We've often heard that it's more valuable to look ahead rather than dwell on the past. That's a very valid sentiment, but looking back - for the right reasons - can be helpful.
With my continuing struggle with this heel injury (which has made a roaring comeback after my 2-hour hilly trail run last Monday, after seeming to be on the mend), I decided to venture back into my training logs, specifically to a period when I was training and running more effectively. That period was basically November of 2009 through about April of this year. It's funny that at the time, I didn't really think I was running and racing all that well. I definitely wasn't disappointed with how things were going, but hindsight will often shed new light on things.
What did I learn? What was working? I don't know if there are any specifics I could list, but it seems that running frequency wasn't a problem…and by that, I mean running TOO frequently wasn't an issue. Last December, I had a modest streak of 19 days in a row of running. While the idea of a streak just for the sake of statistics doesn't interest me much now, some of the notes I had written next to some of the entries late in the streak do interest me. More than once I noted that my legs were actually feeling stronger. And the few times I pushed the pace, I wasn't disappointed. I think one of the keys was keeping the effort during the majority of the runs very easy.
This "hindsight insight" got me thinking about giving this a try again…maybe when the heel quiets down. I'd like to see if I can slowly condition my body better to react to running as more of a normal function (the old "the body becomes its function"...I may sound pretty wacky here, I know). As a "masters runner", I've read about cutting back on volume, and I understand the reasons…but given my experience last December (and even into early spring), I just wonder if I can do it. I would like to incorporate more heart-rate training; both teaching my body to run faster at a lower heart rate (while burning more fat than glycogen), and teaching it to race more effectively while maintaining a higher heart rate. I know that lately, ANY running has felt difficult…and not necessarily due to the heel injury. I just don't feel like my fitness is anywhere near where it was a few months ago.
So, given the assumption that I can run basically daily and gradually re-condition my body to it, how does that mesh with my running goals? Well…I'm not entirely sure of my goals at this point, which is one reason I'd like to try the above. Why? Since I have a desire to run a wide variety of distances, I'd like to have a very solid, ongoing base. At any given moment, in a perfect world, I'd like to be about a month away from a fast 5k, 10k or half marathon, and no more than 3 months from a full marathon (and possibly longer?) To me, this would mean a maintenance level that includes a bit of fast running and a relatively long run (10-15 mi) each week. I don't know yet if this is practical, and if my body could continue with a high-frequency base level without going stale or getting injured.
If this heel ever heals, I might be just the fool to give it a try*.
* then again, these may just be the musings of a frustrated, hobbled mad man.