While I was running yesterday, aiming to cross the 30 km line for the second time in less than two months, some doubts found their way into my head. Was this right? Was I pushing myself too far again? Was I repeating past mistakes? Or has my training been more balanced than ever before? Has my technique improved? Are my muscles and tendons stronger this time around? Have I been smarter?
The reason for these doubts was, of course, that the last time I dared hope I was strong enough to run an ultra, I got injured.
I revisited my training log from last year and compared it with my training this far this year. I remembered how I had problems with my Achille's tendons last August. How the first warning signals for my plantar fasciitis were ignored sometime in October. How the amount of kilometres logged went from 83 in April to 211 in August (in just 5 months!). How the culmination of all this training was running almost 50 km from Alingsås one beautiful day in November, an increase by 20 km on my longer run up to that point. How I then got injured.
Last winter was, despite my injury, a winter with more running than the one before. But were those 270 km enough to maintain my form and the strength in my legs that I'd built in 2010? Spring brought a satisfactory amount of training, with a long run of at least 20 km almost every Saturday since March. Undoubtedly, I'm in much better form now than I was in June last year. Where will I be this autumn?
When stuck at home nursing an injured foot, it's easy to make promises that you'll listen to your body from now on, that you'll take it easy, that you'll be smarter this time, that you'll do other sports (*cough* swimming *cough*). But once you're up and running again, it's proving to be very difficult to keep your promises. Thankfully, my body has so far been satisfied with how far I've been pushing it, with no more than achy muscles as a testament to what I'm putting it through. But the fear is always there, that something could snap at any minute, forcing me to sit on the bench once more.
You have to push yourself to get better. But push too far and you'll break. How to know how far is too far?
As I've written before, I don't follow a schedule. I just run as far and as fast as the mood takes me. But the lack of schedule also means taking responsibility for any failures, uncertainty on whether or not what I'm doing is right, and an absence of guidelines on how to reach my goals. That's not to say that following a schedule will guarantee a smooth, injury-free progression; but it might prevent me from doing too much too soon.
But then the joy of running would be lost.