0 to 13.1 in under 6 weeks!

Any return from injury is tricky. There’s a fine balance to be struck between regaining fitness and avoiding a recurrence of the problem which put you on the sidelines in the first place. For me, the situation became even trickier when, returning from my holiday, I realised I only had about 6 weeks to get myself ready for the Great Scottish Run, a race I signed up to long before any injury problems beset me. Bearing in mind that I was struggling to complete as little as 5k, I realised there was a real battle ahead in order to get fit again. This was going to mean Serious Training!

I used the first week after my return from the States to get myself organised (and get my body into the right timezone!) and just went out for a couple of short runs towards the end of the week – one 5k and one 4 mile run. I did manage to run the full distance of each, but it was very hard work and my pace was appalling! It was at this point that I realised pace would have to be irrelevant for the time being. At the start of the year I had ambitions to run a PB at the GSR; now I realised I would have to reset my goal. After my roller coaster year of tremendous highs and devastating lows, simply being able to complete 13.1 miles in one piece would be a triumph. I would therefore have to focus on increasing my mileage and let pace take care of itself.

To help me prepare, Steve wrote me a training programme which utilised the time I had at my disposal before the beginning of term to get some consistency back into my running. Conscious that I shouldn’t be overdoing it, this involved a week of several lower mileage runs before continuing with a higher frequency of training runs in the following weeks and a longer Sunday run of gradually increasing distance. Fine in theory, but what about in practice?

Week One:
Monday – 10k
Tuesday – Gym
Wednesday – 10k
Thursday – Gym
Friday – 10k
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – 8 miles

I did it all, and I was knackered! My glutes were sore from working in the gym and my calves were all tight and weary. By the Sunday 8 mile run I was having to stop and stretch my calves within the first 3 or 4 miles, but then running well in the second half. In some ways, it was a bit disheartening, but I knew that my calves would suffer after all those months off, so just gritted my teeth and got on the foam roller to ease out the kinks.

A similar pattern continued into Week Two:
Monday – Recovery Run
Tuesday – Gym
Wednesday – 7 miles
Thursday – Gym
Friday 10k
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – 9 miles

It was still incredibly hard work, but at least my mileage was creeping up (even if my calves were still protesting!). My Sunday run this week was the first time I took a route that was properly out of town and round some of my favourite rural roads. After a tough week, I was pleased to feel much more in possession of my own legs (rather then lead weights), even if the last half mile or so required me to dig deep. Despite this, I began to tentatively believe that I was beginning to turn a corner.

Week Three:
Monday – Recovery run
Tuesday – Gym
Wednesday – 8 miles
Thursday – Gym
Friday – 8 miles
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – 10 miles

This week it became apparent that it was in my rate of muscle recovery that I was suffering. Despite my Monday recovery run, during both 8 mile runs I had to stop after about 2 miles to give my calves a stretch before completing the rest of the distance (including a Big Hill) without any problem. By the Sunday, everything once more felt good and I ran almost the same route as the previous week (with an addition once I got back into town) and felt much stronger than the week before. There’s something very satisfying about reaching a “double digit” run, and to reach this milestone right before the beginning of term gave me a real boost and gave me a lot of confidence about the last of my training towards GSR.

In Week Four the new school term began so my training routine returned to its regular pattern:
Monday – Recovery Run
Tuesday – 8 miles
Wednesday – Gym
Thursday – Treadmill intervals ( 10x 1 min fast, 1 min slow)
Friday – Gym
Saturday – 11 miles
Sunday – Rest

Having managed to get some consistency and mileage back into my running, it was time for a little bit of work on pace. Steve suggested the session I did as being quite useful for an effective workout in a short space of time. After a warm up, I ran the fast sections at 8mph then the slow recovery sections at 4.5mph. I think I did feel the benefit of this in my long run (which I moved to Saturday as we had a day out planned on the Sunday). I ran one of my favourite pre-half marathon routes which is a hilly 11.6 miles. Steve always says that once you’ve run that one, you’re half marathon ready. It was important for me to run this route at this point as this was the last long run I would have before GSR and, despite a drenching from a sudden downpour and the death of my iPod battery (note to self, always charge it before a long run!), I had a great run. I know I’m still outside of PB form, but this run showed me that I could put in a respectable performance and probably achieve a fairly average time at the GSR. Normally I dislike “average”, but I keep reminding myself of how much I hated not being able to run and how lucky I am to be able to get out there at all. That keeps putting a smile on my face.

Week Five:
Monday – Recovery run
Tuesday – 1hour treadmill run
Wednesday – Gym
Thursday – Treadmill intervals
Friday – Rest
Saturday – 30 min jog
Sunday – Perth 10k

My week should have been more or less the same as the previous week, however a downpour of biblical proportions put paid to my Tuesday run and I was forced onto the “dreadmill”. An hour on that machine is more than enough for anyone so I settled for that to keep me ticking over. I made up for it a bit on Thursday by completing the same interval workout as the previous week, but ran the fast sections a little quicker at 8.2mph so I was working a little harder. Despite the faster pace, I was encouraged by the workout feeling easier than the previous week. I also enjoyed my short jog on Saturday to get my legs loosened off ready to race on Sunday.

Although this training cycle has been all about preparing for GSR, the Perth 10k was always an important feature as it would mark my return to “proper” racing and is also the course on which I hold my PB (54:30 in 2011). While I know another PB is not on the cards right now, it will still be interesting to test myself and see how I perform. Look out for my next post, to find out how I get on…

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