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The Unplanned Down Week

This morning I woke up feeling brand new -- Talib Kweli

Over the past four months I've gone from running ten miles a week to running high-20s/low-30s. Two weeks ago I ran 31 miles -- my highest mileage total in nearly nine months. Accepting reality, I figured that at some point the continual increase in training would catch up with me. This past week, it did.

Given the race schedule that I've imposed upon myself (13.1 on 18 March, 26.2 on 2 June), I need to keep building my mileage over the next few months. The training plan that I'm following calls for continued mileage increases up through May, peaking at a total of 47 miles. I've used this marathon training plan four times in the past -- so there's a level of familiarity and comfort there that's both good and bad: good because I know what to expect, bad because I know the perceived effort that it takes to get through the plan and will likely do enough just to get by.

I've had setbacks that I haven't been OK with [via hangover waves], but this past week was a different sort of beast: a reactionary lessening in mileage as a result of leg soreness and fatigue.

One of the most difficult things about returning to training after time off is the loss of a really nuanced understanding of one's body. After the previous Sunday's long run I felt worn out but generally good -- not overly tired or pained. After an off day Monday I started my running week with a 7 miler that felt great while I was out on the roads -- hell, I pushed to finish and ran my last mile in the 7:20s. The rest of the day, I felt horrid. My legs were sluggish at work, and sitting in the car on the way home did little to help me feel any better. What's worse, I couldn't figure out whether my legs were just tired, were overstressed, or were hurt. I was pretty sure that my legs weren't hurt, but wasn't totally certain (see: loss of nuanced understanding).

The line between being tired and being overstressed is a pretty thin one, and is especially hard to navigate without the right amount of perspective -- which I admittedly don't have right now. Rather than risk turning what might have been over-stressed muscles into injured ones, I erred on the side of pretty extreme conservatism: I took Wednesday's 3 off, I ended up cutting my 7-mile Thursday run short by a mile and a half, skipped Saturday's 4, and cut Sunday's 12 down to 10. Instead of running 33 miles on the week, I ran 22. I'm not pleased by that, OK with it -- though frustrating, it takes patience to get back into shape. Every time I stop and re-start my training, the patience comes a little bit easier.

Going forward I'm going to try and make better notes not only about runs themselves, but also about how I feel afterwards. If I can actively asses and document how I'm feeling, I may be able to go back and glean more information about what's working and what isn't from the metadata.

It's frustrating as hell not knowing whether I'm just plain tired or if I'm over-reaching, but until I get back into shape and really get the hang of things, I'm going to have to cut back from time to time as a preventative measure. Some of this is built in to the training plan, and some of it isn't. Taking the time to listen to my legs and see what they think is something that I need to pay attention to, especially now.

Any suggestions or tricks that you guys have regarding soreness and methods to alleviate it? I've mostly been sticking with my foam roller and my calf compression sleeves as recovery tools (and lots of water). Anything else I should be trying?