Thursday, March 05, 2015

The Switch

I haven't been feeling well for long stretches of this training cycle. I did not do myself any favours by getting a bit ahead of myself (no news here) and for weeks things were not looking good. It got so far that I seriously started to question my place in the team - I know I qualified on merit but that seemed a long time ago and I could not see how I could possibly do myself justice in Turin. Go to the biggest race of my life out of shape and far away from peak fitness? That prospect seemed very real.

It feels like a switch has been flicked on Monday. I felt pretty wrecked on Sunday evening after a weekend of back-to-back marathons and really was not looking forward to Monday's run. If you have been following this blog even for a reasonably short time you know that I have a set recovery protocol after every marathon/short ultra, which consists of running 5 easy miles every morning until I feel better and then gradually increase the daily distance. It works exceptionally well and I tend to bounce back from these long efforts very quickly. However, the first 2 days of this regime usually resemble a form of torture when the last things I want to do is hobble for 45-ish minutes on stiff, tired, hurting legs. It's only the fact that I know for sure how well this works that gets me out of the door.

The first mile on Monday was just that, and a fairly sharp pain in my left shin only added to the misery, giving me reasons to worry that I had picked up an injury on the Loch Derg trail. The stiffness and the shin pain mostly dissipated over the next few miles, but the shin really started hurting again later that day. It oscillated between being barely noticeable and excruciatingly painful several times; on one occasion I wasn't even able to walk to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea as I was unable to put any weight on the leg. Thankfully it got markedly better towards the evening but I was now seriously worried. It did not feel like shin splints (as far as I remember - I last had those almost 10 years ago), though it seemed to be in the same area.

A good night's sleep can do wonder for you and the very next morning my world was transformed. The stiffness in the legs had miraculously disappeared and even the shin was 95% better - I could still feel it, but only just. The run went very well, so well in fact that I was immediately sorry I was only doing 5 miles.

Wednesday was even better, I just about managed to resist temptation to run more miles and the legs certainly felt very, very well, better than on any day for several months. I don't know where all that good feeling came from all of a sudden but I sure am not complaining.

With all the positive energy it seemed reasonable to finally add a second run to my days. I had been doing that before Belfast, and while I'm not trying to copy that training cycle entirely I don't want to change it too much either. Right up to now I always felt I needed recovery more than miles but this has now changed. I got the okay from Niamh, which may have been the biggest hurdle, and off I went. Again I felt great, though I most likely ran a bit too fast. It was very bright when I left but at the turnaround point I noticed that it was getting dark very quickly and ran home at pace because I felt unsafe. There are a lot more cars on the road at this time of day than during my usual run hour in the morning and I preferred to get home as quickly as possible.

Thursday was similar to Wednesday, except that I did add a few miles to my morning run. It was quite windy but it is finally getting warmer. For the first time this week I could not feel my shin at all, which is great news. I guess I got away with yet another one. The only thing that is still hurting from the weekend is my shoulder. There is a big chunk of skin missing from where I landed on that concrete bridge and it's still rather sore. It's definitely a rather unusual running injury, thats for sure.

I have one more reminder from those weekend runs, namely me feet still don't look clean. I've had no less than 7 showers since Sunday, but I can still see some dark streaks at the bottom of my soles. That mud must have injected itself into my feet. Is that what life as a trail runner is like?

2 Mar
5 miles, 44:51, 8:58 pace, HR 135
3 Mar
5 miles, 40:46, 8:09 pace, HR 140
4 Mar
am: 5 miles, 40:39, 8:08 pace, HR 138
pm: 5 miles, 37:45, 7:32 pace, HR 144
5 Mar
am: 8 miles, 1:04:28, 8:03 pace, HR 141
pm: 5 miles, 38:08, 7:37 pace, HR 143


  1. I had been wondering why you hadn't adopted double so far this year. In terms of stress on the body for a given mileage doubles has to be a big boon. Having to both runs in the dark wouldn't be fun though, so perhaps waiting till winter is over is sensible.

    It'll be interesting to see how your fitness responds, I'm sure it'll respond well. The only thing that might need to watch for is letting your slowest pace runs get too fast. Over the past few months quite a few of runs each weak have been between 8:30 and 9:00 min/mile pace - not too far off your 24hr pace, which is great for tuning your running economy at race pace. Perhaps one way to tackle this would be to run one run each day as a full on recovery run.

  2. Great to see a further improvement in form before the world championships Thomas. I remember getting caught on a dark stretch of road a few years back, when cloud cover ment the time of darkness changed over an hour earlier....scary situation to be in! & certainly not made any better with my choice of black & grey running gear that evening. I hope that switch stays pressed for you, and that only good things come your way in the last few weeks of training before Thd worlds.