I have finally had a breakthrough in my running fitness.  I’ve been stuck at the same level for the past year and I just started assuming that I was never going to get better.  I’m no spring chicken so at some point age is going to offset whatever training that I’m doing.  I figured fitness maintenance was as good as it was going to get considering I’m not willing to devote 20 hours a week to getting in better shape.  I guess what really caught me by surprise is that I’m not doing anything too much different than the last 2 cycles.  I’m doing more hills than my spring training cycle, but I was doing a lot of hills last summer and didn’t see any improvement so I don’t think that is the answer.

Let me back up.  You might be wondering how I know I’ve had a breakthrough to begin with.  Just because I’ve a had a fast run or two doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily a better runner.  There’s many things that can lead to a fast run yet not mean you are a better runner,  Favorable weather or just pushing yourself to your absolute limit are just 2 examples.  The weekend before last though I did 5.5 hours of my Cheslen Hill workout and ended up knocking 45 seconds off my pace.  I did this with only a minimal increase in average heart rate in similar weather conditions.  I’ve done this run a few times now and my average pace has always been right around 13 minute miles.  I couldn’t believe I was so much faster on 7/2, but just chalked it up to me having a really good day.

Then last week I cranked out an even faster 5 mile run than I was bragging about in my June digits post.  I thought this might just be me pushing harder than I typically do.  But the third time as they say is the charm.  I went out and absolutely aced my last MAF test:

Highly erratic followed by incredibly stability followed by BAM!
Highly erratic followed by incredible stability followed by BAM!

I’ve done 27 of these MAF tests over the past 2 years, but I swore I must have been doing something wrong when I started seeing my paces light up my watch Sunday.  Then I thought my HR monitor wasn’t measuring correctly.  I’m so used to being a little over 10 minute pace early in my MAF test and a little under later, that I was starting to freak out a bit when I started throwing up mid to low 9 minute paces.  I’ve never run a mile below 9:37 pace before yesterday morning, yet none of my miles were above 9:27.  It took me over 14 months to drop my 5 mile MAF test time by half a minute and then went out and cut 2.5 minutes off my best time to date.

I’m five weeks out from Eastern States.  I would have been happy maintaining my prior fitness level into that race.  I would be more than happy keeping the recent gains going into that race.  I have 2 more long runs to get a little better, but that it not my focus.  My focus is on toeing the starting line 100% healthy.  Because 10% injured is a lot worse than my prior level of fitness.  So it’s not to much a matter of getting better over the next couple week as it is of not screwing things up.

Would you be more focused on getting better/stronger/faster going into the toughest race of your career?

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