Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Operation Change of Pace

"I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide."
 -- Gandalf the White

"There's always a reason to quote 'Lord of the Rings'."
 -- Brian

For most of my running career, I've been an approximately 10:00 minute-mile runner.  I was usually faster on race day (except the marathon, of course), but this was usually the pace I was usually training at.  I haven't been that fast since my surgery.  I've only gotten two miles under 20 minutes once, and I think I managed one under-30 minute 3 miler.  That's ok.  What's not ok is that I don't seem to be able to consistently replicate my pre-injury attempts at this pace.  Even though I'm not hitting my old speeds, just trying to run at what seems like my natural pace seems to be a recipe for compartment syndrome pain.

Meanwhile, my wife has racked up distance running achievements far exceeding my own: eight half marathons (her ninth is this Sunday) following this past weekend's Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach.  I've noticed that when I run with her, I feel ok.  She trains at an approximately 12-minute mile pace and also incorporates a one-minute walk breaks every half mile as per an adaptation of one of Jeff Galloway's plans.  In both the Kelly Shamrock 5K in Baltimore two weeks ago and the Shamrock 8K in Virginia Beach, both distances I hadn't been able to hit in the past two month without pain, I ran with Chris, followed her plan, and felt great.  I also ran 4 miles on Monday by myself in Virginia Beach at a 5mph (12-minute mile) pace and felt very good.

The sample sizes are pretty small:  The Sole of the City 10K last year, which I really had no business running; the Kids' Peace Orioles 5K in November 2013, and the aforementioned 5K, 10K, and 4-miler are all post-injury races that I ran with Chris or using her run/walk plan, albeit in varying degrees of fitness and preparation by be me, without any compartment syndrome problems.  Those aren't the only races I felt good in.  I felt good at Rocky Run 10K and Celtic 5-miler last year.  But what about all the training runs where my shins and calves burned or where I couldn't move my foot?  I can't handle every run being a roll of the dice.

Between weather, illness, and my legs feeling like crap, I haven't gone more than 2 miles since February.  On Saturday and Monday, I ran 5 and 4 miles respectively, and felt better than I have since November.  Could it be that my injury is less aggravated at that pace (or that there is something about my stride that is different?).  I recall, when I had my bout of ITBS in 2011, that there was an optimal speed at which to run to reduce symptoms (unfortunately, it was faster than I could go!  I will try to look up that article and update the post, by the way).  Maybe a change of pace can help this injury as well.

I think it's something to try, and my laboratory will be training for and running the Wild Half Marathon in May.  If I can get through the training miles and finish a half marathon without compartment syndrome symptoms, then I'll feel like I'm back in the long-distance game.  If I can't, it's probably time to admit that anything longer than a 10K is out of reach, and focus on shorter races and/or find new hobbies.

The motivation is back. I'm feeling better mentally and have been more focused.  I just have have to be able to get the miles in.


  1. There are actually quite a few of Open track meets around the country. I predict a future open age-group 3000m and 1000m track star. I'd rather suffer for 2-6 minutes than than 2-6 hours. No matter what, find your arete.

  2. Love the quotes at the start.

    I've found that I can only focus on pace or distance . . . and, for the most part, I'm looking to add distance, so I plan out the path that I want to take, set an alarm on my phone for a "hey, you fool, you need to start your way back home" time if I have a hard commitment, and then follow said path -- not looking at my pace until well afterward.

    If I try to focus on my distance AND my pace? Yeah, I end up feeling like crap.

    1. Right now, I'm averaging about 11min/mile in training, which feels like I'm at about the same level of effort that used to give me my 9 or 10 minute mile training pace. I think it's mostly conditioning still, rather than age (my 6.2 last week was the first time I'd run a whole 6 miles without walk breaks since 2012, I think) or structural changes in my leg from surgery.

      But, we'll run the half at about a 13-minute mile pace with a walk break every half mile. I know that by doing that, I can get through more distance than I've actually trained up to, so I think I finish this one even though I'll only probably have trained up to 8 or 9 miles.

      I won't want to add too much distance over the summer since I hate the heat, but I want to maintain since we may do a Fall half and I'd like, injuries permitting, to think about a (most likely last) marathon in the Spring.