Apparently, unbeknownst to me, I do NOT have superhuman strength. My body has limitations, and last week, I had to acknowledge them.
2010 was my comeback year. The first year back from a 7 year hiatus from running. I build a small, but solid base of miles and topped off a successful year with a 36 minute marathon PR.
2011 was going to be my building year, and for the most part it started out as just that. I started running right away, January 1st. I acquired a treadmill and I hit the rubber running. A couple months later my VFF's arrived and I began working on building my foot and leg strength. I even started doing some light workouts in the gym at my work during my breaks.
But somewhere along the lines things changed. I started getting good again. May brought upon me my second marathon since the comeback, and fourth overall. Since I wasn't running this marathon for a goal time and instead running with a friend who would be running his first, I went in to this race relaxed and confident. The pace was slow and there were plenty of walk breaks, but five hours after the start we crossed the finish line. I was not tired. At all. Sure, the legs had there tender areas, but for the most part, I felt like I could have kept going for hours. This was, to say the least, a confidence booster. I was in better shape than I thought. And what does one do when they realize that things are going great? They change them.
With my new found swagger, I went home and started searching new training plans. Since my ultimate goal is to run an ultra in 2012, I thought what better opportunity than to start now! Not to get cocky, I convinced myself that this was an experiment of sorts; this was a good time to start testing out various ultra plans. I would alter where it needed altering, and cut back when necessary. That was the plan anyway.
I jumped right in to my new plan, and for two solid months, it was going great. My body was reacting nicely, and I felt great. It wasn't until the last week in July that I noticed that my runs were getting harder and my legs weren't recovering like they used to. Just two weeks earlier I had run 24 miles and would have gone more if time allowed, but now I was struggling with 10-12. It didn't take much to tell me that something needed to change, and that change had to come from my training.
I made the decision to take (nearly) a week off from running. Not just to rest my body, but to rest my mind. The plan was that I would finish my long runs for that weekend, and then rest until my next long run the following weekend. This would give me 5 full days of recovery, but allow me to only miss 23 miles on the week (I was still having the ego problem and thought this was a good compromise). The week went off without a hitch and after five days the fatigue was subdued and my mind refreshed. Friday rolled around and I headed out the door to run what I had hoped to be a 20+ mile run. My schedule had me at 4 hours, but I figured if I could hit 20, I would be satisfied considering the week off. When I strolled up the driveway at mile 14 for my gear change and refueling, I decided that I had run enough.
Sure, I was tired, but no more than I normally am at 14 miles. It took a few hours, but later that day I realized what was happening. During that last week of running prior to my break, I felt myself giving up earlier and earlier in my runs. My mind was weak. This was partly the reason I had decided to take the break in the first place. It had seemed that this metal funk I was in hadn't completely gone away. I found myself making excuses. Excuses as to why I should sleep in. Excuses as to why sleeping in has left me short on time to run long. Excuses as to why making it up tomorrow will be alright.
Currently, I am still battling these excuses, but am coming closer to a resolve with them. With my final marathon of the season looming, I have found peace in a new running schedule. This super-hero's krytonite is and has always been his mind. With every obstacle I run in to I find a new way to overcome it. I have no doubts that by race time, I will have hurdled this obstacle too. Come this October, I may not be running for a marathon PR in a cape, but I do have a fancy new pair of tights!