Thursday, July 23, 2009

Recovery; How Do I Love Thee?

There was a time when I was but a young, naive runner who marveled at the grace, power and speed of the runners at the front of the pack or in the 'A' heat of a track meet. I thought to myself, "they must never take training breaks." Could I have been more wrong?

I started running later in life, and as such, I have had a deep held belief that I have to run twice as hard and far as my competitors, who have many more childhood miles in their legs. I also reasoned that because I had to make up for lost time I should train through my teammate's and competitor's breaks. Recovery was a concept my coaches spoke of and fell on my deaf ears. When I finished my Varsity running career, after my Master's degree at McMaster University, I was burnt out and exhausted. I still loved running but I had lost the desire and need to train hard. The last thing in the world I wanted to run was an interval and the last thing I needed was a coach. I had been at a plateau for a couple of years (around 33 minutes for 10km) and needed time away from the sport after 6 years of steady training with no longer then a couple of days away from training. Even when I had a serious injury going into my last year of UNB I still managed to either pool run or swim once or twice a day.

It was during my break from running when I moved to Vancouver. It was the break from running that impressed upon me the importance of recovery. When I joined VFAC it was with fun and speed in mind. I also wanted to join on my own terms, running my own plan, for myself. It was when I was able to let myself take a day off when I was getting over trained (like when my heart would beat in my throat on an easy off day run...) or skip a workout to spend time with a cherished friend that I moved from the plateau and began to climb to a new peak of fast times.

My latest recovery period has ended with a surprising workout tonight. I cannot remember the last time I took a whole week off. When I was told by coaches to take time off I usually ran anyways, having surgery was what was needed to keep me out of my running shoes and out of the pool. Tonight we ran a longer mileage workout. I think the loop was 1 5/8 miles. We started with a double loop followed by a single loop with full recovery between efforts. Upon finishing the workout tonight John informed me that I may have run a best time for the first double and it may have been my best overall workout on this loop ever. Not bad for a first workout back!

I am surprised and a bit wary of this early speed and endurance. I can think of a few reasons I ran quick tonight. I am fresh and motivated and the men I train with are all running really fast and are fit. They are unbelievably lean (and of course straight...) which makes a nice target in workouts. I am still slightly guarded with my reaction to this workout. I wonder, where do I go from here?

I have no answer to this question. If this is a new starting point to build from then I will have a new slate of best times in the fall and 30:30, the next 10km milestone, may become closer to reality. If this is a result of having fresh legs with no aches, pains or niggles then I will have more of the same and will continue with my gradual drop in times. The biggest message for me tonight though is to take some time to recover. After three weeks away from hard intervals, a week of no exercise with an upper jaw surgery and some later nights with some lovely drinks and excitement I am running faster than I anticipated.

I also realized tonight I have a love/hate relationship with training. I enjoyed my time of relaxation and energy for the last few weeks. The fatigue is setting in already and I am a touch anxious for Saturday's track workout. I hope my legs get a chance to recover before then. I am also starting to warn colleagues and friends that I may become a touch snappy and moody in the next few weeks as the initial exhaustion that comes with getting back into heavy training sets in. I will have to ensure I have patience with those who I choose (and choose me as well) to have in my life as well and those I do not choose to have in my life.

I will take a dip in English Bay tomorrow night to flush some 'junk' from my cells while avoiding unnecessary pounding and Saturday morning I will be on the track.

Above all else I am glad to be back! It was great to see familiar faces tonight and catch up with the guys.

Happy Training!

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