Well this time last week I was asking myself some serious questions as I was about 28k into the Masters marathon and running into a headwind that made me question myself and why I do what I do. My friend Jeff was cycling alongside me but he could see I was in a dark place. As I mentioned in my race report I told myself to hang on for the 32k turn around and the tail wind that was waiting for me.
A week later and I’m still buzzing from the World Masters but at that 28k point it could have turned out so different. I could have given in to my inner demons demanding that I stop or walk or just slow. Their reasoning was sound, I was fatigued with the head wind, slowing pace and I still had 14k to go. It’s at these times in a marathon you have to ‘man up’ (or ‘woman up’ if such a term exists?) , embrace the pain and push on. The rewards are so worth it. Last week I staggered to 32k but as soon as I turned I was a totally different runner. I was caressed home by the tail wind but more importantly my whole mindset had changed. The 10k to go was now no longer a problem but an opportunity to chase down some runners ahead of me, all thoughts of not finishing had evaporated with the head wind, hell, I was going to enjoy the last 10k. (as much as anybody can enjoy the last 10k of a marathon )
No one races a marathon without having at one point (or many points) to argue with your ‘central governor’ which demands they slow or stop. The logic for this is sound but running marathons is not about logic. As Noakes and many coaches preach the human body can run 32k, and is probably designed to run around this distance. The extra 10k is where training and the power of the mind is called upon and if either is lacking you will be found out. No one can finish a marathon and say ‘that was easy and I didn’t really train for it‘, doesn’t happen. They may get to 32k feeling good but trust me the ‘pain train’ is coming if they are not prepared at that point and there is no hiding from it.
The article below from Amby Burfoot from Runners World (2012) is on Noakes and his ‘central governor’ theory. I said in a post before the Masters that although I could not over ride my ‘central governor’ I believed that with experience you can get some leeway and this is enough to allow you to finish strong because your mind knows from experience what to expect. Of course this was marathon number 41 for me so experience has come over a long period of time. It was at the 28k mark last week when my central governor was telling me enough is enough and with his ( or hers, now there’s a theory?) friend ‘fatigue’ was conspiring to protect me by forcing me to slow. This time I was able to persuade ‘myself‘ to get to 32k and reevaluate the situation with a tail wind and a boost you receive when the kilometres to go enters the single figure range. It was enough this time and I finished strong but if I had been faced with a head wind for the last 10k or some serious hills I’m not so sure my central governor would have been so forgiving. As I said in my race report I felt this time I was so close to paying the piper and when I do that will be a very interesting end result and blog post…. let’s hope I’m not faced with that prospect anytime soon.
For the last 40+ years, South African Tim Noakes, M.D., has been among the most iconoclastic of sports scientists. In the 1970s, he and colleagues proved that a veteran marathoner could die from heart disease, refuting the “Bassler hypothesis.” They did this with hard evidence: images of the unlucky marathoner’s heart.
In the 1980s, while everyone else was hyperventilating over dehydration, Noakes practically invented exercise hyponatremia, i.e., “overdrinking,” among endurance athletes. The evidence? Studies of how much runners drank during marathons, particularly their pre-event and post-event weight, and how this affected their plasma sodium levels. Too much drinking lowers sodium levels, and if it goes too far, this can become a life-threatening condition.
For the last decade-plus, Noakes, author of the justly-famous Lore of Running and the soon-to-be-published Waterlogged, has focused his attention on a concept he calls the “central governor.” In Noakes view, the central governor, i.e., the brain, is what limits endurance performance.
Take for example the sub-2-hour marathon. We all know that no current marathoner can achieve that mark. But why? For most of the last century, exercise physiologists have given a host of reasons: insufficient leg muscle endurance, too much lactic acid, insufficient vo2 max, insufficient glycogen supply, too much dehydration, and the like. These are all very nice things, because each can be measured.
Noakes believes all these explanations are wrong. He says no one can run a sub-2-hour marathon because, in effect, the brain won’t let us. The marathoner hasn’t been born yet with a sub-2-hour brain, and the body to back it up.
But now Noakes has a problem. When it came to his heart and hyponatremia findings, he had solid evidence to support his position. But where’s the evidence for a central-governor impact on endurance performance? And if a central governor does exist, how do you measure it?
“The Noakes paper has an interesting concept for a role of the brain in fatigue and athletic performance,” notes Henriette van Praag, Ph.D., a reviewer of the paper and an neuroscience investigator at the National Institutes of Health. “It lacks a clear structural/physiological basis within the central nervous system. Thus, empirical evidence for the existence of a ‘governor’ remains to be established.”
In a wonderful new paper in Frontiers in Physiology, Noakes makes little to no attempt to pin down the central governor with a measuring stick, such as the IQ scores often used for intelligence. He does seem to like something called the TEA (the Task Effort and Awareness scale), which he sees as a counterpart to Gunnar Borg’s RPE (Relative Perceived Exertion scale).
But Noakes tells the central-governor story in a narrative form that’s almost, well … almost readable. I’m not saying the paper is easy-going, certainly not for the faint-of-heart. And I’m sure there are vast parts of it that I don’t understand—it appears to have about 150 references, many of them from the last year or two of research.
Still, the quotes from great athletes are always entertaining. Roger Bannister says: “The great barrier is the mental hurdle.” Former marathon world record holder Derek Clayton says: “The difference between my world record and many world class runners is mental fortitude. I ran believing in mind over matter.”
Apparently Noakes does as well. In the provocative last section of his paper, he writes that the “illusionary” symptoms of fatigue are what separates the marathon winner from the runners-up. The first time I read this section, I couldn’t help but think about the people with illusionary thoughts who are often locked up in mental wards. Of course, Noakes isn’t saying that fast runners are crazy. Only that their thoughts are illusionary in the sense that they “are entirely self-generated by each athlete’s brain and so are unique to each individual.”
Noakes closes by quoting Vince Lombardi, who said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Noakes believes, however, that Lombardi got things backwards. Noakes writes: “My unproven hypothesis is that in the case of a close finish, physiology does not determine who wins. Rather somewhere in the final section of the race, the brains of the second, and lower placed finishers, accept their respective finishing positions and no longer challenge for a higher finish.” The winner’s brain simply doesn’t give in.
In other words, according to Noakes, cowardice produces fatigue.
