Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Future Race Planning

When you are sick or injured, do you start planning your comeback races, or do you refrain from any planning until you are able to resume training?

I'm now on day 26 of this mono-like illness and things are finally looking up. The official diagnosis is idiosyncratic post-viral syndrome, which is a fancy way to say that I caught a virus, and it's taking the immune system a while to calm down to normal levels. The result is that I am excessively tired, weak, and dizzy. I have a history of this illness, and it always occurs in the summer months when I am training and racing hard.

Because I've dealt with similar illnesses in the past, lasting up to three months, I knew that running too soon would cause regression and delay full recovery. So for the first three weeks, I was averaging only 500-1000 steps a day. After three weeks, my doctor advised that I begin to take 15-30 minute walks, and I've now been doing that successfully for six days. I now feel about 90% "normal" and so I plan to return to work full time next week (provided I don't regress). I don't have a specific return-to-running date in mind, but I think I should be able to resume easy running by mid July.

Going back to my original question, and the topic of this post, there is a spectrum of mindsets that runners have when it comes to planning during forced time off. I'm at one end of the spectrum and my husband Greg is at the other! I actually think that both of our mindsets are healthy; they are just different and highlight different personality types.

Mindset 1: Plan as much as possible; it gives you something to look forward to.

Mindset 2: Don't plan anything until you are healthy and able to to train.

You can probably guess that I fall into mindset 1. I already have the next 12 months of races figured out. I definitely need races and vacations on my schedule to give me something to look forward to. Even though I am not guaranteed to resume running by mid-July, I think it's highly likely, and I had already registered for 2 major fall races before getting sick. I'm keeping those races on the schedule, but I also wanted to plan even further ahead to a time when I am much more confident I will be able to race at full effort.

Another reason why I planned out the next 12 months is because I need a long-term solution to not getting these summer viruses. I think the only solution is to not train hard or even race in the summer. That will be tough for me, but I think that going forward I will only run 1 race each summer, and that will be a 5K and by no means a "goal" race or PR attempt. Just something to keep me in the practice of racing and avoiding going stale.

I had actually planned to avoid summer training this year by registering for a December marathon,
but I need to also stop training for 5Ks in the summer. I'll talk more about my solution after addressing the second mindset.

Greg has mindset #2 and doesn't like to think about future races when he is injured. He's been dealing with pain between his achilles tendon and his ankle. As a result, he's only been able to run a few miles here and there for the past month. He's been focused on trying to address his foot issue and is not thinking about when his next marathon will be. He's registered for Wineglass at the end of September but that's starting to look less and less realistic.

Greg and me at the start of a race
Since he'll be going with me to all of my planned races, chances are that he will be running them too. I like it when I'm running the half and he's running the full and vice versa. That way the half marathoner gets to cheer for the full marathoner and take care of them afterwards. If we both run the full, then we are both destroyed afterwards.

I've learned that it's always best to take one day at a time and enjoy the process. So from that perspective, it seems like Greg's mindset would lead to more peace and happiness. However, my mindset and planning is working for me because it reminds me of past comebacks that I've made and keeps me positive. I'm not really enjoying this whole sick thing, so I need things that will help my positivity. "This too shall pass" is the mantra I am using, and for it to work, I need to envision my future healthy self.

It's also interesting to note that Greg and I run for different reasons. He runs as a way to stay active and healthy, while not having to worry about how much he eats. He enjoys races and is happy to get PRs, but those are secondary to simply reaping the physical benefits. On the other hand, I run because I enjoy the act of running. Unless it's horrible weather, I always look forward to my runs in the morning. Equally as important, I like to challenge myself and see how fast I can be.

What did I decide on? Here's my plan and the rationale.

Sept. 23rd: 5K
As much as I would love to run a race sooner, I'm not going to race in the heat and risk getting sick again. It could be warm for this 5K, but chances are that it will be less humid with temperatures in the low 60's. I'm not going to train specifically for this race, but I should be in decent shape because training for my full and half marathons will have already started-- provided I can start running again by mid-July!

Oct. 7th: Army Ten Miler
This race was already on the schedule before I got sick. I'll have to see where my fitness is when I race this, but I think that sub-1:10 is very doable, and possibly sub-1:09. I'll be celebrating the fact that I am healthy enough to run it, whereas in 2016 I couldn't run it since my mono lasted so long.

Richmond Half Marathon 2015
Nov. 10th: The Richmond Half Marathon
My last race before I enter the Master's division. I turn 40 the next day. This was always part of the plan, but I didn't pull the trigger on registration until two weeks ago when I needed a pick-me-up.

Nov. 22nd: Turkey Trot 5K
I have a feeling this is the sub-20!!! My first race as a Masters runner!

