Time for a Break (before I break)

At some point last night I came to the realisation that I am pretty burned out from last year’s racing and training schedule. It was pretty intense and although my training mileage wasn’t particularly high compared to a lot of ultra and marathon runners my racing schedule was packed.
I have never been good at taking a prolonged break from running and after my final ultra of last year (CTS Dorset, December 5th) I took 9 days off and then jumped straight back into my usual 6 day per week training schedule and carried on racing cross country. It hasn’t gone so well. With the stresses of work, training and racing my immune system took a hit and I came down with a virus after the County Cross Country Championships (January 10th) and was forced to take 8 days off from training again. During this 8 days I became pretty depressed and felt I’d lost my passion for running.
I got back to running on Tuesday and found that the passion is definitely still there. Unfortunately the strength and stamina is not at the level it should be for me to continue training 5 or 6 days a week at the moment – after Tuesday’s run I felt tired but happy and so I went out on Wednesday for another session. I went out super easy for 5km and then pushed on for a second 5k in 20:18. I woke up on Thursday feeling drained and achy which is not something I’m used to but something that seems to be happening a lot through the month of January. I figured it was my body telling me to have a rest and take a break so I didn’t train on Thursday evening. I thought that would be enough, I thought that would be fine. So Friday evening came and I laced up and went for a run straight from work. I had not Garmin so I just ran completely on feel with Strava recording on my phone, in my pocket – I ran 6.6km in 26:43, totally on feel and on roads and pavements congested with pedestrians and London rush hour traffic. Afterwards I felt awesome! I showered, I changed and I made my merry way home via a couple of beers and a vegetable rendang.
On the train home I suddenly felt like somebody had hit me with a sledgehammer. I began to ache, I felt drained of energy and my joyful disposition became pretty gloomy. I realised on my short walk home than I’d pushed too hard, too soon and that I was now paying the price. I had been looking forward to running a 16 mile trail effort today with my buddy but instead I find myself sitting here at home and writing this to convince myself that not only should I rest but that I need to rest. I need a break, before I break. So it is that during the course of this morning I have decided to do just that. I am heading to the Lake District on Thursday 28th and will be there until Monday 8th February. I was planning on doing a lot of running but my plan is now to enjoy the mountains by hiking and learning to navigate properly.
The likelihood is that I will run a little but not hard and not far. I am due to undertake a 16 mile night run on Saturday to recce the final section of the Lakeland 50 course that I will be racing in July but right now I’m not sure that I will take part. The following weekend, on Sunday 8th, I will be running my first long distance race of the season at Grizedale Trail 26 with the buddy I had planned to run with today. I will run this one but my time goal and race plan has been torn up as of this morning and I will just go out there to enjoy the scenery and the company of other runners.
After Grizedale I am going to have to be very disciplined and stick to what I now believe is the best option for me, the best option so that I can continue running, training and racing with a (mostly) happy disposition through the rest of 2016. I am going to take an entire month off from running. From February 8th to March 8th I will instead take it really easy – I’ll do some weight training, I’ll swim a little, I may hike some and I’ll take up a pilates and/or yoga class and then I will return, slowly, to some unstructured running throughout March. Hopefully, by April 8th I’ll be ready to begin training in earnest for the Mont Blanc Marathon on June 26th. I know this is what I need to do but in doing so I am making some racing sacrifices: today I will be withdrawing from the final race of my cross country season on February 14th and with a very heavy heart I will also be withdrawing from my first National Cross Country Championships on February 27th and finally, I will be giving up my place at the Manchester Marathon. It is the right thing to do for my longevity in the sport that I love.
Peace & Blessings
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