What do you do when you are alone in a Parisian hotel at 1am on a Monday morning suffering with post-race insomnia? Write a blog update of course!!
I’ve been meaning to sit down and write a new blog for weeks now but I’ve never had time to actually do it until now so I might as well use this spare time wisely!
Racing for 2014 is over now and I’ve just ran my worst race of the year here in France. Nothing to panic about, it was just one race too many for my tired body.
Since Glasgow I haven’t really given myself much rest and recovery and I’m now starting to pay for that. I came out of the Games injured and got stuck into rehab straight away to hopefully keep my time-out to a minimum. Looking back it was probably the worst thing I could have done. I should have let my body and mind enjoy some down time and recover well instead of trying to get back into training as soon as possible. Getting injured at the Games put me in to a ‘I need to rescue something from this year’ mindset. The fact that I had ran a fast 10k and half marathon already went out of my head completely! So as soon as I could run again I started back and slowly but surely built the miles up until I was eventually running 90 miles a week again.
That would be fine if all else was simple but it wasn’t. I was still feeling the emotional trauma from the Games and at the same time that the miles started to rack up again so did the hours at work.
I know there are plenty of people out there who fit in their training around a full time job without any difficulty but right now my 20 -25 hours a week have risen to 35+ hours a week which considering the times I work has meant getting up at 5.15am some mornings to fit in my morning run before going to work, then the gym, then an evening run session and not getting back into the house until gone 9pm. Exhausting!
I don’t have the most stressful job in the world but right now there are a lot of changes going on and this raises the stress levels. The uncertainty of not knowing what is happening, how things are going to turn out, if you are even going to still have a job in a few months. It soon starts to take its toll.
Add in to the equation that good nutrition goes out of the window. On some shifts I only get a 20 minute break so trying to grab something healthy and nutritious is quite hard. I try to prepare lunches to take into work with me but they tend to be ham salad sandwiches or just ham salads and then by the time I get home it’s too late for a big meal so I just grab a bowl of granola. Looking back I can see that this wasn’t ideal and certainly not enough to fuel a daily training load of upwards of 15 miles.
I kind of knew I was doing wrong at the time, as I mentioned to my physio that I was running high miles even though I didn’t really need to but I get sucked in and started to convince myself that 90 miles a week wasn’t really that much!
What’s the big deal? I’ve ran bigger weeks than this before and survived ok. I rana decent time at Leeds Abbey Dash, which is what I wanted so what was the problem?
The problem was, I was starting to feel overly fatigued. My sessions were beginning to suffer a little, my resting heart rate was creeping up, even though I was training hard I was truggling to get to sleep on a night and when I did drop off I would have restless night and I was starting to feel run down.
I ran Saltwell 10k just before Christmas and it was here that the alarms bells really started to sound. My heart rate was sky high for the speed I was running and I almost passed out when I finished. I decided to take a very easy week leading up to the Houilles 10k last Sunday and then promised myself a rest week after it.
I’m really good at advising people to respect rest and don’t push your body too far but it’s quite easy to overlook these things yourself. You get wrapped up in mileages and sessions and tell yourself just get through this next race then I’ll take it easy but in reality all you are doing is digging yourself into a deeper hole.
I hate the term ‘overtraining’ as I firmly believe that in an impact sport like running the body will break physically before it burns out physiologically. I prefer to use the term ‘overreaching’ where you start to push your body beyond what it is currently capable of and I think I have definitely done this recently so its tie for a week of completely no running for me and see how I feel after that. I tend to be good at being honest with myself in terms of rating fatigue levels but sometimes my judgement does get clouded, I’m only human. Hopefully the hole isn’t already too big and I can climb out of it unscathed and learn from the stupid mistakes I’ve made!
The question is, how am I going to make sure this doesn’t happen again?
Many athletes, not just elite, rely on coaches to keep them from doing stupid things, like responding to symptoms of over doing it by training harder! So is it time I looked for a coach to work with? I’ve worked with coaches in the past and enjoyed it. I liked how they took away the stress of the planning and having someone else there to chat things through if anything goes wrong. Of course though, one of the biggest advantages of having a coach is having that second set of eyes to observe you, either in person or by training stats, and tell you when you need to step it up or more importantly, back off!
Most elite athletes know their bodies very well and can easily guide themselves when it comes to training. I’ve done pretty well coaching myself over the last 2 and a bit years. I’ve smashed my PB at every distance and made quite a few teams.
I’ve enjoyed the flexibility I’ve had by being self-coached and I like that there is no one else to blame for not achieving my goals other than me. But I’m now starting to question myself if I have taken myself as far as I can and do I now need some more structured input? Do I know how to move myself on down towards a 32 dead 10k, that elusive sub 70 half marathon and sub 2.30 marathon?
The faster lads that I have been coaching have recently left the group and joined another coach at another club. Not only does this mean that I have lost my training partners but it has also knocked my confidence in my coaching and has made me question my coaching skills further. If they don’t think I can coach them to a 16 minute 5k or a 34 minute 10k, how can I expect to coach myself to world class times?
Is it time I looked for new ideas from a new coach or do I just carry on as I have been doing and hope for the best?
One thing I do know is that I won’t be making any rash decision. I am going to think long and hard over this and weigh it all up. Look up my options. Really think about who would I ask to coach me? Would I want a local coach so they can see me train on a regular basis and which would most likely also mean a group or at least someone to train with. Or would I be happy with a distance coach and continue to train by myself, with possible company here and there and just communicate via email etc?
There is certainly a lot to think about. Luckily January is a quiet month for me so I am just going to tick over in training, no races and then I’m heading off to Kenya for a one month training camp. I’ll have some good people there to chat through all my options with and hopefully I’ll come home with a decision having been made.
Whatever I decide to do, I’m hoping that 2015 will be faster, stronger, better than 2014!