This fall season I have been super excited about putting a bit more focus on the Tulsa Run 15k than I have in the past. I plan to actually taper off a little going into it rather than training through it and hoped to run a PR. My main focus of the season has been to bump up my weekday mileage to see what my body can handle so I can push into higher weekly mileage in the spring as I (hopefully) train for Boston. I can't register until Monday and won't know if I got in until likely Thursday. In the spring I worked up to running 5 miles a day outside of a rest day, my speed work day (which was 9-11 miles) and my long run (anywhere from 10-15 miles). I figured I'd shoot for 6 miles a day in the fall and see how that goes. It was all going well and I really hardly noticed the extra mile. I got a little excited about building my mileage so I got up to 40 miles a week early in June which I've never done before. Everything was going really well and I was excited that I was getting to where when I scrolled through my weekly mileage in Strava I would soon have no weeks show up that were under 40 miles.
Then my downfall arrived. I had a 5 mile tempo run that I struggled through but still maintained a 7:06 average so I wasn't too worried. I had overdone it a little that week with running speedwork on Thursday and hill repeats on Friday before my tempo on Sunday. Plus I did my strength training on Thursday evening after speedwork. I figured I'd just overdone it a bit with all that in a row and skipped my speedwork the following week to allow my legs to recover. I went ahead with a 16 mile long run and finished out 48 miles that week. The week after speedwork went really well and I was excited for my 6 mile tempo. I got 2 miles into the tempo and knew it was going to be a struggle with my first miles at 7:06 and then 7:16. During the 3rd mile I got this super fatigued feeling in my legs that reminded me of training during the spring of 2017 when I overtrained and my legs rebelled. It felt exactly the same as it had back then. During the 4th mile I decided to pull the plug on my tempo and felt upset and disappointed but knew I didn't want to repeat what I had done in 2017.
I texted with one of my running friends who works for a running store and told her what my legs felt like. She asked if I'd taken a cut-back week recently and I hadn't. In the past 12 weeks I've had 10 weeks that were 40+ miles and the 2 that were lower mileage were because I ran races in July. I had this huge aha moment. This is what I've been doing wrong with my training for YEARS! When I'm building my mileage I build mileage for 2 weeks and then cut back for the 3rd week but then once I've built up to my mileage I pretty much stay there unless I have a race and then I have lower mileage the week of a race. When I went back and looked over all my training logs from the past few years I noticed a trend. Every single training cycle at about 7 or 8 weeks in, I'd end up with a slight injury or a niggle that I'd have to skip a speedworkout for or bump down my mileage for a week or 2 to straighten things out. Usually that solved the problem and I was able to continue on with my cycle (with the exception of the spring of 2017 where I just kept pushing through it and ended up with shin splints so bad it hurt to walk). So I figured out that when I start to have a little pain, it's best to back off. Now I've learned I need to back off a little before that pain even starts.
I started looking things up online and the internet wisdom seems to be to have a down week every 3-4 weeks where you run 25-30% less miles with less intensity. I'm thinking I'll work into my training plans a down week every 3rd or 4th week (I'm thinking I can get by with every 4th week since I've been making it to 8ish weeks without issues up until now) where I run fewer miles and skip strides or hill repeats that week (I alternate every other week with those workouts) and maybe run a shorter speed workout than normal. I'm excited that I figured this out, especially before my spring marathon training cycle begins. But it was a bit discouraging realizing that this mistake is likely what cost me the huge half-marathon PR I was expecting this spring. But you live, you learn, and you do better. So now I can do better!
My weekly mileage from June on has been:
So at 33 years old, I'm still figuring things out and learning what works best for me. I'm not sure a 15k PR will happen this season with the workouts I've missed. I'm excited to gear back up after a couple of lower mileage weeks without speedwork to really baby my body. This week was 30 miles and I'm planning on 35 miles for next week. I'd rather take a couple weeks easy and avoid an injury than pick things back up this week and risk injury or not recover from my leg fatigue I'm currently experiencing. This coming weekend is the Corndog Classic 5k. I'm a little nervous about how it will go after 2 weeks of no speedwork, but I'm also telling myself it's like I tapered for the race so maybe it's a good thing. Although I've only had 4 speed workouts this cycle so far and 2 tempos. But I'm looking at this season as a base to my spring marathon training and it served it's purpose, I learned better what my body needs from training.