January was like a roller-coaster, both physically and emotionally. I started the month injured. I had a minor hamstring strain, and I was also recovering from the wear and tear of running 100 miles at the Across the Years 48-Hour Run. Then I came down with a cold.
For the next week, training was difficult. My left hamstring forced me to run much slower than usual, and my cold left me too tired to run very far at a time. To keep up my mileage, I sometimes did a short run in the morning and another short run in the late afternoon. It wasn’t quality training, but it was something.
My first two races of the month were a weekend double. I ran the Mississippi Blues Marathon on January 10 and the First Light Marathon on January 11. I wouldn’t normally schedule a double so soon after a 48-hour run, but it was the annual reunion for Marathon Maniacs. I knew I wasn’t 100 percent, so I set conservative goals. My goal was to run each race under four hours. I finished Mississippi Blues in 3:40:55 and First Light in 3:51:46. I was happy with those times under the circumstances. More importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing so many friends at both races.
The next week, my training improved slightly. I had one run where I briefly got up to my normal race pace. Eight minute miles still felt way too fast to sustain for a more than about a mile, though. My longest training run that week was 5.25 miles, but I had two days with both morning and afternoon runs.
On January 18, I ran Marathon Bahamas. This was another reunion race. This time it was the annual meeting of Marathon Globetrotters. It was pretty cool to recognize every fifth runner at a race in a foreign country. I was over my cold and ready to attempt a fast time. I was now defining 3:30 as fast. Knowing temperatures would be in the 70s from the start, I considered breaking 3:30 to be a long shot, but I was determined to try. I surprised myself by sustaining my pace through the second half of the race, even as the temperature was climbing. I was rewarded for my effort with a time of 3:29:08, good for a top 10 finish and first place in my age group.
In the week that followed, I finally had a 10 mile training run. I also had two workouts that included a few miles that were faster than my marathon race pace. I also added a few small hills. Quality was gradually returning to my workouts, but I longed for the days when I could effortlessly run eight minute miles for 10 or more miles.
My last race of the month was the Rock N Roll New Orleans Marathon on January 25. This is a flat course, and the temperature was nearly ideal. After running 3:29:08 in the Bahamas, I expected to do at least as well in New Orleans. I didn’t. I faded badly in the late miles, finishing in 3:31:48. I probably wasn’t recovered from my all-out effort a week earlier. It was disappointing to be slower than 3:30 in such an easy race. That left me feeling discouraged about my current fitness.
This week, I had four quality workouts. Only one was my customary 10 miles, but two were faster than race pace, and the other two included hills. I may have overdone it in my last workout. I was using the treadmill to simulate one of the long hills of the Comrades Marathon. I tried to take the whole hill at an 8:00 pace. After three quarters of a mile, I backed off to an 8:30 pace, but that was still somewhat intense. Last night I woke up at 2:30 and never got back to sleep. I felt wired. That may be a symptom of over-training.
Today is a rest day, but I have a race tomorrow. It’s another flat race, where I’ve run as fast as 3:09 in the past. I’m hoping I didn’t sabotage my race by overdoing it yesterday. I’ll be disappointed if I have times slower than 3:30 two weeks in a row in races that are tailor-made for fast times.
Including the races, I ran 205 miles in January. That’s down sharply from recent months, but it’s actually the most miles I’ve ever run in January. I have a habit of finishing the year banged up and starting slowly the next year. I’m happy with my mileage. I established some consistency, running at least 50 miles each week. From here, I plan to ramp back up gradually. Hopefully, the quality of my workouts will also keep improving.
My hamstring is no longer inflamed, but it’s still tight. Improving my flexibility will take time. In the meantime, I have to train somewhat cautiously. It’s a balancing act.