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Breaking Down to Build Back Up

April 14, 2011

Post-Gasparilla, I knew some slowdown was necessary. I hadn’t really recovered in the way it was necessary after finding out I had almost run myself into the ground while training for my attack on the sub-four marathon. I’d run the half at Space Coast in November 2010, and though for a few weeks after that race I couldn’t run at all, as soon as I was given clearance to run after New Year’s Day I was back to my old tricks, running thirty miles a week. While I was doing much better at squeezing in regular stretching, Pilates, and core-strengthening work, I wasn’t altering my running at all, maintaining my regular routine of six-mile daily runs and double-digit long runs on the weekends. I felt drained, but I had to be back on a training schedule since I’d already committed to running the four races at Gasparilla in late February. That training rhythm had to be maintained, at least through race day.

Having completed that challenge, however, I’ve felt intensely that it’s time to slow down. In the last eight weeks, I’ve averaged about 20 miles a week, running about five miles four times a week. At first I was embarrassed, and tried to run at least one six-miler during the week so I wouldn’t hurt myself when Little G and I did our occasional long runs together on the weekend. But a couple weeks ago, she broke her foot, so she can’t run for several weeks, and even the pressure to keep up with her has been eased. My five milers are more than enough for now.

Since I started running, this is the first time I’ve taken an extended break from training. I checked my logs over at RunningAhead, and since I started logging my runs in October of 2007, this is the first time I’ve kept my mileage this low for over three weeks. Even after the marathon, I was back at 30 miles per week about three weeks post-race. For the first time since training for my first half marathon, I’m thinking of this as running, not training. Maybe it’s just semantics, but it matters to me. There is no purpose to my runs right now, day-to-day, other than to keep me sane, and healthy, and a single-digit size, and, perhaps, someday, to return me to the athleticism of sub-2 half marathons.

Interestingly, by slowing down my runs, I’ve rediscovered speed again, in some measure. My average pace has gone from 10:12, the week after Gasparilla, to 9:24 this week, though I’m only running easy. My shin splints are a thing of the past, though I’m no longer wearing the shin sleeves.

I’m starting to plan ahead, though not to the extent that I’ve picked out my next half marathon. The Boss and I bought bikes last week, mine a dreamy Ariel from Specialized that fits me like a glove and rides beautifully. She and I have done two five-mile rides this week, as I’m trying to ease myself into the saddle. This new experiment in cross-training will take some stress off my joints and help in balancing my muscles, further reducing the pain inflicted on my hips and knees, which take the brunt of all my imbalance.

So for now, that’s the planning I’m doing: to bike longer distances more consistently, and to find ways to plan my workouts so that my legs get as much advantage as possible from my new two-a-day workouts. Also, my Saturday mornings will become available for runs again next month, and I hope to add double-digit runs back into my calendar then. After two months of 20 miles a week, we’ll see a slow return, first to 25 miles a week, and eventually to 30. After holding at 30 for May, June, and July, we’ll start to dream of choosing a fall half marathon.

Registration for the Michelob Ultra Challenge has opened for 2012. Come, you didn’t really think I’d pass on that, did you?

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