This should probably be marked as part one, as I have not yet figured out how this ends.
Eventually, something happens and we take some time off, or scale back considerably. It can be an injury, a commitment to a family member or work. During this break, one of the hardest things to do is keep focused, maintain dedication and not put on too much weight.
The weight is both the simplest and at the same time the most difficult issue to address. It's simple because we all know the basics of healthy eating and core premise of not eating more fuel than you burn. It's difficult because Oreos are good and sometimes one bag is one serving size. I could talk for weeks on the subject, but even I am somewhat of a failure when it's time to walk the walk. Really, all I can say is to eat knowingly and don't lie to yourself.
The dedication comes from the heart. If you are an active part of the RunJunkEe community the dedication is probably inside you somewhere. Running is either your way of life, one of your habits, or something you just really want to do. Maybe you are coming off a big race. Maybe you were ramping up the miles and got sidelined by an injury. Inside, you want to run. You want to race. But for one reason or another, you're going slow. You are taking it easy. Your personal definition of dedication is going to change. You may start looking at the quality of your miles vs the quantity. You may start measuring things based on enjoyment, or opportunity instead of pace and PR.
Focus. Focus is the killer. With time off, the mind wanders. The mind is a pretty terrible thing left to operate outside the confines of a training program. The next thing you know you're starting to think of new things to do, new goals, new races, new distances. Maybe you read magazines and books. Maybe you take up fishing and spend your long run time with a rod and reel in your hand. (Don't get me wrong, I love fishing. I just prefer to do it after I run.)
In my situation, I took most of this summer off from racing and training long. I still got miles in. I still ran. Just not "long" distances. My time running was generally limited to lunch breaks, and the odd weekend outing. My weekends were dedicated to kid duty while my wife trained for a killer two day, 200 mile bike ride. I got into a good pattern. I was averaging four runs a week and many weeks nailed five. But cramming all of that into five consecutive days took it's toll.
When I train long, I generally have to modify training schedules to work in an extra rest day. My body just can't too many consecutive days. And here I was, pushing 4-5 runs in 5 days. Then I came across a 100 miles in June challenge. And I tackled that like I tackle everything else - with all I had. I figured it out that running five days a week I could average five miles a run, and score a couple longer runs to easily hit 100 miles in a month. What I didn't count on was my eternal battle with foot ware combining with a full month of 5 runs in 5 days to result in some Plantar Fasciitis issues, which have evolved to some Achilles tendinitis issues.
Even with the injury, the 100 mile challenge was awesome for me. It gave me what my running had been missing - direction. It was simple enough that my mind still had time to wander. I still had time to read. But it was direct and simple enough to get me going even on days I didn't want to run. This simple challenge let me demonstrate my dedication (to myself, mostly) in a manner I knew and understood without thinking it through too much. And that made me feel comfortable and allowed me to embrace the challenge.
Unfortunately, the 100 mile challenge was rather simple and took no real thought on my part. While it took dedication, my focus was free to wander. And wander I did. I read books. I read magazines. I listened to podcasts. Worst of all, I thought. I thought a lot about running and life. And since the challenge at hand had nothing to do with time, I was free to relax and just "Run Happy." And it was great.
It's been a few months since the 100 miles of June. I'm back into my school year schedule. I'm still injured. Things still hurt. But I'm getting better. And all of that unstructured thinking and running has lead to new goals and the desire to push beyond my known limits.
And this is why I don't know how this ends. The injury is still there. That's a huge question mark. But I'm able to run through it. I don't know if I can push it hard enough to meet my goal. I don't even know if my goal is realistic for a person of my age, current weight, and background.
But I'm going to find out.