Sunday, January 31, 2016

Back on track: not too fast!

Running in general, and ultra running in particular, are so experimental... Sure, there is the famous adage 'listen to your body' but, sincerely, if you want to push to the limit and progress, it's quite difficult to discern which size of the limit you are flirting with...

As you read last week, and with two more workouts at the track this week, this has been a serious 'back on track' month for me. Not only 'back at/to the track' but also a pleasure to enjoy some speed again. However, that reminds me so much of last year, and the previous years as a matter of fact, it's like pacing myself in a long ultra, I need to make sure I'm not getting too excited and ahead of myself, or rather ahead of my shape/form...

On Tuesday, I met Bob and Jeremy again and the speed work out consisted of 6 x 800m. We hit 2'40" twice, it has been a while since I ran 2 laps at 5:20 min/mile. But I skipped Thursday as I didn't feel like pushing more at the track this week. But the real reason is that, since last week, I could feel something high along my right tibia, a good signal to remind me that the track is actually a tough surface to train on.

Indeed, as much as I highlighted great properties for and from training at the track, people think that the rubberized surface must be very soft and easy on the joint, but that's actually the opposite. Because it is meant to increase traction, it is unforgiving for all the small (or big...) defaults we have in our strides since the sole pretty much stick to the track as soon as you apply pressure. Unless dirt on which your shoe can slide to make any correction. Moreover, a trail has many defaults which makes each stride different, as opposed to a smooth rack.

With that, I went to Alviso on Friday to run the 9-mile loop of soft dirt twice. Sure enough, I didn't feel any pain in my leg so, what did I do on Saturday... go back to the track for more! I initially wanted to run at least 26 miles so started at a more conservative pace than last week (1'45" laps or ~7 min/mile) but, after 10 miles, I wasn't so comfortable and thought I was going to run 'only' 64 laps (16 miles) instead. I managed to go beyond this, even picking up the pace in the last 2 miles, for a total of 20 miles again. But, this Sunday, the pain was back and I cut my run short at 10K to play safe.

Nothing too serious I think, and it's a good time to taper before Jed Smith 50K next Saturday anyway, but a good 'listen to your body' experience after a 334-mile month at an average of 7:15 min/mile, albeit mostly on flat terrain.

Back to the title, it is so challenging to dose our training appropriately: too much and you break then lose a lot of time having to recover and get back in shape, too little and you won't progress much or won't even know if you could have done better. Besides, all this becomes trickier as we age (less resistance before breaking and more time to recover if ever...). Keep it up as they say...! ;-)

While sometimes I'd love that training and performance followed some mathematical and predictable laws, it wouldn't be as interesting and motivating to explore our capability or to know that you reached an horizontal asymptote or, worse, a declining one, would it be?

The good news is that, in addition to attentively listening to our body, we can learn from what people share (blogsphere, Facebook, magazines, Strava, ...), and get advice, motivation, encouragement and/or reason from listening to others. Also, we have this amazing ability to (re)train our body and push the red zone further, as long as it is progressive.

Interested in hearing about your own experience. Which signs do you see, or feel, before a potential injury? What do you consider too much? Which strategy did you use to raise your own limits? How do you know you are close to your body limits while not going over the wrong side? Big but non philosophical ultra running questions to kick off this longer-than-usual month of February...

1 comment:

Will Cooper said...

Jean...I've always looked at the track like a double edged sword. It can do so much good but also so much bad if overdone. It is like playing with fire. After so long you will get burned. That said I'm thinking of jumping back on it in the next couple weeks! See you at TRT in July.