The alarm was very unwelcome this morning. I was feeling stuffed, but managed to push that aside. After all, that's to be expected in the current training phase. The difference this morning was I had a headache. A very rare occurrence for me. Other than the mild not-enough-caffeine or the what-the-hell-am-I-still-doing-working-nightshift almost non-headaches I can get, I really don't get headaches. Getting ready for my run I worked through the checklist trying to come up with a cause. All the usuals such as hydration, food intake and sleep hours appeared to be okay. In the end I put it down to the fact the rest of the family have been a bit unwell and now my body was struggling to keep the germs at bay.
Planned was another prolonged threshold run. At no point did I feel even close reasonable during the warm up. So I took my time and waited for my body to wake up before launching into the main set. It didn't happen. Still, I gave it an attempt and everything just felt wrong. No flow in my stride, absolutely no power, plenty of discomfort in a few muscle-tendon interfaces and some distinct weaknesses in a couple of areas. Even with a significant push to get past all this I just couldn't get the pace up to anything near where it should be. Reverting to a stupidly slow, low intensity, recovery (a very loose term) run was the forced decision.
No longer concentrating on keeping my speed up or hitting certain goals for the run, my mind was free to contemplate what really was happening. I worked through my completed training over the past few months and what my body was doing in a rather systematic way. After half an hour I had reached a few conclusions. Importantly, there is a lot more that needs to be taken into account beyond just fighting some low grade germs.
To best sum up where I am at in my training:
I have reached the end of my ability to absorb my current training stimulus.
On the training plan, I wanted to get in a 4th cycle of threshold training, before I took a week for recovery. Quite clearly it has taken only three cycles to reach that point. This phase of training was about increasing the time I could maintain running at around anaerobic threshold, plus increase the speed of the run. My approach was to have four key sessions out of every eight days. Limit the recovery between these sessions, and almost force adaptation. I have taken into account that many runs would be performed in a slightly fatigued state and that there would be a few bad days. However, I have reached a point where each day is getting worse, I cannot lift to the required effort level and 1 or 2 easy days isn't getting me back on track. Clearly it is time for some real recovery.
Most of the above sounds quite negative. It isn't meant to be. In fact, it is about where I expected to end up. Preferably after 4, instead of 3 cycles of training, and without as many not-so-good runs at the end. Essentially I have thrown a large slab of training at the body, it is just the timing that I didn't predict with accuracy. Hindsight and looking back at all my other years of training, I haven't ever been able to string 4 weeks together of this type of training. My previous approaches have either been 2 weeks, recover then another 2 weeks, or aim for 3 weeks and I usually find I struggle on the last few days.
For the next few days my focus is on recovering. I need to shake the deep aches and weakness that is now entrenched in my legs. Then take it a easy for an extra couple of days once that is shaken. From there I will have to take a different approach to the marathon than I originally planned. I know I cannot put 4 cycles of hard training together without some extra recovery in the middle. Also, I may well be a week ahead of schedule at this stage, as long I get the improvements expected from the threshold training.