A Return to Form(at) – Training, November 19 - 25

I suppose it's about time to return to the weekly training format that I have previously used on this blog, now that I finally seem to be getting over my Achilles injury of the last 8+ months—the idea of sharing my training being that seeing workouts and races in context can help explain what I'm doing and why.  You often see a "key" workout that some elite runner will do or hear a mileage figure (say, Ritz's 45:00 10 miler or Cam Levins's 160 mpw), but without context, these mean essentially nothing (in terms of learning something).  Anyway, the training may be a bit boring for a while (not that it is riveting normally), because I'm out of shape and most of what I do for the next several months will just be geared toward getting a solid mileage and aerobic base under me again.

To briefly recap the injury situation, I injured my Achilles in a cycling accident in mid-March, in which I sustained a pretty significant blunt force straight to the back of my left Achilles tendon.  I didn't tear the tendon, but it was damaged, and then got stuck in a chronic inflammatory process.  After moving through a variety of treatment protocols, I seem to finally be moving in the right direction after some prolotherapy, administered by Dr. Terry Nicola at UIC.  I had my (hopefully) last appointment with Dr. Nicola on November 15; as long as my condition doesn't worsen, I am not supposed to see him again.  In addition to quite a bit of self-therapy (massage, stretching, ice, strengthening exercises), I am getting twice-weekly ART from Dr. Roy Settergren at Midwest Sport & Spine.

Over the course of the last 8 months, I've lost quite a lot of fitness.  There was a period of 6 weeks where I didn't run at all, and I averaged maybe 15-20 mpw of mostly easy mileage throughout the whole period.  In the last month or so, I've built up from running every other day (and only a few miles at first), to now running 5 or 6 days in a row.  I run about 10 miles most days now at a decent pace (6:00-7:30 pace depending on how tired I am), with a weekly long run that is now up to 15 miles (increasing one mile each week).  Based on this schedule, I should be back to about 100 miles a week by the start of 2013.  This past week playout out as follows:

Monday: 10 miles moderate; GS.

Tuesday: 10 miles moderate.

Wednesday: 8 miles easy (all soft surfaces) - tired from the previous two days' runs—a bit of a novel feeling at the moment.

Thursday: Off - Normally I try to get on the treadmill for some uphill hiking on my day off, but it being Thanksgiving, I wasn't able to pull it off.

Friday: 12 miles moderate.

Saturday: 10 miles easy.

Sunday: 15 miles moderate-plus - Brought it down to 6 flat pace by about three miles.  I only had splits in the middle miles (I now live about 3.5 miles from the lakefront path, and also, some of my old markers on the lake are messed up at the moment due to construction), but for miles 7 through 10, I hit 5:58, 5:54, 5:47, 5:48 without really pushing too hard.  I backed off just a touch from there and probably averaged 5:50-5:55 pace for the last segment.  

Summary: 65 miles, 1x GS

I was pretty pleased with the long run this week.  While my fitness isn't great, it isn't awful either.  While the pace I was running on Sunday was more aerobically challenging than it used to be, it wasn't awful.  The bigger issue at the moment seems to be muscular endurance; my legs just get tired after 6 or 8 miles at a solid pace.  That will come around in time, it's all about getting consistent now.  The ankle seemed to handle the volume alright, this being my highest mileage week yet.  It will be a bit stiff on some runs, but not really painful.  It's still pretty painful to the touch in a very focused area, which gives me some pause, but hopefully it's something that will just fade in time with continued rehab.  


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  2. How do you determine what your moderate pace is? And how do you determine how often you incorporate those moderate pace runs?

  3. Good question. I was actually going to elaborate on this notation of mine in this week's training post, so there will be a bit more info. there. Generally, I would say what I call moderate is a "feeling" more than anything else... just a good aerobic effort, but nothing too hard. As far as precise paces, I consider "moderate" to be anything in the basic aerobic range, i.e. anything faster than about 80% of marathon pace (MP). Anything much slower, and you don't get much aerobic benefit (though there are other benefits).

    For me, MP is around 5:20-5:30 range, so about 6:30/mile would be my cutoff for "moderate." Anything slower, I would call "easy." If I start to dip below 6:00 pace, that starts to get into workout territory, the pace of a tempo run (I use the term tempo loosely: it could be 4 miles at AnT pace or 20 miles at 95% MP); so I might call that "moderate-plus." So, for me, roughly:
    "moderate" = 5:45-6:30/mile
    "easy" = 6:30 pace or slower

    The other caveat here is that this is "internal load"—perceived effort essentially. So 7:00 on rough hilly terrain might still be "moderate." As for how I determine what days I will run moderately, that totally depends on what else is going on in my training, what workouts I have that week, etc. We all know the general principle of hard/easy/hard/easy. So if I have a hard workout, you can bet the next day will be easy. If the workout is lighter, and I feel that I can still run "moderate" the next day AND still recover, then I may do that, though it will probably be a game-time decision based on how I feel. When you're running harder workouts, recovery is paramount; BUT, the more running you can do at a basic aerobic pace, the more you will develop aerobically for the long term.

  4. Thanks Matt for the great explanation. So, I am obviously not in my tip-top Marathon shape yet..so you would advise erroring on the slower end of the range in doing this Moderate pace runs? Great stuff, thanks.

  5. It really depends on a number of factors, and on what you want to focus. If you're early in your "season" and are wanting to just develop a good aerobic base, you can run moderate (i.e. at a basic aerobic pace) nearly every day. If you go a little quicker one day, or maybe after two or three moderate days in a row, or maybe after a long run, you may need an easy day. But generally, running moderate-paced runs does not tax you all that much, so you can do it nearly every day.

    Another factor is if you're raising your mileage significantly, you may need to throw in a few extra easy days in order to recover and feel alright. That's basically the scenario that I'm in right now. When I'm fit, and used to running 100 miles a week, I can do moderate runs every day if I'm not doing other workouts. But right now, I'm raising mileage after 8 months of very little training, so I need to throw in some extra easy days.

    The more workouts you add, the more easy days you'll need to recover form the greater stress. I've discussed this in the past with my own training in 2011. I was working a lot, so I didn't have time to sleep enough or do enough mileage. As a result, I did almost no running at a moderate pace. Pretty much everything was either a workout or a recovery run. It worked well for me for a time, because I happened to have a pretty substantial aerobic base under me from years of training. However, it was far from ideal. Everyone should be doing some moderate running (in varying amounts depending on the time of season) in order to continue to develop aerobically.

    Canova has said about Western runners generally, that if we want to get faster/better, we first need to just be running a lot more. Unlike many East Africans, who spend their lives more or less very active, we are largely sedentary as we grow up and we have a lot of catching up to do in the aerobic category.