Some thoughts on hitting a new milestone in my running life: 200+ miles in a single month. It was just this time last year that I was anxiously looking at my logs, wondering when I would hit the magical mark of 100 miles in a month - right before I crashed and burned. It would be six more months after running a peak of 92.7 miles last April before I finally cracked the three-digit barrier - in October, the month I ran my first ultra.
Now, in just five more months since then, and thanks to my new training approach, I have doubled that previous mark. That called for a bit of celebration! And I have celebrated, quietly, in my own way, relishing the accomplishment it represents. A lot of time and effort went into the last five months (not that I didn't enjoy every bit of it).
But there is another way I am celebrating, and it lends a cautionary note to this story. Another lesson has been learned - or at least re-taught. Time will tell whether it has actually been learned.
I am celebrating by taking a week off.
Aches and pains have accumulated.
I finished my workout on Thursday, March 29th, needing another eight miles to break 200, and I was not sure I would have it in me. Running 134 miles in the first two-and-a-half weeks of the month had taken a lot out of me. I'd pushed the 'cycle down' week after that to 35 miles - following a rule of thumb I'd heard that your recovery weeks should be about 60% of the mileage of your hard weeks. With that workout on the 29th, I had put another 24 miles in the bank, but I was dragging.
Saturday is my regular long run day - and I only needed eight more miles! Ordinarily it should be a piece of cake.
But Friday I was hurting. There's no way to sugar-coat it. I was over-extended physically and mentally - and my leg hurt. Yes, my right shin - that same spot that brought my training to a complete halt last year.
But that's not all!
My other leg hurt too. My posterior tibial tendons were not happy. My left foot continued to bother me. On Friday I knew I only had to do one more easy run the next day - the last day of the month - to reach 200 miles, and I was truly not sure I should do it. My only hope was that Friday off and a good night's sleep before Saturday would bring about a miracle.
Well, things felt pretty good on Saturday morning, so out I went for a flat, easy run. I don't like to push to my goals though. I want to push through them. I ended up going a little over 15 miles. My actual, GPS-measured total mileage for the month ended at 207.3!
But I am taking a week off - maybe more. I pushed it too far. I was pushing beyond my body's ability to recover. I was wearing myself down. If I am lucky, it's not too late. None of my pains seem too serious, but that shin is right on the edge - I can tell. I'm not going to run again until I have had at least two good days without noticeable pain.
I should be approaching my training peak for Mind the Ducks in the next few weeks, but I am resting instead. Better to arrive at the starting line on the training I already have than break myself and not start at all.
- No 'smarter' approach to training can take away the need to think, the need to be honest with yourself about your condition. Every approach to training can be pushed to far.
- It is very easy to let your training plan get taken over by arbitrary goals that pop up along the way.
Now I can only hope that this was merely a cautionary lesson.