Dec. 8th: Rehoboth Beach Marathon
I chose this one because it's almost guaranteed to not be hot. It could be windy and/or rainy, but I'll take that over heat. Also, I wanted to make sure that the hardest training runs 2-8 weeks out had cool weather. My leading theory on why I crashed so hard in Indianapolis is that I did all my training in abnormally humid/warm weather and it had a cumulative effect of wearing me down. I didn't feel energized at all on race day. I think I am capable of running a 3:15 marathon or faster, and I will use this race to find out if that's true!

March 2nd: Myrtle Beach Half Marathon
I'll probably run a 5K on New Year's eve to keep up tradition, and then Myrtle Beach will be my next big race. If all goes according to plan, I'll be shooting for a sub 1:30, which would be a huge milestone. I ran the full marathon here in 2017 and I liked it so much that I want to go back for the half.

April 7th: Cherry Blossom 10-Miler
This is my favorite 10-miler and it's part of the reason I'm not running Boston. I like the idea of doing Boston every two years so that I have the opportunity to experience other races.

At this point, I am thinking I will run a May marathon way up north (and DNS if it's above 65) and then be done with racing for the summer. I might not even train that hard for it but use it as a way to force myself into easy running for the two weeks afterward and lessen the desire to race in June. Because. . . I'm not racing in June! I'll take it easy the rest of the summer including a 12-day vacation in Europe. Hopefully, this will all keep me healthy and minimize hard running in the heat.

So, that's my schedule. I realize that there are many things that could happen to prevent me from running any or all of these races, but I'm choosing to stay positive. I'm raring to go!


  1. Hey Elizabeth,
    I'm sorry to hear about your illness but your attitude to keep going mentally is uplifting. I'm currently on day 12 of not being able to run due to a "stuck pelvis," which apparently is a real thing. I've been riding a stationary bike in the meantime but it's nowhere near the same feeling. I started PT last week and she says I should hopefully be able to run again in 3-5 weeks. I have a 10K in exactly 2 months, so I hope I'm back to normal by then.

    Anyway, I enjoy reading your posts. We all go through different things as runners but when I read about what others are going through, it helps keep things in perspective.

  2. I'm considering the Cherry Blossom 10 miler. I've never been to DC and 10 miles is my sweet spot! I can't plan too far ahead because I never know what RA is going to throw at me. I sure hope you start feeling better. Good luck with your recovery.

  3. Regarding your Mindset to plan for the future before you recovered...well...you know what works best for you in keeping self and perspective positive! I would shift my focus more towards planning what and how to approach rebuilding condition once the illness is considered closed and you fully recovered. Not so sure you don't do races in summer...you just don't "race" them at "full-effort" if the temps and humidity parameters exceed conditions that you seem to know what they are. You can still run the race...just taper back the effort that it won't strain the immmune system. Or walk it just like your pic shows with you smiling nicely! When it hot and extreme...you can walk...maybe do some slow running and walk and so on...and that is not going to be enough stress to compromise your immune system. Conversely...just because you don't race or even train hard in summer and focus those efforts for fall or spring...doesn't mean you won't encounter high temps and humidity late or early season. Pin down those temp and humidity parameters that stress you out and/or lead to poor, competitive race results, and use that as your yardstick to determine what you do going into any specific race. Maybe an approach like that would work well for you? So despite "plans"...you run the race according to the eviron conditions you will face in the race...and if they extreme in the heat end, adjust the effort downward to whatever point that you avoid straining that internal physiological system to the point your immune system compromised. If your able to dial down and taper back when the heat's on...you will be able to smile like you are in the walking pic! Good luck...glad to hear your illness is in waning phase!

  4. Glad to hear you are improving, and at least now you know yourself well enough to avoid setbacks while recovering. Who knows, perhaps this rest will be a good thing for your next few races? Meanwhile, I think we're running marathons on the same weekend! I am eyeing Rocket City!

  5. Before grumpy glute (My affectionate name for a "low grade, partial tear of the proximal hamstring tendon"), it depended on the injury for me. If I had an injury that would likely resolve itself in X weeks, then I'd have a rough race calendar etched out. A lot of injuries are like this... clear cut, you know what you're dealing with, and even if something doesn't heal quite on schedule (say it takes a stress fracture 8 weeks to heal instead of 6), you usually don't miss TOO much more running than planned. On the flip side, I suppose injuries could heal quicker than normal but I've never experienced that. It sucks that you're going through this virus issue (I hate anything "idio"), but if it's any consolation, you know what you're dealing with, you've overcome it before, you know how your body reacts, and you will get through this again.

    I think for a lot of people it helps to have something on the calendar, even if you don't have a time or PR goal in mind. Sometimes a goal to just get through the training injury-free and complete the distance is okay, especially if it's a longer distance or you've been out for a long time.

    1. All of these are excellent points, particularly if you don't know how long the injury or illness will last. You definitely didn't know what you were walking into with your hamstring injury, but hopefully soon you will have a better idea of when you can expect normal training to resume.