Taper Week Terrors

It’s funny – 90% of the time that I have ever spent at a Sports Rehab Clinic is during the week before a race… aka taper trouble time. The fact that running big races is still relatively new to me means that I am definitely above the average of my own statistic, as all but one of my physio appointments have been prompted by Taper week. This eureka moment only really occurred to me because my physio commented that most of the athletes she sees tend to do the.exact.same.thing. Funny, that.

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It kind of surprised me that I wasn’t the only one who experiences random tweaking sensations during this pre-race timeframe of supposedly gentle recovery exercise and rest, but I guess it makes sense. When we aren’t frantically busy trying to cram scheduled workouts into days that already seem to fill up on their own, there’s more time to focus on niggly pains (both real and imagined). If given enough time and worrying, pretty quickly these minor pains that we happily ignore for months while training can suddenly grow into issues of epic proportions. Cue the last minute sports therapy appointments, which masquerade as a “somebody please fix me now, but don’t you dare tell me I can’t run my big race!” cry of desperation.

On Saturday, I’m running the Gorge 50km trail ultra-race in Portland, Oregon. It’s not the most technical race I’ve ever done, but it’s not the easiest either. Weather can play a big factor at this time of year in the mountains, and there are a couple of killer climbs at the beginning and end of the race that are designed to kick you when it hurts. And even though this race was planned with friends as a “let’s go have fun and take selfies in front of the millions of waterfalls that make this race famous and somehow run 50km in the process”, it’s still hard not to feel a bit of anxiety leading up to the race. Fun-run or not, 50km is still a long effing distance, and I can’t avoid the perpetual, mostly unsubstantiated fear of injury that lurks in the cobwebs of my mind before every big race.

Seriously, the amount of times that I’ve dreamed about falling flat on my face and breaking my nose (or ankle, or leg, or neck) on a suddenly looming root (or rock, or tree, or my shoelace)… You get the picture. The combinations are endless, but the premise remains the same, and the ending never changes. My inner klutz gleefully takes every opportunity to remind me of my talents for tripping over and walking into things, and I spend a surprising amount of energy during taper week reminding myself that I am, in fact, mostly capable of picking my own damn feet up and avoiding ending up on my ass… and that race day isn’t all that different from any other day.

I still haven’t perfected my taper week serenity yet, but what I’ve found that works the best for me is to plan (non-running) activities with my (non-running) friends. They remind me that there is more to life besides my minor aches and pains (specifically the phantom ones). I know it’s terrible that this is the only time I consciously plan to catch up with friends that I don’t always do the best job of keeping in touch with normally, but there are just not enough hours in the days. Plus, it’s a perfectly good excuse to do more races, right? Or I will slowly convince all of my friends to take up running. That is the most efficient plan of all.

Breakfast of champions...obviously the most important part of race prep!
Breakfast of champions…obviously the most important part of race prep!

What’s your magic formula for taper week??

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Peanut Butter and Me

So for the past month or so, I’ve gone on a peanut butter bender. I’ve considered it a necessary part of any meal, and its own food group entirely (top of the food chain too, naturally). Seriously, I’m almost at the point where I think I need an intervention, just to gain some life balance with the other sadly neglected former food loves of mine…. but I’m not quite ready for that intervention yet. I still have half a quarter of a 1kg tub of organic, 100% natural, salted PB to get through first.

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While on this kick, I have come up with all sorts of ways to incorporate this beloved food group into my diet. While recovering from my oral surgery a few weeks ago, I found ways to get PB into almost every concoction my Vitamix could dream up. Notable standouts included a PB and Java shake, PB and Banana ice cream, and just plain PB on a spoon. (It’s that bad).

I’ve also discovered fantastic flourless PB cookies that continue to evolve with each new batch I make, and awesome (and easy!)mini frozen PB and Banana sandwiches, which were inspired by a random how-to picture that made its way through facebook land.

Mini PB and Banana energy bites

3-4 ripe bananas, sliced into rounds
2 100g bars of Lindt dark chocolate (I used the Chili one for some spice, but the Sea Salt would be nice too, or just plain)
100% pure PB (salted)
….that’s it!

