The key factor in winter training for me has always been "get conditioned, but recover and/or don't get injured"
This year was the first year without any shin splints. I attribute this to most of the long stuff done on trails.
I went back to the basics recently and realized I have been doing my recovery runs too fast. I think I always knew this, but lacked the discipline to slow down. I think I had an issue with running an 8.5 - 9 minute mile pace after a 10 mile run at 7:15. My ego is fragile.
So, winter plan has turned into a PATIENCE plan on maintaining while building in key areas. "Base Training" is not what I would call it, as I could not run until February, quickly ramp up 1 month, and could comfortably run 40-50 miles per week.
I call it maintenance, because it is what it sounds. What I lose in long distance training (runs over 20 miles), I gain in better LT and hill training.
Yesterday was to be a long run, 15-20 miles. After Steve mentioned the forecast, thanks man, I decided to take it indoor on the dreadmill, or "treatmill" (Adam). My concept of maintenance was not to get injured, or beat myself into oblivion, so I left the 15-20 mile run open to adjustment if needed.
I did a .5 mile warm up at 8:35 pace at 2% incline, and then increased it to 8 min. mile. My HR kept under 150 until mile 12. I then reduced the pace to 10 min. mile for .5 to 1 mile, then back up to 8:35 for 1-2 miles. I was trying to minimize the time I spent in over 150 HR. I could have done the first 12 at 8:35, but was afraid I would lose focus from boredom.
It was a good learning run for me. I ended up doing 16 miles, and my HR only got into to upper 150's briefly, never 160. I used to always spend significant time in the 160's during long runs.
Results today, no pain! Some slight soreness, but no danger signs.
My recovery run today will be at a 9 minute pace for 6 miles. If I feel ill effects coming on from this training approach, I will back off.
I will be in Chicago over next weekend, so probably will miss a few days, which will help cushion.
So the conclusion from what I am learning, which everybody already knows
Recovery days - 2 minutes slower pace than LT pace
Long runs - 1 - 1.5 minutes slower than LT pace
And for now, no VO2 workouts (maybe none for the next year)
And for those who expressed concern for my training methods, take the gloves off and give me some real crap. No sugar coating here!