A picture of the leaves fallen on the trail at Sugarbush Mills Heritage Park.

2020 5k PB Attempt Week 9 – Wisdom Paradox, Caffeine Overdose, and Finding Balance

” The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

Albert Einstein

Otherwise knows as the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a cognitive bias where people believe they are smarter and more capable than they really are, and as they learn more, the more they realize they just don’t know, and even questioning what they do.

I think this perfectly explains where I find myself today. I’m nine weeks in, I’m progressing okay, I’ve learned many things, and despite all that, I feel like I have more questions than answers.

And that’s it, what I’ve enjoyed the most about the journey so far, the writing, the self-reflection about what’s working, what’s not working, and what new things I should try. What’s fascinating to me is that as much as I thought I knew after eight years of running, how much I continue to discover I just don’t know.

Although not thoroughly tested, it’s safe to say I’ve thought about a lot these past nine weeks. Like the benefits of 80/20 running, the power of positive thinking, the impact of alcohol, diet, and sleep on performance. And what quantifiable changes these can all bring.

How did the week go?

Week nine was definitely a week that requires a bit of a positive spin, and surprisingly I’m okay with that. Coming into the week, I was excited, pumped even, to start the first two parts of the Lionel Sanders 5k Training Plan, a 6x600m session at 3k race pace, and a 5x1k session at 5k race pace.

As I discuss below, the results weren’t quite to plan. Although the times were slower than anticipated, the effort was there. This opens up a few more questions, such as whether the long slow pace of marathon running causes immediate adaptions that slow down your short fast runs? Or, was a week of recovery enough after an untrained marathon? Or maybe something else altogether?

There were some challenges this week, as well. 

For instance, while preparing for the 6×600 session, I decided to take a pre-work energy drink, the Vege One Pre-Workout Energizer. Having lost the measuring scoop, I eyeballed the dosage. Be warned, that was a horrible idea. Within minutes I was flying, and not in a good way. I don’t know if you can overdose off caffeine, but that was probably the closest I’ve ever come to it.

Waking up the next day, I was a disaster, with debilitating pain radiating across my upper back, and the questions continued. Caffeine overdose? Poor running form during an intense run? Not working out enough lately? Some combination of the three?

The impact cascaded throughout the week, with Thursday’s run pushed back to Friday, an extra rest day on Saturday, and back to some level of normalcy on Sunday.

As much as there were challenges, there were successes too, with my first month of over 200kms ever. All, due to the miracles of 80/20 running, without feeling like I was killing myself.

What about 80/20 running?

As I mentioned last week, the main benefit of 80/20 running so far has been the resulting increase in distance, in a manageable and measured way.

As great as 80/20 running has been, everything comes at a cost.

Which makes me think, as great as it’s been as 80/20 running is, what are the trade-offs? For instance, for an amateur athlete, with work/life commitments, all training is done with a limited time allotment. When one distance increases, another suffers.

A few months back, I was mixing in lots of cycling, and now I’m not. For now, I’m okay with that, the weather is getting colder, and I obviously have a pretty singular focus on setting my PB, but what about next year? Is it possible to strive towards a Boston Qualifying time while also improving my 70.3 time, while also incorporating a few two to three-day bikepacking sessions, or do I have to choose just one?

Why not a coach?

That’s perhaps the best question, why not a coach? And there are many complexities to this answer. 

The easiest answer. My training approach has always been very fluid, focusing on the things I know I need to do in a month, but in a way that will be fun for me. I fear that by building out too much of a plan, what was once fun will soon turn into a chore, and everything which I love about training will dissipate into the ether.

With this thought in mind, I’ve begun to think more and more about finding balance in my training by continuing to push outside more comfort zone and try new things. Although a coach won’t work, what might, is shared experiences and shared knowledge, and with that, I’ve been thinking more and more about finding a running group for my weekend long runs. I’ll let you know how that goes.

October 27, 2020 – No Limits Workout 1 – 6×600

A picture of me after a night track session.
After LS Workout 1 – 6x600m at 3k Race Pace

Today was speed workout 1 of 10 of my final push to PB in 2020. The plan, 6x600m at 3:50km (target 3k race pace).

As I mentioned in my week seven wrap-up, the plan for these next seven weeks is to replicate the training plan Lionel Sanders used to set his 5k PB two weeks ago. Let’s just say, it’s going to be intense.

As I prepared for the run today, I decided to do two things.  

First, to leverage the power of positivity. To channel my inner Goggins, to not fear the run, and it worked. Not only did I not fear the pain. I welcomed it. Let’s face it, if I want to PB in 2020, I’m going to need to stay hard and embrace the pain. Pain equals progress after all.

