Back off the sofa, and onto the road (into the back of the pack), that is.
Surgery on 19 Jan. --> Cleared to try out if you can run 3 months later, on 19 April. I did a 5 min test jog on 18 April, and since my arm didn't fall off, I decided to pick a "couch to 5K" training plan to sync with my Garmin 245 watch. (It's pretty phenomenal what the watch will do, short of making coffee and porridge in the morning to get you fuelled up for your runs).
During that test jog and the first "run-walk-run" my shoulder did feel a bit stiff, but nothing to worry about: it was just increasing my range of motion, but not asking it to do anything it couldn't handle. Both PT and assistant were very excited about me taking it very steady with this approach: there was a benchmark run ("run as fast as you can for 5 mins."), and then a lot of "walk-run" repeats, with equal amounts of walking and running.
The plan adjusts its length and workouts based on how well you're doing, but I have to admit that by the end of May I was getting a bit bored with the regular fare and I felt good and the plan too easy. I have quite a few years of running in my bones, and worry less about overdoing it for my joints compared to somebody fresh off the sofa for the first time. I'm very good at spotting niggles before they become injuries, and have no shame in dropping back if I need to. In fact, I suspect I err on the side of caution more than necessary, but let's talk again about this when I'm still running well into my seventies and many others are sidelined, shall we?
I switched out the plan for a time-oriented goal: a 35 min 5K. I mean... should be possible, right? My best 5K is 30'32" from many, many years ago, a more recent one 33'05" (another post-shoulder-injury return time trial) and someday I hope to get under 30'. I definitely had more fun with the tempo runs, intervals, and even hill repeats in the early morning heat (reducing the number because I'm not looking for trouble) in this plan, and I was getting better at sticking to the requested paces.
So eleven weeks after I was cleared for running, I went to the D&L trail near Laurys station, where the path is nice for running, well drained, there is plenty of shade, and I should be able to keep an even and steady pace. Even the weather cooperated! After a horribly oppressive hot start to the week, the rains had come and it was a most pleasant 17C/62-63F. A half-mile walk/run warm up, and off I went.
I immediately could tell that today was not the day for heroics; and it would be hard to hit the 11'16"pace required to get to my target 35'. Oh well, I'd just set off reasonably fast with a 4 (paces) out-2 (paces) in breathing pattern, with a Podrunner mix at 171BPM. The common race strategy for a 5K is: "start fast and hold on for dear life", after all. First mile: 12'23", not too bad, but I need to be faster. Haha, doesn't feel like that's in the legs! And indeed, mile 2 clocked in at 12'39, despite upping the breathing pattern to 3out-2in. At the start of mile 3, I turned around (I had to get back to the car after all!) and took a breather walk to get my heart rate down a bit, and I took another walk break about half a mile later, so mile 3 came in at 13'18 (breathing pattern in "hard work modus": 2in-2out). But there is always something left in the tank, the final 0.11 I squeezed out the equivalent speed of a 10'48"mile but ooooh boy I was glad when my watch beeped to signal the end! 39'29"
- The race predictors on my Garmin watch are big liars for me: my watch claims there is a 30'xx" 5K in me. Erm yeah... Though I think the Fetcheveryone predictions are more accurate. (see pic below)
- The slightest hint of an uphill and I notice and I will need to work on that to even out things (viz. mile 3. Imperceptible to most, but I notice...)
- Not a terrible time, but definitely four and a half minutes slower than I wanted.
On to the next training plan: I'd like to get back to the point where a 10 mile run every week is nothing special, or I can do two 10Ks in a weekend (not racing, just getting round). That is a few years and a few pounds/kilos ago but there is no reason I can't get back there if I focus.
Why "doubles"? Because the real thing that itches, the ultimate goal is to get into shape to take part, somehow, in another SLMM or other Mountain Marathon in the UK. I just bought the lightweight tent and camping stove we'd need. 😬 Anybody interested to be the other half of a team? Drop me a note, we'll talk!
P.S. If you like the stats and maps you see here, check out Fetcheveryone.com. Free and fair site for all your training needs with awesome analytics, run by one man. Imports data from Garmin (and other places) automatically and then makes the most amazing graphs and useful analyses, without you having to lift a finger. I love it so much I pay a small contribution to keep it going (so it's ad-free for me 😀 ) Thanks for all the work you put into the site, Ian!