An Experiment Paid Off (Or, Mustard is Only for Hot Dogs)


I promised to report on the results of my “speedy taper” plan this week.  Despite several workouts that were shorter than the time it took to change my clothes and shower, I stuck to the plan.  On Monday, I did 5 x ¼ at 6:11 minute-per-mile pace (my optimistic 5K race pace) followed by ¼ mile of walking at 20 minute-per-mile pace. I started out with an easy half to warm-up – 9:15 minute-per-mile pace. All of this was done on the treadmill, so I was able to stick to the pace. For the rest of the week, I continued with the same pace and recovery while cutting out a quarter a day. On Friday, I finished up with one quarter and on Saturday, I rested completely – no running. My total mileage for the week, including the walking between intervals, was ten miles. Needless to say, I kept reassuring myself that the hay was in the barn.

I woke up about three hours before today’s race and immediately had twelve ounces of coconut water and breakfast about an hour later, which consisted of coffee, a banana, one slice of cinnamon raisin bread with half a side covered in peanut butter and the other half in Nutella. I also had a tablespoon of yellow mustard.  After arriving at the SUNY campus for the race, I warmed up for a mile at 9:00 minute-per-mile pace about 40 minutes before the race. Twenty minutes before the start, I had a handful of gummy bears and about 3 ounces of Gatorade. At start time, it was about 22 degrees Fahrenheit. One of my goals was not to go out too fast, this was a ten-mile race and I realized that there would be some time to get into it.

I’m happy to report that the “speedy taper” seems to have helped. I felt strong throughout the race, and my endurance was completely unaffected by the lack of quantity last week. My only problem was the onset of severe calf cramps starting at mile 8, which I had reached in a new PR. Oddly, despite feeling like I was totally hobbled during the last two miles, my speed didn’t really decline all that much. I basically ran through the cramps – pain – and maintained a 7:00 minute-per-mile pace for the entire race. My finishing time was 1:10:53. This was a certified course, so was slightly long. My GPS had me at exactly seven minutes-per-mile. I think I may have also gotten under my five mile PR as a split.  I still need to figure out the cramping problems, but I am very confident that the speedy taper is going to have some fantastic results for shorter distances. Aside from the cramps, I felt great. My next race is the Runnin’ of the Green (Island) Four Miler on March 16.

I am about to give up on mustard as a leg cramp solution. I consumed my mustard packet around eight miles and didn’t experience a whole lot of relief. It might be that the mustard with breakfast is delaying the cramping until the later miles, but I’m not all that convinced. I was told by one of my running compatriots at today’s race that I should try beet juice. That might be next. I’m also supposed to be looking into Chia seeds and my daughter insists that cacao nibs are the way to go, although I suspect that she merely wants to try them herself. When she suggests that kettle chips might be the key to cramp prevention, I’ll get suspicious. Although, vinegar-flavored chips might be a good idea. I’ll keep everyone posted on my continuing battle against leg cramps.

Finally, it struck me that after only doing ten miles last week, it might be a good idea not to immediately go back to 45-mile weeks. I don’t think that will be too much of a problem this week, since my legs are extremely stiff and sore from today’s race. Odd, since I felt great when I got home, but over the course of the afternoon –– yikes!  I might have to take tomorrow off.

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One comment on “An Experiment Paid Off (Or, Mustard is Only for Hot Dogs)

  1. Drew says:

    Good to know about the mustard. We have gone to a set of three private yoga lessons to improve hip flexibility. The yoga instructor’s immediate assessment was that I had over-worked the insides of my calf muscles and that I should work the outsides instead as I run. She thought that could be the source of my cramps. I made an adjustment and had no issues at yesterday’s 5-mile race. I am thinking I will get a better read in three weeks for my 10-mile race.

    On tapering, the question I have is whether it is the tapering plan that you used or the fact that you actually tapered that made the most difference. I will see if I have the courage to try the speedy taper plan for the next race.

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