Peaking vs. Always Fast

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Thanksgiving is here, and that means Turkey Trots are set to happen all over the country.  I patronize one in Kenosha, WI.  This year will be the 4th time I’ll be doing it.  I enjoy the race because it’s a fun course, it’s a good opportunity to trash talk with my brother-in-law, it justifies overeating at Thanksgiving dinner, but I don’t particularly enjoy it because I run SLOW.  I’m talking 3-4 minutes slowly then my run split at Pleasant Prairie.

Why is this important, why should the general public know this?  I’ll tell you!

A couple of weeks ago there was a thread on slowtwitch where the merits of peaking versus always being fit were briefly discussed.  The thread died a lot quicker then I expected, the two approaches are vastly different and have their merits.  Paulo also brushed on this topic briefly back in April.

To save you a bit of background reading, a brief summary of what I like to call the performance Paradox is this: You can choose to be exceptionally fast once in a while, or you can choose to be fast all of the while – relative to yourself.  As a bit of background, when I use the word fast – I’m not talking fast, I’m talking soul shattering, Destroyer of Worlds fast.

Everyone has a different approach and belief when it comes to this paradox, and everyone probably thinks their approach is the best, here’s mine:

It is very hard (mentally, physically, emotionally) to go fast.  Back in my college days, I would be wiped out by a day of racing that consisted of less then 3 minutes of work.  Imagine what going full-throttle for one (or more hours) does to you as well as the impact it has on your ability to train.

I believe there are a few keys to going fast on race day

  • Consistent training – intensity, frequency, volume, and rest applied judiciously across a long period of time.  The use of the term judiciously  is key in the construction of your training paradigm.  To much of any one of those four pieces of training will result in a weak structure – which will prevent you from performing at the level you want.
  • Confidence – you must be able to believe that you have prepared yourself for the undertaking to come – “Don’t think you can, know you can”
  • Spark – Call it desire, drive, whatever – the ability to dig down into your soul and cut days, weeks, months, or even years off your life all because you are focused on a singular objective.

While I do believe you can race the fast out of you system well in advance of your Arace, I do not believe it to be frome racing to frequently, rather I think it is a function of racing the spark out of yourself.  Everytime you race you reach a point in the race where you have to make a choice – to dig or not to dig.  Everytime you dig, there is less to dig later.  Maybe you only take a little off the top each time, but a little adds up over time, then you get to the big show and you don’t have any left.

The problem with that choice is, it feels bad when you choose not to dig, you finish the race down, almost like you gave up, or left something on the table.  So what do you do?

My solution is to be tired.  For those non A races, I show up worn down, tired, and sometimes very grumpy.  I find that this puts me in a position where my body make the decision for me, and I don’t dig when I shouldn’t.

The last key to this puzzle is recharging that tank after you have emptied it.  I find that it takes me a very long time to fill it back up, I find the rate of recharge to be greatly affected by the depth of the withdrawal, but for me the best way to make it happen quickly is to rest, rest, rest and not rush back to fitness.

That is why I am looking forward to an embarrassingly slow 10k on Thursday!