There are two trains of thought regarding recovering from marathon. Most suggest an easy first week of little or no exercise and then a slow second week, staying away from any speed work. Week three and four are still recovery weeks albeit slightly less so each week. I normally give myself 4 weeks of no racing as a minimum and certainly no speed work for at least two weeks. The second week can sometimes be the most dangerous time as runners are always keen to push the envelope and think they are bullet proof, so add pace before their bodies are ready.
The other train of thought (an apt description) is you just ignore the fact you’ve run a marathon and continue training like it never happened. This is what my good friend Tony ‘T-train’ Smith does on a regular basis and always posts his splits on Strava to wind me up. That was until today when I saw on Strava a very reasonable recovery run at a pedestrian pace, compared to the normal T-train sub-4 minute recovery sprint. I put this down to one of two things. 1. He is starting to listen to me and realises the error of his ways. (unlikely) 2. After finding him in the recovery position next to the bin at the end of the finishing chute yesterday he is still totally suffering from yesterdays beating he took at the hand of the World Masters marathon (likely)… NB. There really isn’t two trains of recovery, there is only one, slow and steady is the only way.
I use to give myself three days off and then start training on Thursday but these days I take the day off after the marathon and then it’s back into it, albeit at a very relaxed pace. I am now a firm believer in running on tired legs (and my legs are seriously tired at the moment!) is good training and as I have discussed before don’t underestimate the good work you could be doing just by getting out there. Thus I can’t wait to get on my compression tights (another good article of clothing to have for these recovery runs) and go for a very relaxed 10k tomorrow morning. With Spring finally sprung over here in Western Australia the mornings are glorious and I’m finding running tracks everywhere. Even this morning while walking from the train station I snapped this photo of what I see as great running track compared to what the general public just see as a bike path. I just can’t wait to get back into it.
This week is all about ‘smelling the roses’ with maybe a small gathering on Sunday for some pancakes and some ‘Masters Marathon debriefing’. As I said before only one thing better than running a marathon is talking about running a marathon, over pancakes and decent coffee of course. Next week is also another easy week , just adding distance if I feel I can. (Very important to listen to your body for the next two weeks). Recovery weeks three and four are similar but maybe the odd steady or tempo run and longer on the weekends but at a slow pace; more time on legs. After four weeks you are generally good to go.
So what next ? The World Masters has been my goal since June this year and now this goal has been achieved it’s time for a few short term goals to keep me honest. The first of these is my favourite off -road trail race the 6 inch ultra marathon, named after it’s big brother the 6-foot which is an event over east in the Blue mountains. ( http://www.sixfoot.com ) The 6 inch was started 12 years ago and has grown from a ‘fat-ass’ free entry race to a 350 runner sell out that it is now. ( http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com/?page_id=71 You’ll recognise the athlete bearded runner in the link.) This will be my 7th year of running it and it is always a challenge given the terrain, the elevation and the heat. It is another special WA event though and, as the last run of the year, very sociable, it’s like a private party where the entry is a 48k pre-party run.
Finally an article from coach Jeff from Runners Connect gives you a few pointers about recovery. Funnily enough doesn’t mention the T-trains ‘train like it never happened approach’.
Recovering from a marathon is a critical component to a perfect training plan that runners often neglect.
Unfortunately, if you don’t properly recover from your marathon, you’ll increase your injury risk, increase the total marathon recovery time, and limit your long-term potential – making it harder to break your PR and stay healthy.
As a running coach, I’ve heard all the arguments from athletes wanting to jump back into training or racing immediately after their race.
More often than not, runners who do not follow a proper post marathon recovery plan find their subsequent performances stagnating or they suffer from overtraining symptoms.
Today, we are going to give you the best ways to recover from a marathon; this article will outline the science behind post marathon fatigue, so you can feel comfortable knowing you’re preparing your body for optimal performance down the road.
Then, I am going to provide you with an optimal post marathon recovery plan to help get you back to running your best as soon as possible.
Marathon recovery is critical and often overlooked. This article will provide you with the ultimate marathon recovery plan and the time it takes to get back
What Happens To My Body When I Run A Marathon?
Marathons are tough on the body – there’s no way to sugar coat this fact.
Muscles, hormones, tendons, cells, and almost every physiological system is pushed to the max during a marathon race.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Boston qualifier or it’s your first marathon, 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles and your body has undergone tremendous physical duress, let alone the stress you have put on your body running according to your marathon training schedule.
Here is a list of some of the scientifically measured physiological systems that are most effected after a marathon and how long each takes to fully repair.
Muscles soreness and fatigue are the most obvious case of damage caused by running the marathon distance.
One scientific study conducted on the calf muscles of marathon runners concluded that both the intensive training for, and the marathon itself, induce inflammation and muscle fiber necrosis that significantly impaired muscle power and durability for up the 14 days post marathon.
Accordingly, it will take your muscles about 2 weeks post marathon to return to full strength.
Cellular damage post marathon, which includes oxidative damage, increased production of creatinine kinase (CK) – a marker that indicates damage to skeletal and myocardial tissue, and increased myoglobin levels in the blood stream (which often results in blood being present in urine).
One study concluded that CK damage persisted more than 7 days post marathon while another study confirmed the presence of myoglobin in the bloodstream post marathon for 3-4 days post race.
Both of these studies clearly indicate that the body needs at least 7-10 days of rest post marathon to fully recover from the cellular damage caused during the race.
These markers, along with a suppressed immune system, which is discussed below, is the primary reason that the optimal marathon recovery schedule avoids cross training the first 2-3 days.
Post marathon, the immune system is severely compromised, which increases the risk of contracting colds and the flu.
Furthermore, a suppressed immune system is one of the major causes of overtraining. A recent study confirms that the immune system is compromised up to three days post marathon and is a major factor in overtraining syndrome.
Therefore, it is critical that you rest as much as possible in the three days following a marathon and focus on eating healthy and nutrient rich foods.
The research clearly indicates that the marathon induces significant muscle, cellular, and immune system damage for 3-14 days post race.
Therefore, it is essential that all marathon runners have a 2-3 week marathon recovery protocol that focuses on rest and rejuvenation of these physiological systems.
How To Recover After Running a Marathon
We’re going to outline a nutrition, rehab, cross training, and running plan for the 3 weeks after a marathon. This rehab plan is guaranteed to help you recover faster and return to training as quickly as possible.
