Plant strong?

Something has happened to my body and I have no idea what it is. Oh, and I like it!

Ever since backing off (not retiring) from competitive running and high mileage, high intensity training I have continued my running based entirely on motivation and availability of time to do so. Sometimes this meant 25 miles a week, sometimes 70. Sometimes I would run for 5 days consistently and sometimes I would only get a day or two in. But just those small tastes had me craving more mileage and more speedwork and with this benefit run I have coming up on the 30th (www.herroncrosscountry.wordpress.com) I HAD to get in some decent training just to have a legitimate performance. I decided to focus on at LEAST getting my long run in on the weekends. Very quickly though, that long run turned into looooong runs, going from 20 miles to 24 to 26 to 30. I was frickin loving it and, even more, was dumbfounded at how my body was responding to and recovering from the runs. So all of a sudden, with a little help from a Y membership that afforded me the ability to do my runs before I went to work, I was hitting 75 mile and up weeks consistently….but I didn’t feel race ready. I had still to incorporate consistent and intense speed work. But at least I was getting runs in consistently without interfering with my family life and oddly enough I wasn’t completely wasted and exhausted after the mileage increase. I still had lots of energy, could get up at 5am to run no problem and my legs felt recovered by the time I had started my work day. It didn’t make sense.

Let’s fast forward now.  I’m 2 weeks out from doing my benefit run, I’ve got one race under my belt since backing off (low pressure, low competition trail race), and I’m now hitting marathon training mileage. Last week I ran 100 miles and I’m gearing up for another one this week. Here’s the thing….I feel awesome. And I don’t know why.

When I was training for Chicago last year I was uppping my mileage to 100 mile weeks and when I would do so, I felt completely trashed. I was sooooo tired all day and if I shut my eyes while sitting at my desk I would fall asleep within a minute. THAT’s how exhausted I was. Walking up the stairs at work was an effort in itself. At times my legs were sore, but most of the time they were just fatigued. At home I was incredibly moody and after doing my run for the day, I couldn’t fathom running again or even getting on my bike to ride into town. I assumed this was just how marathon training went.

But now, well, I don’t know what’s going on now. Maybe it’s the lessened level of intensity in my workouts or maybe it’s taking complete rest days here and there, while still holding mileage, but despite hitting 80, 90 and 100 mile weeks, I feel awesome.

For instance, last week I hit 100 miles from Saturday to Friday, including doing 30 miles on Saturday, followed by 20 miles of trails on Sunday. Normally, I would be completely destroyed, and bounding out of those trails on Sunday my legs felt “marathon pain”, but just hours later there was no lingering pain, just general weakness. The next day I was good to go again and so throughout the week I kept running and made it to 100 miles on Friday. I then took 2 full days off to “slang some ‘cakes” (www.allezpancakecafe.wordpress.com) and started back up Monday.  And this is how the week went.

Monday – Went out for a simple 10, not super fast, but not recovery either. Ran quickly to 5 1/2, tended to a car wreck I witnessed, then turned around to run home, now turning it up to all out effort, doing a few miles of speed work.

Tuesday – Ran 10 comfortable miles at 5 am.

Wednesday – Did an intense interval workout on the treadmill (16 x 2:00 on, 1:00 off – all under 5:27 pace, hitting 5:13 on a couple), totaling 10 miles. Then later in the day I felt so good and with the sun shining I went out for 10 more miles, and felt SO GOOD that I ran them progressively quicker and ended fast.

Thursday – Against all common sense, I ran 11 or 12 miles, throwing in a hill workout with 10 steep hill sprints in the middle before returning home. That was essentially 3 workouts in a row and I should have been exhausted and muscularly wasted….but I wasn’t.

Friday – Did 10 recovery miles in the morning and felt just fine throughout the day.

And here we are. I’ve got a long run tomorrow (30 miles) and if I feel good, plan to follow that up with 20 more, topping me out at 112 miles for the week. I’ve never run that many weekly miles before…and I feel great, though experience tells me I shouldn’t.

I don’t know what’s going on with my body right now, and although a lot of vegan athletes reference super quick recovery times based on their diet, I just never bought into that. I haven’t studied the science of it all and am not really concerned either way as I still perform to my expectations….however, whatever the reason, I feel like I could do double and triples every day without consequence. Maybe this is how people get injured, but right now I’m listening to my body and it has yet to give me cause for concern. Right now, all it’s telling me is to keep running and see what happens.

So yeah, I don’t know if it’s my diet. I don’t know if it’s the break I took after Chicago. I don’t know if it’s my full recovery days off from time to time. I don’t know what it is, but damn does it feel good and I’m really excited to see what I can do on this treadmill benefit run on the 30th and on the anchor leg of a Tri-relay I’ll be doing May 14th with Team Dandies. For now though, plant strong or not, I’m just enjoying the run.

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