Taper Running

Tapering is one of those things that everyone does but few people know why. And it frustrates most runners to have itchy feet for 2-3 weeks on top of having race anxiety.

Slide1It’s a stressful time.

It’s also completely necessary in order to have the best race you possibly can. When you push and push and build your training and mileage up, your body eventually needs time to rest, recover, and rebuild. This process cannot happen without rest.

Hence, tapering.

But you can still do kind-of workouts during your taper. The key to tapering right is to cut down the mileage AND the speed. Here are a few workouts that are Taper Town appropriate.

  1. Modified Tempo Run: 2 miles up, 2 miles at goal race pace, 2 miles easy.
  2. Casual Yasso 800s: 2 miles up, 2-3 x 800 at goal race pace, 1 mile easy.
  3. Chatty Kathy Run: Grab a slower friend or someone else who’s tapering and go for a run at a conversational pace.
Running is the best way to catch up with friends!

Running is the best way to catch up with friends!

Tapering is a much needed break for your body. Respect it and you give yourself the best odds possible on race day. Ignore it and pay the price.

"The price" being seeing my smiling face in the medical tent.

“The price” being seeing my smiling face in the medical tent.

It’s your choice.

Who’s tapering for what race? Are you guys going bananas?

Now go out and run!

The Recap I Never Wrote

It’s no great secret that I get bogged down with school in the month of October. A month I love for the change in weather, leaves, and general pace of the city is now known as The Month of Midterms.

Fall used to be such a peaceful time of year...

Fall used to be such a peaceful time of year…

This year was something special because we were required to take special certification test in September that has made the entirety of this Fall semester feel like a never-ending exam schedule. No wonder I never wrote a recap about my September half marathon.

The Hamptons Marathon in September was supposed to be my triumphant 10th marathon. I trained all Summer, dutifully completing my workouts and sticking to a strength training routine at Refine, logging long runs on the weekends killer workouts during the week. I hit my highest training mileage in August with 64 miles in one week.

beast-mode-switch

Nothing special, but lots of running for me.

I was determined to PR at this race and was on track in every single run to do so. I even had Birdie signed up to rabbit my race and get me to that finish line. Alas, it was not to be come race day.

I’m no stranger to having to pull out of races completely, but this would be the first time I would have to drop down mid-race because my body just couldn’t take it.

HalfFullLogo

To be fair, I knew this was going to happen about two weeks before the race. Despite my pouch holding up AMAZINGLY throughout most of training, there are totally unpredictable circumstances that just sneak up and make it impossible to push.

What can you do?

Birdie still ran with me and we still had a fun trip out East, eating Two Boots pizza in the car while JB drove the expressway. Thank goodness JB, GB, and some of our friends came out to cheer. It was a huge boost mid-race.

Yes, we wore matching outfits. We were totally the coolest kids in the race.

Yes, we wore matching outfits. We were totally the coolest kids in the race. (Picture courtesy of GB)

The race itself, however, sucked.

  1. The man announcing the race was mean and nasty and left every runner within ear shot irritated right from the start of the race. His exact words right before the gun went off, “If you have a full marathon bib (me) and are dropping down to the half (me), DON’T EVEN THINK OF COMING CLOSE TO THE FINISH LINE. We will NOT let you cross it.” I mean, seriously?!?! Get a grip, dude.
  2. The course was not closed to cars.
  3. We ran on the main road (Montauk Highway) and there were no cones to block the cars from riding up right behind or beside us.
  4. Birdie and I almost got hit by two cars trying to navigate the road and the runners.
  5. The cops did nothing, NOTHING to protect the runners from the traffic.

The pre-race number pick-up was fine, the finish line food included chocolate milk (yum), and the course was good, but that definitely didn’t make up for the unsafe course and nasty race announcer.

Tried to smile through the near-death car accidents.

Tried to smile through the near-death car accidents.

Needless to say that in spite of the convenience of this race, I will not be doing it again unless they can guarantee the safety of the runners by closing off part of Montauk Highway or at least making the course more visible to cars by adding cones along the entirety of the race.