Immediately post race
The immediate post race recovery protocol can be a little difficult to plan ahead of time, so I wouldn’t stress about it pre-race.
Focus your energy on pre-race nutrition and race strategy. These notes are simply to give you some guidance after the race.
After you cross the finish line, try to get something warm and get to your clothes. You’ll probably get cold very quickly, and while it won’t help you recover, getting warm will sure make you feel a lot better.
Try to find something to eat. Bananas, energy bars, sports drinks, fruit, and bagels are all good options.
Many marathoners can’t eat soon after finishing, so grab a handful of items and make your way to friends and family.
When you get back to the hotel room, you should consider an ice bath.
Fill the tub with ice and cold water and submerge your lower body for 15 minutes. You don’t need the water too cold, 55 degrees is optimal, but anything colder than 65 degrees will do.
After your ice bath, you can take a nap or walk around to try and loosen the legs.
At this point, you’ve done about all you can do for the day. Relax and relish in your accomplishment.
Cross Training: none
Recovery Tips and tricks:
Soak in a hot tub for 10-15 and stretch well afterwards.
Each lots of fruits, carbohydrates, and protein. The Carbs and protein will help repair the muscle damage while the fruits will give you a boost of vitamin C and antioxidants to help combat free radical damage and boost your immune system.
Light massage will help loosen your muscles. Don’t schedule a deep tissue massage yet, just a gentle effleurage massage or a light rolling with the stick.
Running: One day, 2-4 miles very easy
Cross Training: Optional – Two days, 30-40 minutes easy effort. The focus is on promoting blood flow to the legs, not building fitness.
Recovery Tips and Tricks:
Continue eating a healthy diet
Now is the time you can get a deep tissue massage if you have areas that are really bothering you or that are injured.
Contrast bath your lower body. To contrast bath, take large trash cans and fill one with hot (hot bath temp) water and the other with ice water (cold enough so some ice still doesn’t melt) and put your whole lower body into the cold. Hold for 5 minutes and then switch to the hot for 5 mins. Repeat 2 or 3 times, ending with cold. This helps rush blood in and out of the area, which facilitates healing.
Epsom Salt Bath. About an hour before bed, massage your legs out with the stick or self massage and then soak in a hot/warm bath with 3 cups epsom salt and 1 cup baking soda for 10-15 minutes. After the soak, stretch real well and relax. This always perks up my legs quite a bit and you’ll also sleep great.
Running: Three or four days of 4-6 miles very easy.
Cross Training: Optional – Three sessions total. One easy session and two medium effort sessions for 30-45 minutes.
Running: Begin to slowly build back into full training. My suggestion is four to five runs of 4-8 miles with 4 x 20 sec strides after each run.
Cross Training: 1 easy session, 1 medium session, and 1 hard session of 40-50 minutes.
Don’t worry about losing any running fitness during this recovery period.
First, it’s much more important to ensure proper recovery so you can train even harder during your next training cycle.
If you don’t let yourself recover now, you’ll simply have to back off your workouts when it matters and put yourself on the verge of overtraining.
Likewise, you won’t lose much fitness at all.
In my experience, it takes about 2-3 weeks of training to get back into good shape and ready to start attacking workouts and planning races.
Try not to schedule any races until 6 weeks after your marathon.
I know you may want to avenge a disappointing performance or you’ll be coming off a running high and you’ll want to run every race under the sun.
However, your results won’t be as good as they might be if you just wait a few weeks and let your body recover and train a little first.
Patience is a virtue, but it will pay off in the end.
Well what a day. I am sitting here with a cup of tea and a few chocolate biscuits as this post could take all night. This has to rank as one of my best ever days running as it was just such a great event with great friends, great support and pretty good conditions. It really was everything running a marathon should be. There were times when you felt you could run forever, times when you just wanted to walk and give the whole thing away and of course the runners high when you realise you are going to achieve all your goals when you have asked yourself some tough questions and answered them all.
I know this sounds pretty dramatic but ask everybody who finished today and they all have their stories containing questions that had to be asked, time in the pain box, mental battles with fatigue and generally we all come out better at the other end. Funny thing now is I can only really remember the good things, like the last 10k with a tail wind and legs that had something left for the run home, finishing strong and getting a sub 2:45 time, 7th overall finish and 2nd in my age group. The feeling of running down runners who are far quicker then me (albeit they were probably injured.) and the relief when you see the finishing chute finally. Man, running gives you so much on days like these.
First of all lets break the race down into manageable chunks. With all marathons I’m a big believer in the first 21k is really where you should be relaxed and if you start to question yourself before halfway you are in for a world of pain. Proper training and a realistic goal should make the first 21k hard but achievable. Today was different. I had been second guessing myself since the Rottnest half. The week on Rotto’ after the half was probably not the most ideal training and although I ran twice a day I was certainly fatigued. This manifested in a good Masters 5k but not the PB I was hoping for. Thus the seed of ‘self doubt‘ was planted and then along came his partner in crime ‘weight gain‘ when I weighed myself yesterday and found to my horror I was 2kg heavier than 3 weeks ago. (I remarked to my Wife Karen in Yelo Saturday morning, while eating a chocolate and banana muffin, I had ‘let myself go‘, to her amusement !) Thus for the first 21k I was certainly running quicker than I should have really , given the conditions, but knew I was running in 3rd place in the age group so this is where I needed to be.
So as the course is a two lap course we started the second lap into a head wind which I knew would be my partner until the 32k mark and the last turnaround before the run for home. This was a double whammy as I felt this was not going to be my day and could feel myself thinking about all the (wrong) reasons to justify a slower second half. When I started to do the maths, adding on 1:30 for the second half, I knew I was in trouble. I managed to struggle to the narrows bridge and into the head wind from hell (I am assuming in hell you would probably be faced with a head wind as I suspect Lucifer is the sort of demon who would find that amusing. I, of course, will never find out as we all know BK will one day be God’s training partner.)
I digress. My mate Jeff managed to catch up with me at 28k (on his bike) when I was at my worst, slowing down and thinking of so many reasons that I could justify stopping. This is what running a marathon is all about. These times when you ask yourself some really hard questions, give yourself the easy way out and then decide to get back in the pain box and shut the door behind you. I reached a decision to get to 32k and introduce myself to the tail wind I knew was waiting for me.
