From my (thankfully) limited experience, the hardest thing about coming back from an injury is not trying to come back too early. You go out and feel OK, which compared to limping feels amazing and you think you haven't lost a step.
So you buzz piers on a Tuesday morning thinking six minute miles and lactate threshold are one in the same. And you wake up the next morning with sore calves. Go figure.
But man was it worth it.
Every once in a while you have an epiphany on a run. It could be about running, or maybe something entirely different. Maybe you solve a riddle at work or realize something that makes you love your wife even more than you already do.
I learned this year what a lactate threshold is. Since I don't understand science, I most easily understand it as the point at which you start breathing hard. More technically, its the maximum pace at which you can run aerobically and thus sustain for a long(ish) period of time. More specifically, its your marathon pace.
And if San Francisco is to be the judge, my marathon pace is around 6:50. But running along those piers, dodging tourists in the morning and for the first time in weeks feeling like I was out on a real run, I started to wonder if that really was my lactate threshold. Or if I was just being a pussy.
So I started pushing it. And what do you know -- I clicked off four or five miles sub 6:30 and at one point found myself cruising comfortably at just above 6:00. I've run that fast for an extended period before, during a 10k and half marathon. But not during a training run. Not for that long.
And I felt great. I felt smooth. I focused on my form, on running without effort. Sure, I was pretty tired when I mounted 20th Street on the way back home, but I could have kept going. And if I could keep my mind on track, who knows how much further I could have gone.