Thursday, May 24, 2012

Error Of Judgement

When I ran up those mountains on Sunday, I intended to give the legs a new kind of workout to give the muscles a bit of a rest after two consecutive marathons. I did not intent to completely hammer them, but it sure looks like I completely misjudged the stress a couple of mountain crossings would expose them to. And to think that I thought this would be an easy run because it was only 12 miles!

I was really surprised to feel rather sore on Monday and any thoughts of a longer run in the middle of the week had to be shelved immediately. Instead I hobbled through 8 miles of mild torture, just over an hour. I still felt reasonably okay for the rest of the day.

The big surprise came on Tuesday when I was considerably more sore than on Monday. That's classic DOMS, of course, and maybe I should not have been surprised, but I really thought that after being able to run two marathons on two weekends without feeling tired, my legs would be able to withstand a mountain run much better than they did.

By then it was clear that recovery would take a few more days and that the weekly mileage would be rather moderate. With Niamh gone over the weekend I had hoped to cram a few extra miles into a kind of crash training week, but that idea had to be shelved. I might have an idea of what to do on Saturday, but it may not work; I'll see.

By Thursday morning I was well on my way to being able to run properly again. I was able to run the downhills without feeling like being stabbed in the legs and I don't have to pull a grimace anymore when walking down the stairs in the office.

The whole episode shows how much my legs are in need of strengthening. A lot of ultra training advice I have come across mentions the need for strong quads, and running steep hill is the best and most specific way to do that, even when training for a flat race. I just thought I was much further down that line than I obviously am.
21 May
8 miles, 1:02:32, 7:49 pace, HR 145
22 May
8 miles, 1:02:38, 7:50 pace, HR 149
23 May
8 miles, 1:00:36, 7:34 pace, HR 151
24 May
8 miles, 1:00:25, 7:33 pace, HR 148


  1. I see no "Error of Judgement", only an error of expectation.

    Downhills are tough on the quads as it requires significant eccentric loading, but as athletes we need to provide a training stimulus so having a tough work out is a good thing as long as one doesn't strain oneself in the process. A few days of DOMS is well worth it for toughening up.

    Personally I'd say that you don't do enough serious hill ascents and descents in your training. I'm lucky to be surrounded by hills and mountains so I just need to leave my door and within a mile I'm heading up a steep ascent. Running the hills provides both natural interval training, that stress both power/strength (ascents) and toughness (descents) and provides a great work out for balance/proprioception.

    For your 24 hour ultra you'll need the robustness to handle all those eccentric loading of your quads that happens between the land to mid-stance. The improved proprioceptive skills will also come in handy as things start to falter later in the race.

    So get out there and door your hill session again, and even consider making it longer. You'll be amazed how quickly your body will toughen up to handle the descents.

    Taking it further, a whole day out on the hills walking/light running would be a great way to prepare - it'll give you a good mix of time on your feet, walking and easy paced running.

  2. I like Robert's idea of a 'whole day out' of hilly walking/jogging to prepare for the 24 hour race.

    Good to find a weakness like that. Yes, hit the hills. Martin Fryer does a lot of hilly runs around Canberra and goes out to the Brindies where the big mountains are.

  3. In an excuse to postpone doing any real work yesterday I downloaded 'closing distance' - a documentary on the WHW made in 2005. the interviews with the runners (of all abilities) are very telling. Ian Beattie makes a good point in it where he says he would find it very difficult to run a sub-3hr marathon but finds a 95 mile sub-24hr off-road ultra achievable. I think it shows how, over time, specific training can adjust your abilities and how, for a large part, the very long distances allow you to make errors and for them to be recoverable from.

    Still, running down hill hurts if your legs are sore.

    I think Robert's idea is very good. A day (say 8 hours) of outdoor activity with a HR max of 130 will be a useful addition to your training. It'll also come in useful when Niamh kicks you out of the house and you have o live in the hills by yourself ;-)

  4. I agree with all of you, last week clearly showed that I need more serious hill training to build up my legs, especially the quads. I was thinking of doing one really long run/hike but I'm not sure if I'll manage to fit it into my real life. I'll definitely do that same hill session again though, and soon.