Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Art of Recovery

Good training, as much as I want it to be PURE science, an objective science, is just as much ART and SUBJECTIVE. We athletes must learn to feel the difference between overtraining and overreaching.

The first few weeks after an ultra distance race are always a bit of training "crap shoot", whether it's an ultramarathon or triathlon. You never quite know what is going to happen, and you really need to listen to your body as opposed to following a training plan, unless that plan is for forced rest. Rest is always the best option! Here's a break down of my training during the first few weeks after the UROC 100K, and a good example of how one gets faster, by listening to one's body, and not digging themselves into a hole! Good training is about over-reaching a TINY bit and recovering, not constantly pounding out exhausted miles, and never recovering. We only get faster and stronger during recovery, and it takes a lot of experience to FEEL the difference between overreaching compared to over training. (Overreaching can be recovered from in only a few days, and is an amazing training tool, overTRAINING however, is the atheletes arch nemisis, and takes longer to recover from, and strength/speed gain is almost a null point, due to the amount of recovery it takes to recover from overtraining.)

I started the week after UROC with some time off from running. After a race such as UROC, which was an "A" race for the year, my legs were a bit trashed. My quads were definitely the most sore muscle group in my body, and I could feel soreness in them for at least 6 days post race. I ran a few miles on Wednesday, and hiked 14 hilly miles on Thursday, followed by 5 easy road miles. Friday was my first "real" run at a normal pace and it was definitely not fast, but it wasn't supposed to be and I didn't feel much resdiual soreness, and there were no odd aches, twinges, or joint issues.

My next big race is the Pinhoti 100 on November 5th. It is a point to point race along mostly all singletrack trail with over 16,000 elevation gain. My plan to knock off several hours from last years time was to not only focus on hill work, but to add speed workouts and mile repeats on a track once per week.

Saturday was my first track workout and it went well. I ran after work and the duration of the workout was less than an hour, to keep it simple and easy since I was still only a week after UROC. Sunday I was shocked how good I felt while running out at Jefferson Memorial Forest, which is pure climbing and technical singeltrack. My speeds and energy levels were as high as ever. I focused on good nutrition during this run, and felt like I could have gone 6 hours! Things were looking good. My weekly mileage was at 80. That amount of miles for me is absolutely absurd for a post race week, and I assume it is responsible for my good decision to take unplanned time off for recovery since I felt totally lame last week, following my big post race week.

So week 2 post race I was supposed to do my speed workout on Wednesday and I did, but probably in retrospect over did it. My speed work on Saturday was only 3 miles in the form of 800 meter sprints x 6, (3 miles at slightly faster than 5K pace), and then on Wednesday, my speed work was on hilly terrain, and was 800 meters x 3, followed by a one mile run at a 5:25 miles, and then another 800x3 and 1600 meter run at a 5:20 minute per mile pace.

I woke up Thursday, after my 5 mile speed workout from the previous night, feeling knots in my calves and tightness. My body is definitely not used to doing 5 miles at a sub 6 minute pace. Nonetheless, I knew that since my planned run for the day was not based on speed, but long slow distance I would be OK, so I headed out for 14 miles on trails followed by 6 on the road. My run was on a course I run frequently, and my times were much slower than normal at the given rate of preceived exertion, I was working hard, and getting little in return to sum it up. I knew I had to cancel my planned workout for Friday.

Friday's workout was a serious hill climbing workout, about 2 hours of brutal hill climbing at an "all out" intensity at Jefferson Memorial Forest. It is easy to hear the little devil on your shoulder saying that skipping your biggest workout of the week is the last thing to do, but seriously, unless your running that hard workout in top form, YOU ARE ONLY DIGGIN YOURSELF INTO A HOLE YOU WON'T RECOVER FROM! I knew if I went out to Jef and tried to hammer out a serious workout which was supposed to match my PR over the 13.5 mile hill climbing extravaganza I would get slaughtered, and have a workout much below sun-par. It was time to recover. I took an easy swim on Friday morning instead and went for a run with Kara, and honestly, didn't even run faster than an 11 minute mile! I made the RIGHT decision.

Still, learning to have faith in your training and skip a workout that is supposed to be your biggest workout of the week is hard to do, but doing that workout only digs you into overtraining as opposed to overreaching which you recover and get stronger from. I skipped Sunday's 30 mile run at Jefferson as well, and began my recovery week an entire week early...