Friday, November 4, 2011

A Much-Needed Weekend Off

Tapering has come at just the right time for me. The first weekend in November is coming up, which is one of my favorite weekends of the year.

My boyfriend has been a member of a spectacular winery in Paso Robles called Turley Cellars for years and years. If you like big, bold, spicy California reds, this may be your winery. They do a lot of different zins, and also some tasty grenache, a blended white, and the occasional petite sirah (not to mention an out of this world red table wine for $10-12 per bottle, which is better than plenty of $30 bottles I've had -- it's the one I used in the stew).

Every year on the first weekend in April and November, they throw a big release party at the winery with good food, live music, and tastings of old & new releases. Last year there were even raptors (apparently some wineries use them in their vineyards for pest control). They'll ship the wine if you want, but given how close we are, we instead use it as an excuse to get a hotel room & spend the weekend wine tasting.

turley sign with gourds

turley vineyard

turley tasting room

turley patio

I know lots of people who do whatever they have to to get their running in, even out of town and/or on vacation. They get up extra-early, google the local trails, or scout treadmill availability at their hotel. Hey, I've done it.

Turley weekend is sacred to me, though. Turley weekend is about relaxing and being lazy, sleeping in, indulging in delicious food, scouting out new tasty wineries, and dressing up a little to try to fit in with the wine wives at Turley. (Seriously - you've never seen as many ridiculous rocks & designer handbags this far out in rural California.) It's about turning off my phone & ignoring my e-mail. It's about quarantining our weekend from everything else in our lives that's remotely stressful or taxing. So this weekend, there will be no running whatsoever. None. Zilch. Nada.

in the vines at wild horse
See how relaxed I look? :)

Turley weekend comes at an even more auspicious time this year, because friends....I am dealing with some serious training burnout.

I rallied hardcore last week & got in one more solid, high-mileage week, and was so relieved to complete my last long run & officially start my taper. I took Monday off to make sure I was recovered enough to get through all my quality workouts this week.

And then it was Tuesday. And it was time to run.

And I Could.

Well; that's not completely true. After procrastinating for around 8 hours, I did set off on an easy ten miler. (Originally, I'd wanted to get in around 40 miles this week; since I was only planning on running four days, I upped the mileage on my easy days a bit.) Two miles in, I was exhausted & my legs felt like lead. Well, you did just run 20 miles two days ago, so if you can get through eight, that'll be okay, I told myself. Two miles later, all I could think about was getting to the end of the run. I kept up a reasonable 8:50 pace, but it felt super hard. Finally I decided six miles would have to do (and was incredibly happy when it was over).

On Wednesday, I had a half marathon pace run scheduled. At a minimum, this normally means a two-mile warm-up & then six miles in the 7:30 - 7:40 range. I jogged my two miles, then picked up the pace. Last week, I did this workout at a 7:30 pace with an average heart rate of 184 bpm (ie, less effort than normal). Today, I wanted to die after a mile and a half, managing barely a sub-eight pace. Through some miracle I made it through two miles & managed to pick up the pace a little, but I felt terrible. Soon I was telling myself, It's a taper week, so just get through four miles. You can make it through four. Well, no I couldn't. It took everything I had to get through a third mile. Average 7:45 / mile. I had to walk a quarter mile before I could even jog again.

That shook me up a little. Not exactly confidence-building, eleven days out from a race. The more I thought about how I've been feeling lately, though, the more things started sounding familiar. And I remembered why.

When I got home I googled "symptoms running overtraining." This brought up only about a billion different pages, all with slightly different lists, but most of them overlap a reasonable amount. Here's a constellation pulled from a few different pages:

  • Decreased Physical Performance. I had a good week last week, but Tuesday and Wednesday were both pretty bad (though I'm sure part of it has to do with the longer-term recovery from the 20-miler, especially since I don't run that far on a regular basis).
  • Heavy Legs. Somewhat while running, but I've noticed it more just walking. For example, one of my contracting jobs is a five-block walk from home, and I've had a couple of days where my legs have felt like lead.
  • Increased Perceived Exertion. See above. Definitely happening.
  • Loss of Enthusiasm for Running. Check. I've had a couple of days where I've been completely emotionally unable to face running at all, and a couple more where I've only gotten the work done by the rational part of my brain beating the emotional part into submission, dragging it caveman-style out the door, and practically flogging it the whole way. Those were not happy runs, even if I did get them done. On Tuesday and Wednesday I put them off until the last possible minute, until I reached the "if you don't do it now, you're not doing it at all" part of the evening.
  • Change in Sleep Patterns. Check. Haven't been sleeping well recently.
  • Loss of Appetite. Maybe a little. I have a pretty strong appetite, so suddenly having a semi-normal appetite is kind of like loss of appetite.
  • Frequent Colds / Illness. Thankfully, I can say no to that one.
  • Elevated Resting Heart Rate. I don't think so. It hasn't been elevated on my runs either -- in fact, I've more often been having the problem of feeling like I'm running quite hard, when both my pace and heart rate suggest otherwise. As if no matter how hard I try to run, I can't get my heart rate to rise.

    I don't actually think I'm overtraining at this point the way super-knowledgeable running experts would define it; all this stuff is too recent & hasn't gone on long enough for that (most things I read define "overtraining" as something that isn't fixed with 3-5 days of complete rest), and is also probably not really intense enough. Still, it is enough for me to notice that something is off. That if I didn't have the half coming up in a little over a week and tried to put in two more 50-60 miles weeks of marathon training, I might be starting down that path.

    It makes sense. Other than the occasional cut-back week, I've been building mileage non-stop for eleven months now. I've raced five times this year and will run twice more before 2012. (That's a lot for me -- until now I've never raced more than four times in a single year post-college.) While the outcomes have been mostly positive, I've spent a lot of emotional energy dealing with injuries and almost-injuries. I'm mentally tired. My body is tired. I've been training harder, in terms of both volume & intensity, than I've been physically capable of in nearly two years. In all honesty, I'd kind of be surprised to reach this point and not feel a bit of burnout.

    The upshot? I think it's clear that if the race was this weekend, I'd probably turn in a rather lackluster performance. Not terrible, but not the race that I've been (re-)training for since January. At this point, the hay is in the barn; if I'm going to run the best 13 miles I'm capable of in Clarksburg on 11/13, I need to make sure I give my body plenty of time to rest and recover over the next week and two days. Yes, it makes me a little nervous for the marathon, but the 1:40 half has always been the top priority, and if reaching that goal means a mediocre performance at CIM, then so be it.

    While it will be nice to have a physical micro-break, I think the mental benefits of spending the weekend away will be just as important to dialing in during that last week before the race and making sure I'm sharp, fresh, and excited to race.

    Are you overtraining? Take this test to prevent crossing the fine line between training and overtraining.

    PS, I just randomly googled that from Runner's World, so if it sucks or makes no sense, sorry.)

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