Friends often ask me how I manage to keep doing events, often vastly different events, close together, without much rest and without getting injured.
Well, given that I didn’t do any events this weekend (I know, shocking!) I thought this week was as good as any to share a few words of ‘wisdom’ that have helped me and hopefully will help others too!
DISCLAIMER: There may be a little overlap from my recent post “20 things I’ve learned about running” (link here)
- REST DAYS. In an average week I will have 2 days off from running, usually Monday and Wednesday. I know some people can run day after day after day (sometimes even twice a day) but that’s not me. I do usually go to the gym on my ‘rest’ days, but I don’t do cardio. Lately I have been doing some of my long runs on Saturdays instead of Sundays – this usually means doubling up, with the 5k parkrun in the morning and then a long run around lunchtime or in the afternoon, but what it also means is I get an extra rest day, and even better, 2 full rest days in a row! (Also, even if I go hard at parkrun, the fatigue from that doesn’t usually hit me until the next day. Kind of like I’m trying to trick my body into running again before it realises what it’s doing!)
- VARYING TERRAIN. At the moment I am doing all road runs because I am 2 weeks out from a marathon. As much as I would have loved to be out running at Mt Crawford this weekend, the chance of my falling over and sustaining some kind of injury is just too great. Even a grazed knee (my favourite trail injury) would slow me down and I just did not want to risk that. However, after the marathon is over I will be trying to get out on the trails at least once a week. I find trail running much easier on my joints and muscles and I am definitely feeling the effects at the moment of having done nothing but road running since UTA100 11 weeks ago.
- VARYING PACE. Not all my 5 runs in a week are at fast pace. On a typical week, I would do Tuesday at ‘easy’ pace, Thursday at ‘tempo’ pace, Friday speed training or hill running, Saturday parkrun (5k race pace usually!) and Sunday long run at an ‘easy’ pace.
- RECOVERY. After my long run, I get into my compression pants as soon as possible and leave them on until the next morning. That is easier said than done sometimes! Not to mention getting them back off again the next morning! You know that thing called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) that all athletes would be familiar with? Well lately, the MS has not been all that D! In fact if I sit on the couch for a few hours on Sunday night, I am really struggling to get up! However, with the compression pants on, and downing a couple of paracetamol tablets before I go to bed, weirdly enough my legs feel pretty good on Monday morning! Even after a marathon! A good spicy curry also helps with recovery – I’m not sure if that’s science or just superstition. Either way, it works for me!
- MANAGING INJURIES. Sometimes with an injury, you CAN continue to run but it will only get worse over time. Sometimes, you can’t run at all (that’s when a lot of my friends have discovered cycling and swimming). Sometimes, you just have to manage it and rest won’t make it better. Fortunately for me, my chronic hamstring tendon issue fits into that last category, and I know that:
- Some days will be better than others, and there’s no point trying to flog yourself on a bad day. (Unless that happens to be a race day, of course!)
- Running uphill and running fast are the two things that seem to cause it to flare up. Therefore, while I am not going to stop doing either of those things, I need to try to mix things up. Hence the importance of varying pace and terrain. Weirdly speed training doesn’t seem to bother it! Maybe because we run on a grass surface?
- If I run, say, over 30km on road or track, regardless of pace, it is going to hurt at some point. I think it was actually the 100km track race in January that really did me in! (That is not to say I won’t do it again next year!)
- WARMING UP. I now ALWAYS warm up before a race of up to marathon distance. In some cases (in particular the middle distance track events) the warmup will be longer than the race itself. This year, for the first time, I warmed up for a marathon. I also happened to run a PB that day. Coincidence? Maybe, but I don’t think the first few kilometres would have been very comfortable had I not warmed up. Even for parkrun, unless I am taking it easy, I will always do at least a 1km, preferably 2km warmup. Ideally I will warm up until I can’t feel my hamstring niggle anymore. Then, when the starter says “GO!” I can hit the ground running.
- STEADY BUILDUP AND TAPER. For marathon training I follow a 16 week programme, varying it as needed to fit in other events. I make sure I increase the distance of my long runs steadily – ie I won’t go out and run 21km one week and then 40 the next – even though my body is now accustomed to running these sorts of distances. Each time I train for a marathon I’m kind of starting from scratch. I also make sure to taper properly. In previous years I have done a 4 week taper. Because of my unconventional leadup to Gold Coast, I did a 3 week taper which seemed to work fine. For Adelaide, with the 30km Henley to Henley race 3 weeks out, it is again a 3 week taper.
- PRIORITIES. This year, my #1 priority was to run a Boston qualifier at Gold Coast. I also wanted to run UTA100 which was 7 weeks before that. I realised that if I were to smash myself at UTA I would need a good few weeks recovery time, which I couldn’t afford. Therefore, I set myself a relatively modest goal of finishing under 20 hours (OK, I did say 16 but that was just a number I pulled out of the ether – anything under 20 hours was a bronze belt buckle and that was just fine by me) and a week later was able to manage a 30k training run. I have another interesting juxtaposition of events coming up in September. First, the 12k City-Bay Fun Run which I have run 3 times and PB’d every time – if I’m honest I am aiming for close to 50 minutes this year. Second, 1 week later is the Yurrebilla Trail 56km ultramarathon at which I am hoping to run in close to 6.5 hours. You see my issue!
- BEING ABLE TO SAY NO. I have realised that I do have to pick and choose what events and training runs I do. If I am focused on a goal (ie at the moment I am focused on the Adelaide Marathon) every run I do needs to contribute towards that goal. A 56km trail run 2 weeks out from what needs to be a fast marathon, as tempting as it sounds (and believe it or not, it was a tempting proposition to me!) is NOT what I needed to be doing. Instead, with a 25km run in my plan, I ran 15 laps of a local 1 mile block. SO much fun. NOT. I am so looking forward to being able to do long trail runs on the weekends instead of pounding the pavement!
Does anyone else have any words of wisdom that help them to keep on running?