Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Let the taper begin...

The penultimate day of February -- so it's time for the ultimate blog update after a bit of a hiatus... or is it?  Long story short, after an absolutely leg smashing, mentally masochistic ultra training run on Saturday (38miles, self-supported, non-stop), I put the feet up to rest, and the hands down to get to work.  There I was at home, typing away to end a month long break from my last blog post.  The plan was to cover everything -- from 2012 weekly/monthly training volume to gear updates, training reflection, to a nice long (ultra long) rant on the day's successful 38 miler.  I started out strong, finishing even stronger -- a negative split in the world of blog writing, if you will.  And then, the "post-run" defeat -- Roughly 3,000 words ready to be made public, GONE.  The browser on the iPad hiccupped, the webpage went blank, and I went MAD.  Completely defeated.  My natural high from the day's long-run log was virtually depleted.  This occurence easily having the equivalence of running a marathon, only to find out that your timing chip never worked.  All that hard effort, all those miles logged, and nothing to publicly show for it.  Ultra blog update -- ULTRA BLOG FAIL.  So now that this rant is out of the way, I suppose it's time for a real update -- barring any "blog day blowups."

Still on a rest day after Saturday's epic run, I've had time to refelct on all the goals of March's ultra run, and all of the training that I've already logged.  The plan was to end the string of back-to-back long runs and mix up for the second to last hard week with a 60km training run, mainly in the trails of my Native Long Island.  So this past Saturday I loaded up my newly acquired Salomon S-Lab hydration pack (new gear mention #1) with a couple of Clif Bars (duh), plenty of GUs, a pack of Clif Shot Bloks, some almonds and plenty of water.  After lacing up my Saucony Peregrines (new gear mention #2) I hit the road, heading for the trailhead. The goal: 6-7 hours all alone on the trails (and the roads leading up to the trail head)  Attempting to tap into my new found ability to battle with those long run demons and push forward, even when all you want to do is curl up into a ball in the woods, claim full glycogen depletion, and wave the white flag in defeat -- for the day at least.  This being close to my decision on the latter part of a back-to- back weekend a few weeks prior, I've come to learn that pushing through those tough times and digging deep (even deeper inside my bag to grab an emergency Clif Bar -- my personal exilir out on the trails) will get you through, back to your doorstep physically while getting through to a new level of masochism mentally.  I noticed this mental strength at mile 18 on Saturday.  I was feeling good.  Having just hopped the fence to leave the red trail in Connetquot State Park for a mile on the roads, I was at a complete sense of ease.  The rare decision to use music on this run (which is usually only the case about 5% of all runs I do) left me in an state of mental bliss, rocking out to the vibes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (running band of choice, by far).  It wasn't until mile 18.5 when a sudden twinge in the right knee make a surprise cameo.  Sonuva!, this little chondromalacia (runner's knee) had plagued me in the past, but after successful and injury freem training through the NYC marathon and up until now, I was free of any major ailments.  Now I faced the tough choice of turning back, cutting this long run short at what would end up as a 24 miler based on how far I was from my house, or suck it up, work through the minor ache, and use that mental strength to push on.  As "Can't Stop" rang in my ears for the 3rd time already (nothing better than 10 RHCP songs on constant loop) I opted for the latter and decided to see what the day would bring.  With the original game plan being a 35 mile run I was able to tell myself I was more than halfway to the day's finish line, merely marking yet another checkpoint in my training.  "Ah yes, Rob. Just head back into the softer trails, see how the legs feel after a few miles and then tough it out."  Sticking to that newfound mantra, I was back into the horse shoe marked pine needle paths of the park.  Stuffing down a couple hundred calories of nutrition to keep the energy levels up, I did the only thing I knew how to do: Relentless Forward Motion.  One foot, then the next.  That will add up over time.  Time itself will add up over, well, over time.  I've got this.  "Just 4 weeks from now I'll be in the thick of the Blue Ridge Mountains, battle the race day demons waiting for me in Charlottesville," I told myself.  Long story short (ultra story short?), I ended up turning the 35miler into a mind-blowing 38 miles of relentless forward motion.  Thanks to the food in my pack, then thoughts in my head, and the start of my first Ultra race nipping at my heels, I made it home feeling fairly fresh, albeit quite hungry and a little sore around the right knee.  Ah, that right knee, which brings me to the Rant in this ultra-rave...

Part 1 of the inititial plan was to run this ultra distance training run, test all my gear, nutrition/fueling strategies, and my mental strength.  All that went extremely well.  But that right knee twinge was coming back with a vengeance.  Part 2 of the plan was to follow up this run with a rest day on Sunday, followed by the usually planned Monday rest day.  Those in the books, no problem.  But now it is Tuesday.  No morning running as I have told myself to learn from my damn mistake that have kept me off my feet for up to 7-9 days in the past.  A 3rd consecutive day of rest?!  I can't!, Can I?  I must.  The primary race day goal for anyone should be getting to the start healthy.  We all know this, but we all tend to dismiss it as it is constantly overshadowed by nailing a Personal Best, a course record, a race day win, or even simply a strong finish under the cutoff time for that matter.  My legs are shaking just writing this right now.  "let me out! I need to hit the road.  Rest days are over, you bum!"  --Yes, my legs can speak, can't yours?  Anyway, with a training schedule calling for this week to be that final hard effort before the 3 week taper, I find myself in the tough position of choosing how to approach the next few days.  Do I hit the road when I get home tonight for an easy 10km?  Therefore, not missing a single beat in my training.  Hmm, maybe I'll take off 5 full days and then jump into the final weekend of long back-to-backs.  Or, the third option. take it easy and begin the taper one week early.  Oh decisions decisions, how you plague me.  Right now, it is up in the air.  So tonight on the walk home from work the decision will be made.  Unless I cannot get to the computer to rant or rave about my choice, expect an update.  26 days til Bel Monte -- SUCK IT UP!

Fast forward a few hours until now... Look at the blog title... The decision is made. Early taper it is. The 75 mile weeks are behind me and the race month is ahead. I've got promises to keep...and miles to go until I sleep.

Footnote: endurance never sleeps.

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