Training, Racing & LCHF Fueling For Skating And Endurance Sports
As part of my winter running program I signed up to do this local half-marathon back in November.
I had plenty of doubts going into this – Following a couple of heavy 14-15hr volume weeks, I had all the classic signs of stage 1 over-training, so all week I took it very easy, limiting myself to just a couple of very light recovery runs and a spot of cross training (or is it cross-cross training, as running is already my cross training?).
My MAF Tests had been going backwards for a few weeks – my most recent test showed that I had lost 40 seconds/mile off my previous best pace that was back around early-mid January. MAF Test regression is pretty much the worse thing that can happen if you’re as aerobically-focussed and quantitative about it as I am. Going through my training logs, I’m pretty sure that the weekly long runs were really beginning to take their toll and I wasn’t recovering as quickly I thought I could, and this was compromising my midweek runs. In addition, I was all too painfully aware that my HRV had constantly been in the gutter for the last few weeks also.
So although I hadn’t planned to taper significantly for this race, it turned out my easy week also turned into a well-timed taper, which no doubt contributed to me having a good race day.
When people dismiss using an HRM to train strictly by heart rate or in tracking HRV, I think these last couple of weeks clearly demonstrate the value of consistent HRM usage, and how useful it is to have hard numbers to go on instead of just “going by feel” before deciding you need to make a change.
While I don’t dismiss the usefulness of going by feel, if you think you would you have caught these early signs of over-training and training regression as quickly just by feel alone, I also have a story to tell to serve as a bleak warning for those who haven’t ever got used to running by heart rate or are not very well in tune with their body. I know someone who recently just bought a HRM and started using it to track his heart rate while running – what he thought was his “easy running” zone 2 (which should have approximated to ~125 by the MAF formula) actually turned out to be 165 – so there you go… the difference between what you subjectively think is “easy” and what is actually objectively easy on your body can be considerable – when in doubt, try to measure it objectively.
It was a cold but bright day; After my stir-fry breakfast (despite my high fat carnivorous diet, I’m usually vegetarian than most vegetarians) I decided to cycle over to the race start point, which was an easy 25 minute or so across Richmond Park, which looked absolutely beautiful and pristine in the early morning sunlight, so much so that took an opportunity to stop and take a couple of pictures of the deer in the park…
I was flying solo on this one – just little old me, billy no-mates. Strangely, the idea of racing 13.1 miles at the end of February didn’t appeal to many of my friends, even the more active ones.
The race course was two loops around Old Deer Park in Richmond – about 2/3rds of it was on road/pavement, and 1/3rd was along the towpath that followed the river Thames – the conditions along this stretch were not great, being quite muddy with large puddles to be avoided. However, it was a pretty flat course, with the sole exception of a few flights of stairs that had to be navigated when joining Kew Bridge. It was no Berlin, but was decent otherwise.
I started from my customary position of “further back than I should be,” so most of the first lap was spent weaving past other runners, making my way up the field while trying to pace myself and keep my heart rate down – which I didn’t seem to do very well. I had gone off pretty hard – faster than I thought I would be able to hold, so when I came through 10k in about 48 minutes I was surprised that I was going so well, but also sure that I couldn’t hang onto that sort of pace for much longer. My HRM was bumping as high as 185 (about 92-93% of maxHR), which is way over any physiological threshold that you’ll find defined in a textbook – except perhaps the one labelled “heart will explode if held here for 13 miles”.
Fortunately on the 2nd lap around the field had spread out and there was more space on the pavements to run in without having to waste energy speeding up, slowing down, and having to dodge between other runners. This helped a little, and I clung onto the pace as the miles ticked down.
Somewhere around I also made an effort to unwrap a “nak’d bar” and attempt to scoff it down, but decided that one mouthful was enough and I could quite easily get around without any solids. I was carrying a small bottle of drink that contained a mixture of Ucan, BCAAs, Whey protein, D-Ribose & Caffeine, and quaffed this down whenever I got a chance, although I discovered that foldable bottles probably aren’t the way to go in future.
Despite hammering the race harder than I thought I could, I made an effort to smile to and thank all the marshals and volunteers – I am a firm believer in karma on the racecourse, and also that smiling also decreases your perceived effort! I eventually completed the 2nd lap and crossed the line with a time of roughly 1h:39:40 (still awaiting official results). Considering the course, I was overjoyed. Average heart rate from mile 2 onwards was 179 (89% maxHR), confirming that I ran this one hard, and left absolutely nothing in the locker. Vano 1, Central Governor 0.
I picked up my customary finisher’s medal, banana and water, walked around for a few minutes to keep the circulation going through my legs while contemplating that I had just massively PR’ed, then hopped onto my bike and cycled back home.. It was a great buildup race to have, and I’m very glad that I ran it, although to be honest I always walk away from warm-up races wishing that I had taken it slightly easier.
I’m still not completely convinced that I’m 100% firing on all cylinders and fully “normal” yet, so I’ll still be taking it easy in the lead up to the full marathon in 3 weeks’ time. Indeed, caution is highly warranted, because one of the signs of over-training is an outstanding race performance early on in process as your sympathetic nervous system and adrenals go into overdrive, massively stimulating your flight or fight response. Despite that reservation, this race gave me a lot of confidence that my running is going in the right direction. Regardless of how training goes between now and the full, I’ll have to have another very good day to come close to how well I did today.
Vegetable stir fry
coffee & cream
UCAN + BCAAs + Whey + D-Ribose + Caffeine
Nak’d bar – (ick)