Balance are my personal favourites). Avoidance of injury and major illness. And finally, a little bit of faith (in oneself)!

As for now, the rest and recovery will continue all week although I'm already going crazy not running and will test out the legs a few times in the next days; all easy. 

With less than 3 weeks to the Cabot Trail Relay (that other amazing adventure on which we'll embark and which I'll preview in due time), it's important we rest up and be ready to go again shortly. Our fitness is still through the roof right now and so it's important we ride the wave and maintain our momentum without over doing it and causing any undue damage. More good times ahead...more fast times ahead.

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