I’ve never been one to maintain detailed records of my races or training runs. It is only fairly recently that I began to wear a GPS watch to record my runs and get an idea of my pace. A result of my relaxed approach to record keeping is that I tend to forget what I’ve done.
As I approach my final major race of the year, the Royal Parks Ultra on Sunday 7 October 2012, I felt it was time to review what I have achieved this year. In doing so, I’ve realised an error or two I may have made along the way… For the first time in a long while I have suffered injuries, most notably plantar fasciitis at the beginning of 2012 that has stayed with me throughout the year so far. I see now part of the reason for its lingering presence may be the number of races I’ve run this year, which has also contributed to a feeling that my body is exhausted.
Read about my struggle with plantar fasciitis and how RunningPhysio @tomgoom helped treat it before the Transalpine Run
I sat down to write my list of races completed in 2012 and some possible reasons for my exhaustion and susceptibility to injury became apparent. To demonstrate where my problems may have originated, here is a list of all the official races I’ve run this year (links to race reports and videos attached):
Heroes Run London 10km (1 April 2012)
Paris Marathon (15 April 2012)
Fan Dance (19 May 2012)
Round The Island Isle of Wight Ultra (30 June 2012)
Chichester Challenge Marathon (8 July 2012)
North Downs Way 50 (11 August 2012)
Transalpine Run 2012 (1 September 2012)
Helly Hansen Beauty and the Beast Marathon (21 September 2012)
Royal Parks Ultra (7 October 2012)
So that’s a major race each month from April of at least a marathon or higher distance with two major races with four weeks of finishing the 200 mile Transalpine Run. Apart from the heel pain, I have not felt exhausted or fatigued in the six months of racing until the last four weeks or so. I’m not sure whether I’m very good at judging how well my body is coping as my sport massage therapist is perplexed by how I’m still running (the massage sessions have become noticeably more painful and torturous as the year has worn on!).
While I constantly rue the fact I run much slower than I would like, I wonder whether this has allowed me to finish all my races this year. Had I been pushing myself beyond my limits, could I have maintained this level of activity? Probably. But I wasn’t prepared to test it. My philosophy is best summed up in the quote:
Dead last is better than did not finish, which is way better than did not start
I made a choice this year. I was not prepared to give up the chance of experiencing any of these races. I could have cut out a race or two in order to focus on improving my times and pushing harder when I could. Yet the idea of DNF’ing worries me no end.
In hindsight, I needed greater recovery time between events. The proximity of the races to each other inadvertently reduced the amount of training I was able to do, for example intervals and speedwork, I was able to do. The net effect has been that I haven’t hit a peak of performance; instead I have ‘managed’ my way through the roster of races.
In all honesty, I didn’t quite realise just how much and how often I had been running until I wrote this list of races down. Running marathons week after week shouldn’t be too tricky but perhaps the nature of the challenges have really taken their toll – nearly all trail runs and involving lots of ascent and descent (if I was really anal, I’d work out the total ascent from all my races in the last six months, but I’m not!)
I have decided next year will be different. After the Royal Parks Ultra, I am going to take a break of at least two months from any running. Yes, two months! I know my body needs it and it is the only way to finally rid myself of the heel pain once and for all. My plan is to use non-running activities to maintain fitness and keep my weight down during the winter months and return refreshed and injury-free the other side of Christmas. I need to be as I have already signed up for my first race of 2013, the South Downs Way 100. This will be my first ever 100 miler and will take a great deal of my focus when I start training again in the new year.
My other focus will be speed, the area I really need to tackle. I have made it my long-term aim to qualify for Boston, meaning I need a PB of below 3 hours 10 minutes to have any chance. When I’m an hour off that at the moment, you can see why I consider it a long-term aim… 2013 is going to be the year I get faster and properly race, rather than just finishing. It’s going to be painful, isn’t it?