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What I learned from my summer training program

Started: 2009-10-06 08:00:00

Submitted: 2009-10-06 08:29:23

Visibility: World-readable

This spring, as Boulder's favorite 10k road race was approaching, I contemplated my post-race options to figure out what I wanted to train for next. I ultimately decided that running greater distances would focus my training in new and exciting ways, so I decided to run a half-marathon in the fall. I laid out an ambitious 16-week training schedule, peaking at 45 miles per week.

All went well for the first seven weeks; I ramped up cleanly to running 36 miles per week, including some of my longest runs ever. In the eighth week, I started to feel oppressed by my demanding training regime, and my knees started bugging me, both classic signs of over-training. I cut back, reevaluated the situation, decided I had runner's knee, and started running again, careful to stretch and cut back at the first sign of danger.

That worked well enough for the next four weeks, until I banged my right knee on a rock halfway down the Trough while descending Longs Peak. This kept me from running for a week and a half, and permanently derailed my training plan. Even when I started running again, I had to go carefully to avoid aggravating my knee.

Throughout the summer, I was focused on the Crossroads Half Marathon in Fort Collins on 20 September. I never quite got around to registering for the race, which turned out to be fortuitous; I was home sick that day and barely managed a walk around the neighborhood when Calvin needed a nap, and I couldn't have run thirteen miles anyway. I looked ahead to my backup race, the half-marathon attached to the Denver Marathon a month after my first goal race, on 18 October. This seemed like a reasonable idea, so I went online to sign up... and saw that registration (at this particular moment in time) cost $90. I understand that closing Denver for a day takes money, and that structured opportunities to run thirteen miles don't come along every day, but ninety dollars? That's a month of the most expensive Starbucks lattes, enough to make me think twice.

I still haven't decided whether it's worth paying $90 for the privilege of getting up early in the morning, driving to Denver, and finishing somewhere in the middle of a few thousand runners. It turns out I've already accomplished almost all of my training goals: I kept running during the summer, improved my fitness level, figured out what works and what doesn't work for me, and found my training limits. The only thing I didn't actually do was actually finish the training program and peak at race fitness for a goal race. I think I'm comfortable declaring a qualified victory now, and moving ahead with the next phase of my training program.