Recently I had my big A race of the year, the Crazy Horse Half.
This was basically the only event I actually trained specifically for and targeted in 2015. However, I did have a good year of consistent training.
The race did not go terribly well, but hopefully what I've learned from this experience and the year as a whole can help lead to better things in the future.
The year of training has gone well.
I've been injury free and running fairly consistently, with no health issues.
My volume was fairly high early on in 2015 and for most of the summer I ran less but with a slightly higher amount of quality.
I ran a 1:27 on rolling hills at the end of July at a spur of the moment race and was hoping with the addition of some more race-specific work, I could go under my PR of 1:23:11 at the 2014 Crazy Horse Half.
The only hick-up was that on Tuesday I did a bike commute all standing, because the saddle was wet. I did not realize at the time I basically performed a calf workout with no rest. After a short but intense workout that afternoon, my calves were very sore. The next day my left calf was more than sore, clearly there was a little over-use in the soft tissue. I tell people to consider what they would recommend to an athlete they were coaching in their situation. Better to go into a race 10% undertrained rather than 1% injured, I did not run from Wednesday all the way until an hour before the race start to test the calf, which now felt fine.
Unlike last year, where I was experiencing stomach issues during the entire race and still managed a PR (that I consider soft, because it wasn't even a perfect race), this time around I felt well.
The day before I followed a low residue diet of almost no fiber, which is done to reduce the amount of bulk in my GI system the day of the race. Hopefully this reduces weight as well as the potential for GI issues. My diet was far from the ordinary, consisting of Gatorade, Ramen Noodles, an omelet, and fruit juice. No fiber. I still got my calories in, just almost all in liquid form.
The morning of the event, I munched on a bagel during the drive, sipped on some coffee, and had a cake-pop 30 minutes before the race start. I realize a cake-pop is a bit odd, but it tastes great is is pretty darn simple sugar!
The first three miles going towards the fog covered Crazy Horse monument and then back towards the Mickelson Trail consists of steep climbs. I'm a chronic sand-bagger early on in events. Last year I felt like I took this section much too easy, and lost too much time. This go-around, I ran a bit faster during this section and actually began the final 10 gradual downhill miles much higher placed than the previous year.
My wife was volunteering at mile 7, so I knew if the calf was giving me issues I could stop there. I hoped that I would be able to have the self control and the ability to overcome my ego, if I needed to. I wore compression socks do hopefully decrease muscle oscillation and the calf only bothered me for a couple minutes at about mile 5, but otherwise was fairly comfortable.
The run was relatively uneventful, which is typically a good thing. I did not pass anyone during the race, and almost everyone who went by me did so during the first third or final quarter, roughly. During the middle of the race I was pretty much solo. I stuck within a few minutes of the athletes who ran near my during the first few miles. Even a friend who passed me at mile 2-3 only ran a few minutes quicker. I don't think my time or placing would have been any different if I would have ran more conservatively during the uphill first 3 miles.
I ran watch-less. I wanted to turn this run more into a race than a time trial with a goal. Plus, knowing my pace or not, I'm only going to run as fast as I can run.
With only 3 miles left, I suspected I was behind my goal time simply by knowing how many and who was in front of me. Going into the last stretch, I was passed by a friend who yelled out "I've never beaten you before!", and that basically sums up my race, ha!
I was hoping for a top 10, but was passed in the final mile by a couple people, and that dropped me to 12th overall with a time of 1:26:31. Still, the top 2%, which is pretty neat. I'm happy with the effort.
So, now the most important thing.
What did I learn?!?
I've not improved this year, if you look at race or training times. My fastest half was fall 2014 with the 1:23 at this event, and I consider that time a couple minutes slow as I did not have a good run. This year I ran a 1:26 and 1:27, and both were great events.
So, what the heck do I do?
When looking at disappointment, consider what you did or did not do prior.
Before the previous PR's, I had spent one or two years training at lower volume and higher quality after a few years of very high volume easier running, so improvement and new personal bests were very expected.
Now, the improvements clearly do not come as easily (or at all). Something needs to change.
What I've come to notice during all races this year is that my legs seem to reach their limit and my lungs never get close. That's a big peek into what's lagging behind, but how do I fix it?
My volume has been fairly consistent over the last few years, and my race specific work was adequate. To stimulate adaptation, you need a stimulus. Quality/hard running is no longer a stimulus for me, I suspect. This means, more volume may be needed. There are many, many, many discussions on this issue and what people did to solve it. The causes and remedies are different, however I suspect mine may be volume related, as I've not really increased mine in a few years for a long period of time. That also seems to be the #1 recommendation in those threads. Just, run more.
Another consideration is my health. I feel well, however you can never be certain. I could buy a new GPS, but instead I believe I will spend that money on a comprehensive blood test. New watches are great, but they won't make me run better. Finding a nutritional deficiency and correcting it, that will help my running!
I'm also glad to report that the left calf, which gave me so much issue before the run, is feeling completely fine afterwards. My quads are very sore from 10 miles of downhill running, but otherwise everything is good to go!
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