This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.
If you’ve read my two most recent race reports, you might have noticed a pattern. About a week before the races, my training crashed. Fortunately, I bounced back in time for race day both times but I can’t keep counting on this happening.
So why did I crash both times, less than a month apart? The answer to that question appears to actually be more simple than one might think. I didn’t follow my own advice and I ran my workouts too hard. Essentially, I ran myself into the ground. I was fortunate that I recognized this both times and corrected in time but why did I fall into this trap not only once but twice in such a short time and what can we all learn about this?
The first time, it was simply a matter of getting too aggressive. I had one very challenging workout on my schedule. It felt so good to nail that workout, even though I had to dig deep to get it done, that I couldn’t resist the draw to feel that again so I ran later workouts harder than I should have. Meanwhile, easy days were not sufficiently easy to recover from such demanding workouts. I recognized this when I crashed but I then entered a shorter than usual training cycle between races and figured, with not as much time to train, I could put a little more into the workouts. Different reasoning, same trap.
I’m not sharing these examples of how I fell into the trap to make myself look like an idiot or to get your sympathy. I’m sharing these examples because they are examples of how easy it is to fall into the trap. I doubt I’m the only one here who has fallen into these traps.
So what should I have done and what will I do going forward? I’ll follow my own advice: finish every workout feeling like you could have done at least one more. If I do fall into the trap during a workout and run it too hard, I’ll take extra precautions in the following day or two to ensure I am adequately recovered before moving on.
Whether you’re running 30 second repeats or mile repeats, it’s good to aim to finish feeling like you could have done at least one more repeat. Even on long runs, finish like you could have run at least one more mile (I actually prefer feeling like I could have run at least 2-3 more miles on long runs). This will keep you from racing your hard days. Remember, save the racing for race day. On workout days, you’re generally not looking to challenge yourself. You’re looking to build yourself up. You need some stress to stimulate improvement but too much stress repeated too frequently will just break you down.