Finally Running A Lot Again

With today’s 4.5 mile run I earned this August Rundown badge on Garmin, for running 40 miles within 2 weeks.

This sort of thing should not be a big deal if you’re running regularly. But, as I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t been running like I was before. After I stopped training due to Coronavirus cancelling everything, and since I pivoted towards strength training once I resumed training… I hadn’t been running all that much. Before beginning the badge challenge in mid-August, I had averaged zero or single digit mileage every week since March 15.

When I finished the week of August 16-22 with 14.6 miles, it was the first double digit week of mileage I had logged in 5 months. And with today’s run I finish this week of August 23-29 with 22.6 miles, my first 20+ mile week since mid-February.

Granted, I had one other practical reason for not running, aside from Coronavirus or wanting a break or wanting to focus on swolework:

The Las Vegas heat. This was my first full summer in the Valley since 2003, and even last summer my dosage was brief thanks to arriving in late-August and then traveling or working indoors during much of the remaining summer time.

This year I got the full dosage of 100+ Degree Life from wire to wire. And as I’ve mentioned before, run training in this weather is only possible during the mornings or after dark. Even then, temperatures exceed 90°F (32°C) as early as 8am, and 100+°F temps (38+°C) remain even past sunset. Runs longer than 90 minutes were highly impractical for me even if I start before dawn.

Add in Coronavirus cancelling everything and work-related challenges, and my practical answer was to put running on the backburner for a while… at least until I could acclimate enough to the extreme heat to handle running for more than 30 minutes in it.

I feel like my long running break did me good, allowing my body to fully heal any lingering nagging issues that I spent years ignoring, as well as allowing strength training and diet work to improve my overall health and physical balance. Without a constant schedule of training for some sort of upcoming race or season, I was able to physically reset just as much as months of lockdown have given me ample opportunity to mentally reset.

Also, I avoided the overtraining pitfall thanks to having a lot of downtime, ample dietary support (after months of intermittent fasting and tight calorie management, I finally had a suitable reason to eat a lot again), and running at a super easy trot. By never going beyond an easy level of running effort, the only challenge was maintaining consistent form as my muscles tired. Aerobically, I was completely fine, and to boot I got in a lot of 40-60 minute runs, as well as one chunky 11K run that took over 80 minutes.

Now, the flip side: To finish all these miles without breaking down, I had to run very slow, even for me (not the fastest runner to begin with). Previously used to running 10ish or 11ish minute easy miles, I averaged 12+ minutes per mile on most of these runs.

For the purpose of completing a 40 mile fortnight challenge without injury, this was fine. But going forward, I want to run a more productive pace consistent with my past performances.

Obviously I will scale back workouts and mileage in the immediate future. I ran almost every day to ensure I’d get the needed mileage, but ideally I’d run 4-5 days a week for now, or do 3-4 longer or tougher runs with other days being very short easy pickup runs. As I mentioned before, I feel a lot better going 3/4 mile around the block on a quick 8-10 minute run than I do taking a full rest day or a long walk.

But this challenge reminded me that I really like running, and given the option I would prefer to run frequently again for as much as I can. The Vegas weather for now remains hot, but mid-September is typically when temperatures begin to return to more human levels, and once they do I can run at other times than the early morning or at sunset.

Training for races? Are we even going to have races next year? The jury remains out on if let alone when there will be races to run again in 2021. A conditional few number of 5K’s are being held in Vegas this year, but I’m willing to table any notion for now, and focus on other training goals the rest of this year.

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