Before, it's been a matter of the taper arriving just in time before injury comes along. Not this time. Last Sunday's final long run is a case in point. Calgary's weather being weird as ever, much of April was wintry. For that 26k however, it was already 18 degrees when I headed out at 10am. So completely unused to the temperature, I did this hilly loop around the banks of the Bow river in 2:13. When I finished, I didn't have the "creaking" feeling in my legs, and a slightly tight hip flexor disappeared after a couple of hours.
So what's changed/ going right? Mostly clearer thinking which has come from lots of reading and experience. The good things I'm doing which seem to be having a good effect, aside from the running training program are:
No April race. This one has required willpower, although the awful weather in April certainly helped. It has tended to be a shorter race, so high-paced, hard running. It proved a bad way to go before my full marathon last year (even though I wouldn't trade that sub-40 10k for anything), more in terms of not wanting to back off training to recover. Training now goes on uninterrupted.
Better posture. I keep trying to perfect this, making sure footstrike is behind the knee and remembering too that arm swing should be in synch. Speeding up arm swing to increase pace works well and feels like less effort - perhaps as it better ensures better balance and therefore having the hips work more on forward movement rather than stability. Not an expert in this field, but seems logical.
Logical too is that my physiology is still improving. There's a 10 year period of the body adapting fully to running that I've read and heard about, and I'm only 4
years into it. At times I notice the hips swivelling which I don't think happened before. Longer stride without over-striding perhaps.
Yoga. I don't go in for much of the spiritual stuff - much of that sounds overblown to me. One "expert" in from Australia to teach a class was one of the most pretentious people I have ever come across - perhaps I was completely wrong about him in thinking he was full of shit (or everyone else was taken in - I'll never know, but I stand by my opinion).
Furthermore, unless doing it 7 days per week, it does not constitute a balanced exercise regimen on its own just a couple of times a week. For me however, twice a week is an extremely useful supplement to my training. It pulls the spine apart, contains quite a few challenging balancing postures and many which nicely stretch out the hip flexors and hamstrings. I can see too how it improves circulation and has a general calming effect.
The Stick. Like a roller without having to get on the floor. It can get to every part, even that tricky inner thigh. I personally feel a slight reduction in muscle tightness straight after using it, and the legs are generally fresher over time.
Chiro. Similar benefits to the Stick, I go once a month unless there's a specific, noticeable problem. If anything's even slightly tighter than the rest of the legs, he'll spot it. An expert diagnosis on exactly how things stand.
Free weights. Of my 3 weight sessions a week, I alternate between 1 & 2 of them being free weights. Unlike static machines, nothing is completely isolated, just as in running. Squats are a big part of it too - aims to correct the quad/ hamstring imbalance.
Minor backings-off from time to time. If feeling especially tight the day after a run - which is usually a weights day - not doing drills (high knees and butt kicks) has made it go away.
Diet and whey protein. Eating sensibly and more fish has served me well over the years. A couple of meat-free days each week can help in keeping one's weight in check. Also, immediately after all runs except easy Mondays I will have a whey protein drink for fuller recovery of running-specific muscles.
So the aim if all's still well in the engine room on race day is to get a sub-1:26. The signs point towards that being possible, with current PB at 1:26:48 on a hillier course.