It's November already. How time flies. It was the realization of turning 40 last November which spurred me back to running. Reaching the one year point got me thinking about how far I've come and the mistakes that I've made.
My first runs were last October. I've kept track of everything in a spreadsheet. Last November I ran 52 miles, almost all on the treadmill. I ran my first race - the 4 mile Turkey Trot in Wash Park on November 27th. I'd hoped to run below 30 minutes, but was just a few seconds over that. While intuitively I'd known it would be harder to run on pavement than a treadmill, that was the first tangible evidence I had. This year I hope to run that same race again with the goal to run below 25.52 to qualify for the AA wave in next year's Bolder Boulder, so more than a minute per mile faster.
Last October I was 183 lbs. Now I'm 153 lbs. Since the summer of 2008 I've actually lost close to 40 lbs.
Back then I didn't have much of an idea about training plans. I'd basically go and run 30 minutes on the treadmill, 3 times a week. As I was able to run further and faster I'd basically just up the distance, but still try to run close to the fastest pace I could go. It wasn't until after I'd run my first half marathon in May that I looked into creating a more detailed training plan for the Chicago marathon in October. I looked at several plans online and came up with one that I thought might work, varying mileage through the week with an increasing mileage long run each weekend. Even then I had no idea about different paces. I thought that by running a fast pace for all my training - including the long runs - was the best way to prepare. What benefit could jogging slowly possibly do ?
Since last November I steadily increased my mileage. December was my first 100 mile month. I was amazed that I'd run that far in a month. The weight was falling off - 4 or 5 lbs a month. For my New Year's resolution I set a goal to run 1000 miles for 2009. I figured it would take me the year. I reached it by the start of August. From January to May I averaged 120 miles / month. In June as I started my Chicago plan, I increased the mileage. 150 in June, 170 in July. 205 in August. My first 200 mile month. September and October dropped a little as I had to taper for, and then run the marathon, but I still averaged 170 miles / month. Again - mostly all at or close to full speed.
I can't completely knock the approach. It did get me a BQ at the first attempt, but now reading the Pfitzinger plan, and getting advice from more experienced runners, I've realized I've been doing a number of things very wrong. It's surprising that I didn't get injured much during the year.
Unfortunately that luck seems to have run out. The past 10 days I've been getting knee pain during and after most runs. Nothing too bad. It'll hurt for a few minutes, then stop. A few hours after the run it's as if nothing had happened, but it's something I need to shake. It's definitely impacting my running.
In hindsight I probably shouldn't have signed up to CIM so soon. I should have taken a month off giving my body time to recover with just some gentle training, then slowly got back to it.
Still - I did sign up for it, and with the money all spent I'm going to see how things go over the next few weeks. I've decided to stop training this week and take 3 or 4 days off. Then I'll try a gentle jog Saturday. If I don't experience any pain I'll run my long run on Sunday, again at a slow pace. That's the longest run before CIM, so I'd then be beginning a gradual taper anyway. If the pain doesn't stop - then I will. I signed up for CIM wanting to beat my Chicago time, but I'm realistic to know that pushing myself for it could set me back for future races.
I don't want to over dramatize this - having experienced knee pain last year and worked through it, I'm confident that a little R&R will help fix things and that I'll be able to go ahead with my second marathon of the year. I may adjust my expectations, but that's okay. I went to the running store earlier and had a custom support added to my shoe. With the slow-motion video analysis of my running gait they told me everything looked good, which makes me feel more confident that rest is all I need. I've already got the fitness base, so taking a few days off really shouldn't have much of an impact.
Moving forwards, however - I'm going to have to drastically change the way I train. While I'll likely increase the mileage to 60 - 70 miles / week, those miles will be run much smarter. A combination of long runs at a slower pace (marathon pace + 40 to 80 seconds per mile), recovery runs at an even slower pace, tempo runs at half-marathon pace, some repeat sprints at varying distances, and perhaps even some cross training and a few races. I've read blogs of other runners on the Boston runners world boards and have seen that similar plans have lead to huge improvements. I'm not sure if I'll see the kinds of gains that they have, but if I can get a little faster and avoid the injuries, then that's fine by me. I'm at an age where runners typically see a decline. A 35-39 year old needs to run 3.15 to qualify for Boston. A 40 - 44 year old needs 3.20. At 45 that time drops to 3.30, reflecting what appears to be a steep decline in running performance. Who says life begins at 40 ?!! :)
Still. A year into this, I'm very glad I got back to running. I love my level of fitness. I'm very happy with the weight loss and the way I feel. I'm proud to have achieved the Boston qualifying time at the first attempt. I also realize there's still a long way to go and hopefully some improvement to be had.