Friday, September 11, 2015

Running Into Your Fifties

I will hit the half-century mark at year's end, with about 11 years of endurance racing and training in the bank. What have I learnt in my years of sustained efforts and performances?

LESS IS MORE: As I enter a new age-group (AG), I have found that more rest and recovery enhances my performance. By performance, I mean either increased speediness, or retarding the degradation process of performance. Between my Boston Qualifiers (BQ) of 2013 and 2015, my time was slower by 54 seconds. In effect, it was negligible as I lost about two minutes for a forced bathroom break. Plus, I prepared for this third BQ in less than six weeks. My usual BQ preparation is 12 weeks, or 3 months, with 3-4 workouts per week. All my runs are done at tempo-paced, fartlek, or time-trial. Intensity supercedes 'junk miles'. In the off-season, low-heartrate, aerobic activity is crucial to building up the 'fat-burning, aerobic-base'. I subscribed to Phil Maffetone's approach to building sustained endurance fitness.

EATING WELL IS KEY: With an orientation to eating 'clean', and applying the 80:20 Rule, my recovery is much better. I have included more essential fats into my diet, increasing it to about 20-30 percent of my overall diet. What has changed is including extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter, eggs, and fish oils. An increased use of antioxidant-laden nutrients such as krill oil, deep-sea fish oils (Omega-3 fatty acids), pomegranate juice, tart cherry juice (for reducing muscle soreness), colourful vegetables, probiotics (gut bacteria), and ginger. Eliminate or reduce allergy-causing foods, as it sabotages your overall health.

STRENGTH TRAINING IS A MUST: Muscle mass loss is significant once we pass the 40-year mark. I learnt the hard way that maintaining and even increasing muscle mass (lean tissue) is critical to running better. Long-distance runners, marathoners and ultra-marathoners are too 'skinny'. The emaciated look can be perceived as unhealthy. A weak upper-body supported by stronger lower-limbs, may jeopardise potential speed required for attending to hills, and the last burst of sprint speed for the finish or PR/PB. Commit to a gamut of regular, functional-strength-focused activities like yoga, core-strength, cross-training (e.g. riding and swimming), circuit-training, plyometrics, CrossFit, and the like. Gaining lean muscle weight (and thus, strength) is fine, and would not affect your performance.

STAYING MOTIVATED: Performing well physically, gives one a heightened sense of confidence. The occasional PB/PR can be empowering, whilst poor performance can riddle my race-plans with doubt. The key is to review each performance and learn what can be prevented, reduced or eliminated in future races. Sometimes, it can be physiological and beyond my control. Focus only on what you can control. The nice thing about 'aging up' and entering a new AG, would be the implicit or explicit allowances on qualification times, or potential podium placings in the Masters' category. My static time for my BQ, has recently earned me another 5 minutes for my BQ lottery. I look forward to a slot in the 120th edition of Boston Marathon with a margin of over-12 minutes for my new AG.

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