Not taking my own advice, I forgot the #1 rule of endurance sports: respect the distance. It doesn’t matter what distance you’re running, cycling, swimming — all of the above. You have to respect the distance of the race. I learned that lesson, again, yesterday. Although on a weird twist, it was the “little” things that cost me, and not the magnitude of the race itself.
Why “respect the distance”? “Moving up” from a half marathon to a full marathon, for example, scares the shit out of many people and I believe most of it is mental, at least for the physically able runner. (“Moving up” is a different story for a different day.) Although they have similar names, the half and full marathons have really little in common. Physiologically, you can run a fast half marathon on a few sips of water; the full marathons, with its glycogen-depleting length, requires a nutrition strategy. The 40mi peak week plans for the marathon? Those get you across the finish line. That’s it. A better idea is to average 40mi per week as a starting point for the marathon (it’s not as much time running as you probably think; plus, if you really want it, you have to go for it).
As for my saga, I relearned respect the distance Sunday. Or at least what went into the race. This past week featured the February Rocks and Roots Trail Series races. I wanted to attempt my first 50M race. I suppose if one would take a first-attempt 50M race not seriously, this was it. I’ve run two marathons and two 50Ks the past four months, so I have had my share of long, running races, but I didn’t really train for a 50M. This was almost “something to do” than take it seriously like a goal I’ve had for years. Although running 50Ks is not short, they are still about twenty miles shorter than a 50M run. Maybe I should have done more back-to-backs?
Or tapering? I ran a glorious, 24mi long run the previous Saturday. Beautiful weather that day in Columbus, Ohio. It also meant I would really be doing no tapering. Ha… A key aspect I’ve learned to respect yesterday is the taper. The taper is reducing your mileage after you’re reaching peak fitness during a training cycle. Of course, I don’t know how much that long run affected my race because of how early I started to crash and burn. It didn’t help. To taper means to respect the distance.
Racing and training strategy ought to reflect respect the distance. I thought I had a bigger aerobic base than I did. Although I still believe I can (relatively easily) finished a course like the Roots and Rocks, actually training for a 50M trail race would have certainly helped. I.E., doing back-to-backs and running this course (of which I will do, during a drought over the summer guaranteeing no mud). I didn’t run enough of the race to truly know if I had respect the distance. Nutrition becomes paramountly important for the long races, as well as possessing a prodigious mental constitution.
The point I want to make is to respect the distance of whatever race it may be, to truly have the best, more enjoyable, pain free experience. Every race can be trained a certain way. From 5Ks to 100M. From a sprint tri to an ironman. Actually, I should flip the events of the last two examples. Train specifically. Mentally commit specifically. Race specifically. Take it seriously. Respect the distance.