Recover, Build, Taper. Repeat.

rcity

After successfully completing the Marshall Marathon and not feeling pain in my recently healed tibia, I decided it was safe to resume my training plan from before the whole ordeal began – sort of. My original plan was to follow Pfitzinger’s 55-70 miles per week plan through Marshall, then switch to his multi-marathoning plans to ensure proper recovery, training, and tapering for Rocket City.  After my run at Marshall, I really have no thoughts as to what a realistic goal would be for the upcoming marathon. On one hand, I just ran a good race but I was also just injured. I should probably run Rocket City to check Alabama off my list and have no expectations. On the other hand, I’ll  have several weeks of training under my belt that I didn’t have before and renewed confidence from my last race. After being forced to sit several weeks out early in the season, I’m feeling a bit like a bull in a china closet right about now.

Over the summer and before the whole stress reaction ordeal, I completed  6 1/2 weeks of Pfitzinger’s high mileage (for me) plan and loved it. To compensate for the missed runs as best as I could, I spent the next  5 1/2 weeks on my bike, in the pool and on my yoga mat. When I resumed running, I only had 6 short weeks to establish some base miles, increase speed, and squeeze in a few long runs without aggravating my tibia. I probably I did more than I should have, but I was determined to run Marshall. There was about a week and a half where I wasn’t entirely sure if I should even be running, but tracking my progress as I increased my mileage gave me the confidence to continue. Two weeks out from the marathon, I was back to Pfitzinger’s plan and logged three solid weeks with 40+ miles. During race week (including the marathon), my weekly mileage hit 47 miles. It didn’t all unfold the way I’d originally planned, but when do plans actually go the way they were intended?

So with Marshall behind me and Rocket City looming in the very near future, I find myself in a bit of a delicate place. I’ve been here before – recovering from a marathon while preparing for another one.  I always kind of thought I was invincible..that is, until this past year. I’m realizing that since I’m clearly not invincible, preparing for this marathon means being patient and allowing my body to recover from the last race. It means following the plan I’ve chosen and refraining from adding in extra 20 mile runs or unscheduled track workouts in lieu of recovery miles. The first two weeks (particularly the first week) are all about recovery, recovery, recovery – not about ramping up miles and intensity. My longest run last week was eight miles, and I only ran a total of 24 miles. Part of me feels panicked because I have to run a marathon in 25 days. Another part of me is realizing that I need to recover from the stress I just put my body through because I have to run a marathon in 25 days. It’s a balancing act between recovery and training, and I have to be careful not to tip the scale too far in either direction.

I’m already wrapping up week two of Rocket City training this weekend. My weekly mileage is back up to 37 miles, but my long run is only 10 miles. I am so tempted to wake up tomorrow morning for that 10 miler and tack on an extra 5-8 miles for good measure. It’s something I would have done in the past without thinking twice and the reason I stopped designing my own training plans. I have difficulty recognizing that recovery runs and rest are just as important as logging higher miles and fast paced runs, so I leave the planning to the professionals. It’s my job to listen to my body when it tells me to stop and to learn to slow down during recovery runs to avoid future injuries – something I really need to work on.

While I’ve been busy keeping my pace and overall mileage in check over the past two weeks, I started taking the routes I gravitate towards into consideration. All of my running last week was easy paced and on mild surfaces (flat, cinder trails and flat roads), just as recovery runs should be done. This week, I decided to challenge myself by continuing to run easy but varied my usual terrain and routes. I incorporated hills and refrained from formal speed work other than the 8×100 meter strides on my eight mile run yesterday.  On Wednesday’s general aerobic eight miler, I headed for the hills:

hills

I used to do a shorter version of this run on recovery days, and I would try to beat my time each time. Not exactly what Pfitzinger was thinking when he designed training plans and built in recovery miles (hill sprints for recovery? DUMB), and a definite red flag in my training habits. Hills are important and have their place in marathon training, so I’ll use this route once every week or so on general aerobic runs and keep the pace easy – no more racing the clock. As for those recovery runs, I’ll stick to more forgiving surfaces.

Regardless of the outcome on December 14th, moving forward and preparing for Rocket City has me thinking about some goals for 2014. I’m not talking about pace for distance goals – those will always be there. I’m thinking more in the direction of training smart to remain injury free so I can enjoy this sport with less interruption.

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