Monday, July 9, 2012

Roller coaster

I was hoping to get a picture or two for the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon before writing a race recap, but the link they sent me of "my" picture(s) was someone else. I've actually scanned through all the thumbnails without spotting myself, so I'm kind of giving up on the picture idea. Hopefully I'll get something written in a day or two.

Today I am writing a little bit about the emotional and physical roller coaster of long distance running and training.  I think any kind running can be a bit of a roller coaster--sometimes you love it, sometimes you hate it--but long distances give you so much more opportunity to feel good and bad about yourself! Or just feel good and bad, period.

The month of June was definitely a bit of a high in my training cycle. I went into June with a pretty hardcore training plan. Instead of "just" training for a fall marathon, I am also training for a trail 50K in September. Therefore I began increasing the volume and frequency of my running, from 40-ish miles a week to 50-ish, and five days a week instead of four, including more consecutive days than I usually would.

I also added some trail running where I could. I'm too nervous to run alone on real trails (where I could get lost or worse), so I've signed up for a number of trail "races" in which running, not racing, is my objective. However, since I don't want to get too slow (and I am sloooow on trails), I have continued to do speed work and road races.

It's all gone pretty smoothly so far.  In May and June I've done four regular half marathons, all around two hours, give or take a few minutes. I've also done two decent 10Ks (52-minute range) and a sub-25 minute 5K (all of these are pretty good times, though not PR's, for me). I've done acceptable track speed work and a few tempo runs. From Memorial Day weekend on I've done two 16-mile long runs (one of which included a half marathon), a 19-mile, and an 18-mile.

In the trail arena I've done two trail half marathons (one of which was the day after my 18-miler), a 5-mile trail run which I sort of actually raced, and a 20-mile trail run this last weekend.

But what goes up, must come down. In the past few weeks I've had a bit of piriformis issues. Mostly feeling a mild discomfort when I am running, which wears off after a few miles. Not a big problem, it's never slowed me down, until now.

After my pretty good 10K on the Fourth of July I went out for a run on the 5th and it was a pain in the butt. Literally. It took about two miles before I could run without feeling like I was lurching. Even worse, it took me all 6.2 miles before I could get my average pace under 11-minutes per mile. This was the first time in a long time when I have done 6.2 miles and not tried to squeeze in a little extra mileage. I just stopped.

I took Friday as a rest day entirely so I could be fresh and not sore for the 20-miler on Saturday. That went as well as could be expected for 20 miles on hilly trails. The good thing (and bad thing) about trail running is that it is totally legit to run slowly and walk. I could feel the piriformis but the only time it was really a problem was at mile 16.5 when I tripped and aggravated it. It was much sorer for the next few miles but backed off by the end.

Then there was Sunday. I had originally planned to run 13 miles but decided to cut it back to 11. This was back on the roads so I should have been back to a moderate pace, right? Not so much. This time I could not even average under 11-minute miles (my overall average was 11:15). This wasn't so much due to any pain (nothing worse than discomfort, really), but just that I had trail legs. Sluggish and leaden.

This has left me shaken enough that I didn't run today (if yesterday was bad, why would today be better?) and I'm nervous about the rest of the week (not to mention the marathon next Sunday). My two fears are 1) an injury/condition that doesn't go away, or gets worse, and 2) that my legs won't lighten up again and a sub-10 (or sub-10:30) pace is long gone. I don't think either fear is exaggerated.

My plan right now is to try an easy run tomorrow. It would help so much if I could do it at a 10-minute pace or faster! Just to show myself I can. If tomorrow is not good (or okay), then I will evaluate my schedule for the rest of the week leading up to Sunday. The marathon is only a long-distance training run for me, not a goal marathon, but I would like to do okay. Just okay is all I ask.

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