My second race of the "year", the first a 4 km sprint in early December in San Diego, was the Inside Trail Racing half-marathon course at Montara Mountain. I felt tired for a few days, then tried to ramp up the training a bit, but then got sore and spent the next two weeks taking it fairly easy. I did manage to get a half-marathon training run in on each of the weekends, but no back-to-back efforts of any merit, something I'd been able to do before the race.
Then finally I felt better. But was it too late? Was all my fitness gone?
Combatting this sort of paranoia is a good reason for tracking training stress metrics. As I have described, I applied the methodology which is popular with tracking cycling power to tracking running distance: a 7-day exponentially weighted average for acute stress (fatigue), and a 42-day average for chronic stress (adaptation, or fitness).
The result? The weekend runs help avoid too much loss of chronic stress (CTS), although my acute stress dripped substantially. Indeed for the first time since I've been tracking, ATS dropped below CTS. Then I felt good. After a short run on Monday, I did runs of longer than 10 miles on each day Tuesday through Friday (today). This is the first time I've stacked up 4 consecutive 10-mile runs. And today my legs felt great, which shocked me.
Of course, now the ATS has rocketed back up again, to its highest value so far. Here's the plot:
So no, I clearly did not lose my fitness. What I experienced was high stress, followed by adaptation and recovery. It probably wasn't the best approach. I should have done more recovery after the race: one week without running. Then I would have bounced back quicker, rather than a 2-week lull after trying to come back too soon. I won't make that mistake again... at least for awhile.
Next race: Lake Chabot 30 km. This 4-day cycle has me convinced I'm ready. But I'll see on race day. Then it's time for recovery... and then build up for my big goal which is the Woodside 50 km race in April.
And for that, my focus will be on more consistency. More back-to-back running days. In previous years, I've focused too strongly on long runs. But I think you're better off focusing on weekly miles than long-day miles. Better doing a few back-to-back 20 km runs than a single 30 km runs. With the latter, I hit a wall at my long run distance. More runs per week, though, really builds a deeper fitness. That's what I've gotten from talking with other runners, and that's what I see as having been a weakness in my own history.