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I’ve taken some time off to rest my knee.  In fact, when I resume my marathon training schedule on Wednesday with a medium long run (12 miles at a nice and easy pace), it will be my first run in exactly 2 weeks.  My original plan was to take 10 days off, but that meant starting yesterday with a 17 miler.  Felt a little much, so I decided to give myself one more day before resuming my schedule.  Fortunately (or unfortunately as the case may be) the schedule said that today and tomorrow were off days.  With 8 weeks to go I have the luck of coming back on a recovery week.  Nothing like a well-timed injury.

That said, I’m still a little nervous.  The knee feels pretty good, but I know that can change with one misstep, one tweak.  Maybe I need to face the fact that I’m not 20 anymore and that I can’t push myself as hard as, well, as hard as I wish I had pushed myself when I was younger. 

Isn’t it a shame that youth is wasted on the young?

Had I had the determination I have at 40 at the age of 20, who knows what kind of runner I might have become?  World-class?  Definitely not.  But could I have run a marathon with a 2:–:– handle?  Maybe…just maybe.

I am in better shape now than I have ever been in my life, save maybe when I was 16 or 17, when I was practicing kung-fu 2-4 hours a day, 6 days a week.  But being in the best shape of my life doesn’t change the fact that I’m 40 years old and I don’t bounce back as quickly as my mind and will would like.

Looking ahead at my schedule (I’m following the Pfitz 12/55 program from Advanced Marathoning), there are some interesting weeks coming up.  Some lactate threshold runs, some marathon pace runs and some VO2 Max runs – all sessions that produce a little extra pounding on the knee.  Running in VFF’s help reduce that pounding, but the fact that I’m still a heel-striker doesn’t help.  I’m actually toying with the idea of buying some shoes that may play to my heel-striking tendency – not to convert back to regular shoes, but just to mix it up.  My buddy Pete is pretty convinced that he has remained injury free in part because he mixes up what he puts on his feet from run to run.  There’s actually some science to that – maybe a topic for another post.

Where am I going with this?  I don’t know.  The heart and mind are determined, but the body is not as enthusiastic or resilient.  Is that enough?  Can it be enough?  I’ve only been running for 20 months.  Do more experienced runners go through this?  Or are they simply physically more gifted? How do they adjust?

The next couple of weeks will be telling.  I want to be able to complete the plan, knowing that if I do, and am healthy, I’ve got a pretty good shot at 3:20:59 at Smuttynose.  I have two friends, Brendan and the aforementioned Pete, who will be running it as well.  Brendan is shooting for 3:20 like me.  Pete, if all systems are go, may be shooting for a 3:15.  Running with those guys will be a big help to all three of us.  Like any daunting task, it’s much easier to tackle 26.2 miles with a group as opposed to alone.   The thing is, I can’t push myself to complete the plan and go into the Smuttynose hobbling – defeats the whole purpose of training, doesn’t it?  I do think I have to finally face the fact that I’m older now, so maybe it’s a little more important to stretch, do the warm up runs, do the cool down jogs and stretch afterward.

So I take my first steps back on Wednesday with a mix of anticipation and trepidation.  I’ll have to resist the urge to go all out, but also have to be careful not to run too conservatively.

When did I get old?

What’s your approach to training when coming back from an injury?  And for the older runners like me, has your approach changed with time?

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