Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The fine line between being a wuss and being injured

Most people who run deal with a manageable amount of pain...probably on a daily basis. Running is not supposed to be easy. If you push yourself then you may get faster, but running that mile or 10 miles, or 50 miles at pace always takes a bit out of you. In my case I went on a vacation in March...and didn't run at all. On return I figured I probably hadn't lost all that much fitness since my wife and I had been fairly active during our trip and decided to dive right in. My first "long" run was a paltry 12 miles...with almost 4,000 feet of elevation gain. A slight twinge in the back and a somewhat sore ankle (STUPID LEFT ANKLE) were the only casualties for the trip so I figured I'd step the mileage up again the following week. I ended up going on a 14 mile road/trail adventure over in Boston (There for Abel and Sara's awesome wedding) and unfortunately re aggravated my left ankle during a slight slip up in an outdoor area that Bostonians call the fels. No worries...I was able to run the following two days and felt pretty decent. I figured I was on pace to get myself into decent enough shape to suffer my way through the 34 miler that I had signed up for on April 30th. (I know it was originally going to be 50...suffice it to say I'm an idiot and didn't realize a month of zero running would be highly detrimental to my training) All of this just set me up for a week of pain...and my first big running failure. A DNF would've been preferable to the DNS that I now have for the Capitol Peak 55K.

I almost always try to push through the little aches and pains that pop up from every day life. Perhaps you sleep awkwardly the night before a run and have some nagging pain in your back before your jog, or maybe a late night flight causes your leg muscles to stiffen up. All of these things make it that much more difficult to buckle down, put on your gear and head out the door. Once out though these nagging issues usually fall by the wayside and one can relish in the run. Unfortunately I hadn't counted on back spasms and ankle issues.

This past week was really a double dose of pain for me. My ankle still hadn't fully healed but I knew that I could push through it providing I didn't completely wreck it during my training. The prospect of running 34 miles on a tender ankle also wasn't my idea of intelligent running. I knew that I would have to protect the ankle but also wanted to get some speed work and climbing in so I could be as prepared as possible for my "race". Two speed work sessions during the week had me optimistic as I was running fairly fast and wasn't worn out from the training. On the weekend though I could tell that I was done and wouldn't be racing on April 30th within the first 3 minutes of what I intended to be my long run. I pulled up almost immediately after setting foot on the trail with back spasms. I've never had back spasms before. They are extremely unpleasant and I really hope to never suffer from them again. (Unlikely) Being my idiot self I simply stopped for a few minutes until they went away, adjusted my running form a bit and continued on my run. As any runner can attest to though, changing ones running form can have fairly disastrous consequences when expending any decent amount of effort. I felt like I had zero pep in my legs on every uphill, I had to walk more of the sections than usual and I was paranoid on the downhill as I now had a weak back and a shoddy ankle to coddle. By mile 10 I was almost completely wiped out and as such when my running buddy Doug presented us with an alternative route that would shave a few miles off of our proposed run I figuratively leaped at the opportunity, hobbled off and finished the abbreviated training session much worse for wear.

At this point I knew I was done. No April 30th race for me. I figured I would train through the week, perhaps log 35-40 miles and would continue to build on this through May and June and knock one out of the park at White River on July 30th. This is still my plan...but this past week was terrible. Instead of 35-40 I ran 17 lowest weekly total since my December break. (Not counting my 0 mile total in March) I've since found out that my back issue was actually tied to a tight glute and hamstring. Some stretching seems to be helping there so I don't anticipate any long term issues. The ankle is feeling better as well. I figure I need to stay away from any severe climbing for a few weeks, get some fitness back and then ease into the mountains. My plans right now are to tackle a 50K in mid-June, take a road trip to Western States 100 a couple weeks later for some much  needed inspiration and then spend a fair bit of my free time on the weekends up in the Mount Rainier area familiarizing myself with the terrain. If all goes well I'm hoping to build to a sub 10 hour finish in my first 50 miler. A guy can dream right?