Saturday, October 8, 2016

Running After Mono: Making Great Strides

It's comeback time!
I am thrilled to be healthy and able to run again!

My previous post, Running and Post-viral Fatigue Syndrome, summed up the timeline of the illness,
and my first few runs back. I officially consider September 20 as my first successful post-mono run, and since then I have been doing quite well. So it's been about 2.5 weeks, after having not run for 12 weeks.

Before I get into the specifics, I'm going to make some comparisons between this comeback and my comeback from mono 4 years ago. I'm a bit of a data junkie, and I love analyzing things based on the facts. Here are some key findings.

I'm running more frequently, but my distances are shorter.
For the first month or so back in 2012, I ran a pattern of 2 days on, 1 day off. With my current plan, I am running 5-6 days a week. In fact, I plan to run 6 days a week for the foreseeable future. But my daily mileage is much lower. At this point in my comeback in 2012, I was already running 7 miles!  I prefer this current approach because it keeps the legs moving with more consistency, and no single run is all that difficult.

I'm not taking walk breaks.
I used walk breaks for the first month of my 2012 comeback. It allowed me to do those longer runs without getting too worn out. I did walk breaks for my first week only this time, and I don't plan to go back to them. It's definitely more challenging without the walk breaks, particularly from a mental standpoint because there is nothing breaking the run up. As a result, my overall paces are faster. So, in 2012 at this point I ran 7 miles at a pace of 10:35, but now I am running 5 miles at a pace of 9:33.

I'm not using a heart rate monitor.
Part of my attachment to walk breaks in 2012 was to keep my heart rate down. I wanted to keep my heart rate in zone 2 to make sure I wasn't overdoing it. This time, I am pretty sure my heart rate is creeping into zone 3 by the end of my runs, but I don't want to be as scientific about it. It's good to keep the heart rate down on easy runs when you are logging loads of miles and also running speed workouts. But right now, all of my runs are easy, and if I don't get my heart rate up a little bit, I won't make as much progress. I'm primarily running by effort/feel.

So, given all that, here is a recap of the past two weeks:

Week of September 26:
Monday: 5 x (6:00 jog, 1:00 walk) for at total of 3.3 miles at an average pace of 10:37
This is fun!
Tuesday: 2.0 miles at a pace of 9:49
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 2.2 miles at a pace of 10:21 (on a treadmill because of thunderstorms)
Friday: 2.5 miles at a pace of 9:48
Saturday: 4 miles at a pace of 9:26
Sunday: Rest

Total mileage: 14

I was honestly shocked that my Saturday run was as fast as that. I had planned to run it at a pace of around 9:50, but the faster pace felt more natural. All of the runs last week felt super easy and not at all challenging. By the end of the week, I was antsy to do more, and I didn't feel like I needed a rest day on Sunday. The rest of my training plan from here on out has me running 6 days a week instead of 5, and I think I will be able to handle that just fine.

Week of October 3:
The great thing about making a comeback is that progress happens quickly. So last week's "long run" of 4 miles became this week's easy run! On Monday, I ran a slightly hillier route than I had on Saturday, so it was more challenging.

Monday: 4 miles at a pace of 9:41

Tuesday: 2.9 miles at a pace of 9:32.  This run finished with 4 x 50 meter strides (that's about 10 seconds of running). My coach didn't want me to do any speed work for the first month, but I asked him if he could include some strides just to get my legs used to turning over quickly again. It felt so good to be able to run fast.

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 3 miles at a pace of 9:17. This run also finished with 4 x 50 meter strides, but by this time, I was a pro at strides! I found my "stride" and ran them at the following paces: 6:17, 6:22, 6:31, 6:33.

Friday: 4.2 miles at a pace of 9:20. This was the same route as Monday, and the effort level felt
Feeling wonderful!
equivalent. How nice to be shaving 20 seconds per mile off of my easy pace in just four days. This is the best thing about making a comeback! Progress happens quickly at first.

Saturday: 5 miles at a pace of 9:33. During the last two miles, I started to feel some fatigue in my legs. This is to be expected, and I actually liked it because I want to feel like I am being challenged. Last week, I felt like the training was too easy and I flew through it. I felt the same at the beginning of this week, but now I feel like I am pushing myself to some extent, but without overdoing it of course. Throughout the run, I felt relaxed and my breathing was easy. I was able to easily carry on a conversation with Greg. But my legs were getting tired and I could feel the effort in my lungs a little.

Tomorrow: Planning for 2-3 miles before I go cheer for Greg and my friends at the Army Ten Miler. This will give me about 22 miles for the week. Which is awesome!

I have some 5Ks on the calendar, the first of which is in five weeks. With the Army 10-miler tomorrow (which I am registered for, but not running) and all of these other fall marathons going on, I am just dying to get back out on a race course. It's tough to be patient, and I need to make sure I focus on my own journey without getting caught up in what everyone else is doing. My day will come.


  1. Your body knows what to do, and your comeback will be fairly quick! I've come back from pregnancies and surgeries and it always surprised me how well it went!

  2. It is funny how your body remembers! You're being smart about it hope that the come back continues to go smoothly.

  3. It's great to see your improvements! I hope you have nice weather and a fun time at the race.

  4. Your running is looking great. I know the progress will come quickly at first, but you are doing a good job and being so consistent, but I can tell you're listening to your body too. You are still an amazing runner, and know that your readers (blog and book) are going to admire you and your accomplishments regardless of what your current pace looks like. You inspire us.

    Best wishes with your comeback.

  5. Glad you are feeling much better! Can't wait to read more about your running and upcoming races.

  6. woohoo for improvements!!! great to see you back at it!

  7. Wheee awesome work! You'll look back at this time in a few months and be like "wow I've come so far" :-)