I've been thinking about this post for a while as it has been a long time coming. For better or worse, I am one of those people who is more than a little hard headed. I am also one of those people that tends to think if a little something is good, a whole lot should be that much better. Well, I finally learned that when it comes to running maybe less is more sometimes. I have run myself into the ground this year in an ever more futile attempt to get better. I have been running an average of about 58 miles a week for the last 4 years. I haven't taken off more than 3 days from running in that same time period and have only had one break of a full week. And I have managed to run 18 marathons in 46 months. In other words, I have gone a little overboard. The result has been that my marathon times have gotten worse and even recovery days have been a struggle. Finally, I have resolved to change my bad running habits and make 2010 a year to remember. A sort of New Year's resolution in mid November.
So, where did I go wrong? My first mistake was trying to up my mileage into the mid 70 miles a week range. I was able to do this for a few weeks this summer, but I paid the price in the form of injuries and truly sore, tired legs. I was also forced (haha) to run 7 days a week to hit that mileage mark. I am now quite positive that the increase in mileage only made me slower and more injury prone. I did not see a single benefit. The list of injuries included both hamstrings, my right quadriceps, a strained right achilles tendon, right piriformis syndrome, and a right big toe extensor tendon strain. All of this occurred despite almost 4 years of relatively injury free running in the past.
The second mistake I made was not realizing how taxing the marathon is to my body. I do long runs every Sunday that range from 18 to 22 miles and truly enjoy them. But the marathon is a whole different animal. My body takes a beating that is exponentially more strenuos when I am racing. Maybe it is the pavement. Maybe it is the racing shoes. Maybe that 10 to 20 second increase in pace is the difference. The fact of the matter is that all these marathons have made me a slower, more injury prone, less enduring runner.
My third mistake ( and the list could go on and on) was in not listening to my body and allowing it to recover. Whether is was after a race, a long run, speed session, whatever, I did not allow my legs to recover and get stronger. I now realize (I think) that you have to allow adequate time between workouts for them to help and not hinder your development as a runner. I got so caught up in just logging miles that I lost sight of what I believe is the most important tenet of improving as a runner. Tear your body down as much as you want during workouts, but give your body ample time to recover.
My plan for 2010 is to try and train smarter. Even if I do not achieve my time goals, the fact that I truly do love running will be enough to keep me coming back. It would be difficult for me to describe in words how much I enjoy the feeling of my swinging arms and legs propelling me forward. Powering up hills and then the reward of gliding almost effortlessly down the backside. It may be a bit of stretch, but I suppose this could even be an anology for our training and racing... the work and the reward.
Congratulations on so many of you having great years and setting new PRs. For those of you who didn't (myself included), 2010 provides another opportunity to become the best runner we can be.
As always, Run well!
BTW, the pics are from my 10 year anniversary cruise with my wife Donna. The first picture is land sailing in Bonaire which was amazing. The second picture is hiking in a rain forest in Grenada. The last is dinner with our new friends Hayden and Aly.