What you do:

Spread a layer of PB on one banana round, and top with another banana. Repeat until all rounds are used.

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Melt chocolate in a bowl. I find melting it in one minute increments works well… check and stir as you go, to avoid burning. Using dark chocolate (lower sugar content) also helps to reduce the risk of burning. You may also wish to melt your chocolate in two batches… use the first batch until you run out, and then melt more for the rest. I found that this made it easier to work with the chocolate before it started hardening again.

Have a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or something non-stick) ready to go.

This next part is a bit finicky, as the chocolate is quite hot and you don’t necessarily want to just plunge your hands in and get messy. I used a couple of forks and it worked out alright. Drop your little banana sandwiches into the chocolate, roll them around quickly, fish them out, and stick them onto your baking sheet. Repeat.

Pop them into the freezer for several hours, and then you can either stick them in ziplock freezer bags for future treats, or enjoy right away! Personally, I chose both. 🙂

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Rest Days on Sunny Fridays…aka Wasted Sunshine!

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So it’s a beautiful day for a run…I’m full of energy and caffeine, and super stoked that today is Friday. The only problem with this little equation is that today (according to my newly minted training plan from my brand-spankin’-new coaches Eric and Gary), is supposed to be a rest day.

Wah. Buzzkill! Wasted sunshine!

It’s definitely not the dilemma I thought I’d have in my first week of training. But really, this week – notable for being my inaugural foray into official training territory – marks the first time that my regular “go with the flow and don’t stop until something hurts too bad to continue” mentality faces off against a structured plan with planned days of rest that are designed around when you “should” rest, not just days when you “don’t feel like” running.

So here I am. Despite flirting with the idea of bombing up Grouse mtn after work and disregarding my rest day, I’ve decided to behave. Considering I have a slightly tweaking ongoing knee pain that won’t quite go away, I probably should be resting anyways.

I’m going to enjoy a nice long walk after work with my best bud Odin (who is on week 4 of the cone of shame, at the moment), and look forward to running the second half of the Squamish50 course with a bunch of crazies tomorrow morning. With the weather forecast threatening snow, you never know what could happen.TGIF!

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An Ode to my Kahtoola Microspikes

Nearing the top of the BCMC a few weeks ago when we had our big dump...

Nearing the top of the BCMC a few weeks ago when we had our big dump…
Annd winter is no longer coming.
Annd winter is no longer coming.

So as I hiked up the BCMC (the awesome and much less famous sister to the Grouse Grind) this past week, I composed an ode to my Kahtoola MICROspikes… my latest winter trail gear acquisition. I freaking love them.

With this being such a ridiculously warm winter and all, I’ve been consistently hiking up the bcmc at least 2-3 times a week, and I’ve been impressed to no end with their versatility and reliability (both key considerations for me with every new piece of trail gear I buy). I’m happy to say that my research paid off (thank you, MEC user reviews), and spending the extra $20 on these versus other comparable products was money well spent.

Knowing that I don’t hit the snowline until three quarters of the way up the BCMC, I just throw my spikes in my running pack and off I go. When I finally hit the beginning of the icy sections I pull over and slap them on top of my trail runners, and instantly become invincible. Seriously. 4×4 for the feet. These things may not be the best option for you if you spend your time navigating slippery concrete city sidewalks, but get them onto snowy or icy trails and slopes and they are the best thing ever. My love for them has been cemented in recent weeks by the fact that when I get to the top of the BCMC, I can carry straight on to the Snowshoe Grind and they perform better than any snowshoes I’ve seen slipping around there recently. I think the fact that the snow has been so hard packed – yay West Coast winter- makes a big difference (you kind of need to have snow for snowshoes), but all I know is that I’ve been able to go tearing up to the top of the snowshoe grind in them, and then run back down at breakneck speed, with complete confidence in these babies’ ability to stop on a dime. Annnnd I don’t have to haul snowshoes up the BCMC to play in the snow.

Dam mountain- ahh.
Dam mountain- ahh.

Anything that means I can get outside and do a little bit more, and be a little bit faster than I was before, makes me pretty darn happy.
I’m always looking for new ideas… Do you have any favourite pieces of gear that make your seasonal running easier?