This was a better month than last, but mostly because I set reasonable goals for my fitness and saw a bit of improvement with my knee and I learned a little something about each thing I’m doing. I also got in for my MRI early due to a cancellation, so when I see my sports med specialist on April 11, he’ll have a new set of x-rays and the MRI pictures. With that I should get a good idea of exactly how much damage there is to the cartilage and should also be able to get some modifications to my rehab program, to continue to see improvements.
The only race I did in March was the St. Patrick’s Day 5k (race report) in Stanley Park. It wasn’t fast, but then due to how I have to approach training this season, nothing likely will be. March was about finding the amount of running I could tolerate without my knee tightening afterward, while increasing my cycling to assist with my fitness. By the end of the month I found that a couple 5k to 5 mile runs during the week and about ten miles on the weekend was about right. Since I wanted to increase my cycling too, I targeted three of each per week without any particular mileage goals. For the second month in a row my weight held very steady at 155 throughout.
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In March I did four more runs than I did in February and added about 14 miles, but I think I’ve found the right frequency of monthly running for now and three runs a week seemed to be an appropriate goal. The only thing to really report out of that is the fact that all running was maintenance mileage and nothing more, with the exception of the 5k race. No speed and no hills, and a paltry 20 miles a week. Had I been able to continue building my training this month, I had expected to be hovering right around or a bit under 20 minutes on the 5k race, but the top-end fitness was beginning to fade even by that point. I will be holding fast to this running approach until, in consultation with Jack Taunton, my sports med guy, I’m able to start ramping up some harder workouts. I don’t expect that to happen until my knee loosens up more.
Speaking of my knee, there was some moderate improvement, so I’m hopeful that I won’t be in a holding pattern forever. Since I was supposed to do a lot of knee rehab sessions and was trying to keep my other resistance sessions intact, I figured I could average one a day, and targeted 30 sessions with no time goals. I fell somewhat short in that department, doing 19 of my planned 30, but still did most of my weekday knee rehab and lower body work.
There’s now a bit more side-to-side flexibility with the joint and the minor clicks it was producing when going down stairs are now gone. The joint still has tightness, but the reduced running and exercises seem to be helping. I’ve decided to let go of a little of the upper body weights I try to do and focus entirely on the knee rehab, lower body and core. This should translate to a more manageable schedule. I was only partially successful in doing my core workouts at home in the morning, so being a little more regimented in that regard will also help.
In February I did nine rides for 138 miles, most of them of the trainer variety, and increased this by three rides and 35 miles in March. Again, 12 rides seems to be a good number per month, though I expect saddle time to increase as I cycle commute more with improving weather. What I can’t do now or until the knee improves are the harder interval workouts on the trainer or big hill climbs that involve standing and grinding it out, compressing the crap out of the knee cartilage.
The long rides just started up at the end of the month, with 70k on the last weekend. April started in a similar vein with the 100k Pacific Populaire ride yesterday (since I’m writing this four days after the end of March) and I’m hopeful to ride 60-100k most weekends going forward. While longer cycling workouts do not translate to any discernable running-specific benefits, they do a wonderful job of a few key things:
- burning calories and hitting fat stores, due to the lower average HR
- strengthening the connective tissue around the knee
- maintaining long-run aerobic capacity
Looking ahead to April
Now that I know the frequency that seems to work fairly well, I’m changing my goals to hours of resistance (15) and miles of running (80) and cycling (200). I expect to exceed both those last targets. It’s also a little more important month on a few fronts. I’ll get another session with Dr. Taunton and have a better idea of where I should go, rehab-wise, to continue healing my knee. April also includes the Pacific Populaire and 5 Peaks Golden Ears. With the Club Fat Ass warmup run the week before, these two will be a moderate test of a little downhill trail running, compressing the knee cartilage. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of effect that will have.
What I’m really looking forward to – and this may not be in April or anytime soon – is adding in a few more intense workouts. I really miss running and cycling a little hilly stuff and the plyometric program I was just ramping up with when I got the cartilage diagnosis. It’s all that kind of stuff that helps you maintain and improve your top-end fitness and racing without feeling like I can put my best foot forward feels, well, just kind of wrong. I don’t mind a sub-standard race if I just have a bad day or because of something beyond my control, but not being able to train properly in the first place is a different story altogether.