What I Think About During Recovery Runs
Hal Higdon's Intermediate II plan has two "recovery" runs per week. By recovery, Hal means they should be leisurely, fun and relaxed. They're designed to help rejuvenate your muscles and spirit, while increasing your running economy. All of which will help you focus and perform better on your key days. I think recovery runs do all of these things. Except they also suck.
The worst part, I've found, is that without putting myself into either a "zone" or oxygen debt, my mind has time to think about a lot of things. But what it thinks about mostly is how this isn't much fun.
When I do a marathon pace run, I don't have time to worry if a dog's on a leash. If he's not, I'll just out-run him. I don't worry about the strange twinges in my knee or shin or foot because all of that will be dealt with only after I've put those marathon pace miles in the bank.
But on the recovery runs, I just feel like an old guy with ADD shuffling through suburbia. It's these feelings, I suppose, that cause such runs to be labeled as "junk" miles by others and it's hard not to agree because that's exactly how I feel on them: like complete and utter refuse. However, the alternative is the three days of hell approach favored by those like Nitmos. I've done that and it's good stuff except for one thing: speed kills, at least in the case of my legs. Truth is, I'm an endurance guy. This is what I can do without hurting myself. My blessing, my curse, to quote Peter Parker.
There are bright spots, though. As a diabetic, I think about my blood sugar a decent amount on the key runs, because nothing derails a 20 miler faster than hypoglycemia. On a recovery run, I think I could go into a diabetic coma and still handle my pedestrian pace.
And, of course, recovery runs do work. When I get to my next key workout, I find that the scatter-brained slowpoke has been momentarily replaced by a relatively focused Boston-bound age grouper, ready to take on the day's pain. At least until the next recovery run comes around.