I’m in the last three and a half weeks of my 12-week 5K plan! And I’m tired.

5K for Kenya (2nd female, 22:24), May 2011, when it rained all the time! I’m in the bright yellow and orange.

My goals for the season are, in order of difficulty: to reach F45-49 elite status (22:10); to break 22:00; and to break 7-minute miles (21:42). We’ll see. Last fall my 5K PR was 22:11, one maddening second from elite! My best so far this year was 22:24, back in May, after off-season training for endurance but not yet speed. In the summer I strength-trained and cross-trained to avoid the heat. I raced a little, but didn’t start training in earnest for racing until September, using a formal plan for the first time.

Monday was a rest day, which was very good because I couldn’t imagine anything I wanted to do in the world less than run. Or work out. Or move. Tuesday was supposed to be the key workout of the entire program, the one that tests whether I’m ready for racing! Five long 1,000-meter (2.5 lap) intervals at goal pace! And once again, I couldn’t imagine anything I wanted to do less than run, work out, or move.

I whined to Mom, maybe it’s time to stop the season. The days are short, it’s getting cold, I just ran a very fine first 10K as a training race. And what was I thinking, trying to peak at Thanksgiving? I don’t even like this weather!

After my two-mile warm up on dead legs at the Oak Hills track, I knew I couldn’t hit the splits. I came home discouraged and worried, and rolled out my muscles and stretched for forty-five minutes. Wednesday I tried again, still tired and reluctant, but less so. I weaved around soccer parents standing on the track, soccer girls and their bags sitting on the track, and the walkers who feel the need to claim lane one (the fast lane) at all costs! (Note to walkers….) The intervals went well — I hit all of them a little better than goal pace, and each one slightly faster than the last. A good sign!

For two months now, I’ve been absorbing far more days and mileage than I’m used to — about 25 miles a week over four days instead of 15 over three — and I’ve kept up with this plan with no real recovery weeks (which is not necessarily a good idea!). I’ve also continued, for the first time, whole body strength training during a running plan. Last week’s high mileage (for me) after the hard 10K race, while traveling to Chicago for work, was a real killer.

When you’re at peak fitness, you’re also on the razor’s edge of being overtrained. The upside is that if I can absorb this level of training, I’ll be able to train at a higher level going forward. The downside is that overtraining can grow into a serious condition you can’t get over, a version of chronic fatigue syndrome. It’s the strangest feeling. My body is saying both yes and no, going faster and stronger while telling me it’s too tired. The mood I’m in is also a sign of fatigue.

I don’t really want to stop early when I’ve worked this hard toward my goals. I need to find a way to recover and finish strong.