The metaphor that I think best sums up OTS is that it's like falling off a cliff, surviving, and then mentally and physically getting back to hanging out on the edge of a cliff (which is oh so mentally and physically difficult). The falling off is straight forward: the endocrine system is shocked and everything is out of whack from sleep to mood to metabolism to adrenaline production to psyche. If you're in a bad mood, you might not train, or if you're optimistic and want to go out and have a good run, it just might not happen for awhile as the adrenal glands give you the silent treatment. I had this happen last year trying to train for Sean O'Brien and Gorge Waterfalls, neither race had any memorably great training runs, and my last run stateside before UTMB was pretty freaking miserable. Then, as far as metabolism goes, you might gain weight or feel very weak during runs, and when you try out diets or test theories, nothing is consistent. I tried to eat very little meat, and felt super weak but also bloated, and then even when I started to eat more meat I felt weak and hungry. Finally, I got to a point of being mostly plant based (some fish, chicken, and eggs here and there), and plenty of greens, grains, and plant based fats. The consistency of a balanced diet is chiefly focused on sustained energy levels, but to get to this point, it took some bouts of trial, error, confusion, and eventually confidence. To sum it up best, OTS makes the body a spoiled brat and that messes with you so it can stay home from school and eat spaghetti O's. At some point you just have to Mom up and figure out what is normal staunchly decrying no soda, no internet before bed, more veggies, less dessert, dishes washed, homework done, pajamas on, and mandatory bed times on school nights.
|Being a good boy|
As far as reformulating my training goes, I'm at a place of acceptance, patience, and organization. I accept that more mileage doesn't get me in shape as much as hard workouts, and I am more patient with setbacks that are warning signs of relapses. I think I still can run higher mileage weeks, but I know my body responds better to shorter, harder runs that require as much rest as a longer easier run. Also, there's the necessity of taking cross-training seriously and engaging in AIS stretching daily, which has done a lot for my stride, injury prevention, and overall speed on trail. I even (shameless product plug) started heart rate training with a Suunto Ambit Peak watch that tells me how much rest I need to be back at 100%. Usually this is a little silly for ultrarunners who (supposedly) require 100+ hours of recovery for a hard 15 mile run, but it's actually really nice because it rewards you with less recovery hours if you run really easy (which you're supposed to be doing anyways!), and it's generally pretty accurate with recovery time necessary to be able to run at your peak HR, performance, and efficiency. When it comes down to it, I have more memorable runs this spring because of using HR and listening to the recovery function and running harder and faster when I was fully recovered, rather than just working out on a hunch of capacity and ability. My last workout last Friday was at full recovery, and allowed me to crank out some fast miles over rolling terrain without fear of burning out or OTS. This would be the part of the metaphor when I'm back to walking along the edge of cliffs and knowing again what all the warning signs of falling off are (because it's 2016 and I listen to data).
My goals for Sonoma are simple, run to my capacity and develop a plan for HR based racing at AC based on how long I can hold different zones. I already know I can hold 150-165 for a couple hours, the goal is to figure out if I can do a few more hours, and to evaluate recovery for going into my final block of training for AC. It should be interesting to see what I can do on a largely fair course of singletrack and gradual climbs. Any specifics about racing other runners isn't going to come into my mind until the last 10 miles, so it should be easy, right?