Focus, bordering (as ever) on obsession. That’d pretty much sums up my last training block. Since last writing here, I upped the milage significantly, jumping from a pre-Christmas average of 51 miles a week up to a 75 miles a week, peaking at 85 miles of running a few weeks out from my target race, which was the Liverpool Half Marathon on the 13th of March.
Honestly, I think I learnt more over the months of January to March than I did in the year preceding it when it comes to the deceptively complicated sport of running distance. In the first place, I’ve constantly been learning more and more about what my body is capable of: it can handle daily 9 mile runs no problem, it can hold up to the gruelling 5x 5:15 miles tempo sessions, a 16:55 5k on a hilly course; I even did a 20 miler and at 6:30min/mi (2h50 marathon pace) and felt bright and breezy. Without a doubt, my running performances over the last training block were all heading in an upward spiral. They gave me confidence; they gave me the feeling invincibility. Unstoppable. They also broke me.
All those extra run commutes the coach hadn’t scheduled, the constant pressure to do everything at 99.9% intensity, the extra pole vault sessions thrown in too, all added up so that when I finally hit the taper at the start of March I didn’t feel springy and ready for the race ahead, but beat-up and looking forward to the rest. But the rest didn’t help all that much, the lower legs had developed shooting pains, and the right kneecap a dull aching throb. I went into the Liverpool Half already a bit tired, and it showed in the racing, having to struggle in my head to keep striving towards the pace I wanted.
I didn’t quite make it, hitting a time of 1:17:30 instead of the sub 1h15 I’d hoped for, thoroughly knackered. I rested up for a few days afterwards and then jumped straight back in, trying to keep hitting the same quick paces I remembered from the peak efforts of last training’s block. The legs still hurt and they got worse from there, until last Tuesday, I couldn’t run anymore; I’d simply run myself to a stop.
But I’m not begrudging this, or in a particularly sour frame of mind about these injuries. In fact it’s quite the opposite at the moment: the enforced downtime has come at a good point, just after a big race and during a period when I’ve been busy anyway moving to my new flat and truth be told, I feel pretty okay about it all. This is my first brush with running burnout (although I had my fair share when I was a rock climber!) and, really, I think I’m pretty lucky. I’m certainly not going to make the same mistakes any time soon that’s for sure!
So for the moment strength and conditioning workouts are on the cards, I’ve just finished an hour of various hips and glutes exercises, and hopefully some cross-training soon too. Then, in due course, it’ll be back to the running, and back to the quest of sub75.