The Old Days Versus These Days

Running in the Icelandic summer weather was almost pure bliss. This summer's exceptionally high humidity and seasonal heat made training in Texas a real struggle. My pace times decreased by a minute per mile, speed work was practically out of the question, and anything longer than a five-mile run was a chore. By the time I hit the roads and walking paths around the suburbs of Reykjavik, I was ready for anything cooler than 95 degrees. The pleasant high-60s, combined with the coastal winds and the cool cloud cover, were like a barrier had been lifted from in front of me. Quite literally overnight, I was running ten or more miles at per-mile paces in the low 6:30s.

In was not particularly surprising, then, that when cooler weather finally found its way to Texas in the Fall, my paces and distances improved accordingly. For example, I went for a 13-mile long run and very nearly set a new personal best half-marathon time. I built my long runs up to 14, 15, 16... even 18 miles. (No 20-mile long runs yet, but it's not a fitness challenge so much as it is a diabetic-logistic challenge.) This was very encouraging.

So encouraging was it that I soon found myself running as much as ten miles during a weekday run and up to eighteen miles on the weekend. That included two speed workouts per week. And recently, I even add form drills to my repertoire. It felt great.

Still, one can only train so hard for so long. I started training for a half marathon in February, and without exception I have been training like a relatively serious runner every week since then, taking time off only for illness or heavily extenuating circumstances. Now heading into December and my tenth consecutive month of hard training, my body is starting to feel the strain, in the form of little aches and pains, whispers of shin splints, muscle shortening, sore feet, and an overall lack of confidence during movements that require balance.

In the old days, I would have simply powered through all this. The pain means the training is doing its job. I would have doubled-down, running perhaps more miles and looking for ways to add even more time to my workouts. That was then, this is now.

Today, I need to figure out how to become a stronger runner without compromising a pretty good running streak. Not only that, I've discovered that no other activity gives me better control of my blood glucose levels than running, which means that whatever time I spend on other activities may ultimately come at the cost of better blood sugar control. Even so, what I'm doing isn't sustainable. My body is getting tired, and I'm starting to detect evidence of muscle imbalances which could cause injuries if they're not corrected.

As much as it disappoints me to have to say so, I might need to replace some of this running with strength training, to rehabilitate my muscle imbalances and allow my running muscles to rest and reset. 

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