A few months ago I decided that I really wanted to get serious about incorporating some lifting into my training. I’ve never done any formal strength training and I wanted to make sure I did it right and learned the proper form, so I signed up for monthly personal training sessions at my gym. I’ve dubbed my trainer Kali the Destroyer for her brutally intense workouts, but she’s really helped me to pinpoint my weaknesses and target the muscle imbalances that can lead to injuries. I usually schedule my sessions with her with as much recovery time before my long run as possible, but thanks to my travel and work schedule, I ended up meeting her at 7AM Friday morning. I am generally intensely sore for a couple days after a strength session, so I knew going in that I would not be fully recovered before my long run on Sunday. I asked KtD that we go easy on the legs, and she took me through a few inclined squats for some hip-strengthening and then cooked up an unholy combination of upper body and core work for the rest of the hour.
Saturday morning dawned painfully, but thankfully I had already booked a 9AM massage. As painful as it was, I think it really did accelerate the recovery process a bit. My core and arms were completely shot, though, and I was glad I had planned to take Saturday as a rest day. We did a lot of walking around the city, but otherwise I just tried to hydrate well and stretch periodically. Sunday morning I was up at 5:30 and out the door at 6:40. It was already 70 degrees and sunny, but thankfully the humidity was pretty low. I had 17 miles at 9:32 pace on the schedule, and I decided to start with a flat out-and-back in Brooklyn Bridge Park. It would have been nice to finish on the flat instead, but the shade there is minimal and I knew that by running it early I would also avoid most of the crowds. As I got warmed up it became apparent that I was, as expected, still pretty sore from Friday. My arms were less of a concern, but I was definitely feeling my core on every grade change.
From Brooklyn Bridge Park I headed up Union to Prospect Park. I texted the Caveboy my progress at that point, which turned out to be a useful benchmark since my Garmin filled up with data a few miles later and started autopausing intermittantly for the remainder of the run. I guessed it was about 6.5 miles to the top of Prospect, and each lap of the park is about 3 1/3 miles. I planned to do 3 full laps (which I promised myself would include 3 solid climbs of the Mt. Prospect hill at the end), and then would have about half a mile of downhill to finish, with another mile or so walk home to cool down. The park laps actually went by fairly quickly, and, although I was definitely working harder in the heat, my cardio effort felt good throughout. I was stopping for water breaks at the start of each lap, and it seemed that every time I started running again my core would tighten up and then gradually relax as I ran. My watch was missing what I guessed to be almost two miles by the time I finished the last lap of the park, and I tried to do some conservative mental math about where I should finish. I thought I had about .75 miles left, and after a quick walk for water I started down Union toward home, feeling pretty good and still holding my form together. I don’t know if it was the downhill or just fatigue setting in, but after about a third of a mile my lower abs went into some kind of tired spasm. Every inhale and every step hurt. I slowed to a walk for 30 seconds and then started up again, determined to finish out the last half mile. It seemed bearable for a minute or so, but then the spasm returned. I continued to run-walk, grinding out the last bit slowly and painfully.
As it turned out when I checked MapMyRun later, I had actually finished the 17 miles near the top of the park, and ended up running about 17.6 all told, so technically the complete ab fail happened after the scheduled run was over. I’ve never experienced anything quite like that level of muscle fatigue on a run before, and it was a good reminder of what could potentially happen in 26.2 miles. That said, I’m pretty sure this was due to the complete shredding of my core on Friday, so I’m not overly concerned about a repeat performance right now. Today I feel shockingly better than I did even before the run yesterday, so it does seem that I’m bouncing back quickly. I have intervals tomorrow, but if I don’t feel 100%, I may cross train instead and push the runs out a day. This week I have my first 20-miler of the training cycle, so the name of the game is recover, recover, recover.