The Connection Runners + [running man]

Finally feeling it, but I need some help

After nearly two months of haphazard running/biking/training, I'm finally getting back into a good, healthy routine. While I've been on some runs, they have been lackluster, leaving me exhausted, more sore than I believe I should have been, and dissatisfied with my effort.

April was the cruelest month. My knee was bothering me (which I am now attributing to several compounding issues that have developed) and the runs that I went on were all under 10 miles. I don't remember any run that was even worth mentioning - got out with friends a few times which were memorable, but I always ended up aggravating my knee. Consequently, I spent most of my time on the bike. And it wasn't even good biking - it was in the garage on the trainer. I felt like I was keeping my fitness, but my knee (and generally my left leg) was not progressing how I wanted it to. Then on May 1, I paced my pal, Rick, for the last 10 miles of a marathon. He was shooting for a sub-3 marathon. While he barely missed that goal (3:00:58), I was able to run 10 sub-7/minute miles in a row. Several hours after that run, my knee was really aching. I didn't regret running with Rick, but I figured that I needed to address this problem once and for all. The solution:

I didn't run for an entire week.

It helped that my parents were in town for graduation and that we spent a lot of time traveling, eating, and relaxing. But I made a conscious effort to relax and not worry about it. We got out for some nice hikes, but they weren't very strenuous.

When I got home from our travels, I decided to ease back into running - one run a day, but no long runs. There was some lingering tightness in my knee, but nothing that a good stretch couldn't remove. I decided to up the mileage a bit with what I thought would be an easy 24 mile run. The heat, my lack-of-fitness, and a host of other lame excuses allowed me to head home at 18 or 19 miles. While that was humbling and humiliating, I had fun. It was the first run where I really felt like I was getting back to it. And since that day, ever run has been better than the last, culminating in a great run today in the rain.

The plan is to continue running daily, but with other workouts to help whip me back into shape. I know that a lot of people around here like to rack-up 100+ miles/week, but I'm wondering about several issues that I know practically nothing about: (1) over-training, (2) junk miles, and (3) cross-training. While I would be perfectly happy running each day as I've done for years, I'd like to take a more focused approach to see how it works. I think this is the time to start exploring these issues as it coincides with a looming alteration to my training schedule mandated by my move to Denver and the resulting lack of access to the mountains.

Lately, I've read some articles about using very targeted, quality training sessions to get better results. If you're interested, there is a short blurb in the May Outside Magazine in the Bodywork section called "shorter. harder. smarter." that sums up what I've been thinking. At the moment, I'm not too worried about my time commitments, but I am worried about over-training and hurting myself. And I'd prefer not to do a bunch of junk miles, which will probably only aid over-training.

But what exactly should I be doing? Should I come up with a weekly plan that ratchets up intensity? Should I be doing the same workout each day? How often should I be cross-training? I'm thinking that I should do one speed, tempo and long run a week, but how does this fit with cross-training? If you have suggestions or good resources, please let me know.