Bast Track

Bast Track

Monday, May 15, 2017

Project Sub-5

Fair warning in advance, this is a rather long entry. It's been almost 8 months since I last posted, and I guess I could say that both a lot and not a lot have happened during that time. I had just completed a decent run at the Mikro Half Marathon but had gone into that race tired and a little beat-up. Running harder and faster than planned that day was the nudge I needed (or didn’t need as the case may have been) to push me over the edge. I attempted to continue training hard with a goal of running several fall races, but my hip, as well as my energy level, had different ideas. I finally gave in and took some downtime, but by the time I started to feel better, I had lost a lot of the fitness I’d built and any shot I had at running well in the fall was gone with it.

Over the winter, I struggled a bit with motivation since the spring racing season seemed a long way off and I’m not a huge fan of cold weather on top of that. Factor in general life business, and I would get my act together for a week or two and train fairly well, only to follow that up with a week or two of low mileage, no quality, and several days off. Essentially my training log began to look like a roller coaster. One thing I noticed during this period is each time I built my mileage up and did a few quality runs I would start to get really tired and dead-legged. Serious training is always a grind and you have to fight through fatigue if you ever want to be successful, but you also have to at least somewhat enjoy it, and that’s where I was falling short. I simply wasn’t having fun, and while that’s ok at times, when it’s the case day after day it’s hard to make any progress and you start to ask yourself why you’re doing something. I found myself in an odd situation where I had the desire to run and really wanted to get back in shape, but at the same time I couldn’t seem to force myself to do the work necessary to accomplish those things. I doubled down on my nutrition, sleep habits, etc. to try to make sure all those things were as good as possible, but nothing seemed to make a difference.

That brings me up to the past few weeks where I made a real push to get myself going so I could be ready for the spring/summer racing season. I was able to log a couple weeks of good training and was actually feeling pretty solid while doing so. I began to think I was finally on the right track, only to quickly realize I wasn’t. I started to experience signs of another impending crash, which led to me asking myself a lot of questions. Doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results is essentially the definition of insanity, yet that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the better part of the last three years, maybe longer. That being the case, it finally become clear to me that it’s time for a change, and yes, I know, it shouldn’t have taken me nearly this long to reach that conclusion but those who know me well understand just how stubborn I can be.

When I made the biggest improvements in my running is when I went from running 40-60 miles per week to running 80, 90, and even 100+. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it got me some PR’s that I never would have thought possible when I was in college, but it turned me into a “more is always better” kind of runner. That eventually led to injury problems as well as burnout that probably kept me from running faster than I did, but the philosophy became so ingrained in me that to this day it never has gone away. Even though I’m years removed from my last PR, my answer to getting into shape is still to log a lot of miles until I hammer my body into submission.

That’s led to a twofold problem. First, I’m a Masters runner now and my body simply can’t handle anywhere near the workload it once could. Even when I’ve been able to stay injury free, I go into the early stages of overtraining fairly quickly and the fatigue limits what I’m able to do. Second, always focusing on mileage for so long has deadened my legs to the point where I just can’t seem to run fast any more. I’ve neglected the muscles and systems involved with fast paced running for so long that those things are all but gone (the use it or lose it principle). As a result, anything from low-6 pace down feels fast, and when something feels fast, you can only sustain it for so long.

Ok, that’s a lot of writing to get to this. I’ve decided to take some time to focus on running fast again and I’m making my goal a sub-5 minute mile. Now first off, when you’ve done 5X1 mile all under 5 min in a workout and run a 5k at 4:56 pace, just setting that goal is kind of humbling and to a certain extent even sounds silly to me. However, right now, I’m a LONG way away from being able to do it, maybe even farther than I think. It’s going to take a lot of the right kind of work for me to get there. It means you won’t see me running any 60-70 mile weeks because I’m going to have to have my legs ready to run fast on my quality days. It also means doing lots of things like drills, hill sprints, and strength training so I can re-engage my central nervous system and the other muscles and systems involved with running fast.

Wrapping this post up, first and foremost, my goal with this “project” is to try to make running fun again. I’ve basically come to dread slogging out the miles day after day on tired, heavy legs, and this will be a nice change of pace, pun intended. Second, always being a competitor, I hope that I can build some basic speed and parlay that into being able to run a decent 5k. If so, who knows, maybe I will have hit on a type of training I can do long term that will help me get back to where I would like to be when it comes to running. Regardless, it will be a type of training I’ve never really done and should be interesting. Wish me luck!


Anonymous said...

It is tough getting back into the groove. Well done for writing this. May your running be for the love and joy of running.

alice louise kassens uhl said...

I have waited so long to read a post like this from you! More is not always better. Keep us updated as we head into the fall.