Monday, December 19, 2005

Resilience

Last week's training really put me through the paces. Well I should say pace, since there was only one and that was slow. By Friday I was eating nails and spitting tacks as I struggled through the the horrible 18 mile workout (15.7 miles completed). I was granted a short reprieve on Saturday with a nice 10.4 mile easy run but was thrown back into the fire yesterday with a 22.2 mile long run that ended ugly.

Friday's tough run that ended short had one amazing effect. The right calf that had been bothering me for the past 8 days (since I picked up the pace one morning to catch Eric) completely healed. It went from very sore to completely not-sore in one day. Saturday morning I awoke to no calf pain and before, during, or after my run. No calf pain Sunday or this morning. At one point during the run (about the time I was desparately running a flat portion repeatedly), I recall the calf muscle "moving" like a knot coming undone. It's too bad it takes me getting to what I described in my log "the end of my rope" during a training run to fix a sore calf muscle.

But as no good deed goes unpunished, nor shall a problem be solved without the introduction of a new one. While the calf muscle was miraculously cured, it was replaced with a very sore left knee and left quad (iliotibial band?) pain. The pain is not acute, but rather a very tender soreness. After a warmup the soreness can sit in the background, always there but unless the pace is pressed, doesn't do much. So yesterday I headed out on my 22 mile long run.

Mindful of the trouble I have had with the hills in Eastport and all my soreness, I resolved to run most of the 22 miler on relatively flat surfaces. So I ran the 7 miles to Perry corner and back as the first leg of the run. This course has a couple of hills but they are long and not so abrupt as the hills in town. Also, it has a few miles of causeway that are flat along the ocean. My big mistake was similar to Friday's mistake (not a fast learner I gather). While I had tea and toast with honey before I left, I still came back from that leg a little depleted. I was taking advantage of the flat road and the background nature of the left leg pain by running at a pace near 8:30/mile. This is faster than I've been able to maintain since I got into high mileage. Unfortunately, this only served to have me dehydrated and depleted by mile 14. As I approached the house I really wished the run was done. I wanted to be able to go in, sit down, and rest the rest of the day. Instead, I took about a 6 minute break while I checked the woodstove, ate a banana with honey, and drank lots of water. When I went back out I felt fresh again but this only lasted a mile if that. By the end of that first mile, with seven left to go, I was feeling the distance.

Miles 16 - 22 almost hurts to think about. The soreness in the left leg was no longer in the background, but rather the only thing on my mind. My pace dropped to somewhere near 11:00/mile and I was starting to struggle, not unlike Friday. I struggled on like a trooper putting myself in what I call the "orbit" - a loop around town that avoids passing the house and solves the parachute problem of bailing out when the going gets tough. And the going was getting tough. Many times, soreness or a running battle plateaus and it's just a matter of hanging on. But yesterday saw deteriorating conditions with each passing mile and the run became a quest to finish. A fresh bailout on my mind from Friday, I was determined to see this through since I didn't have the same time constraints. But when sweat breaks out on your face at 25 degrees and not because you're running hard, you know you've got problems.

At mile 19 when I was the furthest away from the house in my orbit I thought the end had come. But from deep in the subconscious a crazy idea came to the surface. This idea was planted there by none other than Mike from our first long run together back on November 20th. I'd count my steps. And I did.

Mike talked to me about this technique for overcoming distress while we ran next to the beautiful shore in St. Andrews. He was describing how this method of disassociating works at getting some runners through the rough patches of a marathon. Mike related a story about a race where he helped a young lady count steps and got her through the rough spot and to the finish. (Not even a thank you kiss - I hear). Mike says if Paula Radcliffe does it, it must be ok. I'd have to agree with him on that point, but to count steps - you'd have to be in a bad way.

At mile 19, I found myself in a bad way. So with a nod to Mike, I started to count, and count, and count. It was horrible! I was struggling and counting. Breathing and counting. Shuffling and counting. Grimacing and counting. I thought I'd throw up.

I counted through to mile 21 where the psychological effect of being only 1 mile out allowed me to re-engage my brain. 22.2 miles in 3:27:40 (last 8 at 10:55 pace). So needless to say, with two brutal runs so close together, I was interested to see what this morning's workout would produce. The leg is still sore and while not any worse, it is time to adjust the plan to accomodate a recovery for this particular issue. Thus I begin again...

