Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Limestone 5km 2011 and the Taper Mind Effect

It was a beautiful still day in Kingston Ontario for The Limestone Racing Weekend. Hundreds of people lined up for the 5km and Half Marathon at 9:30 am on the warm spring day. I went out slow with the 1:40 rabbit for the Half then picked it up to finish my first km in 4:35. Heading into my second km I had lots of energy and picked it up a bit as I passed under the RMC arch way. I know it is only a 5km race but for some reason after finishing the 2nd km with a 4:30 split I began to have trouble staying focused. I think it was due to not having run more then a 15 minute tempo in what had seemed like an eternity and in dealing with some injuries my training of late had become much like an extended taper. Coach had reminded me before the race that tempos do not determine fitness however I think it was more my mental fitness that was lacking in this race then my physical fitness. My legs had no problem churning away at that pace and it was my head that seemed to keep wandering and becoming doubtful of my ability to maintain the effort. I think I get this same sort of effect after a normal taper also so I am going to call this the "Taper Mind Effect"(until I think of something better).

My mind really prefers to be constantly reminded of what I am planning to do with my body and if it has time to forget then it starts to get nervous and doubtful of my ability to accomplish the task. I get this all the time with my strength workouts also. As soon as my trainer decides to switch my workouts and focus on different muscles I suddenly get very anxious to the point of coming very close to having an anxiety attack. This response then lessens each time I perform the routine and after a few times I am usually OK. But give me a weeks break from the workout and I am back to being doubtful and anxoius again. What I need is a way to taper my body but at the same time stimulate and engage my brain to remind it of my ability to perform the task. I was thinking that next time I have an injury or am tapering that I could sit and visualize my race or workout in real time, thinking and feeling and trying to live the entire process of the race or workout from the beginning to the end. In one sense I have already done this when I was aqua running. I was going through the motions of a workout but not actually running. OK that is a bit of a stretch since aqua running has a physical aspect to it however I often felt that the act of aqua running was a clever ploy of my coach to keep my mind active while injured. In aqua running there is zero impact on your body, very minimal reisistance from the water and you can not get your heartrate up no matter how you try. It always struck me as much more of a mental exercise then a physical one as I wrote in a past blog entry. When I finally did recover from my runners knee injury after aqua running for a few months I was able to pick up where I had left off rather quickly and I had a very easy transition back to running. I can't help but think alot of that was due to my mind going through the process of the workouts.

I am really not sure how my race report came to this but to summerize I do think that just because a taper is good for our bodies  and makes us stronger that for some of us the same taper is not as good for our minds and makes them weaker. Coming up with a way to counteract the "Taper Mind Affect" could be very helpful to me and perhaps yourself and I would like to hear your personal opinions and if you have felt the same effect from a taper.

OK now back to the race. After fighting to stay focused after 2km a girl began to come up on my shoulder at 2.5km. It felt as though she was running stronger them myself and was ready to pass me when I decided to try to hold her off and I picked it up a bit and and passed a few others as well. I was coming to the "Magic 3km mark" and there was a small hill to go up and I kept the same effort running up it as on the flats so everyone I had passed previous now surged passed me racing up the hill. I kept my cool and stuck with the plan to run up over the top steady and overtook every single one of them again and never heard from any of them for the rest of the race. I was heading home with 2 more km to run and looking at my watch I knew I was not on pace for a fast race. With my mind still doubting my ability to keep up the pace I had to overcome the negative thoughts as I pushed over the bridge to the final 1km stretch. I could see the finish line and was able to pick up the pace to finish strong feeling completely spent both mentally and physically.

It had been a real mental struggle and I was very happy to have held it together with such a steady race with the last 2kms run at 4:30 and 4:28. Mr Garmin says I ran an extra 50 m and my final time 22:48 which was good enough for 1st in my Age.
Below is a video of the awards, race and start strangely in that order; ) The  kid in the purple top is just so cute. He was so tired and his dad was so proud.


Sara Montgomery said...

Interesting about the taper mind effect. I love that you passed everyone back from the hill. Even effort is a good strategy! Good race, EJ.

slowrunner said...

i am running a 50 miler this saturday. do you really want to know what goes through my mind this week . . . this week when i can't run as much as i want to . . . this week when i can't do as much crossfit as i want to . . .

*why do i sign up for these things?
*i'm not going to even bother going!
*why would anyone want to run for 14 hours?
*what if i can't get to the start on time?
*what if i don't make the cut-off?
*what if they post an amazing WOD at crossfit when i'm gone?
*what about friday night club?
*do i really have to eat super clean this week?
*i think i'm having a panic attack!

get the picture!?

great job on your race EJ!

Eliza Ralph-Murphy said...

You are thinking all of that and it is only Tuesday. Good Luck making it to the end of the week. That is just the stuff I like to hear though and I know I am not alone. But really why don't you sit down after one of your non satisfying short runs and imagine yourself on one of your toughest technical trails for a while in your mind or perhaps a really hard imaginary crossfit workout. That might help.

I will be thinking about you and hoping it all works out for the best.

slowrunner said...

i think i will imagine the big nasty milkshake i'm going to have when i finish! pylon tradition!
thanks EJ !