Beat the Bridge 8K Training Cycle

After losing 25 lbs on a ketogenic diet and a 6 month hiatus from running I ran my first race in about 7 years. I’ll talk about the race later. First some background and then my training.

Seven years ago I was 21 years old. Seven years ago I was running about 55 miles per week. Seven years ago I was eating one meal a day because I was poor and most of my money went towards booze. That was the last time I raced. I ran a 19:20 5K early in training for the Seattle half-marathon. I injured my foot about 2 weeks prior to that 5k and ran it without training for 14 days. Two weeks prior to that I ran a 90 minute half-marathon in training.I quit running for 6 years and never completed the Seattle Half.

Why did I stop running? I had to grow up. I failed out of my university and started working retail full-time to pay the bills. My retail lifestyle made a consistent training schedule nearly impossible. This was also around the time I met my future wife and running simply fell by the wayside, forgotten.

In May of 2012 I started running again to lose weight. I’m a relatively short guy and I weighed 195 lbs at the time. I had gained 50 pounds in the 6 years since I stopped running.  It took me a couple of weeks before I could run 2 miles without stopping. Eventually that plateau was broken and I was able to slog through 3-5 miles fairly easily at around 9:00 mile pace. I fell in love with running again.

Running about 15 miles per week, I got extensor tendonitis. Instead of letting it heal I ran 3 days a week while trying to manage the injury. Needless to say, I stopped improving due to the low mileage and intensity and I certainly didn’t lose much weight. By August I was down to 185 pounds and could complete a 6 mile training run without dying but extensor tendonitis was limiting me. I willed myself to stop running long enough to allow my tendonitis to heal.

Since I couldn’t run I chased weight-loss through diet. I discovered the keto diet on Reddit. I started losing weight rapidly and tried to return to running. It turns out that if you aren’t adapted then running while in ketosis is slow and unfulfilling and you lose all pop in your step due to the lack of glycogen in your muscles and liver.

I quit the keto diet in January. I had lost 25 pounds and more than 2 inches off of my waist.

In early March I signed up for the Beat the Bridge 8K and started running again. I set an initial goal of 38:00 minutes, feeling that ~7:30 min/mile pace was achievable off of about 10 weeks of training. I was as slow as ever for the first couple of runs, but after a week I could see how much the weight loss helped me. I started out running about 12 miles a week in 3-4 runs. I ramped up fairly quickly to around 20 miles per week with a long run of 6-8 miles on Saturday and either a tempo run or fartlek workout during the week. My easy runs and long runs were hitting around 8:30-8:45 min/mile in March. By April these runs were hitting around 8:05 – 8:20.

8:05 – 8:20 was probably too fast for true “easy” runs but I feel that a little bit of intensity helps me. It may also help me get injured, but I really have trouble slowing down too much. I try to keep my “easy” runs around Jack Daniels’ M(marathon) pace and after 7:30 pace tempo in early April I figured that my current VDOT was around 42 or 43.

I continued to up my mileage fairly consistently into late April, listening to my body and taking extra rest days when I started to feel worn down. A 4 mile tempo run at 7:18 pace had me rethinking my conservative 38:00 goal. I did the workout on the track and felt comfortable for 3 of the 4 miles and just gutted out the final mile. I hit 30 miles per week for a couple weeks right at the end of April and into early May.

Around this time I started to really notice increased achilles/heel pain that had been lingering since late March. I ceased all speed work and dialed my mileage back a bit. The pain was most noticeable early in my run but would fade completely after warming up and then returning with stiffness after cooling down.

Thinking that the problem may be Achilles Tendonitis of some sort I started doing 3×15 eccentric heel drops after each workout and rolling out my calves and my symptoms seem to be improving every week. I cut mileage significantly the week prior to my race as I wanted to feel fresh and rested and my achilles was still bothering me quite a bit. My final long run of 7.5 miles on lakeside trails ended with some additional plantar and arch pain which went away as soon as I stopped running and has not returned since.

Overall I felt satisfied with my training which started out based loosely on a Hal Higdon plan but dropped the speed work when my lingering achilles injury started to get to me. My next post will be about the race.