Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Embrace the Taper

A guy on Slowtwitch referenced the workout function on his Garmin 305 the other day. This got stuck somewhere in my brain and today, just before I took off on what was intended to be my last long hard run before Berlin, it resurfaced. In four years of owning a GPS I never had tried the workout function—why not test it out on a key run less than three weeks before the race you've been pointing to for months? Surely nothing bad could come of that. (Obviously I was channeling Homer Simpson.)

I entered "15 miles" for the distance and "7:30" for the pace. And off I went.

With no warm-up at all.

Having entered this workout into the Garmin, I had no choice—one does not defy the Garmin—but to adhere to it. Right from the start. So from my first step—did I mention there was no warm-up?—I was revving up to that 7:30 pace. Now, 7:30 pace is not super-crazy-stupid fast in my book. Hell, I just ran a one-hour time trail at 6:41 a few days ago.

But if there's one thing I've learned while training for Berlin—and isn't this ironic—it's the value of warming up. Why, just yesterday while snacking after my bike ride I was patting myself on the back for being such a good warmer-upper. "Kudos to you, Pete, for your most excellent training-run preparations!" I said, cracking open a pistachio and popping it into my mouth (this is foreshadowing; yes, indeed, more on those pistachios later!).

Today, no preparations! Why? Don't know. Off I went.

I hit it hard, going from cold to one mile in 7:22. Didn't feel great but figured I'd settle in. Next mile: Another 7:22. Felt tight. Felt like I was working way too hard.

Well, shit, I'm not going to detail the whole grisly, grim, gruesome (what is it about these words starting with gr?) death march. It was a bad run. I didn't warm up, went out way too fast (especially given that I hadn't warmed up) and every step of the way the run felt like it was unraveling, becoming less and less tenable, unsustainable. Not only did I fall off the prescribed pace—forgive me, Garmin—I didn't even do the full 15.

After zigging and looping and zagging around the wider neighborhood—going up and down a lot of small, brutal hills, apparently in some fit of masochism—I was near my house for the final two miles. And they became a final one mile. I hit 14, a block from home, and said enough. Enough of this.

Fourteen miles at 7:36. I asked myself, walking that last block home: "Could this happen at Berlin? Could I completely suck?" It could; you could. It's always possible. Usually, though, the Race Day effort is good. There's a warm-up.

Later, too, this occurred to me: A hard 20-miler 10 days ago. Yasso 800s under three minutes a couple days after that. And the aforementioned one-hour TT on top of that. A little heavy on the intensity of late? I'd say so. My new mantra: Embrace the taper.

And lastly, as promised, a word on pistachios: The 1 lb. bag at Trader's Joes, the "50% Less Salt" one? Don't eat the whole thing in 24 hours. Just don't.

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