Saturday, April 14, 2012

Back on "the" Track

MoMo's sleeping habits have changed.  Construction near Doc's office has upset his ritual and he hangs out in the parking lot when I arrive for my appointment instead of being curled up in his matching waiting room chair.  He is a friendly feline and runs up to me, recognizing me by now, as I have been visiting the Doc twice a week for the last 7.  MoMo belongs to no one in particular but everyone in general, but Doc worries when he hasn't seen him for a while.  So up into the office I bring him.

In previous posts I detailed the introduction of running back into my workout schedule.  In its absence, I have grown to appreciate and need running that much more.  In its absence I have had to adjust to other means to achieve and maintain fitness, and thankfully I found a good formula.  But as much as I cross-train, nothing totally can replace all that running provides.  It's not necessarily all of the mental and fitness advantages that are hard to replace, but more the use and development of the "running muscles."  My most important "running muscles" are my calves.  If I'm not doing some sort of explosive push-off, I'm losing a little advantage with each passing day.  I've grown accustomed to the elliptical, Stairmaster and swimming pool, and these apparatuses have served me well, but losing my running power is a bit hard to swallow.  It's time to get back my mojo!   A Scooby-Doo allusion ... "Let's get jinky with it."

Because my Achilles tendon has been as solid and strong as ever here of late, Doc has asked me to begin really testing it.  I didn't even have to ask ... he sees it in my eyes.  He is no stranger to competitive athletes.  He knows how restrained and patient I have been, but I'm so over my 40 days of fasting.  I'm hungry.  He has added another weekly run to my schedule, bringing it up to 3 days per week.  The really big key here is that the runs are intense efforts now, no longer focused on adjustment, but rather quality. 

Over the last few weeks I have pressed the tempo runs, taking them off the track and onto roads.  The pace is creeping faster as I test my Achilles and my heart against the rigors of fast running.  So far both have held up and have done what I asked of them and my reports back to Doc have been positive.  A five mile tempo run at 6:20 pace, able to run it all fully within myself, and no ill-effects to speak of.  With all things considered, this is huge for me.

So came the day that I decided to do a 12 x 400 interval workout, not with a particular pace in mind but to see what I could do and to finally get a baseline for my fitness level.  I have discovered that confidence cannot be manufactured, rather it comes from experiencing positive results over which you have little control.  I am reminded of Tiger Woods' PGA win a few weeks ago.  His confidence grew with each putt he sunk, and with increased confidence came better results.  There was no real explanation for his performance that weekend, or that day.  It wasn't as if he simply decided to be confident, it came without his control.  That's something like what I'm looking for now.  I haven't raced, nor hardly run since November and I need something to happen that tells me it is still possible.  So I took to the track with that in mind.  What I discovered is that it is painful to shock the body like that.  The "running muscle - calves" had atrophied from cross-training so they were the first to begin protesting my effort.  Both grew fatigued and sore while I suffered through the repeats.  They couldn't even have the decency to wait until the next day, but the soreness did double by then.  The good news ... my injury was not an issue ... therefore contributing to my confidence.  More good news ... the repeats were consistent within a range of 3 seconds, all done at approximately 5 min/mile pace.  I was happy with this but stunned by the amount of effort it took.
Finishing a tough interval

With my first interval workout in a year under my belt, I decided I would join in the Santa Barbara Triathlon club track workouts which began this week.  With Doc's encouragement to intensify and build my running, along with what must be a near full recovery from a serious Achilles injury, I arrived at the San Marcos High oval to finally run with others under the tutelage of a very knowledgeable and experienced coach.  It was wonderful to be running, but I wondered how I would hold up.  I wondered if I would push myself too hard to keep up with someone I shouldn't.  The track can do that to you.  It takes discipline to remain balanced and to run YOUR workout, not unlike the way it is with racing.

Pre-workout Running Drills

We did a simple workout of 2 x 1 mile at 5 seconds faster than 5K pace, followed by 2 x 800 at a pace which was 5 seconds faster than the miles.  Simple but not easy.  Again, like last week's interval workout, I was shocked by how difficult it was, but happy with the times I was able to maintain.  I have to remind myself that I have been running only about 12 miles a week, and that only for a few weeks.  I can't come out and expect to feel like I do mid-season on healthy legs.  So tri-club track workout #1 a success as I choose to see it.  Another positive result to report to Doc.

While it is true that something like an Achilles injury can't be helped along too much in the healing process, yet there is something to be said about getting good therapy to support the healing, and even more importantly, having someone prescribe to you "no running."  These are the difference makers for me.

Because of these great weeks of sports medical care and my quick response to the therapy, Doc has OK'ed a race.  I will be racing before the month's end and all of my competitive hunger waits to finally be satiated.  Before then I hope to log a few more great running efforts, and I hope that I will toe that line with confidence.  I am ready to no longer have to say, "I'm injured." "I'm not 100%."  "I'm just coming back from an injury."  I hate these statements and how they play in the back of the mind.  I am ready to say "I feel good."  "I will give it my all today."  "Now I know how to run a PR on twelve miles a week."

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