In the past 7 weeks, I've put in 2 weeks of low mileage recovery running, a steady progression to 100 in singles and finally one week of added supplemental runs (two of them). I shall do the cycle again. Resilience refers to hardiness or toughness from something's flexibility and ability to adapt, adjust, and not break under stress. An elasticity. In my case, I wish my plan (and me) to be resilient - it's character of hardiness or degree of toughness defined by its ability to withstand pressure through flexibility and elasticity. To bounce back after being stretched to the limit. After Friday and yesterday, I have found the limit.

The key to the adaptation is control. 50% psychological and 50% physical, controlling the when and how of rest, recovery and build-up is essential. For me, avoiding the haphazard nature of "on" days and "off" days is important. It characterized my previous running with the results to prove it. This time I have run through a lot of soreness and the feedback has been giving me the green light to continue. Just slow the pace down. Now, however, the feedback is different, the tender muscle different, and the pace is abnormally slow (today it took 30:54 to go 3 miles comfortably). Therefore, I will reduce the intensity (in this case miles) to improve the condition of the muscle. I will do this using the same 7 week cycle just completed: 25, 50, 70, 80, 90, 100 + supplemental.

I had a feeling this is what would happen. I've never known a plan go to plan, so the fact that I was very successful reaching week 7 before the red light came on is very satisfying. I've been thinking about the quote, "To get what you do not have, you must do what you have not done." Well, I am trying just that - to do what I have not done. The redo of the initial 7 week cycle is part of that. No fooling around: push the envelope, develop the aerobic capacity, repeat the cycle if necessary to accomodate muscular/skeletal limitations. It will be interesting to see if the 2nd installment of this 7 week cycle allows for further progression into continuous 100+ mile weeks. We won't know unless we try.

Last week: 114 miles. Includes 2 brutal runs.
On tap: 25 miles @ 3 miles / day - recovery week #1.

6 Comments:

Blogger Love2Run said...

Man, it sounds like you've been through the grinder a couple of times already! The counting works for me but I often loose track and have to start using my fingers!!

Enjoy, your very well deserved rest week. I predict by Thurs you will be getting antsy and may try to 'sneak' in extra miles or pace. Fight the urge and enjoy the break ;-)

12/19/2005 8:59 PM  
Blogger Duncan Larkin said...

Andrew. Incredible workouts man. Uncharted territory for sure. Did I read this correctly? 100 miles in singles? Way to go! The base you are building is going to lay the foundation for speed workouts to take you easily into sub 3 territory. Keep at it.

12/19/2005 10:37 PM  
Blogger Joshua "Flash" Gordon said...

Andrew,

You are a tough S.O.B...

Glad to hear you are backing off before you break. What is the philosophy behind the linear build-up (70-80-90-100, etc.) as opposed to a step approach (70-70-70-50-80-80-80-60-90-90-90...)?

I like reading your blog and your toughness and dedication are commendable. I know I have sent words of caution before and I still think you may want to consider earlier warning signs as you build-up. In my opinion, an annual milage goal is more important to success that a weekly goal and it is best to build slowly so that you can obtain a high annual milage as base builds from year to year toward are peak performances and not month to month...

As always, keep up the running and blogging!

12/20/2005 10:05 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Hi Joshua,

No philosophy beyond doing what I have not done. I've then thinking of your advice (the previous one) while I was grinding out those miles. But you know the saying, "The only way to avoid mistakes is through experience and experience is only gained by making mistakes." The story of my life.

Perhaps after my two recovery weeks I've imposed on myself here, I'll consider doing that 3 week, drop, 3 week progression. It has a sense of a logic to it. Thanks for the comments.

Duncan, I'm hoping 3 hours will be broken in the next attempt but that isn't my final goal so we shall see. However, I do believe the miles in training will take care of this time benchmark rather well.

Mike, you know me too well. Come Thursday I'll be sure to keep to the reduced schedule.

12/20/2005 12:41 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

This sounds tough - I bow to your mental toughness. I might try your miracle cure for calf muscles one day - I hope it will also work on hamstrings ;-)

12/22/2005 11:56 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Andrew, I'm worried about that knee! Tell me it's not IT band issues, please! As mentioned by other bloggers, you are definitely tough and these miles will help you one way or another. My "tell" for IT band issues is simply standing on the good leg, then slowly bending the "bad" leg. If it twinges right at 90 degrees or so, I know it's the band. Your results may vary, of course. Tell us what's going on, and I wish you a great new year with several PR's.

12/29/2005 4:51 PM  

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