Monday, February 4, 2008

Monday 14 miles.

20 degrees and heavy snow falling.. shitty footing. But I wasn't going to ditch this run nor was I interested in running on the treadmill..
WU) 4 miles in 25:00.
5 miles in 28:10 (5:37 pace) with HR average 168. Legs felt horrible, crampy and stiff. Calves started to get sore towards the end of this run.. ahhhh, good old taper feelings!


GZ said...

I feel this is a stupid question but ... why does this happen? It seems to me that if you rest a bit, you are fine. But when you rest a bit more - as part of a normal taper - you (and by that I mean we) go through this voodoo wierd phase where you feel like crap. You mentioned withdrawal yesterday. Is it that? Is it withdrawal from the endorphins of higher mileage?

I have heard the catch all phase that it is a neurological change, but that does not really describe to me what is happening. Maybe nobody knows?

It also seems to me that the timing of this crash needs to be well planned. In your case, two weeks out seems perfect. I think I have botched it a bit in the past by dealing with it in the week before (which does wonders for confidence!)

Any counsel in this area?

Lucho said...

It's quite a few things- metabolism is one. In periods of high intensity or volume your metabolism stays cranked up. When we rest- even if we are still running a fair bit- our metabolism slow. Endorphins I have read is another reason for the low energy. And a third is that anytime you change a stimulus- no matter the direction- your body will respond initially in an unfavorable way(like if you doubled your mileage you would feel like crap too).. well, cutting mileage is also a shock if you have been running high mileage for months at a time.
The body also goes through the process of healing all the little tears that have been around for months which can cause muscle soreness and tightness. It all sucks but in order to truly peak you need to reduce mileage. Even Hudson who is an advocate of not reducing mileage knows that a true peak is not going to happen this way.

Chuckie V said...

Perhaps the biggest effect is from the changes in the blood (your body's motor oil), with an increase in your overall volume and in the electrolyte-loaded plasma volume. There's a lot of research going into this as of late, especially since tapering really is more of an art than a science---and the physiologists want to change that; they want answers.

But I have a simpler explanation! Methinks it's related to inertia, or lack thereof! All that momentum is suddenly told to slow down and like Lucho says, the metabolism freaks out because of it. Then we freak out because of that! And then we freak out because we're freaking out! And THAT, I think, is what helps us race our best. Freaking out is all about nerves firing simultaneously and that sort of nervous energy is a good thing and can override almost any level of fatigue...unfortunately, though, not through an entire marathon.

Best to rest!
Le freak say Chuck!

Lucho said...

Chuck hit the nail on the head there with the "freaking" out being part of it. If my legs felt his horrible 2 months ago then I would have simply gone about my business and been fine. In fact they have felt this poorly before key workouts and I simply did the workout as I was supposed to anyway. But because I expect to feel great.. and I don't.. then I'm getting sort of the hypochondriac effect and I think I feel worse than I do.
The blood volume thing is partly too why it is suggested to not drop your volume in a taper. Too much of a drop in training stimulus triggers your body to lower it's blood volume- it assumes you don't need it. I had forgotten about the blood volume one.. and living at altitude changes the concept even further.. but I'm not sure in what direction. I believe (and I may be wrong) that altitude causes a loss in blood volume while you are at altitude- then when you descend it raises? Chuck is a more well read scientist than I am.. and I have a degree in Biochemistry.. no shit.

GZ said...

I find the blood volume factor VERY interesting, particularly in regards to altitude. I have a special interest in that since I need to get to altitude as part of the training I do (focus on Pikes, need to get to 14K).

My understanding (and I am probably wrong as my degree was in geophysics) is that you increase your red blood cell count as you acclimate to altitude (less O2, get more carriers). I am not sure if this changes blood volume. It would seem to suggest that it would increase it (at least your hemocrit levels) but perhaps your plasma drops?

