Jogging Writer: Gearing Up

This time one year ago, I backpacked 93 miles around an active volcano. I came home with a wide grin and a bad case of plantar fasciaitis. The saving grace was acupuncture treatments and my previous experience with this painful foot condition. I was able to recover in several months. Meantime, I fell into “racing” somewhat accidentally. I’m not sure what I was thinking—perhaps that running was well-suited to novel-writing (which it is). Perhaps that if I could hike around a volcano, surely I could race for a few miles (which I can). Or perhaps all the (wonderful!) life changes that came with 2015 demanded I claim something as “my own” (which it did). 
Running became my foundation—something to return to, even when everything else seemed in flux. In this regard, training and preparing for races is absolutely akin to writing, which is also a foundation in my life. The two activities continue to feed one another, day to day, week to week, page by page. At a certain point, I figured I might as well “race.” I signed up for my first 5K race held locally among friends, then upped the ante with a 10K trail race in rainy, slick conditions. Last March, I saw my first Half Marathon finish line. Now that summer (my least favorite season) is finally coming to a close, I find myself setting down the freeweights more times per week and lacing up my Brooks Ravenna running shoes instead (yep, I switched from the Cascadia to the Ravenna, at least for now).
This spring and summer, I never stopped running entirely, but a joyful wedding, indulgent honeymoon, retreat directorship, writing residency, and extended road trip were surely enough to throw any training plan off track. For these reasons, I didn’t keep to a training plan. Also, a very minor (my first) case of iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome forced some alternate training, as well as research for recovery.
In August, I started back up with delight—running mostly long, slow miles each time and ending those runs with sprints and splits a few times a week. I ran 20 miles one week. Then 22 the next. Then 25 miles (including one 10-miler). Then…sprinting on a sandy road in the Upper Peninsula, I moderately strained some muscle or tendon on the top of my foot. The sensation was so odd, at first I brushed it off. Three weeks of not a single run later, I’m humbled once again. While I did enjoy many miles-long walks during that three weeks, I didn’t elevate my heart rate much or challenge my endurance. Instead, I enjoyed soy ice cream with friends in Chicago, beer with friends in Milwaukee, and road snacks all the way back home to North Carolina.
Pain free this week, I’m rip-roaring ready to go. And guess what? I’m still not going to run. Not yet. While I had hoped to be up to a modest 32 miles per week by now, aiming for a max of 47 miles per week by November, if I’ve learned anything this past year it’s that if I push it too soon, I’ll loose more training time in the end. Thanks to Strength Running, a website headed by running coach Jason Fitzgerald, my mind is full of sage, slow-and-steady, advice.

This morning, I believe I unlocked the final key to my next training plan. According to Strength Running, one of the four main injury-causing scenarios is when a runner is trying to increase weekly mileage. Another cause is when a runner is trying to increase pace or speed. The plan I’d been developing for myself, based on research and personal body feedback, included slow but noticeable speed and volume increases. Now, I’m revising that plan to start with the volume increases, then add the pace increases. The only race I have in sight is the same Half Marathon I ran last time; I want to perform better and feel that sense of accomplishment. I may sign up for other races between now and that April 2 date, but all that can be decided later. For now, it’s heal heal heal, plan plan plan, eat right, and get ready to gear up for a lifetime of strength and running!

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