Thursday, 16 September 2010

Back to the trails but got to fix the overtraining syndrome

This is how I feel way too often right now.

The past month and a half has been a veritable race drought for me, which should have given me a chance to relax and recover during the wedding and honeymoon. It did, but I'm now certain that I went into it overtrained since I've been showing most of the symptoms:

1. Fatigue - fairly normal, but not all the time.
2. Sore legs - generally aching.
3. Lethargy - virtually every run, even a slow jog, feels like an effort.
4. Lack of enjoyment and desire to run - have been particularly uninspired recently.
5. Inability to do hard training sessions - I've tried but generally had to stop since it wasn't feeling right.

And the list goes on much longer. From reading the excellent 'Lore of Running' by Tim Noakes, I'm picking up some useful refinements to everything running related, but his chapter on overtraining was sober reading. Supposedly I'm at a stage now where it could be up to two months of virtually no training (and certainly nothing hard) to let my body rest and recover. That sounds like about the hardest type of training I've ever thought of. The idea of letting years of effort and improvement temporarily go, even for longer term benefit, is depressing.

So I'm now in a dilemma, except I already know the answer. Do I cut my running down to just the odd jog every few days until I start to feel really refreshed and normal again? Or do I still do the races I've entered over the next couple of months, at a rate of at least one a week? Well, I've paid for stuff and I also can't really afford to let the training completely go if I want to run well at either the North Face Championship in December or go for a marathon PB at Phoenix in January (never mind the need to get a lot of miles in for Rocky Raccoon's 100 miles of trails in early February).

I know everyone goes through injury periods and that overtraining is extremely common, even though people often ignore it (like I have). And I don't want to wreck my body and cut short a running life that I'm hoping will last around 60 years longer (sorry, Amy). So there's only one sensible way forward, although the use of the word sensible may be stretching it slightly - do the races really easily where possible but basically nothing else. I mean, I was tired in my last marathon a couple of weeks ago, but I still did my second quickest time and that was running solo the whole way. So there's something left in the tank.

But I'm going to reserve the right to DNF races where it just feels way too hard when I'm going slowly. Not because I'd worry about finishing, but because I'm worried about what it'll do to me after I finish. And I'll not run at all mid-week from now on until I feel better so I get the maximum recovery possible. It all starts this weekend with the Redwood 50k and the Quicksilver half marathon. Two very hilly trail races and I suspect I'll just about walk the latter for safety (but I've paid for the entry so I can still use the aid stations).

The following week may be tougher since it's the Tahoe triple marathon and I really want to get the win at this after second last year. Maybe just play that by ear and see where I stand after the first day of not going too hard.

All I know is it'll be really tough to not run, I'm going to have to start eating less and disengaging the competitive instincts could be about as easy as sawing off my own arm (like in the new Danny Boyle film). If I'm lucky I'll feel ok during the races and be able to enjoy them instead of struggling and also going slower. I know the stuff I did back in March/April was a lot of fun and that involved a lot of taking in the sights and running rather than racing. Two Oceans was one of the most fun events I've done because of the relaxed attitude I had to it, as was last year's Transalpine Run (which just happened this year again and I followed avidly and jealously online).

I hope everyone else is feeling more energised than me, but I look forward to waking up a bit if the reduction in mileage pays off. I'd be interested to hear any stories people have about overtraining or links to interesting articles/blogs. Thanks.

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