32k, as already discussed, the ‘death zone’ for runners. If you are going to have a bad day it will normally start around this distance. Training, character, nutrition, fuel all get you so far, at 32k it’s time for the mental part of marathon running to take over. This is what running marathons is all about, the last 10k. As I have already discussed this is where the Noakes ‘Governor’ kicks in and the mind works with his old friend ‘fatigue’ to slow you down. (Commonly known as ‘hitting the wall‘) Surprisingly this time I had managed to convince myself that if I could get to 32k the tail wind would ‘caress’ me home. This was all I needed, instantly with a tail wind I was reinvigorated and knew the last 10k would be challenging but do-able. My race was saved. This proved to be the way it panned out and I even managed to move from 3rd to 2nd in my age group and catch a WA running legend Todd Ingraham , albeit an injured Todd Ingraham. Finished 7th overall, 2nd in my age group and even part of the Australian team who won gold as our combined times was nearly 2 hours quicker that the British who were second.
So what did I learn about today. When you race a marathon it never gets any easier. I certainly had to dig deep, real deep, to pull this one out of the fire. The City to Surf and Perth earlier in the year were both a lot more pleasant, I won’t say easier. I went out too hard and ‘trusted my training’ to get me home in one piece and with the help of the tail wind I got the job done. For marathon number 41 I may have once more managed to avoid ‘paying the piper‘ but this time he was close, real close.
Other highlights of the day. The support on the course was just amazing. I tend to keep my head down and try and zone out during a marathon so if it looked like I ignored you, believe me I didn’t. Every shout of ‘go bk’ was registered and helped, trust me. Of course I must mention Tom Millard and his family for the ‘Run BK Run’ sign at South Perth, that made my day and I certainly made a big effort not to let them down as I passed. Thanks guys.
Myself, Mike and Mark stayed around for the awards ceremony which actually took longer than the marathon but was worth hanging around for just to be inspired by the runners taking the stage. We learnt a lot from the national anthems and specifically Chile has the longest national anthem in the world. Hearing it for the first time we all assumed the recording was stuck as it seemed to go for ever. Imagine our amusement when about 10 minutes later it was played again. Those Chileans love their national anthem, and why wouldn’t you when it starts sounding like a Mozart tune and ends up more like Justine Bieber. We were also concerned for the two oldest Japanese runners who took to the stage when the wind was virtually at typhoon stage each holding large Japanese flags. At one point I was convinced we were going to lose them in a scene reminiscent of the opening scene of the Wizard of Oz !
My training posse also preformed admirably with Damien and the two Marks grabbing silver in their age group as the second fastest 35-40 age group team ‘in the world’. Well done lads. Mark C. also threw in a 29 minute PB , bringing his marathon time down from 3:33 to 3:04. I can’t take all the credit , the City beach pancakes and a ‘speed beard’ would have also contributed to this biblical PB. If he keeps repeating this feat he’ll be the first man to run sub 2 hours at the City to Surf in August next year. Now that would be worthing blogging about !
Finally a big thank you to the West Australian Marathon Club ( http://www.wamc.org.au ) and the army of volunteers. An outstanding job and it sounds like this could be the last time the World Masters holds the marathon as part of the bi-annual games, which is a pity but what a way to go out.
Right I may treat myself to another cup of tea…….
Everybody has their own routines a day before a marathon. Mine is to growl at the kids and generally mope around the house complaining. Actually my family would probably say that is similar to everyday in my household as most weekends I’m either racing or thinking about racing, by running a lot.
So 24 hours to go and it’s all about finishing off the carboloading (day three), arranging logistics to get to the event (normally means me driving, thanks lads ?) and mentally preparing yourself for the big day. Let’s start with finishing off the carboloading. By day three of a successful carboloading campaign you’re normally quite sick of the sight of carbohydrates in all forms. My go-to favourite, honey on wholemeal toast, does test you as you prepare it for the 6th time in 3 days. I reckon Winnie the Pooh would be over it by now, though looking at the size of Master Pooh I would suggest he could be a good fit for an ultra runner, more distance than speed; honey fuelled of course.
Important to stay hydrated of course so lots of fluid with electrolytes added in preparation for then heat tomorrow. The meal tonight shouldn’t be too large, big meal I find is better 48 hours out. I try for a small meal tonight, small portion of pasta and a couple of slices of garlic bread. I found this by trial and error and on two occasions when I have over eaten the night before a marathon I’ve paid the price. I think on both occasions I was trying to make up for lack of training. Not sure about my logic, not fully trained, solution, eat as much pasta as you possibly can the night before, ‘she’ll be right’. On both occasion she certainly wasn’t right.
Logistics is next. I’m driving , for a change, and have Mike and Mark scheduled to turn up at 5am. Twenty minute drive to the start. (it’ll be quiet at 5am on a Sunday morning, strange that?) , twenty minutes socialising, 5 minute toilet stop, 10 minute warm up and 5 minutes for ‘stuff’… what could go wrong ?
Finally mental preparation. This should have started earlier in the week really. Talk yourself up, trust in your training, hay in the barn, you can do no more etc. etc. Whatever it takes to get yourself in marathon mode. I’m a big ‘trust in your training‘ and drawing on experience man myself but each runner has their own ‘go to’ place for motivation. This will be marathon number 41 so I know what to expect and I’m coming off a great block of training and racing. This will mitigate any risk but the marathon is not one to follow the rules and I’m always prepared to any curve balls that will come my way. Remember the three goals, each one slightly less ‘exciting’ than the last but as long as you hit one of them the day will be considered a success.
Don’t worry too much about sleep tonight, if you get some great but really last night, and all week really , was the time to catch up on sleep. This is hit and miss with me. I sometimes feel if I sleep too well I’m not worried enough about the race and this can be a good or bad thing. I’m really not helping much in this post am I ?
Now it’s all about getting to the start line coiled like a cobra about to strike. Remember this is why we do what we do, enjoy the day and I recommend pancakes, and lots of them, afterwards. (Use this a mental go-to place if you struggle later in the race, have that one on me.)