All that said - I am watching this taper with great interest because I am still trying to figure this step out. My tapers in the past have been far from correct ... particularly for a marathon. One of the things I have played with is keeping the mileage and the intensity up until about 2-3 days out and then resting ... it does not seem optimal. I am interested to see how you feel next week Tim.

But - you are super fit and ready to rock. I know I will be all over the Austin results page come race day looking for you.


Lucho said...

There actually isn't less oxygen at altitude.. just less pressure. Oxygen is transfered in to the blood stream via pressure (less inside your lungs than out), as you go up the pressure outside lessens which decreases your lungs ability to transport oxygen across a membrane (alveoli).. anyway.
The taper should not include intervals that are at a higher intensity than you have been doing. Often time athletes try to crank up the intensity and reduce the volume.. that's counter intuitive to the marathon. In the last 8 weeks of a marathon schedule the intensity should be as specific to your marathon intensity as possible. Deviating from this will only teach your body how to NOT run at marathon pace (which is extremely metabolism specific). Most of your high intensity work- repetitions (3k pace) and work done at above LT- should be done in the weeks preceding the last 8 weeks.
Chuck is correct in that tapering is not a science as much as it is an art and just plain luck! How many extremely experienced elite athletes do you see toe the line not 100%... many! Meb and Abdi at the trials are perfect examples! They should have gone top 3 with Hall but instead they toed the starting line injured and not feeling ready. Same with Alan. None of this is making me feel any better!;)

kerrie said...

yeah, i truly think it is an art to taper well, and it is probably the most difficult part of training...anyone can hammer, but few can truly back off when they need to!
one thing that i can never explain is, beside feeling like a slug during a taper, is why i almost always get sick??
wolfgang's unscientific explanation is that it is my system "cleaning itself out" and always recommends that i start tapering even earlier but i never think that my low volume merits much of a taper, lol.

GZ said...

Yup, at 14K there is something 26% less differential pressure and so ... well, I know it is the same amount of air, but it feels like it is less so I just less air. It is not scientifically accurate, but you get the idea. You are right - I said it wrong.

But, I think this is right - the body's response to that is to produce more red blood cells (and hence the flocking of athletes to places like Boulder, Flagstaff, etc). Still, I don't know what that does to blood volume.

Your next statement though about not doing work above LT in the last eight weeks ... WOW. This is nearly completely different than what I have heard in the past. Other than the taper (which I am still trying to figure out), my understanding was that work above LT was done in the last six to eight weeks before a peak effort (sans the taper) in order to maximize your anaerobic fitness - and work before that was focused on maximizing aerobic fitness. So, if that is true, above LT work would be done in the final weeks (other than the taper) leading up to the effort.

Maybe the marathon is different in this regard than the 5K and 10K?

Crap, if I keep getting this stuff out of your comments, you are going to need to bill me.


trev said...

I have to correct a mistake you made :
"There actually isn't less oxygen at altitude.. just less pressure."

This is not absolutely correct - there is still 21% Oxygen at altitude but the pressure is lower. Because there is less pressure the oxygen molecules are further apart and there is less oxygen per unit volume.

As for the bodies response:
* Lower lactate production (because reduced glucose breakdown decreases the amount of lactate formed).
* Compensatory alkali loss in urine
* Decrease in plasma volume
* Increased Hematocrit (polycythemia)
* Increase in RBC mass
* Higher concentration of capillaries in skeletal muscle tissue
* Increase in myoglobin
* Increase in mitochondria
* Increase in aerobic enzyme concentration
* Increase in 2,3-BPG
* Hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction
* Right ventricular hypertrophy

Some great reading (and references) here:

So for each breath, you are getting less molecules of air (and oxygen).

Lucho said...

I have to correct a mistake you made:
"There actually isn't less oxygen at altitude.. just less pressure."

This is not absolutely correct - there is still 21% Oxygen at altitude but the pressure is lower.

Isn't that just rewording? Where's the correction?
Yes the molecules are further apart.. but there isn't less oxygen... which is what I said.