I’ve been carrying out an experiment for the last 12 days. A niggle that came on around 3 weeks ago turned into a run stopping event. Something that I have experienced before, a year ago, a mild tear / strain in my right calf begun to make itself more and more evident. Initially I was able to carry on running. The first occasion I stopped running for 5 days, 2 days on, 1 day off and then a long run – playing that game of gambling with looking to find the edge of what I could do whilst not aggravating anything further. Unfortunately I went over that line and 13 days ago now pulled up – 6k into a run and had to stop.
This was 27 days out from running Boston, my immediate thoughts when it happened were:
- I can finish Boston
- I have no idea how long it is going to take.
I then did some research as to what the cut off time for Boston was – it turns out it is 6 hours after the last person crosses the start line. Checking my starting wave I could see I am starting at 10am and the last wave starts at 11:15, giving me 7 hours and 15 minutes to finish. With this knowledge I was confident if all else failed I could walk the course and enjoy a far more leisurely marathon experience.
The next thing I did was think about how to structure my training for the next 27 days. I knew that running was off for at least 10 days, which would mean by the time I may start again there was no point in doing anything long or too hard as it wouldn’t really make my marathon ability better – more likely than not it would result in an injury. So what I needed to do was maintain the aerobic base I had built up and get as strong as I could over the next week or so. Previous experience of the calf allowed me to know that cycling & lifting weights really helped. Stretching out the hamstrings & glutes really seemed to relieve the tension in the calf and help it heal. Coupled with the fact that I could put the calf under tension to help work the muscle without the stress of ground reaction force driving through it.
With all of this in mind I drew up my first iteration of my training program. It looked like:
3, 9 day blocks, made up of 3, 3 day sets.
Full Rest day on the last day of block 1 & 2, with the marathon on the last day of block 3
Cycling on Zwift, I found the 10-12 week FTP builder training program ideal, starting from week 8 which saw rides build from 60 mins through to 90 mins. Alternate recovery / tempo type riding. Interspersed with a 2 x 2 hour 20min rides. 1 in block 1 and 1 in block 2.
S&C lifting heavy 2 days on, 1 day off. Increasing the weights lifted by 5% every 3rd session.
Back to running middle of second block.
As I got through the first block of 9 days, I found that I was getting stronger, getting more used to the bike and by day 7 my calf was feeling a lot stronger. The best measure of this was how easily I was able to do a loaded carry whilst walking on tip toes. This put my calf under the right amount of strain to really give me feedback as to how well it was healing. I then started to hop to see if I could manage 25 hops – which I could by the end of day 7.
At the same time by the time I got to day 8 & the rest day on day 9 I was pretty tired. I knew that continuing lifting weight in the way that I was, wasn’t going to be sustainable – or more importantly helpful in getting me to Boston. Now I was 18 days out and knew that my leg was closer to withstanding running earlier. With this in mind I pivoted and changed my training to the following:
Block 2 – cycle Rec / tempo as before alternating in the AM until day 7 of the block
Lift, changing every thing to more power based program, once every 3 day set within the block.
Run every other day – starting with 10 x 200on, 200 walk. Progress this every run, not worrying about time during on portion, just relaxed to feel
Pivoting in this way has been great – the fatigue was lifted, the cycling feels strong aerobically and the running yesterday felt a lot easier than I expected. Part of this I suspect has been the focus on intense strength for the first 9 day block, which with the power maintenance now, complemented with the alternations of cycling for 90 mins recovery / tempo will hopefully allow me to stay healthy for the marathon.
I’ve noticed a growing improvement in the rides. Today’s 90 minutes, when I finished the tempo section I was confident I could have done at least another. The start I’m finding hard, but once settled in there is good endurance and I’ve been finding easier as it goes on.
I’ll be careful with the running, listen and not push. If anything goes now that make sit far harder to do any running at all during Boston.
Recovery wise I’ve been using the following:
Block 1 – 9 days daily meditation with a focus on healing my right calf. To support this I wrapped a theraband around the calf to give some tactile feedback to the area I was sending my focus to.
Post cycling – using the Therabody recovery legs for at least 30 mins to flush and