I’ve also been experimenting with taking a pre-workout energizer drink, and for the most part, it’s been good. Whether it’s improving performance, or not, I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s hurting it either. With that, thirty minutes before the run, I decided to eyeball a serving of Vega One’s Pre Workout Energizer, and wow, that was a mistake. Within ten minutes, I was flying, probably more caffeinated than I’ve ever been in my life. I don’t think it hurt the final result. Maybe it even helped it. All I can say is that my head felt like it would explode, and I didn’t like it one bit.

The run started with a brief 15-minute warmup at a slow Zone 2 pace, before the main set began, 6x600m at a 3k Race Pace of 3:50min/km, before closing out with another 15-minute cooldown.

Here’s how it broke down:

LapTimePaceMax HR
12:13.23:41165
22:20.03:53166
32:23.54:00165
42:23.94:00166
52:24.24:00165
62:26.24:03166

6x600m at Target 3k Race Pace (3:50min/km)

Final thoughts on the run, I came out hard, flying through the first lap. By lap two, I could tell it was going to be a long day. Then positivity kicked in, reframing the thought to, yes it hurts, but in twenty minutes it’ll all be over, asking myself, do I want to know that I killed these twenty minutes, or gave in? It is only twenty minutes after all. Mid-way through lap 4 I was slowing, but not as bad as it felt, I started to channel my inner Goggins, reminding myself to stay hard, embrace the pain, and get through this like a champion. As I rounded into the last lap, I was ready to kill it, but try as I might, the legs just weren’t there.

All in all, considering the dead legs of Sunday, and the pain of last week, I’m happy with it, not my fastest session by any means, but considering it’s coming off a marathon week, that’s okay.

The only issue as I write this, one day later, is my upper back is a mess. Hopefully, only mildly aggravated by some bad form, from pushing it so hard yesterday.

October 28, 2020 – 25min Recovery Run

Not sure why, but wow, my upper back is a disaster today, with debilitating pains radiating across the upper back. Sleeping injury, caffeine overdose, getting old, who knows, either way, it sucks.

October 30, 2020 – No Limits Workout 2 – 5x1k

With the back pain almost gone, I’m now back on schedule and ready for workout #2 of the Lionel Sanders 5k plan, with 5x1k at 5k race pace (target 4min/km) and a three-minute easy recovery between sets.  

Today, the run started with a brief 2k warmup, followed by the main set, ending with a 5k cooldown.  

IntervalPaceMax HR
14:03161
24:13160
34:15159
44:02161
54:08161

5x1k at 5k Pace – 3min Rest

All in all, considering the two days of debilitating pain I’ve been in, not a bad showing. Slower than I’d like, but also, not wanting to reinjure myself, not bad either. Probably the most surprising part was the negative splits on the final two intervals. Where, by virtue of putting just a bit more power into the take-off portion of the stride, it seemed like I was able to generate more speed without much more effort.  

For something that seems so simple, running truly is a perplexing sport, with many a question always running through my head. Did a caffeine overdose lead to back pain? Am I slower this week due to adaptations caused by the marathon? Or, maybe I’m not fully recovered? Or, could it just be the cycles of recovery? 

November 1, 2020 – 14k Trail/Long Run

Wind warnings, rain, and near-freezing temperatures were just a few of the things I was prepping for before my long run today. From late last night through to this morning, the dopamine was flying, driven by constant check-ins to the weather network, hoping that this time, this view, things would be different, the weather would clear, and the run would be easy, maybe even enjoyable.

As I did this, I kept telling myself to get out of this headspace, leverage the power of positivity, switch the narrative, and embrace adversity.

As much as I want to embrace adversity, with wind warnings of up to 80k, coming at me on the hardest, uphill part of the route, I knew it was too much for even the most optimistic version of me I could be.

My original plan for Sunday morning was to join my first group run with the Richmond Hill Trail Runners. Unfortunately, that fell through due to the lousy weather. Instead, I decided to avoid the road, and hit the trails at Sugarbush Heritage Park, hoping the trees would break the wind. 

Running Sugarbush was a mental trade-off, in that I traded the wind for a loop, and I hate loops, simply because it’s too easy to quit, too repetitive, and no matter how visually stimulating I eventually feel like I’m running the Self-Transcendence 3100 Miler.

As I started the jog out of the parking lot and made my way into the trails, everything started to go wrong, my knees hurt, my headphones wouldn’t stay in, the hills, even though mild at first, seemed to be getting the best of me.  

Mother Nature even threw everything at me she could, from calm sunny skies, windy fast-moving clouds, rain, sleet, hail, back to sunny skies, and everything in between. 

The funny thing, as the sun turned to clouds, and then to sleet, and hail, the distraction of the craziness got me out of my head, and what was once hard became almost easy.

As I settled in, the km’s slowly began to tick by, the loop became more manageable, and even though my pace didn’t increase, it didn’t slow easier. By seven kilometres, I didn’t know how I’d make it ten. By fourteen, if it wasn’t for dinner, I’d probably have easily run another six more. 

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