Monday, August 23, 2010

Reality Check

Jarlath running along the Dublin Mountain Way.

Over the past few weeks I've followed a very structured plan knowing what I was doing days and weeks in advance and yesterday that plan included what I would consider a key training session as I tried to simulate a section of the race as best I could by running through mountainous terrain with tired legs.

The plan was to run rather than drive the 24K from my home to the starting point of what's now a regular mountain run and complete the mountain section for a total distance of close to 50K with almost 1000M of ascent.

The training in the previous days was quite intense and included a strength & conditioning session on Friday with John Belton as well as my running commute to work. This was followed on Saturday with a short but fast interval session of 4*800 M with warm up and cool down for a total of 10K and then a 20K recovery run a few hours later.

Sunday morning I woke up at 6:00am feeling very tired and hit the snooze button on my alarm more than once but I knew staying in bed wasn't an option because Jarlath would be waiting for me in the village. I eventually got up at 6:30, had my breakfast of a Cinnamon & Raisin Bagel with peanut butter and 500Ml of Powerbar energize and was out the door at 6:55 to meet with Jarlath 10 minutes later. The plan was for Jarlath to run with me to our usual mountain run starting point where I'll then meet with some other club runners. During the first section of the run I carry a 500Ml bottle of Powerbar Energize which I start sipping within the first hour. We arrive at the meeting place a few minutes late and continue on our way with Alison, Cathy and Brendan and with the new faces it feels like the day is starting all over again. The girls had ran a 10 mile race the day before so their plan was to run out for 8K to keep me company and return to the car along with Jarlath. As the girls double back Brendan takes the lead and we continue onwards and upwards and I'm starting to feel the effects of the previous week in my legs. Brendan is tippy toeing up over the rocks and I'm finding it an effort to jump onto rocks that appear as steps up the mountainside.

Just as we reach the junction of the Dublin Mountain Way and Wicklow Mountain Way I make a judgement call and decide to turn back rather than run the extra 2k to my planned turn around. My legs are tired and I know the risk of injury is now increased and that's something I can't take a chance with. Running an extra 4k could potentialy knock my training back by days or even weeks and having the unfinished business gives me a reason to repeat the run another time. On the run back my quads are feeling the effects of the descent and the rocky steps which require little jumps are showing the tiredness in my legs so I'm happy that I've made the right decision.

Arriving back at the car I'm in relatively good shape and being surrounded by smiley faces helps to forget about the pain. I'm too sore to stretch but make sure to down a carton of chocolate milk before the journey home.

Getting back to my house I was shattered and all I wanted to do was sit down but I know how important the recovery process is so without too much thinking I run a cold bath and prepare a double helping of Powerbar Recovery which I'll drink in the bath. Getting out of the bath was a struggle and I felt so tired that I went to bed for an hour.  For the rest of the day I took it easy and wore compression tights under my trousers and waking the next day it's hard to belive the weekend I've had.

As the Spartathlon is so close I don't have the option of resting in advance of these key sessions because every other session is just as important so it's essential to get the recovery right and the balance between the mix of hard and easy days. Train hard but train smart by mixing hard days with easy days and put the same effort into your recovery as you put into your training.

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