I’m sure there was a part of me that was bummed when I knew I wouldn’t be running the full after all that training, but that fleeing moment was erased as I high-fived myself for surviving training, being able to run my fastest training runs, and getting into all-around awesome shape after everything my poor little body has been through.

Finish line!!!!!

Finish line!!!!!

And still rocking 1:43 in a half-marathon. 3 minutes off my PR. Not too shabby, body.

I mean, HELL, I am STILL running and feeling awesome, my body is 100% in working order. How awesome is THAT?!?!!!!!

So, that was the Hamptons Marathon/Half Marathon.

Did anyone else run this race? What were your thoughts? Are you planning on running it next Fall? Is this typical for a small town race? Am I being a prima donna? You can tell me.

Now go out and run.

PS. I contacted the race directors about the issues I had with their race and their response was basically, “Eh, too bad. Nothing we can do about the cars and the announcer was just insistent.” Excellent PR. Really, stellar job.

Stressed Out

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m hyper-aware or I know more runners who are tackling the great distance of a marathon, but man oh man, I’ve never known SO many runners with stress fractures.

stress-cartoon

It feels something like this, actually.

I don’t know what the hay-ho is going on out there (I have a guess but I’m not sure people would like my educated guess…) but I’ve never known so many runners who are sidelined with stress fractures.

Let’s be clear about what stress fractures are and why they happen.

Stress fractures are incomplete, often hairline, fractures that occur commonly in the femur, tibia, or any of the bones of the foot. Stress fractures happen over a prolonged period of time due to excessive repetitive stress placed on the body.

(Image courtesy of Radiology Assistant)

(Image courtesy of Radiology Assistant)

They do not, DO NOT, happen overnight.

Reasons why stress fractures happen:

  1. Overtraining. Too many miles. Too many weeks of training. Too too much.
  2. Undertraining/improper training. Think only doing 3-5 miles 2x/week and then blasting out massive long runs on the weekend.
  3. Diet. Lack of nutrients (like in exercise anorexia or compulsive exercise disorder) make your bones brittle and go *snap*.
  4. Improper footwear. Think Vibram (my least favorite).
  5. Bad body mechanics. Imbalances in the body get amplified in repetitive sports.

And guess what? Every single one of these is preventable.

Every. Single. One.

  • Hire an educated, experienced coach (ahem, more than a weekend course).
A GOOD coach, that is.

A GOOD coach, that is.

  • Do not start your training 16 weeks before the race. Training begins in the off season with strength training and speed workouts.
  • If your diet stinks or you think you might be at risk for developing the Female Athlete Triad, seek the guidance of a Registered Dietician or a Licensed Nutritionist.
No good. (Image courtesy of FemaleAthleteTriad.org)

No good.
(Image courtesy of FemaleAthleteTriad.org)

  • Please, please, please get your body mechanics checked by a physical therapist. We are trained to do this and more outpatient orthopedic facilities (like Finish Line PT) are starting pre-hab programs to do just this for athletes.
  • PTs can also evaluate your feet, knees, and hips for which shoe would be best for you. Seriously.

If you think you might be developing a stress fracture, get to your orthopedist for some imaging immediately. An incomplete fracture (stress fracture) can lead to a complete fracture and surgery with one run.

That’s right. You’ve been ignoring that nagging pain and one day it just goes bananas.

Pain in the same spot that doesn’t let up and hurts every time you run, walk, put pressure on it is a glaring sign that something is wrong. Guys, if it hurts, don’t do it.

Simple, right?

If you’re sidelined from your race this year because of a stress fracture, I’m really sorry. But there’s hope! Treatments are amazing, PTs make it their job to fix runners like you, and you can be back on the road in a few weeks/months.

Don’t despair!

Be smart. Hire someone smarter. Work hard.

Now go out and run.

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: Next Time

Happy Tuesday, friends! So many of you ran in Chicago, Baltimore and on Staten Island this weekend and the Fall racing season has only just begun!

So many races coming up!

So many races coming up!

