I’ve gotten to that point in my training cycle where I need to make the difficult choice most people eventually reach: continue pushing with my current training load or back off to lessen injury risk.
When I created my MMT100 training plan, I ended up with a lot more mileage than I have historically undertaken. This plan was very causally put together and I never really gave it a lot of thought for some reason. Where before I would max out at 50-60 miles per weak with 2 rest days, I’m now hitting 65-75 miles with only one or even no rest days. I finished a 50 miler at the end of March, took five days off, then knocked off a 65 mile week. I’m going to end April at 235 miles, my second highest month ever, and most I’ve done in training.
The signs of over-training have begun to rear their ugly heads. My legs are sore each morning and hamstrings are tighter than normal. I’m starting to get random pains and twinges as I head out on my daily runs (left ankle, right arch, left then right knee). Heck, my left shoulder was even bothering me Saturday for a couple miles. None of them last for long or get progressively worse. These are flashing yellow lights rather than bright, glowing red ones.
My new Garmin measures my resting heart rate and it’s started rising over the past couple weeks. While the increase has been modest and not a spike, it’s yet another sign. And finally, I’ve felt a little under the weather. I’ve coughed a couple times on runs (which I never do) and felt a little feverish at random times in recent days. It’s like I’m on the verge of getting sick.
So shall I keep dancing?
I’ve decided to answer the question with a tentative – yes. In order for me to keep pushing, I need to not only be seeing gains in my fitness but also signs that my injury risk is contained. Without tangible proof that the workload is paying off, then what’s the point of pushing? And if it seems a full-blown injury is inevitable or even likely, then again there’s no upside to continue grinding out the miles. I need to affirmatively see myself balanced on the edge for my training strategy to pay off.
As for performance gains, I look back to my last long run. I went back to Cheslen for another 25 miles. This time I changed up my route again, cutting out a couple flat miles, and substituting in more hills. Rather than 3k of elevation gain (117 feet per mile), I ended up with 3600 (145 feet per mile). Despite the 20%+ increase in elevation, my pace was only 10 seconds per mile slower (11:40 vs. 11:30). The temperature was a little cooler for the second run and my average HR 1bpm higher at 143bpm, but conditions were pretty similar overall. Ironically, I felt much better during my first 25 miler and was counting down the miles right from 1 last weekend. I’m really proud that my pace could be so solid with where my head was over the 5 hours (i.e. pure grind it out mode).
This morning’s run was a good indicator that my injury scares may be on the wane. My legs were still on the sore side, but I was able to knock out my daily 7 miler faster than any of my four runs last week. My heart rate was a little on the elevated side, however perceived exertion was in line with where I have been training. I wasn’t pushing myself to hit the faster time, it just kinda happened.
So I think I can push through this last 65 mile week before tapering down to 37 next week and a paltry 19 in the six days leading up to MMT. Intellectually, I know that ten or even twenty miles at this point will have no bearing on my performance on race day. A jacked up knee on the other hand will make for either a very long or potentially very short trip around the Massanutten mountains in 3 weeks. I would like to think that the past six years of consistent running have taught me to listen to what my body is saying on a daily basis. And not just listen, but actually understand the subtle nuances that a lot of times are missed in the pursuit of lofty goals.
Or I may just be persuasively telling myself the lies I want to hear. I guess I’ll find out over the next two weeks.