Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Looking Back and Moving Ahead

The last few weeks I haven't been running all that much.  Largely this is because I took some time to reflect on the last year.  Overall it was a solid year of running but not quite what I had hoped for.  Reflecting on the year, I realized the biggest change I needed was to train a little more and race a bit less.  What I mean is that I raced Orcas Island in February, 5 weeks later ran the Georgia Death Race, 2 weeks after that ran Gorge Waterfalls, McDonald Forest followed 6 weeks later with a trip to Italy thrown in there, and Bighorn was 6 weeks after that.  Then I rushed back to running just a few days after Bighorn and soon found myself injured for the rest of the summer.
When I first looked at my spring schedule beginning last year it looked like a lot of fun with plenty of great races to keep me excited.  Honestly that wasn't the case.  The excitement seemed to spread out over all the races so there was no single race that I could barely fall asleep the night before.  And the performances were disappointing too.  I'm not saying I ran poorly, but I know that I definitely could have run faster at all those races.
What could I have done better?  Well that's what I pondered on several sun soaked hikes down in Sedona this fall.

We just scrambled around on a bunch of slick rock this trip.  We never really got that far from the car, but our red rock playground was plenty of fun for the day.

The first thing I decided to do was to take a break in the fall.  Not run much, not even run every day.  The goal was to get rested up and ready to go for next year.  Obviously my body fell apart after Bighorn, so I knew I needed to rest up and go into next year running strong.  Rest only goes so far though, but the timing of the rest this year is where I think I will find improvement over years past.  Really, scheduling of my running is the main change as I was very happy with my runs, just not the races.  This year, I'm taking some time off earlier that the past years.  I took November very easy this year, and hope to start to build up my running a slowly after we come out of the Grand Canyon next week.  Yep, my parent are flying down and we are spending Thanksgiving in the Canyon.   We won't be out in time for turkey, but we will definitely be ready for the Timbers match(second leg of the semi-final) at 3 on Sunday!  This change in schedule still gives me time to let my body recover but more importantly gives me more time to really run before my first race.  So, running more before the first race, where does that lead?  Well that was another question I pondered hiking around Sedona.

See that arch?  Well there's a trail leading to it.  Or you can opt for a bushwhack through thick manzanita.  Being the adventurous guys we are, Jacob and I opted for the bushwhack.  A quarter mile max, 45 minutes.

Actually, we were really happy to find the trail, but felt pretty dumb we missed it on the way out.

Running a bit more before my first race gives me more time to get into shape for the year ahead.  Races take a lot out of me because I run as hard as I can.  I run hard outside of races too, but no where close to as long, which is why races really take it out of me.  Then after races, I have to take some time to recover and be prepared to run again.  I've realized that my best performances always come at the end of the year, which makes sense because I'm continually improving.  Obviously I can't run hard nonstop year round or I'll do my body in pretty quickly.  Not sure why, look up Overtraining Syndrome.
So my plan for next year is to start running earlier, largely just easy runs, so I'm more prepared and will reach 'end of the season' shape earlier.  I have run a few races that I have that were truly special and each one of these were at the end of the year (August or September).  Thinking about reaching that kind of shape, when everyday running always feels easy and I race well, makes me very excited to see what I can do if I find myself at that level earlier in the year.  Now starting running earlier may help some, but the main part of my plan is to race less.
Racing less gives me more time to improve between races instead of rushing from one to the next.  This year I felt like I was mostly ready for all my races.  I'd enter a race feeling mostly prepared, but thinking that I would be able to be all the way ready for my next race.  That never happened.  Races just take too much out of me.  I need to take a few day to recover, then start some easier running and get back to normal in about a week or two (a bit longer for the longer races).  The lost time recovering then resting up for the next race really minimizes training, especially when the races are close together.  Even a few weeks between races might yield only one week of actual training.  Putting extra time between races will allow me to improve faster throughout the year and starting with a higher level of fitness really has me excited for next year.  Also, this doesn't really increase the risk of Overtraining Syndrome as the extra running will be about on par with the really hard race efforts they will be replacing.  The other benefit of racing less, is I'll be more excited for races.  I'll be better prepared which boosts excitement and there will be fewer so I'll really be ready to go.  Right now, I'm already starting to feel the excitement, I just have to keep it contained for while.  This mostly sums up my plans for next year, but after looking at these changes, I looked for anything else I could improve.
We hiked up to Wilson Mountain.  A little bit of snow, but it had mostly melted making the trail muddy.

That's a tarantula
Yesterday's arch is in the middle of this picture
This hike started out cold, but lead to some sweet new trails.

Food.  That was the last thing I could improve.  I usually eat pretty healthy, but I though that there was room for improvement.  After all, food is my fuel and I would put crappy gas in a car so I should put crappy fuel in myself.  I didn't really know where to start.  There was a section in my health book on nutrition, but that seemed like a big change from what I ate and I've been running well so I didn't want to mess things up.  So I asked Joe Uhan for advice.  Joe is a strong believer in a high fat diet, which was similar to how I have eaten over the last few year.  Now, I'm strongly committed as its nice to see science backing up what I'm doing.  In short if you eat fat, you burn fat.  If you eat carbs(sugar) you burn carbs(sugar).  There a lot more fat in your body that sugar stores so fat is a far better fuel for the long run.  To get a more detailed analysis of this go here.  The high fat diet doesn't just benefit long distance runner so it an option for everyone.  Anyhow, that's what I'm doing to be a better runner for next year.  Here's the last couple weekends:
Snow on the south rim


Whoops.  About those down coats... 
Climbing out

A parting shot of the Canyon


The wind was really whipping up here

When I'm not running a lot, I try to remove myself from the sport so I make the decisions that are right for me, not a poor decision based on what other are doing.  Because of this, I've been a little lackadaisical updating my blog.  Sorry about that.  The winter should have a bit more running action and hopefully lot of stuff during and exciting spring and summer.

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