I normally run only on Tuesday and Thursday the week of a marathon. Tuesday I ran lunchtime but due to a heavy work load (on marathon week, how does that happen?) I needed to run Thursday morning pre-work. I set my alarm for 5am but was far too excited after so little running and woke at 4:15am. After contemplating going back to sleep I decided the best cause of action was to go for a run. Actually when prompted this is my go-to call, go for a run. ! So off I set around 4:30am into my old favourite 10k that I have now run 167 times (thanks Strava).
Being the second run this week (and it’s Thursday, when I would normally be on run 7 for the week) my legs felt heavy but this is to be expected at this stage of the taper week. It is normally around this time of the taper period you experience ‘niggles‘ , you’ll find you can just about finish your run and convince yourself you are about to have a major meltdown. I read on a tri-website that these niggles are just your body recovering but they don’t feel like that I can tell you. Fortunately this morning I was ‘niggle’ free, which should probably worry me.
Reading the article below by Isaac Walker it reiterates several points I have already mentioned in previous posts. Hay in the barn , trust your training etc. all common sense advice but worth a second read, if nothing else to put your mind at ease. Taper time is a testing time at best, helped only by the extra ‘tukka’ on offer for the last 3 days. (just before my old friend ‘weight gain‘ comes a calling…)
Must admit I’m tempted to sneak out tomorrow morning because it will be glorious and I hate missing glorious mornings. I must be strong, the right thing to do is lay in bed and relax but the call of old faithful, my favourite 10k, may be too much.
9 Ways to Deal With the Big Event Taper Blues By Isaac Walker
Sixteen weeks. Four months. One hundred and twelve days of early mornings, sore legs, injury worries, emotional highs and lows, and long hard weekend runs. And now you are supposed to ease right back on the throttle and cut your training. By a lot. You start to get moody. You have so much energy you feel like you are going to jump out of your skin. Your partner has had enough of your complaining. You think every little ache, sniffle and niggle is a catastrophic event-cancelling injury or illness. You start feeling sluggish and lazy. It sounds like you are going through what many runners experience leading up to a big event – the ‘taper blues’.
Tapering (for most) is a critical part of training plans. Whether you taper two days prior to a 5km road race or three weeks or more for an ultra distance, you are basically performing the same function. After stressing our bodies for so long the taper is there to let us heal and recover to a point where we can then operate the most efficiently and to our maximum ability on race day.
There are many differing views on tapering out there. My advice is simple – the shorter the distance the shorter your taper. The longer the distance the longer you taper. Reason being shorter and sharper training sessions will usually take a lot less time to recover from than long hard distance runs. Long runs beat your body up and you need that extra taper time to recover.
So the symptoms of the ‘taper blues’ usually kick in after a week or so of taper and are usually associated with longer distance events. If you have never had them before they can be quite discouraging and even a little scary. So here are a few tips and general points to help you pull through the taper blues and onto race day.
1. The taper blues are completely normal! You are probably not getting sick. You most likely do not have an injury that has decided to rear it’s ugly head one week prior to your big day. And yes, your other half is getting annoyed with your grouchy mood. Accept you are a little down then address it. Remember you are not alone. Chat with friends doing the same event or others who have been through this taper nonsense before.
2. Look back on what you have done. And be proud. One of the reasons we get taper blues is regret for what hasn’t been done. Think of the countless hours of training, early mornings and/or late nights and all the other strings that come along with training for a longer distance event. That is an achievement right there, regardless of what comes next.
3. Evaluate. Go back over your training and write down all the positives. All the things you enjoyed about your training. Then also write the negatives down and the things that may have not gone so well. These are the things to keep in mind and perhaps improve in your next training programme.
4. More events? It is a little crazy but many of us use the taper time to plan more events after the one we are tapering for! You don’t have much time to wallow in taper blues when you’re busy getting excited about your next goal. If you don’t have an event in mind then plan for something else. A personal fitness goal. A family holiday. Home renovations. Anything you can do to keep your brain ticking over and stimulated.
5. Taper means taper! You may be tempted to go out and get one last long run under your belt or smash out a hard tempo track session. You might be fine but my advice is once your taper period has begun, it is exactly that – taper time. Plus, this won’t rid you of your taper blues anyway. This means sticking to your plan and not being tempted to go out and possibly undermine some of the training you have done by adding fatigue to your system this close to your big event.
6. Active recovery more than ever. Taper time is a perfect opportunity to fit in more active recovery. Playing with your kids, massage, walking, swimming, stretching, rolling on your foam roller – anything that keeps you moving can be very beneficial. Don’t feel guilty for not going hard, that just leads to more taper blues. Enjoy the easy, liberated movement your fit trim body is allowing you.
7. The hay is in the barn and there is nothing much else you can do to enhance your training. You can however undermine your training by not tapering efficiently. So rest! Chill out! Make up some of those hours with the family and friends that you used for training. Spending time with loved ones will also help ease some of the tensions and stress prior to an event.
8. Last minute checks. Most people will have their nutrition and game plan locked down by now. It is a good time to run over everything and double check you have all your supplies ready to go. The last thing you want is to discover the night prior to your event that you left your favourite pair of socks in the washing basket.
9. Visualisation techniques. Visualisation can be a very good way to prepare your mind for an event and propel you out of your taper blues. Picture yourself standing at the race start. Imagine how you feel. Put yourself in a bad situation during the race and visualise how you would like to react to that situation. Place yourself being surrounded by your friends and family cheering you on as you come towards the finish line. Visualising these situations will help you prepare your mind for dealing with them in real life.
Day one was uneventful really. Busy at work so didn’t have time to think about running. How does that happen ? Note to self must never let that happen again. ! So I can look forward to a run tomorrow morning, probably my go-to 10k that I run between 3-5 times a week religiously, normally as a second run after work on auto-pilot. These go-to runs are important as they allow you to drift away and think about ‘stuff’ , be that family, work or leisure ‘stuff’. The ‘stuff’ thinking is not as important as the benefit the time on legs is giving you. As you know I am a big believer in the two runs a day, distance, not pace theory. I firmly believe the second run , which may or may not be on tired legs, is a massive benefit and allows you to really make a big difference to your running aspirations.
