After a checkered history of getting injured during marathon training, I was pleased and a little surprised that I made it through my most recent cycle in one piece. What’s been even more surprising is that I’ve been able to come back to running so quickly after the race.
I expected to be out of commission for the rest of March and into April – after all, who’s ever heard of someone finishing such a grueling event and not coming away with a pulled muscle, a torn tendon or a stress fracture? It’s never been my experience to finish healthy. But even a couple days after the race I was feeling good – I ran 12 tentative miles that first week and then 19 the next. I was even feeling strong enough to race again, setting a 2-minute PR at the Monument Avenue 10k less than two weeks after crossing the Shamrock finish line.
And now I’ve wrapped up my third week back with almost 40 miles of running, including three runs of more than 10 miles. I’ve realized that running these distances has become my default after having lived in the long-distance mindset for the past four months. It just feels natural and I honestly don’t know what else to do.
At the same time, all this running seems a bit easier than it did when I was in training. That’s not because I’m running any easier – in fact, I’ve enjoyed pushing the pace a little more after focusing largely on slower efforts during marathon training. Instead, I’ve really slipped on a lot of the “extras” – the time-consuming ancillary work that was such an important part of my training. My twice-weekly trainer rides stopped about a week before the marathon and I just haven’t been enticed to get back on the bike since then. Also, I haven’t been keeping up with my strength work – particularly the ITB rehab routine that saved my training cycle. I’ve only foam-rolled once or twice since the marathon (which in itself is a testament to how well my recovery has gone).
It’s not lost on me that I’ve let go of some of the key components that made my training cycle so successful. I’m a stronger runner now because I cross-trained and focused on injury prevention. Dropping those components while keeping up a demanding running schedule could lead to trouble. But those things are not necessarily as much fun as running. When it’s a gorgeous spring morning I’d rather lace up my Kinvaras than strap on to the trainer or even go for a ride outside.
Without a huge goal – like qualifying for Boston – in front of me, it’s been easy to let some of these other things slip. I was so disciplined for so long and it started to wear on me. After the race I wanted to step away from the rigid training lifestyle and just run. But when “just running” becomes 12 miles at a 6:50 pace, as it did this weekend, it becomes apparent that I’m going to need to keep up with those extras to avoid injury.
Even though I’m not “in training” in the same way I’ve been for the past year and a half, I still have my eyes on a PR at the 10k distance in about a month. I looked at an advanced 10k training plan and, as you can imagine, the weekly mileage is far less than what I’ve been running. So I decided to smother this race with miles. I’m not going to scale down my mileage to match a training plan for a much shorter race – I’m going to go into this 10k with the fitness I’d need for a strong half-marathon or even a marathon. But if I’m going to keep up the mileage, the extras have to come along, too.
When I was training for Shamrock, my overriding goal was to make it through the race. It didn’t matter if the race left me unable to run for months, as long as I made it across the finish line. When I finished the race healthy my new goal became to make it through mid-June, when our next baby is due. I just wanted to run my legs off for the next few months and throw caution to the wind, assuming that I wouldn’t be able to run much after the baby is born, anyway.
But coming back from the marathon has proven something to me – I’m in this for the long haul. My running career isn’t going to end in June. I’m highly motivated to keep up the fitness I’ve worked so hard to gain, even though things will undoubtedly get more complicated with a new baby in the mix. But am I motivated enough to keep up with the not-so-fun parts of being a runner? Time will tell.Bike: 0/334.5 miles Run: 12.2/515.7 miles