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Rebuilding a runner

September 5, 2011

Sometimes you have to take two steps back in order to run one forward. And it’s not a bad thing. Some people think they have to keep doing what they’re doing to improve. Just stick with it, ride out the bad runs and it will be fine. In most cases that is true, but sometimes you have to take a step back or start all over. It doesn’t just happen to elite athletes…it happened to me. Since I’ve been running, I’ve been able to tackle longer distances, I even did a half marathon. As great as this sounds, I haven’t been improving to level I think I’m capable of achieving. There are probably a lot of reasons, but what is the real one??

Weather — it’s been a really hot/humid summer, which for most people is problematic. However, “hot” has an entirely different meaning when you have to run in long sleeves, capri running tights, and a knee-length skirt. Just recently I experienced calf cramps from fueling problems that made the ones during Zooma look tame. My calves were so tight that I pulled something behind my knee. Two weeks later, I’m still not 100%.

Environment — work has been beyond stressful. Thankfully it’s growth-related, but it is still long hours (12 hour days), lack of sleep and poor nutrition (who has time to eat??). I’m sure everyone has stressful days, but most people aren’t trying to train for a half marathon. Getting out of the office by 5:30 pm for a track workout or training session isn’t realistic with client projects and government contracting proposals due. As a business owner, my personal priorities have to sometimes take a backseat to company priorities and there’s no way around this.

But I don’t think that my situation results from any of these reasons. I think it’s much deeper. I think it’s more of a foundation problem. I’ve been trying to figure out when I started slowing down and realized that two almost simultaneous events occurred last Fall. First I changed my running form when I took a ChiRunning class — this was a good thing. But what happened next was probably the game changer. I got plantar fasciitis and a hip injury between the Rockville 5K and Jingle Bell Jog; and then I started to get slower.

I’m healthy now thanks to a lot of hard work by Dr. Cheryl Lee-Pow, but I don’t think I entirely fixed the  non-physical problems that resulted from the injuries. Sure I could go for longer distances, but I never have been able to get back to where I was pre-injuries. I wonder if I slowed down while I was injured and subconsciously justified my lack of speed by believing I should run slower for longer distances. Even if the latter is true, why couldn’t (didn’t) I run faster for the shorter distances?

So here’s where I am today. I can run pretty fast during the running portion of my run/walk intervals. An 11:00 pace is quite comfortable and I often find myself at a 10:30 pace or faster when everything is working right. However, it’s an 11:00 pace for only 2 minutes or sometimes for 3-4 minutes. My goal is to improve so I can run at this pace for longer intervals for long distances and wipe out the walking interval for 5Ks and 10Ks.

My plan is to rebuild from the ground up. My Couch to 5K program got me started in 2009 and I know it works. I’m going back to Week 4 and consistently running 3 times per week. My average pace for the 2010 Boo! 10K was 12:48 and was 12:32 for the 2010 Rockville 5K. I’m going to get back to these times and then consistently crush them!

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