I have dabbled with double-days before but never for the length of time I have sustained it this training block, pre-Masters. I think this is probably week number 17 of upwards of 10 runs a week. What has surprised me is how fresh I have felt. I have certainly felt a lot more fatigued when I have run less k’s and less total runs a week but heavier workload i.e. faster average pace. Will this work for everyone ? Probably not, every person is different, they have different aspirations, different threshold for distance and pace, different constraints allowing them only a certain amount of running time. Double-up days does mean some ‘juggling’ of work and family life and maybe once in a while one of these will suffer. To quote Ned Kelly ‘Such is life’, or was that Ben Cousins for the Australians among us. The benefit of distance cannot be over stated, if you can run more (and not get injured of course) then I recommend you do it. With running the more you run the better you can run. Obviously there is a point when you do start to slow but when or where that is I do not know and I’m nearing 50 and haven’t found it yet. (and don’t intend to anytime soon.)
So I digress, for a change, this post was meant to be about taper day 1 for marathon week. Uneventful and no real thought of running to tell you the truth, which for me is strange but after so many marathons I realise the benefits of not running more than twice on marathon week gives me a spring in my step come Sunday. I’ll venture out for a slow 10k tomorrow morning and a similar one Thursday and that will be it. Remember ‘it is impossible to do too little on marathon week, the only option is to do too much.’ The only reason I run at all is to retain my sanity as I grapple with my old favourite ‘weight gain‘. So far I have been lucky and avoided ‘self doubt’ and ‘niggles’, with no one ill on the train, that I could see , and all my work colleagues looking quite sprightly today I may even avoid ‘everyone is trying to infect me…
An uneventful post today but with taper week in full swing I need to focus elsewhere until Thursday when its my favourite time, carbo-loading. I’ll discuss that tomorrow because although carbo-loading can be a good thing for runners who like to eat , it is not an excuse to binge on chocolate and muffins for three days. Sorry guys there is a certain requirement to meet to make carbo-loading work and chocolate and muffins , although a small part (maybe!) , is not the complete picture. Running really is a cruel sport…..
I’ve attached a photo as all good posts need photos. This was taken on Saturday at the Masters 5k by Jon Storey. A great photo, a talented man with a good camera, a good combination.
Looks like today is the day to wear your Australian World Masters running singlet before the big day next weekend. ( http://www.perth2016.com ) Me and the Sunday morning posse agreed to meet at the West Australian Marathon Club house ( http://www.wamc.org.au )and run on alp of the World Masters marathon course. It was also agreed to wear our Masters Australian singlets to ‘wear them in’ pre-November 6th.
Funnily enough in the photo three are English, there’s one Scotsman and one South African; and a token Australian. Seems to be the way in Western Australia, and Australia as a whole. We’re a diverse lot. All here for different reasons but for the next 6 days we’re here for one reason and one reason only, to run a marathon representing our country of choice, rather than our country of origin.
We weren’t the only ones running the marathon course ahead of next weeks big event. We spotted another couple of Australian singlets and at least two from the Netherlands, a possible Portuguese and I’m sure the French were out somewhere. I hope these guys have trained for the heat because we are expecting a hot day. Currently they are predicting 35c doe Saturday which doesn’t bode well for Sunday. It will be a tad cooler but not enough to negate the issue of heat and what it does to marathon runners.
Heat and Wind are two things which unfortunately can make all that hard work fruitless when chasing a PB. Unfortunately sometimes the elements can combine against you and nothing you do can beat Mother Nature when she conspires against you. This morning would have been a good morning to run the marathon as it was cool enough that if we had started at 6am we probably would have missed the heat. Next weekend we won’t be so lucky.
So how did you mitigate heat. The best thing is to adjust your pace at the start. You need to realise that heat will sap your strength and your body will need to work extra hard to maintain its core temperature. All this extra effort comes at a cost and that is your average pace. Another option is pre-race cooling which could be drinking a slushy before the race and/or cool towels hand carried until they are of no use.
Drinking water and more importantly electrolytes pre-race is another must do and this will be an even more important part of the 3 day carbo-loading process. You need to be fully hydrated pre-race as the drink you take onboard during the race is really self preservation.
I’m not painting a pretty picture am I, but this is a risk you take running a marathon in November. Luckily , as Mike discussed this morning over pancakes (for a change), we always have next year and most of us run 3-4 marathons a year and as such a good run is only a few months away. Running a good PB is a combination of proper training combined with ideal conditions on the day on a good marathon course.
Article from coach Jeff from Runners Connect on pre-race cooling. Worth a read…
What is Pre-cooling?
Running causes the core body temperature to rise, which is exacerbated in hot and humid conditions. Once an athlete’s core temperature reaches a certain threshold, significant declines in performance will occur. Pre-cooling is a technique used to slightly lower a runner’s core body temperature before they start running, which in turn extends the amount of time they can run hard before hitting that critical temperature threshold.
How does Pre-cooling work?
By pre-cooling the body, an athlete is able to lower their core body temperature, thus increasing the margin before they reach their critical temperature threshold and are forced to slow down. Furthermore, pre-cooling enables runners to draw on their reserves later in a run due to reduced thermal strain. This means you can finish off your workouts harder and also begin the recovery process faster.
Numerous studies have proven that heat is a major cause of performance decline in runners – and you’ve more than likely experienced it yourself this summer. However, recent studies have now confirmed that pre-cooling can significantly improve performance in hot and humid conditions. One study reported that pre-cooling can boost performance by 16%. A second study showed a 2.6 degree average core temperature difference after a 5k race between subjects who pre-cooled with a vest and those that did not.
How to get started
Ideally, runners looking to implement a pre-cooling strategy would use a cooling vest for 10-20 minutes prior to their run or during their warm-up. Hands down, cooling vests are the most effective product on the market for pre-cooling. Understandably, not every runner reading this article will want to shell out the money for a cooling vest, so I’ll give you two quick and cheap ways to try pre-cooling at home.
1. Freeze a paper cup of Gatorade or buy some freeze pops. 10-20 minutes before your next hard workout in the heat, eat the freeze pop or Gatorade slushy and get on your way. While a popsicle won’t cool your entire body quite like a cooling vest, you will see benefits during your run.
2. Grab a few hand towels or small bath towels and get them wet. Place them in the freezer overnight and put them on your neck, head and back 10-15 minutes before you head out for your workout. Warning, it will be shockingly cold at first, but you’ll appreciate it when you get back. Plus, if you put them back in the freezer, you can put them on again when you return for a nice treat!
