Recover. Reboot. Learn your lesson.

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Since I last wrote a post in January, a lot has happened. 

In that time I have taken 12 minutes off my half marathon time and 13 minutes off my 10 mile time, ran at least one race each month, celebrated my 2nd running birthday and completed my first ultramarathon.

In the same period I’ve also had two pretty nasty colds, a bout of food poisoning, a horrible fall resulting in a busted knee and a broken wrist, the odd migraine here and there and a little brush with the dreaded ‘runners knee.’

Just the highs and lows of being a runner? 

At the start of the year all was going swimmingly and I was on track for my ultra in March. Then in early February I fell on a training run and I hit the deck hard. The damage from that fall ended up being a broken bone in my wrist which was put in a cast, along with a bashed up hip and knee. Still I kept on running, pushing my already-battered body when it really didn’t want to be pushed. Ill advised? Probably. But there was a race on the calendar. Time was ticking.

After the ultra, which I completed in 5 hrs 3 mins and was very happy with given my target on the day way 5hrs 10 mins, up from my target before the fall of 4 hours 30 mins, I felt great. I was invincible! Not even broken bones could stop me!! I was beating my target times and grabbing PBs, all was great. Recovery? That’s for other people, not me.

I decided to start straight away with my next training plan, diving in head first without even paying the required amount of attention and respect to ‘zero week’ – that week immediately after a long race when you scale back, recover, get a massage and generally give your body a break. Nope, not me. I didn’t need that. I could keep going forever. Ah, that post-race high is a double-edged sword.

And now here I am on week six of said training plan and only one of those weeks has been completed in full (which was week four when I was starting to recover from cold number one, so ramped up the mileage to include the 20 miler on the plan without due care and attention or a proper build up of mileage, resulting in cold number two.) Case in point – it seems I’ve refused to rest properly through all the above ailments, thinking I was being determined, focused and committed when now, with hindsight, I realise I was probably just being stupid. Aside from a day here and there when I was in the grips of a particularly nasty ailment, I churned out what are most likely just junk miles, seeing a blank space on my training log as a bad thing.

I’m wondering if I had taken the time to rest properly after the ultra, would my body have been more prepared to fight off colds and the reduced miles when I was weary would’ve avoided the runners knee? If I took that time at the beginning to recover as I should’ve then gone into this next training schedule refreshed, the situation now would surely be much different. To avoid those rest days it seems is false economy in the long run. It’s a hard lesson to learn for us stubborn runners who all too often think that more is better.

Why is it so hard for us to accept that a week of proper recovery now is a much safer bet than a month off with injury a little further down the line?

Slowly and reluctantly I’m learning my lesson – I need to listen to what my body is telling me it needs and not try to always know better. The odd day off to recover is much better in the long run than trying to carry on regardless and finding myself where I am now, three weeks out from race day with gaps in my training and a mountain to climb. Not literally, thankfully.

I’m now looking into working with a certified coach for a few months to try and help me train smarter, perhaps if I’m being told by someone who knows better to take a rest day I might actually be more inclined to do so. I’m learning a lesson, but old habits die hard.

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