I wish this were a “John’s wisdom will come shining through” sort of thing, but I know it is not. I was never at the elite level. On the other hand, I think that is a major fallacy of many advice articles–very few recreational runners ever perform at the mental and physical levels the top tier competitors do.
The folks that go into an event with the idea that anything less than a top five, maybe top ten for a championship event, finish being a failure are committing so much time and physical and emotional energy to each race, emerge totally spent and their recovery–just as their training–will seem extreme to most.
They push themselves into a “last resources used at the finish line” environment. The lesser runners sometimes do that, but it is more often because of going to the starting line somewhat poorly prepared (the just finish, just beat the cut-offs, don’t care about time realm). One group prepares themselves with total immersion in the needs of the day; the other embraces survival shuffles; often thinking a survived death march is a badge of grand performance.
In between… in between, uh, rest the masses? Some of us set goals that demand a lot of effort–keep in mind the psychological side of effort can be just as draining as the physical. It might be an effort level that will deplete the resources to get out the door for a while. I think the psychological aspect is just as important as the physical training, but it gets ignored; lost in the selection of gels, powder, pills, clothing gimmicks, and which sound list to use.
Sorry–this is something to be discussed while running side-by-side during three or four hours on the trails. Running has so many parts. When you get to that upper tier, some “least little things” can wreak havoc not to be recovered from that day and whose after effects will be felt for weeks.
Concrete examples in this nonelite household. We believe in active recovery. We run the day after–the day after long runs, as well as the day after races, i.e., if a long run or race was on Saturday, Sunday was a short run–just long enough to loosen everything up, get warmed all over, see how everything feels–nothing strenuous. Monday would be the rest day.
We ran Strolling Jim (40ish miles) on one Saturday and ran Coast Hills 50 (50 miles of trails) the following Saturday. We were not racing, just running at a reasonable pace. We wanted to see what consecututive long-run weekends would feel like. We thought of those two runs as a major psychological training lesson.
I came off a subseven-hour 50-mile time (6:31ish) with a 100k on a three-week horizon. We paused at a campground on the way home to get in the “just a few easy miles” run the next day. The next day was a rest day. The rest of the week was just easy stuff, tenish miles on Thursday and Saturday was a couple of hours. The second week–the middle week of the three–had three days with a lot of “playing” built in. I ran on routes with forest beauty and waterfalls, creeks and a meadow or two. The running might include “sprinting” to the next tree or switchback—anything to get the mind back into the enjoyment of small-goal segments.
The third week was back to nothing more than 45 minutes and nothing of hard effort. I knew the endurance was there. I sort of thought the mind was back. I knew I was not injured. Off we went to the 100k (I won 🙂 ).
That is sort of what we did. I used a five-day run week. Kathy tended to run seven days a week. We were not elites, but we did win a few. There were quite a few consecutive weekends of marathons, marathon/ultra, or ultra/ultra, but most of them were just running. We never did get to the top of the ladder where there was nothing left to give.
I have been accused of heresy for not running all out. My running, even the racing, was done with being able to enjoy the day, and the day after.
Sorry for the rambling, but it isn’t a well-defined thing for me.
———-run gently out there———-