The runners I’ve coached officially start their races this weekend. At this point, I’m just the person who talks everyone off the I-can’t-do-this edge. That’s my job.

But what if they really can’t do it?

Training for months, making travel plans, missing out on weekend events and parties just to get to the BIG DAY and NOT run? That’s frustrating.

And what is everyone going to tell you?

“There’s always next time.”

Ummm, yeah. Not what you want to say.

Ummm, yeah. Not what you want to hear right then.

It’s hard not to want to punch someone in the face who tells you, in your darkest moment, “You’ll get ’em next time.”

Really, cuz I didn’t train for next time, I trained for THIS TIME.

I feel you, guys. But here’s the reality of the situation:

  • You’re too injured to run.
  • Your body just can’t take it this cycle.
  • The race is cancelled.
  • The hurricane is NOT changing course.
  • You’re pregnant.
  • There’s no way you could have predicted XXX crisis/emergency.

So, yeah. There’s next time.

images

Next time you’ll train smarter.

Next time you’ll choose a different time of year.

Next time you’ll know better than to try and do a marathon during finals/end of quarter/holiday season.

Next time you’ll hire a coach.

You know. Cuz it helps.

You know. Cuz it helps.

Next time you’ll cross train.

Next time you’ll see a PT when something STARTS hurting, not after 3 months.

Next time you won’t fall to pieces halfway through.

Count yourselves lucky that there will be a next time. For some runners, they’re not sure they’ll get to run this time, forget about next time.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but those of us who have been here wondered if there would ever be another next time.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but those of us who have been here wondered if there would ever be another next time.

So put on your big girl/big boy pants and figure out what you can do next time to make it better than this time. You can do it. I know you will do it next time.

And having a next time is way Better Than the Alternative, isn’t it?

Now go out and run.

Setting Goals

First off, congratulations to everyone who completed a race this weekend, especially my friends who rocked the Hartford & Chicago Marathons. Shout out to my training buddy and school wife, Birdie, who now resides in PR City with a shiny time of 3:06:14.

That’s right. She’s MY friend.

Jealous?

I am a full minute slower than her but she puts up with me :)

I am a full minute slower than her but she puts up with me 🙂

Hey Birdie, way to go.

I am asked by my runners and lots of other newbies how they can figure out a realistic goal time for their next race. It’s something of a random equation that has mostly to do with training, a lot to do with how gutsy you are, and a little to do with race day conditions.

(Image courtesy of Runner's World)

(Image courtesy of Runner’s World)

  1. Never assume you’ll run as fast as your best long run. That was practice and it was likely several miles shorter than your race. If it happens, great! But it’s not the best way gauge your race day speed.
  2. Do several time trials of several different distances throughout training. You’ll be able to see if you’re making progress and figure out what race pace is for you.
  3. Adjust your race day goal time for race day conditions. Running in 56 degree, slightly overcast with no wind conditions is a WORLD of difference from 76 degrees, sunny with a head wind.
  4. Have an A, B, and C goal. My A goal is to finish feeling good and upright. B is the best time I can hope for, given my training. C is a realistic time based on past races.
  5. Know your body and look to your training for strategy. If you didn’t practice negative splits during training, don’t expect to see it during a race. Your race day strategy will likely mimic your training strategy, so keep good track of your runs!

That said, anything can happen on race day. You could have the perfect day, the greatest feeling in your legs, and have the race of your life that kicks every single one of your long training run’s butts. Or, the conditions could still be perfect and you bonk.

It happens.

(See #4)

The smiliest I have EVER been at a finish line. You'd never know my body was trying to kill me (literally).

The smiliest I have EVER been at a finish line. You’d never know my body was trying to kill me (literally).

The best thing to gauge your race time is your cumulative training performance. You’re 800s, mile repeats, tempo runs, and long runs are the best indicators of how what kind of condition you are in for race day.

Trust your training and get gutsy. Leave it all out on the road and see what you can do.

And have fun!

Anyone racing this upcoming week? What race did you finish last weekend? Go ahead and brag about it!!

Now go out and run.