Saturdays are usually my Long Slow Run day. Today was no exception, other than the fact that it was a cutback week so my schedule showed only 3 miles. 3 miles? Hardly a 'long' run. And, it was 9 degrees outside. Brrrr!!! So I decided to run at least a 5K distance and then add in my warm-up/cool-down mileage on top of that. And, I figured since the distance was low, I would pick up the pace.
So I ended up running for 3.3 miles and with my warm-up/cool-down mileage, the whole 'run' totaled 3.87 miles. I ended up with an average pace of 9:37/mm which I am very pleased with. No way I could run an entire Half Marathon at that pace, but it would be pretty cool if I could run the last 5K of the race at that pace (assuming I have enough 'in the tank' to ramp it up for that long). Either way, it was a good solid run!
I have one final 'normal' training week remaining. I am scheduled for a little over 20 miles next week, including my final 'long' slow run of 12 miles on the 17th with my buddy Mike. After that, I will start tapering off my workouts, shortening my Interval Runs and reducing my Long Runs to 6 and then 3 miles. And before long, I will be at Disney, walking through the Expo, and preparing for my races.
I wonder if I will feel any of the 'taper madness' I have heard about. But first, a definition. "Tapering" is a phase in your training for a race. Some will say it is as important as any other aspect of race preparation. It is the 1-3 week process (depending upon the race distance) where runners begin to wind down their training to allow their muscles to heal (from all the high mileage activity) and recharge themselves with glycogen and nutrients. It is also a time for getting rest (yes, more sleep!) and relaxing before the big day. Each week sees a reduction in the miles being run, and the pace of those runs are supposed to be very easy. No speed work, no hill work.
For me, running 20+ miles a week, it sounds both relaxing and worrisome to be cutting back on training leading up to a race. I have to go from 20 miles a week to 14, and then the following week down to 10? And either cut out my TEAM Fitness workouts, or severely reduce those workouts the first two weeks of tapering (and VERY light cross training -- 15-20 minutes tops -- on the last week). Wow!
Some runners experience what's called 'taper madness' -- the phantom pains, panic attacks, depression, and much more that plague some runners during this three-week period of decreased training just before the race. I do not think I will have that problem, but it does happen (mostly for marathoners and ultra marathoners). I think my biggest issue will be dealing with the anticipation of the race, the trip preparations, the excitement of meeting my racing team friends, and the anxiety about how I will perform on Race Day.
I found a pretty decent article about Tapering on Runners World. Check it out here.
I have been doing a lot of thinking about this journey that I am on, and where it might lead me. What happens when I reach my goal weight? What happens after I run my first Full Marathon? Will I be able to maintain my healthy habits? Am I going to continue to run and enjoy it?
My weight loss has been slowing down, almost at a plateau for the past month. Part of that is because with all the workouts and running, I am developing more lean muscle mass and muscle weighs more than fat. So while my weight is not drastically going down, I am still losing inches off my body. So I know things are still happening that are positive. But at some point, I want to see the pounds start to fall off a little faster (like in the beginning). I know that it is not realistic to maintain that kind of high weight loss profile, so I need to adjust my expectations and be happy with a 3-6 pound monthly loss. I really wanted to reach my weight loss goal by next summer. I think that is still possible. Then, I will have to work to maintain the weight. That can be its own challenge.
As for running, right now I plan to continue to set short and long term goals for myself (as long as my 51-year body, legs, and knees are up to it). I already have a race schedule set for 2012 which I am happy about and believe is reasonable. I plan on running the Disney Marathon in 2013 and possibly the Chicago Marathon that same year (depending upon how I feel about full marathons after Disney). After that, I have no race plans.
I am praying that I will continue to be able to run 3 days a week just for fitness and fun every week for as long as I live. I have this dream that perhaps once a year, Christi and I can go on a trip and run somewhere exotic -- Hawaii, Jamaica, London, Greece, Africa -- or maybe take a "runners" cruise like the one John Bingham and Wendy Hadfield offer. Just for the fun of it!
This week, I was listening to an episode of the podcast "The Marathon Show" by Joe Taricani, and he was interviewing someone who plans and chaperones "running vacations" all over the world. She was talking about the Kilimanjaro Marathon/Half Marathon event (at the base of the Kilimanjaro in Africa) that she takes a group to every year. Oh would I love to go out there and run that race! And while there, you can optionally go on an African Safari, and even climb the Kilimanjaro! Now wouldn't that just be the best vacation ever?!!! I think so!
I was talking to a friend on FaceBook last night, whose husband has run several marathons and other races. They just got back from Negril, Jamaica where he ran the Raggae Marathon. This race has 10K, Half, and Full Marathon events and is located by one of the best beaches in Jamaica. Her photos were amazing! The next one is on December 1st, 2012. I am telling you right now, I am really interested in running a Half Marathon there!
So I guess, as long as there are ways to keeping running fun and exciting, and the body stays healthy, and I can afford it, then I am going to keep on running! I might start to really increase my swimming too (perhaps there is a aquathlon -- swimming and running -- in my future). I am still shying away from the triathlon... :)