Friday, November 25, 2016

A Long-Overdue Update: Runner, Interrupted

My sincere apologies for the radio silence! Here is the Cliff Notes version of what has been going on with me since the 2016 Boston Marathon:

  • I ran a lackluster half-marathon, as part of my training for the 2016 Chicago Marathon (although I won my age group due to the smaller field);
  • I PR'd and age-group-placed in the 10-K distance, but not by as much as I would have liked;
  • I trained like a fiend for marathon day;
  • On marathon day, I set out at the pace I had trained for (sub-3:35 PR pace). After the halfway mark, things quickly went downhill and I finished in a very painful 3:51. 

I took two days completely off after the Chicago Marathon, and then took my legs on a little shakeout. Right from the first run back, and during all runs thereafter, my legs felt super-heavy, and I did not have the desire to go more than a few miles. I chalked it up to post-marathon malaise and plugged away, but in the meantime, I made an appointment for some blood tests.

I got the blood tests done three weeks post-marathon. They came back with elevated CPK levels, which is a muscle repair enzyme. Not super-high levels, like you would see in ultrarunners or Ironmen, but high enough three weeks out from a marathon that they were likely coming down from even higher levels.

So yeah, I'm overtrained. The cause is likely too little recovery between the Boston Marathon and the beginning of the Chicago training cycle, and probably too little recovery in the training cycles before that. I don't know exactly when it started, but to be honest, I was feeling sluggish and fatigued in workouts late in this training cycle. I always chalked it up to the normal fatigue of hard training. It probably played a role in my lackluster (for me) marathon result.

On my coach's recommendation, I immediately took a week and a half completely off of running. This is completely unprecedented for me, but it was not as hard as I expected, as slogging through recovery runs day after day is not my idea of fun. Furthermore, I know that something has to change in order for me to have a prayer of getting back to my former running self. Another truth bomb: If I can't have a realistic chance of running competitively (against myself and my previous PRs), a lot of the joy would be taken out of running for me. I thrive on training for goal races, and although I'm sure I would still be able to find enjoyment out of non-competitive running, I would probably slowly gravitate toward a new way of keeping fit. 

Notice I said "a week and a half" completely off running. That is because on one day last week (a week from this past Tuesday, to be exact), I saw perfect running weather out my window. I also could see the perfect-running-weather days slipping away from me (and sure enough, they are gone as I'm writing this). I convinced myself that traveling one mile to the end of my street and back again wouldn't ruin my recovery, and I laced up my shoes and headed out into the fresh air. I felt like someone who had escaped from prison! It was slow, but it was very refreshing. 

About an hour later, I started feeling cold and shaking. This was the beginning of the worst stomach flu I have had in recent memory. I haven't really been sick with so much as a bad cold since I started running regularly three years ago. The writing was unfortunately on the wall; my overtraining has also caused a weakened immune system. Back to the couch for me.  

This week, I have attempted 3 miles on the treadmill, twice. It has gone relatively well. It still feels much harder than it should, even at a slow (for me) pace. Needless to say, I did not Turkey Trot this year. And there will be no spring marathon. I'm still holding out hope I'll be able to train for a late-season half-marathon.

Yes, I've really done a number on myself this time. But it's going to get better. I have to believe it. I'll keep you updated with any new developments!  

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