Last Wednesday morning I got up for a planned 6 mile run around the park near to our home. It was 10 days post the New Jersey Marathon and I felt no physical discomfort and 6 miles is a typical mid-week run distance for me. This run, however, was far from being a typical run. I quit the run after 4 miles not because of any physical pain but because I just didn’t have the energy to do more. Those 4 miles felt like miles 21-24 of a marathon. My heart rate was into the high 170s much like it had been during the marathon. I was beat and I was beaten. I posted my feelings on a running related Facebook group and got the general feedback that I needed to relax, take a break, smile and look back on my achievements.
I should have seen this coming as the signs were there a couple of weeks before I ran the New Jersey Marathon but that was during the taper and I just put it down to coming off the big mileage weeks and needing to recover before the big day. I took the next couple of days off as it was obvious I needed to and took a look at my training history in Garmin Connect.
What I saw was that I had been training 5 days a week without a break since January 2012. In fact I jumped into the NJ Marathon training straight after completing the Goofy Challenge this year at week 3 of the plan as that was how the plan worked in with the race date. From looking at my training history I took stock of how I got here and what I needed to do to get my ‘Mojo’ back. Bear in mind that I am still a fairly novice runner (in my mind) having been doing this for about 2.5 years.
I did indeed stop and relax. I took the next couple of evenings to catch up on a few shows that had backed up on the DVR as a consequence of trying to get my early nights for the next day’s run and also pushed the alarm clock back to allow myself an extra 1 to 1.5 hours sleep in the morning. That was a good start.
I also thought of the reasons why I run. It was really about my health. It was never that I was going to start running to complete marathons. I started to run so I could lose weight and be healthy to do all the activities with my two young boys. The races and endurance events only came about as I gained confidence with my abilities and saw the opportunities it offered me in terms of personal achievements.
Review – Running
I also took a deep dive into what I was doing, or more specifically, how I was doing it. I am not an elite runner nor a racer and I don’t plan to be. I am my own competition. I set the challenges and meet the goals. What I saw from my training history is something that I had read about as a big training mistake.
Quantity vs Quality.
I had downloaded training plans and added them to my calendar so at any time I knew what I needed to run in terms of distance. To me it was making sure I hit the mileage goal for the week. If it said 12 miles I ran 12 miles. As I posted earlier this may be a little OCD and may have been a big factor in this. I met my goals in terms of quantity but I wasn’t really following the plan.
These plans are designed by expert coaches with much more experience than I have. I’m no expert and based upon my look back I am in no position to coach!! I was reaching the numbers but not looking at the quality of the workout. If the plan said run 6 miles ‘Tempo’ I ran 6 miles. If the plan said run 6 miles ‘Repeats’ I ran 6 miles. If it said run 6 miles ‘Race Pace’ I ran 6 miles. If you had looked at any of the runs uploaded into my Garmin Connect account you would not see a difference in any of these runs. BINGO!
The plans are designed not to just build the ability to conquer the miles but the ability to train your body to conquer the miles well. Mix up the training to build up the right capabilities to run well not just run long. Some speed work, some hill training, some easy and long runs. They are all part of making me a better runner. I did not have the right focus. The results spoke for themselves.
Review – Diet
One of the other signs that my training was not going as planned was my diet, hunger levels and weight management. Having been overweight for much of my life running helped me loose almost 60 pounds and achieve everything I had to date.
Since I completed the Goofy Challenge back in January I had put on about 6-8 pounds. This had frustrated me and probably pushed me into making sure I got those miles in and didn’t miss a day. I had a ravenous appetite and was pretty much eating more.
I couldn’t in my head see the disconnect between the increased hours of training and the weight gain. I had started coming home from work pretty exhausted (yes, from a desk job) and had begun to rely on the 3pm espresso. Tip – you don’t want to be the guy who walks up to the coffee bar and the barista says “Hi Ian. The usual?” Ugh!
So looking at my diet and my intake combined and with not running last week as much as I normally would I was very focused on my food. I stopped drinking my umpteen cups of coffee and drank water more throughout the day (which was a big factor when I initially lost the weight) and made sure that without the extra calories from running that I made sure I came in under or close to my daily calorie budget. I use an app to track my daily nutrition. It keeps me honest and helps maintain my weight after working so hard to lose it. So the overall result of my diet review was the same as how I had approached the mileage.
Quality vs Qauntity
Again, it’s amazing how I lost sight of this as diet has been a constant battle through out my adult life and this was as easy slip which I could have caught. I wrote earlier about my love of pancakes, but as they say, it’s fine in moderation. In my mind I had earned my calories and I had spent everyone last one of them and was still within my daily budget. I had lost sight of the moderation. Oops!
So what do I do about this?
I immediately started on the diet. That was the easy part. At work I’m drinking more water. I have my trusty Nathan Triton 24oz water bottle and pretty much sip from it throughout the day. No caffeine withdrawal issues LOL. I still have a cup when I get up and my travel cup on the way to work but I have done my best to eliminate any more caffeine (than is absolutely necessary) from my daily intake.
Without the daily running I noticed that my appetite wasn’t as much on overdrive as it had been and I was able to meet my daily budget. That was a big fear. I survived. In fact I have lost about 4 pounds in the last week without any workouts. I was 171 pounds when I weighed in this morning which is just over my 168 pound goal weight. My body must have been expecting to work out every minute and so stored fuel. I guess I gave my body a rest and my metabolism decided it didn’t have to freak out and store food for energy!!!
I looked at my training schedule. I am signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon this fall and the training starts in earnest in mid-July. This gave me a chance to continue to train but have some recovery time before that starts. I looked at the resources I had in my Training Peaks account and decided to tackle the Runner’s World Winter Maintenance Plan. This is a 6 week plan which has 4 days of running with some cross training and rest days. The peak long run is in week 4 at 16 miles but this provides a mix of easy runs, tempo runs and mile repeats.
I have never really focused on mixing up the types of training like this but aim to try this time around to make me a better and hopefully fitter runner. There is a track at the high school near me so I plan on using this as a place to do the speed work training.
On the cross training days I plan to do some stationery bike work with some abs/core work and some lunges and squats to work the muscles around my knee and leg joints. We will see how that goes. Nothing like making your plans public to hold yourself accountable.
At the weekend I went for a 6 mile run again. I will a little nervous that I would feel the same low energy when I ran. Indeed the route I took was quite hilly. I felt pretty good out of the gate. I didn’t want to push myself too far but after the first mile I decided to do some speed play. I chose a telegraph pole a couple of streets away and ran at a tempo pace then resumed my easy pace. I did this a couple of times and it felt good. In fact looking at my heart rate I didn’t get any higher than 169 bpm which was less than I had been experiencing in recent runs so the rest seems to have already started to show benefits. I finished with a feeling I could have done more. 🙂
It gave me a little confidence that I can get back in the game with a little focus. This week I ended up running just twice and only 10 miles but I learned alot from taking a little rest time and self reflection.
This was a long one. Thanks for sticking with it.