For the last 6 years, I have either been training with the intent of qualifying for the Trials or attempting to train for the Trials race. I have not had a break from that. I recognize that this is one of those brief moments in my life, like the window right after graduating from college or being in between jobs, where I have the opportunity to truly rest and reset. I'm taking advantage of this moment. It hasn't been easy to let go of those ingrained reflexes that require me to rate every daily decision based on how it will impact my running life. None of that matters right now. I eat the candy bar my co-worker offers me. I have 1-3 glasses of wine with dinner every night. I do not feel guilty that I didn't do a lick of exercise all week.
I will admit that this process was made easier when I got my post-race instructions from my coach. He didn't advise me on the eating or drinking, but these were his instructions for running for the month starting January 15th:
- Week 1: do nothing;
- Weeks 2 & 3: jog a little if ready, but not more than 4 miles per day, no cross training;
- Week 4: 35 miles per week of jogging if ready, no cross training.
I'm meeting these goals. In fact, you might say I'm exceeding them. I didn't do my first post-Trials run until this morning. This wasn't because I was hurt. I just didn't want to run yet. A year ago, I would not have been able to do this because I would have been too paranoid about allowing myself to get out of shape. It was refreshing to be told to get out of shape. This takes practice and a small leap of faith to trust in the fact that 1) I won't lose my fitness forever; and 2) it will come back relatively quickly.
I spent 17 training cycles worrying about losing fitness every time I completed a marathon. I hated taking any time off and was always anxious to get back at it. I hated the fact that my tempo, marathon and 5k paces had to be dialed back following the race and then I'd have to work on getting my speed back to the same pre-marathon level before being able to get any faster. I always had a voice nagging in the back of my brain telling me that I wouldn't get back to the same level let alone become faster. I ripped out her voice box the other day when I realized that the old approach left me stuck in a continuous training loop that was limiting my potential.
I am in Arizona presently, enjoying some wonderful weather and fantastic hospitality from the Camberg family. Kerry Camberg is an inspiration to me and is someone I would not have met had it not been for our common goal of making it to the Trials. We were both part of Julie Threlkeld's brainchild called Houston Hopefuls. I'm not quite sure that Julie knows how this pet project of hers connected so many of us masters' marathoners across the country. One big regret in Houston was not getting to meet Julie in person. She had to leave the day before the race because of a tragic death in her family.
Aside from getting to visit the Cambergs, I am here in AZ to see Dr. Ball. Before the Trials, my biggest fear was that I would come out the other side of the race injured and unable to run for months. In order to placate my inner worrywart in the weeks before the Trials, I made plans to come to Arizona post race to try to knock out any of the shiznit left in my hizzouse.
Lucky for me, the two treatments that Doc Ball did in Houston left me feeling pretty darn good post race. I actually felt better 3 days after the race than I did as many days before the Trials. I was also fortunate in Houston to meet Doc Ball's friend Tim who designs strength training plans for athletes. I took his card and told him I'd contact him after the race to talk about designing something for me.
Tim works with Doc Ball and his team by first addressing any functional strength issues. Tomorrow, I'll go through a series of strength and flexibility tests to identify my weaknesses and strengths. Tim will develop a strength plan for me, and I'll give him feedback as I implement it. He will also help me figure out when to do the exercises based on my run training plan both within a weekly schedule as well as within my training blocks. Once my functional strength is good, he'll help me develop a strength program to improve my performance. I'm pretty excited about this next phase of my training.
Today, Doc Ball dug in hard and I'm not walking quite right at the moment. He also had me run through a set of exercises designed to maintain/improve my range of motion. As he explained it, our bodies respond to the way we use them. Most runners, myself included, spend the vast majority of their training time running at a pace that utilizes a very limited range of motion. So, our muscles adjust and tighten to that limited range. This generally leads to cemented hip capsules and hamstrings and quads as tight as a tick. This range just gets worse the more we run unless we introduce that full range of motion often enough in our training to maintain or improve it. These exercises are not easy, and I have a feeling that I will resemble Quasimodo in the morning. But, I believe they will work.
I plan to spend the next few weeks jogging around aimlessly in order to find my joy in running again. I have run with pain and fear for so many months that I lost that spark. I started to see it glimmering in my short run today. These next few months will start to lay a strong foundation off which a mighty progression of training will be built and will culminate in.....
Nah. You'll have to wait to hear about that!