Well after many weeks (months) preparing the World Masters is upon us. The first event I enrolled for was the 5k as I ran a 5k PB before my last marathon so thought a repeat would give me some confidence going into the World Masters marathon in a weeks time. Unfortunately there were several external factors I had not planned for and in the end I feel this race probably did more damage than good.
My week long holiday at Rottnest may not have been the most ideal preparation for the Masters and although I ran twice a day for the early part of the holiday I may have let myself go a bit with the ‘treats’. Truth be told my main treat of choice was a paleo banana bread which was probably good for me, the accompanying coffee was the problem. I must also confess to two glasses of wine which doesn’t sound a lot but it’s probably the same amount of alcohol I consumed for the previous 10 months. Add in tired legs from the half marathon and plenty of time scuba diving looking for crayfish and cycling everywhere and my first week taper was a bit of a disaster. (Although from a different viewpoint it was a great holiday and I’ve already booked in to Rotto’ again for next year, for the marathon this time, no more half marathons for me!!)
The Masters 5k was at the Ern Clarke Stadium in Cannington, Perth. I have raced a 10k in this stadium on three occasions previously. Must admit a 10k on the track is not my favourite race and running round a track 25 times can be a tad monotonous. How these runners who do 24 hour track ultras do it is beyond me ? (They must take solace in food of course because on a 400m track you are always within 400m of food…..) I wrongly assumed that 12.5 laps would be a lot easier. Today I was to be proved wrong.
The 5k was to start at 3:25pm but was a tad late so probably got under way nearer 4pm. This in itself was a problem as there was the issue with what to eat. I had decided earlier in the day that after breakfast I would use a Yelo muffin and coffee as my fuel for the race. I has these all done and dusted by 11am so logic dictated that by 3-4pm (after 1 banana) I would be ready to race. Truth be told I much prepare the 5k park run which starts at 8am and when I race these runs I normally do so on an empty stomach. Probably another mistake, Yelo muffins are not the prefect pre-5k meal. Pity.
It was windy which make the back straight feel pretty good but the home straight was a struggle. I did manage to get into a group for a few laps but was mostly battling alone.(Although I notice on the results a couple of French runners I had passed early seem to have magically finished a few seconds behind me. They are sneaky the French.)
I have attached the results below. Top 10 finish and 2nd Australian is a good result, position wise. I had hoped for a faster time but I feel the wind, racing last week, the late start, the American election etc. all played a part in me dropping 10-20 seconds. Truth be told I made a decision at the start to run with the leaders for the first few laps and a 3:11min/k first kilometre was, with hindsight, not the right thing to do. I did manage to put in another couple of half decent kilometres after that but the last two were a struggle, or should I say a ‘challenge‘.
Funnily enough I watching a 800m heptathlon heat before my 5k race and one of the runners bolted out of the traps like ‘greased lightning’, she probably has a 200m lead at the halfway mark. For the second lap it was obvious she had nothing left and she was nearly caught. What a difference a lap makes, even in an 800m race you can blow up. I did find some humour in that as I struggled home, though I would hope I did not look quite so ‘finished‘.
So what did I take from today.
While waiting for a red light this evening on run number 14 for the week I couldn’t help but smile while thinking of one of those motivational quotes about Joggers stretching and jogging on the spot while they wait for the lights while runners just stand there pi**ed off they had to stop, this sums up the attitude of runners. We run and that is what we do. None of this jogging on the spot rubbish, we move forward, if we can’t we wait patiently until we can. Up and down jogging on the spot is not running, also I suspect gains no forward motion with Strava ( http://www.strava.com ) so a complete waste of time and effort.
So how did run number 14 feel the week.? It actually felt good and dare I say even relaxing. It seems my body is getting use to running twice a day but unfortunately with summer coming these opportunities will start to disappear with the onset of Perth’s 40 degree days. After the Masters marathon it’ll be time for the bike to come out of it’s 9 month hibernation and after an early morning run it’ll be bike time as I commute to work. Will one run and two rides a week equate to two runs a day ? We’ll find out early next year when I start racing. I hope I can keep this new level of fitness but if I do drop off a tad I’ll be making a big effort to return to this current level of running fitness.
This morning we were discussing the amount of injuries that occur at the end of a training block pre-race. In my opinion if you don’t keep a good level of fitness and each time you train is like starting new you run the risk of injury each time you come near to completing your training block. My new Sports Doctor friend backed up my opinion about starting fresh each time for a new event. He also mentioned he sees a lot of injuries in triathletes who train for one race, say an Ironman, as a bucket list item. They start from scratch and push themselves for this one race. After the bucket list item is ticked it’s back to the bar with a shiny new Ironman tattoo never to be seen in lycra again. The same goes for the marathon bucket list chasers. It’s all or nothing but unfortunately without the foundation you run the injury tightrope. So when you near the end of your training block is when you are most likely to get injured, just basically pushing yourself too hard.
I believe if you keep a good foundation there is no need for that step-up in fitness levels needed by adding so much extra workload. As I race bi-weekly I’m always ready and so really the step up needed is negligible. I mentioned linear of non linear periodisation in a post earlier in the week.
This weekend was about running my last long run pre-Masters ( http://www.perth2016.com ) and also put in a big week. 180k is a pretty big week and more importantly no real niggles or issues. This week I have 4 more days of training before a weekend off pre-Rottnest half marathon, then the Masters 5k track the following Saturday before the Masters in November 6th. Three races in 3 weeks, the final part of my 5 races in 6 weeks. Can’t wait, what else is there ?
As most of you will know I have been training very hard since the middle of the year for the World Masters in Perth. I have sacrificed my favourite marathon for this event ( the Rottnest marathon, though I am still doing the half, silly not to really) and have put my life on hold (that bit was relatively easy as I really do not have a life outside running ?). Anyhow looking at the competition in my age category, 45-50, I am aiming for an age group podium. If I run to the best of my ability I may have a chance, either way I’ll give it my all, as is my way.
Yesterday I received an email from John Shaw asking about drink station drops off for the race. John is coming from over Queensland and was worried about the ability to pick up his bottles on the course. The race director, Dave Henderson, and WAMC President, arranged the drink drop offs so John was happy enough. Anyway John went on to say he was looking for an Australian record (trying to take the record held by John Gilmour of 2:41 for the 60-64 age group. ) John actually holds the single year World Record for a 63 year running a marathon, running 2:45 at the Gold Coast marathon this year. This achievement is made even more remarkable when you find out John only took up running 4 years ago at 59 years old, 95kg and totally unfit. I have attached an interview with QRun below.
