I’m considering today day 1 of my next training cycle. It’s not that I haven’t been running since C&O Canal. I’ve been out every day since the race finished, however I haven’t been training. I haven’t even been maintaining. The past 3+ weeks have been all about recovery. While I’ve been running consistently, it’s been rather modest mileage (6-20 miles per week) and nothing at a hard effort. Everything has been at my MAF heart rate of 142bpm or below. Today was the first time I took the governor off and ran at whatever pace I felt like. I did 5 miles at a modestly hard effort (average HR of 153bpm) and felt great. I probably could have started ramping up sooner, but I always want to err on the side of caution wherever possible.
One of the nice things about having built up a very solid level of endurance over the past 3 years is that I don’t need really hard, prolonged training cycles to get prepared for a 100 mile race. That’s not to say I don’t need to train for them. Maybe at some point I’ll get to that point, but I’m definitely not there yet. Especially not considering my next race (Eastern States 100 – training preview post coming soon) is much harder than anything I’ve ever done. I have a little over 2 months to prepare for that race though and I can afford to take an extra week or 2 of recovery to make sure I fully healed from my last 100 mile race.
Being healthy is vital to me achieving the ultra goals that I’ve set for myself. I can’t afford to take any extended breaks from running due to injury or mental burnout. I’m still all jazzed up, looking forward to my upcoming races. In order to maintain this attitude though, I need to balance rest with all the time spent training. I need my step back weeks where I don’t have a long run. I need the gentle increase in supplemental core work. I needed the past 3 weeks of 1 mile runs and lots of walking. Heck, I didn’t do a single 4×10 the entire week after C&O. I think I’ve always been fairly good about getting the rest and recovery I need, but I’ve definitely gotten better over the past year. Mostly, this is because I’ve learned that being healthy is a huge part of training and finishing the longer ultras. It’s true that I’m not maxing out my endurance potential. Several years ago that probably would have bothered me. Now I’m content to grind out a rather low mileage training plan (30-45 miles per week) that will get me to the starting line healthy and ready to finish 100 miles. There might come a time (like in 2.5 months) where this type of training plan no longer works for me. At that point, I’ll change things up and try something new. Flexibility and adaptation are other key traits in endurance training and racing, however if it’s not broken . . .
When do you know it’s time to start getting back at it?