Friday, 26 October 2012

When Tapers go bad

Taper plans meets the Reality of Life

October has been a peculiar month training wise - in the first week of the month I was in the last week of tapering for the Kielder Marathon.  With my Kielder Marathon taper I cut back in volume and concentrated on marathon pace runs of 6 to 7 miles over a similar route to the hilly Kielder course.  This worked well, with my efficiency at target place remaining pretty stable and I got a good sense of the level of effort for my target place and was able to knock out impeccable splits for the first 20 miles till an ill judged drink led to me faltering a bit in the last few miles.

The past three weeks has been been my second Taper, this time for the Jedburgh Ultra to be run this Sunday.  My plan was to recover from the marathon then build back up to doing a long run about 10 days before the Ultra then back to taper, throughout this period concentrating of practicing race pace - around 9 min/miles and lots of hills.

The week after the marathon I had a very busy week with family and work commitments so didn't run till the following Saturday.  This was fine as I still had some residual stiffness after the marathon that took most of the week to shake down.  For the second week of taper (last week) I was on a family holiday at the Sherwood forest Center Parcs, with has little scope for much more than 3 mile loops around the campus, so I got a few short runs in at the target race pace, but with nothing more than 50ft hills to contend with couldn't really get much race specific training in.

Middle the way through last week I caught a cold, and the following day having signed up for it already did a 1hour Spin class and a 3 mile recovery run to follow up.  I felt fine when doing the training but the cold got worse in subsequent days, along with the usual stuffed up head, sneezing and coughs I struggled to get any full nights sleep.

On my return last weekend the cold was showing a few positive signs of getting better, and with great weather in Callander and still my long run to get in I headed out on the Sunday for hill walk/run on a route with a similar elevation profile to the Eildons.  The long run was only 11.6 miles long, but included over 2000ft of ascent/descent and took 2hours 20minutes.  It was a stunning autumn day on the Trossachs so it was a real pleasure to be out on the trail, and my cold didn't seem to hold me back too much. 

After the long run my body came down from the elation of a good run to being exhausted.  In subsequent nights and days the cold got worse, with all nights being interrupted.  My original plan was to do race pace (9min/mile) runs on the Tuesday and Thursday, but with the cold not getting better I held off till today Friday.  While I didn't get a good nights sleep I still felt the best I had for ten days so was optimistic.  My plan was for a gentle 6 miler, but cut it short to 4 on finding my heart rate 10 to 15 bpm higher than usual for the pace.  My plantar fascii injuries were also a more uncomfortable than had been.  Post run I've recovered fine, cold still looks to be on the mend, but my feet feel more uncomfortable now.

I reviewed the efficiencies on my training runs through the taper and they are mostly stable till the last two where my efficiency has got much worse, and todays run was the least efficient calories/per mile wise that I've done in the whole year.  My cold is better today than it had been in the previous ten days so to see such a regression is a bit alarming.  I usually notice higher heart rates in the week prior to big races but it's normally a few bpm not 10bpm+ more.

The following graph plots the effective efficiency (after normalizing for elevation and duration of run) on my runs in October, September and August, with today run on the far left, progress to the 1st run in August on the right.  Early August my effective efficiency was around 70 calories/mile, and September it stabilised around the mid 70's as I wasn't able to keep the mileage up due to my Plantar fascii injuries, this month I expected to not stray too far from this, but in the last two runs on the left you can see a significant regression upwards to now over 90 Calories per mile.

I now have one day, and two more sleep till the race.  My cold is steadily getting better so I'm hopeful it'll mostly be gone by Sunday, but I'm not so sure about where the rest of my fitness is at. The regression in my plantar fascii is another concern.  Will it all just shake out on the day?

Estimating Realistic Jedburgh Race Time

With my current fitness markers looking rather sorry I will have to be realistic about what I can achieve on Sunday.  For the Kielder Marathon I came up with a technique of analysing training runs to make predications about how the training runs would map to average heart rate and pace when running the full marathon route and over the elevation profile of the race.  I have applied the same technique to my training runs this month and get the following predictions of the finish time and extrapolated heart rate.  Below is a graph of extrapolated time to finish the race and extrapolated average heart for all this months runs except for the last two cold effected runs.

The area of interest is around the 158 to 162 mark as this is average heart than I'm likely to be able to sustain for 6 to 7 hours (based on previous runs of similar length).  This would suggest a time of 6:30 to 6:45 should be possible.  Given that the estimate I provided on entry was 6:30 it was good see the analysis falling in the same ballpark.

However, if I look at the graph that includes the last two days then instead of getting a pretty straight line we get two points that sit above the original straight line at a slower pace - around an hour slower for a given higher heart rate for todays run.

So should I be realistic I start looking at a 7:30 time?  I had thought that 7 hours should be possible given my runs last week, but as going out too fast is usually a bigger mistake than going out too slow then logic would suggest that starting off with splits for a slow time would be sensible.

And then there is my feet, it seems not running regularly has led to a set back, or might it simply be extra inflammation due to my cold that will clear up with the cold?

Finally might doing a hilly 38mile ultra just be too much for my body right now? I am cutting it too fine with recovery from the cold?  Might it be more sensible to graceful bow out and live to fight another day? 

Lots of questions, alas the only way to answer is to go out a do the race which I've been looking forward to doing for several months now.  Time for me do my best to get better now and rest up!

1 comment:

  1. I put the worries down to taper madness. You'll be fine.