So for the first four months of the year I’ve been following what I’m calling “The Amnesia Training Plan.” Essentially, this means I tried to just run and forget about everything that happened over the last 3 ½ years (tearing up my knee, having microfracture surgery, 6 weeks on crutches, 9 months not running, all the fits and starts of trying to get back into some kind of shape, et cetera). I decided to just feign ignorance about all of it. What? Who? Me? No, you must you be thinking of someone else. I’m fine. Sure, it was out of desperation, but it struck me that maybe the best way to get back to being the runner I’d been before the injury was to just tell myself I was–to fool myself into believing it.
To give a little historical perspective, over the years my running schedule has been seasonal and generally followed this pattern:
March-May: increase weekly mileage, start speed work, consider doing races (but always decide to wait)
June-July: increase mileage and intensity, do some races, bike and swim (I have lots of time and energy in summer)
August: grind out highest mileage weeks of the year, do my most challenging workouts, continue cross-training
September-October: alternate high-mileage weeks and race weeks, usually run a marathon
November: cut back on mileage but enjoy fitness left over from a good year of running, maybe one more race, start planning for the next year
December-February: cut way back on mileage, do very little, if any, speed work, get a little bit out of shape, play basketball and/or swim and lift weights
Now that is my pre-injury schedule. And the point I’m trying to make is that being in underwhelming running condition the first week of January, well, that felt pretty familiar to me. And so this last January, after another subpar workout, I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if I could just slog through these next few months and then get back in shape like I used to. I mean, really get back in shape, like when spring rolls around start running fast again. I mean, there’s no reason I can’t, right? My knee is holding up, I’m not too old. Other people are doing it. I’ve done it before. It should just be a matter of putting in the work, right?
I knew it was more complicated than that, but instead of embracing all the ways it could be complicated, I decided to see it in as simple of terms as possible: just run like you used to and you’ll be the runner you used to be.
Now though I hadn’t been satisfied, I had, at the end of last year, begun to FEEL like my old self at times. That is, on good days I’d run and FEEL like I was really running, moving smoothly, efficiently, like the good old me. This was great, and my biggest goal when I couldn’t run was just to experience that feeling again. However, if I timed myself on one of these glorious days, well, no matter how good or fast I felt, I was still quite a bit behind my old self. So, in order to become the old me again I really only had two options: #1) run faster or #2) forget about how fast I was running. Obviously, my ultimate goal was #1) run faster, but I couldn’t do that at the snap of my fingers. I realized that I could; however, instantaneously achieve #2) forget about how fast I was running.
And so that’s what I did. Along with lots of swimming, through January (22 miles a week), February (28 miles a week), March (23 miles a week), and April (34 miles a week), when I ran, I thought about feeling good and didn’t think about pace. Whereas I’d been very deliberate about my training since my injury and had done a lot of timed workouts, knowing I had to run fast to re-activate the muscles that had gotten weak, this was different. I just ran. I had good days and bad days. I felt heavy. I felt light. I felt slow. I felt fast. But I didn’t think much about it, because just like in the old days, I told myself I’d worry about times and pace and speed and racing when the snow melts.
Now I thought this might work, but I also knew it was risky, that there was a chance I’d get even slower and be further from my ultimate goal. Still, I told myself ahead of time that even if that happens I won’t regret it because for a while I could least enjoy my running a little more. I mean, I appreciate every step I can run, and I’m realistic about my goals, but thinking about how slow I was going would sap a little of the joy out of it. I mean, there’s nothing like than facing your own shortcomings, your limitations, to make you feel shitty about things. But I do it for the reason all runners do it, because getting in shape to run the best you can makes it all worth it.
That last sentence signals to me that I’m itching to embark on some philosophical musings about competition and the MEANING OF EVERYTHING, but I told myself to stay focused today, so let’s move on the question: how did the “Amnesia Training Plan” work? Well, I’ve only done a few timed workouts, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with them. For example, I did a track workout with the triathlon team I train with and we were doing 6 800’s. I had no idea what kind of pace I could maintain and hoped to average just under 3 minutes for each but I ended up averaging 2:52 with the last one in 2:47 (which is still slower than I was pre-injury, but definitely the fastest I’ve done since the injury). I also ran a three mile solo tempo run on a cool, windy day in 19:40 and this was a comfortable effort and I could have kept going and last May I exhausted myself running 20:30 on the very same course. So again, I’m not the old me yet, but things are definitely looking up and I’m looking forward to more speed workouts and some 40+ mile weeks. I still plan to do most of my runs without a watch, but a couple times a week I’ll do my hard workouts and hope to see them improve pretty steadily until my first race of the year, which will be in June and then I’ll really know how far I’ve come and how much further I’ve got to go.
If you’ve missed me, well, I couldn’t write any posts for this blog when I had my self-induced amnesia, because before I got hurt I never thought about writing a running blog. The old me wouldn’t have had much to say. The new me does, of course, and I’m looking forward to updating you on all the amazing progress I will make in the next few months (I hope, I hope).