Training Tuesday- peak week edition

Hello world. This morning I got up, snapped a quick selfie, and ran a dozen miles before breakfast.
I love running lots and lots of miles (obviously); however, a 12 mile mid-week run is not usually part of my routine. 
Done and done
The reason I have been boosting my volume lately is because I am smack dab in the middle of peak training week for The Tacoma Marathon next month. I have one more 20 mile long run on my schedule this weekend, then I am going to start reducing my mileage to taper into the big race.
You might be asking: what’s the idea here? Why ramp up and then cut back? Shouldn’t you runs just get longer and longer and longer forever? 
As much fun as that sounds, the axiom “if some is good, more is better” does NOT apply to marathon training. 
Edina Monsoon’s life motto doesn’t apply…we can look to her for inspiration in other aspects of our lives
(Image: wikimedia commons)
Most sensible training schedules follow cycles of periodizarion: high mileage and/or intensity followed by a reduction, in order to let the body recover and adapt to the challenge. The peak week represents the biggest challenge in preparation for the race.
The idea here is that your body is not gaining strength and endurance during the “so hard you want to stop, but you keep going because you are a BADASS” workouts themselves. The point of long hard workouts is to tear you down a little bit. It is during the rest and recovery phase where your body repairs the damage, and re-builds itself a little stronger than it was before. Peak week is supposed to tear you down and wear you out–so that you can recover and run a strong race.
We can re-build you….stronger, FASTER
The term excercise physiologists use to describe this phenomenon (and you can find a few great articles here and here) is “compensation.” 
Athletic performance in response to hard training follows an irregular sigmoidal curve. Immediately following a period of intense training performance actually suffers- you are WORN out. However, in time, with proper recovery the body will adapt to perform at a higher level. 
This is the goal. Whenever I draw cartoons they look like DNA…
Those gains in performance can easily be lost if you don’t keep training: the body is an amazing thing, it can adapt to sitting around on the couch eating Cheetos just as easily as it can adapt to running miles and miles. However- if you never give your body a chance to recover you will never gain fitness in the first place; you will just keep wearing and tearing until you eventually break down.
This is why most sensible training plans include a peak and a taper. The idea is to push yourself almost to the limit, allow some time for recovery, then arrive on the starting line in prime condition ready to take on the challenge. 
We runners are a superstitious bunch, and you can find gigabytes of articles and blog posts about optimizing the peak week, timing the peak week properly, how many long runs you MUST do to succeed, how MUCH mileage to run, which gods to sacrifice a chicken to under the full moon upon an altar of energy gels and anti-chafe cream in order to have success. I think that there is no one formula that works for everybody, each runner has different needs and capabilities; the important thing is to get to know yourself and evaluate how you are feeling. 
For my own peak training week I have two more middle distance runs ahead of me, a day of swimming, and a final 20 miler this weekend. I’ve run three 20 milers over the course of this training cycle, so I’m not too stressed out about the distance. I’m certainly feeling a little sore and fatigued, but not unreasonably so. The point of a peak week is to PUSH you, not BREAK you. My strategies for success this week are:
1) Sleep > 7 hours each night.
2) Stretch whenever I get the opportunity (a lot of the things I do at work have one- or two- minute incubation periods. Centrifuging is a great chance to catch up on flexibility)
I could be stretching instead of taking selfies
Hello Lover
Dr. Atkins can go fly a kite. Muscles need fuel to perform. High volume training necessitates high volumes of good quality fuel. Luckily oatmeal and sweet potatoes happen to be two of my favorite foods in the entire world. Bring on the glycogen baby! 

4 thoughts on “Training Tuesday- peak week edition

Add yours

  1. Hahaha- I usually cobble together a plan based on a few different sources. I think Hal Higdon writes solid plans, and Matt Fitzgerald’s Brain-Training based plans are really good too. I end up adjusting things to include a few days of swimming and a day of yoga per week because they make me happy. I have a few speed workouts that I like that I keep going back to, but I try and force myself to vary the types of paperwork I do. Running 800m repeats is fun for me, running mile repeats…not so much. I know that they are good for building efficiency though, so l’ll bargain with .myself: 2 mile repeats and then you get to do 4 800s. Lately I’ve mostly been doing extended tempo runs as race week gets closer.

    Hahaha- my current go-to oatmeal fixation is blackstrap molasses, frozen blueberries, an unreasonable amount of cinnamon, vanilla almond milk, and a sprinkle of sea salt. It may be weird, but so am I.

    Do you follow a plan with your cycling? Or do you just ride what feels right? I find the structure of a plan very comforting: I like having all my workouts for the week on my calendar


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