After nearly three weeks of no exercise, my leg muscles were supple and knot-free. I was long and lean in my first yoga class back and no hot spots. I know the yoga girls' elusive secret of staying so flexible . . . they don’t use their legs to run 40 miles/week.
Now, one week back to running and 38 miles later, and I am experiencing the familiar feeling of sore legs every day. The rocks in my calves are back, nearly every leg muscle is sore. My legs are tender, especially below the knee.
I had a little more spring in my step those first runs back last week, even though I was not at full capacity lung-wise. This must be what post-tapering feels like.
During my cold-induced sojourn from running, I lost strength and fitness. And I am worried that I won’t be able to gain it back in time for Vegas Rock ‘N Roll because my time is short and I am congested and not yet breathing at full capacity. During runs, I still cough and my nose runs. But last week was still a solid week of training. The x-factor is how much fitness I lost versus how much I can get back in one more week of training before tapering.
I also lost confidence. Prior to the cold, I had just begun to feel confident in my ability to run my goal pace at the Silver Strand Half. My legs were strong, and I felt like I was a horse when I was running. No joke. This is what I looked like in my mind (source: GeeAlice via Wikimedia Commons):
I was mentally prepared for the pain and suffering of Silver Strand. I had visualized the race and determined that I would be mentally tough at each and every terrible moment. It was disheartening not to be able to run it.
Now I freak out after every run because it felt harder than I expected or harder than the same sort of run used to feel when I was healthy. I am constantly doing little experiments during my runs to probe how much fitness I lost/regained.
I did a speed workout today for the first time this month. It was the hardest speed workout I have ever done, even though it was one of my shorter sessions, clocking in at just over an hour and 7.2 miles total. The objective was 2 miles warm up, 5 x 1 km at 9.4 (6:22), with 0.5 km active recoveries at 6.0 (10:00), 1 mile cool down. This workout gave Penny a lot of confidence, so I thought I would try it.
Observations: My legs were lead due to (1) 38 miles last week, after three weeks of either zero miles or single digits; and (2) a leg workout yesterday, even then my legs felt dead from the weekend's tempo and long runs. I was still suffering from coughs/runny nose. Running during the rest intervals made the workout much harder than prior speed sessions I have done where I had walked to recover. Even running the recovery at 6.0 (10:00 pace) made a huge difference in difficulty. I completed all 5 fast intervals.
But: Before the 4th, I walked for about half of the recovery, and before the 5th, I walked the entire 0.5 km recovery interval slow, 3.3. I hit pause after the 3rd and 4th intervals because I felt like I could not run one. more. step. Then I hunched over, caught my breath, and carried on. My weak link here was my cardio fitness, not my leg strength. The legs are back, and I was mentally tough, overcoming the temptation to stop after 4 fast intervals. Now I need to rid myself of the last remnants of the cold.
And I need a rest day tomorrow.
Concluding these rambling thoughts, I need to shut up about the cold and stop focusing on it. That’s a promise!
two little runners (Kristen)