At the end of April I felt tired, but had a week of free time in Las Vegas visiting Katie’s parents that I wanted to capitalize on. I ran 20 miles a day in the desert and mountains that week, culminating in a fun 25 miler in Zion National Park up and down the canyon and hitting all the best high points like Observation Point and Angel’s Landing. It was easy to just keep knocking out 7:30 miles, but it felt much harder than it should have.
|Zion Observation Point|
Unsurprisingly, I came back dead tired. I knocked out a 40 mile bike ride at the end of the week with my good friend Ryan and then that was it. I kept training, but struggled to run under seven minute miles. My old stone bruise on my left foot 4th metatarsal started to hurt again. This was no good, I wanted to feel good again and put in steady training for fall races. After a dismal performance at our team relay at Dances With Dirt Gnawbone (in May) I felt the fatigue was unbearable.
My usual coffee intake was even higher in the morning to get myself energized for lunchtime runs. Coffee stopped working. I decided that perhaps my regular and possibly excessive coffee consumption was masking a great fatigue. So I quit drinking coffee. I was now running slower than ever. I struggled to run eight minute miles.
Overreaching, sympathetic overtraining, parasympathetic overtraining, dead legs, whatever you want to call it, I think I had it. I have a continuous running streak of almost 200 days so I didn’t want to quit. I resolved to run one mile a day, easy on the grass for two weeks. I stayed away from caffeine. I felt terrible for a while, but then I started to feel better. An easy mile one day on the road turned into a 6:30 mile. This was even in the morning.
I ended my mile-a-day two week break two weeks ago. My energy is back. I started a new training plan. I am gradually increasing mileage (50 one week, 60 the next, 70 this week) and rebuilding a cardio base. I have always scoffed at the idea of regularly wearing a heart rate monitor but decided that I have been ignoring a valuable training tool I already have. Why not use it?
So here I am two weeks later, running every mile with a self imposed limit of 140bpm and keeping my average HR at around 136bpm. The heart rate training fad I have loved to hate is now my training plan until I stop seeing improvement at these easy heart rates. My theory at the moment (still not drinking any coffee) is that my caffeine induced ease of running higher heart rates did me in at the expense of fundamental cardiovascular base building.
My first run with a heart rate cap was miserably slow. I ran a 10 mile out and back on the rail trail at near 9 minutes per mile culminating in a 10 minute last mile. I battled back and forth with a girl alternating walking and running on the Rail Trail. I cursed the heart rate monitor. People I know saw me running slowly on Kirkwood. Embarrassing! I ran the same route the next day. I ran it again the day after that. The pace started to drop. Last week I managed a run at 136bpm and two miles at 7:08 and 7:01. Either I am recovering with all these easy runs or improving cardio fitness quickly. I don’t think it matters which, I am thrilled to be feeling fresh every day and running a little faster each time out!
I have been convinced that easy flat runs would eventually bore me. But instead the game of relaxing and trying to run faster and more efficiently at the exact same effort is becoming an enjoyable challenge. I’m getting a heart rate monitor tan-line.
My friend Ben swears by this training philosophy. If it works for Bartley maybe it will work for me as well!
So there it is, let the summer of base building commence.