Yesterday I ran a good, challenging, and distinctly muddy 8k cross-country race. It's one of my favorite races. My training, which I've been sparing you, has not been going well, so injury rehabilitation notes are at the bottom. September was good. The last Saturday I walked/ran the 5k according to plan, and finished in 28:25. Not a great time compared to if I were in reasonable training, but a lot better than a few months earlier. The following Monday, I forgot about a certain gravel path being irritating to my calves, and the fact that I've been on the edge or over it for calf problems (maybe it's Achilles), and went running on the path. That did seriously annoy the calf/Achilles, which the race hadn't, and October was mostly given over to non-running (and, unfortunately, non-exercising).
I had, of course, signed up for the cross-country race right before nailing the calf. On the other hand, even when I was in very good shape (for me), I walked some of the cross-country course. In years of moderate training, the walk fraction goes up. This year, it was going to be even more walking, I decided. It was. I flew on the downhills (though I can't run for very long at the moment, when I do, I can carry a good pace), took it easy on the uphills (walking more slowly than I would if the cardio system were in condition), and mixed on the flats. Not a lot of flat to this course.
The plan worked out pretty much. I did not injure the calf/Achilles, and I did finish the race. I feel invigorated for getting out and doing more exercise, and, in one of those ironies of peoples' psychologies, am more willing to do 'just' swimming/biking/rowing/.... Final time of 54:37 (my watch -- I didn't start at the front of the pack!) Which I mention more for establishing it so that when I talk next year of my improvement, you'll know the base. It would not be unreasonable to improve by 10 minutes in the next year.
The real work in October was doing Achilles rehabilitation exercises. Specifically the Alfredson exercises (heel drop). Once an injury shows up, it's important to figure out what caused the problem. I've been having recurring calf/Achilles issues through the year. My first time in 13 years of running of having a running injury, especially one that persisted. I've never been able to identify the source of the problem. The second side is, particularly if you don't know what caused the problem, rest (hence my light October) and rehabilitate the injured system. The rehab includes stretching, a lot, and strengthening by way of the Alfredson exercise. This is going pretty well (knock wood).
The plan for now is to keep my running to only 2 days/week, and 2-3 days of other aerobics. Continue the Alfredson exercises for the Achilles, shoulder exercises for the previously torn rotator cuffs (while I've had very few running injuries, I've had several non-running injuries like the torn rotator cuffs), and some strength work. On the running side, 2 days a week is enough to preserve running-specific conditioning and even advance it some if you, as I am, start from a low enough point. The other aerobic activities will keep improving my aerobic condition, so that by the time the Achilles is fully rehabilitated, I'll have some lung power to support the running.
It's helpful to have a longer term goal in keeping getting out for exercise. Mine is the RRCA 10 mile championship (DC and MD clubs) race in February. The cutoff time to count for your team (my club being small, every person who can beat the cutoff is important -- many years we don't show up with enough runners to count as a team) is 2 hours. So that's my conservative goal. And I try to avoid thinking about others at this point. I should be able to beat that goal time with run/walk of 1:1 (one minute run to one minute walk). The proportion at the race yesterday was unknowable. (I'm certainly not looking at my watch while running cross country!) But the time suggests that for me being equally well-prepared (i.e., not very well at all) and on an equally difficult course (the 10 miler is much easier, though difficult for a road race), I would manage about 1:55 on the 10 miler. That's sufficient for my goal. And, given that I expect to be in much better shape 3 months from now, and I know it's a much easier course, room for much more aggressive times. 1:45 is a nice round number. (Ok, I don't avoid thinking of more optimistic times very well. But it's a good idea.)
If you've thought of using run/walk strategies, I'll suggest my run/walk calculator. I've been surprised how fast a run/walk can turn out to be. Oddly, if I'd run less at the 5k, I'd probably have finished faster. At that point, I could run 7 minute/mile pace, but only for about 2 minutes. For the 3 minutes I was running at a time in the race, I could only hold 8 minute/mile pace. As you can see at the calculator those, plus my 16 minute/mile walking pace, equate to a 5k about 1 minute faster if I ran less.