Wednesday morning, an easy 10-miler on the schedule. Essentially the shortest run on my calendar.
Lay-up. Piece of cake.
Except as I pushed off from the garage, hit start on my watch and took the first dozen strides down the street I knew that it was going to be a battle for every step of those 10 miles.
The cumulative effect of all of the running, cycling and swimming we have been doing finally had caught up with me. I am not Superman. I am not indestructible. I am not a machine. I am in fact human, destructible and fallible.
Instead of ticking off comfortable miles, one after the other, my body was suffereing from fatigue and was falling into a comfortable pace that it knew it could meter out over 10 miles on a 77 degree morning with 85% humidity. The dog days of August.
When I started training for marathons a day like Wednesday would shake me. It would erode my confidence and have me stressing out about my fitness level, my training plan, my endurance, my ability as a runner. “How could I be getting slower after putting in all of this work?” I would think. “This can’t be happening now with only X weeks before my race.”
But like most things in life, experience in this area is extremely valuable. You have to keep the big picture in perspective during your training cycle. In preparing for Kerrville 70.3 with 9 weeks leading up to race day I had 99 workouts on the schedule. 11 per week spread between 3 swims, 3 bike rides and 5 runs every 7 days.
One individual workout represents just 1/99th of my preperation. 1.01%.
Right then and there you should realize that we are talking about a statistically insignificant percentage of our body of work prior to race day. That is why a general rule of thumb at the start of a training plan is to hope to complete 90-95% of your scheduled workouts as intended. Over a traditional 18 week training cycle aches and pains, bumps and bruises, slight injuries and illness are going to occur. That is the nature of the beast when you are truly “training hard” and making improvements to your fitness level, mental strength and endurance that you hope will manifest themselves on race day.
If you are pushing hard enough to improve, your body is going to push back.
Which leads me to my point today. It is o.k. that my legs felt like crap on Wednesday morning and in fact, it was a good thing.
To improve as an athlete you need to first break down your muscles, allow them to recover through rest and easy days, which will then enable them to adapt to the increased training and grow stronger.
Getting your sleep, knowing when to take a rest day or make sure to run your “easy” workouts in fact “easy” – even on the days when you feel great is all part of that process.
It is the difference between “racing” your training plan and training to race.
Wednesday morning was not a lot of fun, I’m not going to lie.
Working hard to hold a pace just over 8:00 minutes per mile over 10 miles can be a humbling experience for a marathoner with a PR of 3:08:09 (7:11 pace for 26.2 miles). But as I hit mile 6 and my sleepy legs finally started to get with the program and tick off miles faster and faster I had a moment where I smiled to myself and realized that my training to this point has been doing exactly what it was designed to do.
It has started to break me down to the point where I am fatigued and struggling. My body will now make the choice to either adapt to the increased workload and grow stronger or it will fold under the pressure and break-down.
Those are the only two possibilities.
My level of experience that I have acquired over the last half-decade of preparing for marathons and endurance events will help me monitor my aches and pains to make sure that I am not teetering on the edge of an injury.
I will continue to leverage the RESTWISE tool that gives me daily feedback on my recovery state and my ability to train. I have learned to take my recovery score very seriously from RESTWISE – when it tells me that my indicators are showing an increased level of fatigue, I listen. It has shown time and time again that after a stretch of tough workouts and/or races that my body is in need of a reduction in the volume and/or intensity of my training to adapt and continue to grow stronger.
(If you are curious about how the RESTWISE system works – click HERE)
If I need a rest day I will take one. When I feel great on my “hard” days I will go out and crush those workouts.
And on days like Wednesday, I will suck it up and do the best that I can. Sometimes the next leap forward is just right around the corner. You just have to have the patience and confidence that your breakthrough moment is waiting for you right around the bend.
Hill repeats on Thursday morning. Sounds pretty good to me.