A quandary

This week has been a difficult week. I have been working very long hours and getting an average of about 5 hours sleep per night. There has been no time for running. However last night I had 8 hours sleep and after sorting out a few jobs this morning, by mid-afternoon I was ready to run. My injured calf muscle appeared to have fully recovered and I was eager to get going, but I faced a quandary. Do I need to re-build my aerobic base with another few months of easy paced running, or can I return to the moderate intensity sessions I was planning when I injured my calf?

In the summer I had built a reasonably solid base (averaging around 35 miles of low intensity running per week) and in September I had run a half marathon in 101 minutes (at mean heart rate 138). I decided to increase intensity in October with the intention of improving my pace over shorter distances. At first things went well. In 6x1Km repetition sessions I was able to maintain a pace of 4:15 to 4:20 min/Km at heart rate 140. Then I tore my calf muscle. In the past 6 weeks I have done very little training. So to confirm that my calf has recovered and to settle the question of whether or not I need to rebuild my aerobic base, I set out to do 2x1Km at heart rate around 140 today.

I returned to my usual woodland 1Km circular path, though I anticipated the surface would be muddy after a wet week. We are definitely at the scraggy end of the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.’ Virtually all the leaves are now off the trees; the atmosphere is damp and misty; the ground is boggy. It was clear that I would need to be vigilant to maintain my footing, and that the uneven soggy surface would add at least 5% to the energy requirement. After a good warm up, I covered the first 1Km lap in 4:46 with a mean heart rate of 137, and the second in 4:42 with a heart rate of 142. After allowing 10-15 sec per Km for the soggy surface, these times indicate that my pace at HR 140 has slowed from 4:15-4:20 per Km in mid October, to around 4:30 now. It is always disappointing to lose hard-earned fitness, but I am pleased the loss is no greater. I am inclined to think that it will be better to persist with my earlier plan of focusing on moderate intensity sessions to improve my pace over shorter distances. If over the next few weeks my calf remains trouble free, I will set myself a target for a timed 10 K in February or March.

Then after the equinox, when it is again feasible to do off-road long runs in day-light on weekdays, I will return to base building in preparation for a half-marathon in September. Sadly, I do not see myself being able to get home from work early enough and regularly enough to allow me to prepare adequately for a full marathon until after retirement.

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2 Responses to “A quandary”

  1. Ewen Says:

    That’s a good return – I hope it continues to go well. With a good warm-up the moderate intensity sessions should be safe. I think the danger for cold months is doing “stop/start” intervals where the muscles cool down. Also, shorter than 1k intervals (where you’re trying to run faster) probably isn’t a great idea.

    Not that I’m a marathoner, but our quandary right now is not a lack of daylight, but having too much heat for long runs (unless you start at the crack of dawn).

  2. Andrew(AJH) Says:

    I agree with Ewen, those are pretty good paces after such an injury. It is terrible isn’t it when work gets in the way of our running!

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