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Near the start of the Avoca Steps.

Benchmarks can be useful in gauging your running fitness, and perhaps more importantly, signalling possible problems.

These days, I tend to judge fitness by the time taken to run a regular course, and how I felt doing it.  In earlier days, I often used a time trial on the track, or something like the average times achieved running multiple 400m repetitions in a track session, as guides.  They're not foolproof methods, and subject to the vagaries of small sample sizes, but if a benchmark is achieved it gives you confidence that your training is going to plan and that, in turn, gives you the confidence to go for the time or place aspired to in your target event.

More of the Avoca Steps.

I have also employed benchmarks to gauge the seriousness of an illness or injury.  One sort of reverse benchmark I used for years was that if I was too ill to run, then I was too ill to go to work.  Of course, I never wanted to miss a run, and never had any really serious ailments, so never missed a day of work.  However, I probably infected many work colleagues with colds, and occasionally, influenza over those years.

Further up the Avoca Steps.

Running a much slower time for the Terrigal Trotters 10km Time Trial at the end of December last year (56 mins instead of the 44 mins my fitness level indicated), alerted me to health problems later diagnosed as Deep Vein Thrombosis, Pulmonary Embolism and Atrial Flutter.  Now that I'm on the road to recovery from those conditions, I'm very attuned to sub-par training runs, anxiously analysing them as possible indicators of health problem recurrence.

The final section of the Avoca Steps.

Several of my local "garbage run" courses, have very steep climbs that I almost always run up, regardless of fatigue.  In fact, the only times I have failed to run up them is when I have been ill.  These are my current benchmarks.  One of them is the "Avoca Steps", which is actually a series of flights of steps and footpath climbing about 80m over 500m.  It's always a test to run up them, no matter what the speed, but I almost always do.  This morning, however, as I approached the base of the Steps, 7km into my morning 10km run, I just couldn't face the thought of running all the way to the top.  Ultimately, these things usually come down to mind over matter, and there have been many times on this hill, and others, where I have just refused to stop running and taken it a step at a time all the way to the top.  I have prided myself on my ability to do this, and attribute my relative strength running hills to my refusal to shirk them in training.  However, my recent health travails are fresh in my mind and the worst effects were brought on by running, and sometimes just walking, up hills to the point of serious breathlessness.

This morning, my rational self won and I walked up the Avoca Steps, but it hurt my pride and worried me some.  I can't put my finger on a single problem, but can think of multiple reasons, none of them individually important enough to explain my excessive fatigue.  For the moment I'm assuming that it is the combination of these factors - lack of fitness base, a total of 45km solid running on the weekend, and a head cold that is now beginning to affect my chest - that explains my troubles this morning.  However, if the fatigue persists through to the weekend, I'll be considering whether another visit to the doctor is required.