After my last post about my Barr Lake 15K race six months ago, I was feeling optimistic about my running for the first time in a long time. So optimistic, in fact, that I thought I was very close to achieving my post-50 year-old sub-20 5k goal. I signed up for a fast 5K down in Denver, bought some $300 super shoes (Nike Vaporfly Next% 2), and planned a tough 5K predictor workout (5x1K at goal 5K pace, 60s recovery) in said shoes. The optimism even kept flowing enough that I signed up for the Houston Half-Marathon in January. Did I mention I was feeling optimistic?
Ten days out from the 5K and I was smashing the predictor workout. I was hitting 3:55/K for all of the repeats, feeling fantastic …. and then I pulled my hamstring on the last interval. I was devastated. I could barely limp home and was in a funk for a week. I took some time off, tried to self-rehab, self-assess, and readjust my mindset and my goals.
I realized I was overly focused on the outcomes and reminded myself that I run my best when I’m enjoying the process. I also decided I didn’t have to do this alone, it wasn’t a matter of self-will. So the first thing I did was find a Physical Therapist to help me stay healthy. Over the past couple of years I’ve had hamstring injuries, Achilles problems, knee issues, calf strains, and just a demoralizing list of setbacks (Covid anyone?). I needed consistency, and I needed to rehab from my latest and most severe hamstring strain. Four months later and I can say the physical therapist has been well worth the money. He’s helped me get and stay healthy.
As I slowly got healthier, I started running very slowly a few times a week. I gradually increased volume and intensity but never really pushed too hard with my hamstring always in the back of my mind. After a couple months I decided to test my fitness at the local Parkrun 5K. I ran 21:50, much better than I expected after so much time off and not really training. Before this, I was on the fence about racing the Houston Half, but after this result I felt like I could still race it successfully.
I looked for a running group to join, or alternatively, a coach to work with. I’ve trained with a running group before and have really missed the community ever since. The actual training in a big running group like that is usually pretty generic, but especially with someone like Gilbert, the camaraderie more than makes up for it. None of the groups around me seemed to work for me, though, either because of calendar, philosophy, workout times, or location. So I looked for an online coach instead.
I tried an online coach previously but it was a bad fit and didn’t last long. This time I’ve found someone who is engaged, knowledgeable, and encouraging. I told him my goals, my history (successes and injuries), my running philosophy, and he’s been pretty flexible and helpful. I love not having to think about what I’m going to run tomorrow or next week. Previously, I was bouncing between systems I read about online, found in a book, or searched for online, and now I just run whatever he gives me. He takes me feedback and works with me if physical issues come up or life gets in the way, but having a coach is pretty freeing mentally.
So now, on to the half-marathon. I hope. (I’ve had some knee soreness but have been able to manage it by working with my coach and PT.) My thinking at the time of signing up for the half was about changing my training to capture a new stimulus. I’ve been training and chasing my post-50 year-old sub-20 5k for a couple years now, and I thought to myself, “Self, you’ve been focused on the 5K for a long time, maybe you’re getting stale mentally and physically. Why don’t you train for something longer, maybe build a bigger aerobic capacity, and perhaps that will indirectly help with your 5K goal?” Or something like that.
As for the training itself? I raced a 10k a couple weeks ago in order to qualify for a corral at Houston. I run five or six days a week and rest or cross-train on the other days (new to me). It’s not as much easy running as I would have expected, and quite a bit of “cruise” pace stuff, longer intervals (e.g. 4x2k), and slowly increasing my long run and total volume. I hover around 30-35 miles per week right now, which I fear isn’t enough, but I feel pretty fit, and I’m staying healthy which is the most important part.