I’ve often noticed that in my training I have large shifts in how my body feels day to day. There are times when my energy is high and every run simply floats by and I find myself holding back. These are the days that running is truly fun and I am able to play with the pace of my runs and simply enjoy clicking off the miles. There are other times, which happen much more often, when I feel slow, sluggish, and tired. During these periods, I begin each run with my excitement stemming solely from the fact that I know the run will end in a specified amount of time! No amount of sleep is satisfying and each workout feels a bit forced. Unfortunately, the last 10 days have been those kind of days.
Now, I have been in these running doldrums before and raced well despite all the accumulated fatigue. I have also raced poorly when in this state. Personally, I feel that one of the most challenging things about running is that you can do everything right in and out of training and race day is still a slight mystery. Will my body respond when I ask it to run fast? Will my legs relax and open up when it’s time to get down to business? Can I, despite the fatigue, get my mind wrapped around racing and forget that I’m worn out? These were all questions I was pondering this week as I inched closer to my first race of the spring season, the Ukrop’s Monument 10k in Richmond, VA.
Before I discuss the race I want to hypothesize about reasons (excuses?) as to why I’m feeling a bit ZAPPED! (pun intended):
1. I am just beginning a new cycle and despite feeling great coming off my break, usually the increased mileage hits me after a few weeks. I went from two weeks of 20 miles and 50 miles to weeks of 88, 104, and 109 miles.
2. Two weeks ago I got a nasty head cold that circulated through the ZAP team. Bullheaded as I am, I continued to workout while I had it. Although it wasn’t a major illness, asking your body to run fast while slightly under the weather will cause the sickness to linger and have longer lasting effects. Alas, I did not take any days off and the 3 subsequent workouts have all felt forced, while the 2 prior to the cold felt fantastic. Dumb move on my part!
3. Building off of reason #1, often races simply fall in fatigue cycles. Jesse Cherry, 2:16 marathoner and former ZAP athlete, ran a breakthrough 47:40 at the Cherry Blossom 10 miler in 2012. He was very fit and everyday felt great as he looked ahead to the US 25k Championships that were in a few weeks. However, on race day he felt terrible and ran a sub par race. After the race he handled the performance in stride, not questioning his fitness, but shrugging his shoulders and telling me, “The race just fell in a fatigue cycle, I know my fitness is great, I’m not worried.” If memory serves, he rebounded a few weeks later with another solid performance.
With those ideas in mind, I traveled to Richmond, VA to race in the Monument Avenue 10k. The course is mostly flat and some fast times have been run on it so I was excited for the chance to pop off a fast one. Again, leading up to race day I felt terrible every step I ran but I was still confident my fitness would carry me through. When the gun went off, I knew after 1 mile that the race was going to be a grind. I hit the mile in about 4:41 and from there resorted to around 4:55 pace for the remainder of the race. I finished 4th overall but it was a bad race. My time, 30:40, was slower than a 10k split during my half marathon in January! I ran hard the entire race and was upset I was not with the leaders as I should have been, but my hope is that this race will be a turning point and my body will rebound back to a more normal state. And although I don’t tend to like the term “rust buster” I will chalk this race up to just that.
I do not have much time to mope as next weekend I return to my hometown of Charleston, SC for the always competitive Cooper River Bridge Run 10k. My goals are to finish in the top 10 overall and be one of the top 3 American finishers. Tune in next week to see how it went.
Here is my last week of training (3/23-3/29):
Sunday: AM: 16 miles (8×20 seconds post run)
Monday: AM: 6miles
Tuesday: AM: 13 miles (indoor workout) PM: 5 miles
Wednesday: AM: 9 miles PM: 7 miles
Thursday: AM: 10 miles (6×20 seconds post run)
Friday: AM: 9 miles (5×200 meters post run)
Saturday: AM: 12 miles (Ukrop Monument 10k, 30:40, 4th place)
Total: 87 miles, 9 runs