If John follows my 7-8 years PB window he still has 2-3 years to improve. I reckon if he can stay unjury free and finds the right marathon on a cold morning he’ll go sub 2:40. John could possibly keep breaking world records every year he ages. Now that would be worth blogging about !
I’m looking forward to running with John in three weeks. If it all goes to plan we may be spending quite a bit of time together on the course……
A Shaw Thing: John Shaw’s amazing journey to a world record
We were fortunate enough to interview John Shaw, an amazing athlete approaching his marathon running prime at 63 years young. He broke the world age record for the marathon at the recent Gold Coast Airport Marathon in July.
Benita Willis: Firstly, congrats on your run at GCAM 16 and your achievement of the single age world record at 63 years old and (2hr45min23sec). What was your lead up like? How did you feel in the race itself?
John Shaw: Overall training went very well with only a minor hip and hamstring injury along the way. I became confident of running a fast marathon time in May when; during a solo training session; I ran a half marathon PB of 1:19:26. Then 2 weeks before GCAM I did a 35:06 PB in a 10km time trial. Unfortunately 3 days before GCAM I suffered a minor hamstring twinge. Still, on race day l felt relaxed and ready. I soon settled into a comfortable 3:46 pace rhythm. Unfortunately the hamstring issue was making my calf’s work a lot harder. After 18km they were on fire and my pace slowly drifted out to 3:50’s. By 35km they were low 4:00’s. Even though not everything went to plan I was still elated to break that single age world record. I was also stoked to finish 70th out of 5467 runners with only 5 aged 40 or older ahead of me. 2 included the winner and 3rd place. For bragging rights I even beat Steve Moneghetti but I very much doubt he raced it. It may have been more of a long fun run for him.
BW: Take us back a few years to when you were 59 years old in 2012 and a couch potato weighing 96kgs… Why did you decide to get into running? How hard did you find it at first?
JS: I am an “accidental” runner. In May 2012 I decided to loose weight by walking. 12 weeks and 1000km later I reached my goal of shedding 20kg. During that period I attempted to run once but quit after 400m. Soon after I chanced upon a “Couch to 5km” running program and decided to sign up. On day 1 I ran a slow and painful 5km non stop. On day 2 I was upgraded to the 10km program. As weeks and months passed I ran further and faster. My first race effort was late Dec 2012 at Wynnum Parkrun where I managed a respectable 23:04. After that run I was hooked
BW: Were there any particular races along the way (since 2012) that you did and afterwards thought “I can get that WR?” or was it just a progression of fitness and confidence that lead to your 2:45 run?
JS: In was mid 2014 when my coach, Peter James, first mentioned world records. Though it freaked me out he certainly got my interest. Since then we have been gradually working towards State, National and World records. It continues to be an ongoing process
BW: How much has having a coach helped you to achieve your running goals so far? Do you have a running group or prefer to train alone?
JS: Without Peter I would be like a North Korean rocket – fast but aimless. By mid 2013 I realised I had potential but knew I needed a coach who understood me as a runner and a person. Through a friend I met Peter. He knows how to get the best out runners of all ages; especially older runners. He is the sole reason for any success I have had so far or will achieve.I do mostly train alone apart from a weekly speed session with Peter’s group (PJ Express) along the river at Milton or West End. It is a small group full of extraordinary achievers. Sometimes I go simply to for “human contact” Marathon training is a lonely existence and it helps to occasionally mix with like minded runners.
BW: I know as we get older, we have to be even more careful with the training volume and intensity. In my opinion it is even harder to train as you can’t get away with little mistakes you once did as a youngster. How do you handle your training load? Do you do any cross training?
JS: My coach is very mindful of making sure I do not overdo it. Problems and injuries only occur when I lose the plot and do not follow instructions e.g 3km pace instead of 5k pace intervals.Fortunately I do have an advantage over similar aged runners in that I had a 43 year break from running – from age 16 till 59. So I still have “young” legs that have never been beaten up by years of racing.For cross training and during injury downtime I use a Bionic Runner (run4.com). It is a stand up bike invented and sold worldwide by Brisbane local, Steve Cranitch. It replicates running without the pounding but still gives you a solid aerobic workout. Late last year I suffered a serious calf injury while training for a half marathon. With limited running and lots of Bionic Running I still managed a 70sec PB. As I have lazy glutes and hamstrings I now do 2 gym sessions per week with kettlebells etc.
BW: What would a typical marathon prep training week look like?
JS: A typical week in the middle of a marathon program would be:
Mon am: 10km recovery
Mon pm: 14km progression
Tue am : 16km easy
Tue pm: 10km easy
Wed am: 22km mid week long run
Wed pm: Gym
Thu: Threshold speed session
Fri am: 20km easy
Fri pm: Gym
Sat: Rest day or Parkrun
Sun: 25-32km long run
BW: Do you still do some work or are you happily retired?
JS: I am self employed and run two niche businesses. I am fortunate to be able to make work fit around my training and races
BW: I understand you recently received an email from Strava’s head office in San Fransisco about your run at GCAM 16? How did you feel being recognised internationally from a company like Strava after uploading your race data after your 2hr45 run on the Gold Coast?
JS: That email came right out of the blue. I was blown away and have no idea how they discovered my race upload. Strava congratulated me and they also want to do an article. Later that same day the run was up on their Facebook page. Since then I have had “Follow” requests from runners around the world. It is amazing when you consider they have over a million users and my upload was simply one of tens of thousands that are uploaded to their website every day.
BW: What are your future running goals and races ahead?
JS: My next major race is the marathon at the World Masters Games in Perth on Nov 6th 2016. My primary goal is Gold. If all goes to plan I will attempt to break the Australian 60-64 age group record of 2:41:07 set in 1981 by a legend; John Gilmour. Apart from improving PB’s for various distances the 2017 focus will be the GCAM. I have unfinished business and will target a sub 2:40. Yes I will be older…yet faster!
BW: Thanks for the interview, we at Qrun wish you all the best and following your career with keen interest!