Saturday was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and the temperature rose into the 80's. I invited myself along on my friend's run at Devil's Back Bone and was really excited to check out some new trails. His intent was to run about 4 miles, so I figured I would just stay out longer.
I arrived earlier and did a little warm-up recon jaunt of about 1 mile. Things did not feel great, but I was hoping that, after I broke through my 3 mile warm-up barrier, life would get better. It did not. Things got really bad, really fast. Before the end of my second mile (now with Running Buddy in the lead), I was crawling along at an alarmingly slow pace. I begged him to go ahead so I didn't ruin 2 people's runs, and I continued to slog away.
I am not even sure what I was doing up the hills reached walking pace, yet I was gasping for air. On the down hills, I was so uncoordinated and clumsy that I ended up walking too. Before the third mile, I was far enough behind that Running Buddy had turned around and come back fearing I had died.
While I knew I wasn't going to die, I knew that I was not okay. It was not an urgent, panic-ridden realization. It just dawned on my that I had finally pushed it too far and I was, most likely, suffering from overtraining syndrome. Crap.
This is a hard and embarrassing admission to make. I don't like to admit that I screwed up my training and that my body is not able to handle what I have been putting it through. I feel like it is an indictment of me as an athlete... if I were fitter, I wouldn't have gotten overtrained. But, if I am going to write about my successes in training, I have to write about the failures.
I have been flirting with overtraining for months. I bumped up my mileage big time in January and have been holding on since then. I successfully managed it by tweaking my mileage and intensity while I was just running. About a month ago, I started to incorporate bike and swim workouts, and I think that is how I got in trouble.
I not really decrease my running mileage by very much because, although I was running fewer days of the week, my weekend long runs were quite long (most weeks well above 20 miles) and I also had quite a few races in there. Now I realize that I also used swimming and biking, activities for which I have not built endurance in recent months, as recovery. I think that I was not recognizing that getting back into the pool after 6 months was a lot more stress on my body that I expected. Likewise with the bike. I thought, "Hey, I am in good shape. I can run 20 miles no problem, so I can swim a mile or so and bike 30-40 miles without a problem, right?" Flawed logic.
I also drove myself into overtraining. As my performance declined, I just worked harder. I have never made it very far to the front of the pack, so I thought I was just in bad shape. If I worked harder, I would do better. It was frustrating that the opposite happened. Even more frustrating given that I know how to train smart.
So, I am benched. I have not run since Saturday. My legs and joints still hurt, but I can now make it to the top of the stairs without being out of breath. My plan is to take this entire week off and then start slowly building mileage again. Running Buddy suggests that I limit myself to runs of 5 miles or less and that I only run once a day. We'll give that a shot and see how it goes. I am open to any suggestions.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the Horsetooth Half Marathon goes. It could be a stellar race because I am well-rested. It could be tragic if I am still overtrained.
I am making lemonade from the lemons though and using this week to get caught up with friends and sleep. I am happy to report that I am not suffering from the stress I normally associate with lack of running. I think it is because I am really, really tired.
So, I will let you know how it goes. Take it easy.