Monday, December 23, 2013
My employer's rules with respect to paid time off give employees the incentive to take the last few days of the year as vacation days. Most years, I take off the time between Christmas and New Year's Day. Some years, I get busy earlier and have more time to take off at the end of December. That's been happening a lot lately.
Thursday December 19 was nominally my last working day of 2013. Some work issues arose Friday, and I expect there will be a few to deal with between now and the new year; but for the most part, the time is my own. Of course, there are more things I'd like to do with the time than there is time available to do them.
In 2011, I ramped up running during the time off in December. I ran 5 days a week, and got up to a peak of 23 miles per week, with a long run of 8.89 miles on New Year's Eve Day. In 20-20 hindsight, I see that I ramped the mileage up too fast for a newly minted runner. I ended up with leg issues that dragged through the winter and turned into my first run-stopping foot injury in February 2012.
In December 2012, I was coming off that foot injury after a successful 10K on Thanksgiving Day. Somewhat wiser, I only built up to 16 miles per week, and limited myself to 3 days per week. Again, nagging aches that started after the snow fell turned into aggravating the old foot injury and a break from running in March 2013. I did get to run from April to June, before the other foot got injured and I went into physical therapy.
It's now December 2013. I've graduated from PT. My legs feel great. I've ramped up to 4 days a week running, and I've built a base of 20 miles per week. And I have all this time off at the end of the year.
It's time to be a bit cautious. I should not use all of the available time for running.
I'm in better shape than I was in the last two Decembers. I ran a 5K for a PR on Saturday, and was able to do a long run of 8.25 miles on Sunday. I have the time, and I'd love to run 5 days a week; but I don't think my feet would love me for it. Yesterday they reminded me that I was stretching my limits with that long run. Yes, I iced them down and they let me walk 5 miles this morning; but the warning is clear.
It's not time to be super aggressive in building mileage. It's time to be very measured, and continue to run four days a week even though I have the time off. My Tuesday and Thursday runs need to be about as long as they would be if I were working, between 4 and 5 miles. I can do another long run next Saturday or Sunday; but the weekend day that isn't a long run, needs to be a short run. Maybe I can afford a 21 or 22 mile week. A 25 mile week is too risky for where I am right now.
I still want to run a half marathon at the end of April, and that will require building the mileage. But more importantly, it requires avoiding injury in the winter. There are some good signs. I've had a week of snowy runs without developing new aches and pains. I've been able to control my pace and run the long runs slower than I did in past years. I've been through PT and come out with better balance and stronger hip abductors. All that points toward optimism for running through the winter and avoiding injury.
But I also need to avoid being stupid. And that means not gearing up as if the half is in February when it really isn't till late April. It probably means signing up for formal training, though scheduling of said training may be an issue. But I'll have plenty of time to think about scheduling on my non-running days in late December.
The current activities needed to get to that half are clear. Hold to the Sunday - Tuesday - Thursday - Saturday running schedule. Hold the Tuesday and Thursday runs to work day distances, even though they won't be work days. Hold the total distance for Saturday & Sunday down to where the weekly mileage doesn't ramp up excessively fast. And keep doing this as long as the feet keep telling me they're OK, but not ready for a lot more than they're currently doing.
If I do this right, I might even find some time to sit on my butt and watch football. But it will be nice to do that as a plan, after getting enough exercise, instead of doing that because my feet don't let me get up and walk. Been there, done that, don't want to do it again.