I have revised my entire approach to training. I think I had to. I think my body was telling me that it can no longer handle running six or seven days per week, especially when I avoid strength training while running that much.
I have had a rough last few months. In October, I began testing the Maffetone method to base building. As you know, I'll be running (well, okay, at this point, I'll be trotting casually) the Boston Marathon this 15 April. Before beginning my period of Maffetone base building I took a few weeks off from running because I had developed patellar tendonitis in both knees. (This came about by adding a lot of speed work too quickly.) A few weeks off cured the problem, and I decided after that break that I should build back into my regular routine slowly. I spent the next four weeks gently jogging, not allowing my heart rate to exceed the Maffetone-dictated number of beats per minute (MHR), which for me was 138 bpm. I also took those four weeks to build back into 40 miles per week, which is just under what I had been averaging for the year at that point. My average pace at my MHR kept dropping and dropping, and at the end of four weeks of training at MHR, I was running over 20 seconds per mile faster at that same HR. I was all-in with the Maffetone system at this point. I was reacting to it in just the manner Dr. Maffetone had said I would.
Then, I went out on my first two-hour run in a couple of months and during that run I felt a pain in between my first and second metatarsals, a pain that continued to the base of my ankle. I took a few days off, and the next time I ran, I began feeling the pain after five minutes of running. I decided then to take a few days off and after some research concluded that I was suffering from tendonitis in my foot. (I've had a stress fracture before, and this pain did not feel the same.)
After two weeks off, on the day before I was going to try to run again, I stumbled on my stairs, twisted my foot, and felt a sharp pain right in the area that had been giving me trouble. I attempted a run the next day, nonetheless, but after five minutes of running, the pain returned. This happened on 7 December, and I decided at that point to take the rest of December off.
Fortunately, for Christmas I received a Barnes and Noble gift card, and with it I bought Runner's World Run Less, Run Faster and Power, Speed, Endurance by crossfit endurance guru Brian MacKenzie. These books helped me rethink how I wanted to continue to train as a runner, taking into consideration that the best I have felt about my fitness was when I was training for a half-Ironman.
So, what have I decided to do? Right now, I am running three days per week, and am in the middle of my fourth week back--and the foot is feeling pretty good. I run a longer run on Mondays, intervals on Wednesdays, and tempo on Fridays, as suggested by the authors of Run Less, Run Faster. However, because I am just getting back into things, I am doing small amounts of these three things. In fact, this past Monday I ran only for 50 minutes, and today I completed 6x200m with 200m recoveries. (Last Friday, I completed a ten-minute tempo run. This Friday, the plan is to complete two miles at tempo pace.) I have been strength training my entire body twice a week--on Sundays and Thursdays. On Tuesdays I have begun swimming while my daughters have their swimming lessons, and this past Saturday I cycled on an indoor trainer for 30 minutes. I would like to take one full day off each week, so I will probably begin cycling on a day that I also strength train.
Right now, I am feeling great, and I think a big reason for this is the inclusion of strength work. I hope this plan will work. I may not be as fast a runner without the mileage, but I'll be able to run at a decent clip with the plan that I'm on. And this plan should allow me to run for a long, long time.
Thanks for reading, and I hope to be posting more regularly now.