Thursday, December 31, 2009

The upside of lazywussyunmotivatedness

snowy cleveland
Technically, training for the Pittsburgh Marathon started a few weeks ago. In reality, I think it will start tomorrow: the ultimate day to start all things awesome.

I'm no resolutionist, but, man, have I been lazy.

I don't think I've properly trained or regularly run since September (and let's just say my eating—short of an invigorating cleanse—has followed suit), so I'm really uncertain what I'm starting with. Tomorrow will tell.

Yesterday hinted a little bit. I tied on my new trail shoes (props to E-Speed for giving me the idea last winter to try them on the snow—they work like a charm!) and hit the snowy streets with Neil. We ran 4.5 at medium effort (~9/mile). Between the snow and cold, which I still haven't accepted, I thought the pace and effort bode well for me.

But even better than that: my achilles didn't swell after the run for the first time in 7-8 months.

My left achilles (followed by my left shin, calf and knee) has ached with varying degrees of frustrating discomfort, stiffness and sharp pains since April 2009. That pain led to an even more frustrating round of shin splints for the Cleveland Marathon. It came and went all summer, and then finally flared a bunch after the Akron Half and Turkey Trot. So, I've tried to rest, rest, rest for the past three months. But I'm a little dumb when it comes to rest.

Unless, of course, it's super cold and snowy outside.

Since September, I've run 2-3 times each week, completing whatever mileage and pace worked for Neil. Probably not a great plan for either of us. But I've supplemented with aerobics, yoga and strength training 6-7 days/week.

What's more: I've gotten pretty good about icing my swollen pieces and should get a T-shirt soon that reads, "I heart R.I.C.E." I feel like my achilles has been mending and all this down-time isn't for naught.

None of this smart off-the-road treatment, however, has motivated me to run. In fact, I just took my mom's NordicTrack (xc skiier) to ride next to my bike trainer. When I'm not riding that.

Neil on the trotFollowing Cleveland, I think I wavered much on my training motivation and, for that matter, devotion. While I had a pretty decent year in 2009, I often wondered whether I cared enough about racing to keep it up. And it's kind of an important ingredient when you're training for time in a marathon. Sigh. New year, new me?

On a much brighter side, Neil's become quite the runner, even braving dark, cold and rainy nights to run miles alone. He had been bouncing around in heavy cotton sweatshirts and bulky pants before he scored some great winter running clothes (the photo is from the Turkey Trot, not awesome winter-running). It's only a matter of time before he passes me in a race.

Maybe that's where I can find my motivation.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Holidays

Here's wishing everyone merry holidays —Christmas, Festivus, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, various new years, birthdays, anniversaries, new children and pie-eating contests— this year and plenty of happy miles, races and PRs in the new year.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The art of healing

Even with the stress fracture a few years ago, I count myself lucky for not suffering any serious injuries my whole athletic life. Suddenly I feel like I’m tight-roping the border between the good life and something much more uncool.

It all started last April when I just finished a 10-mile tempo. My training for a 3:40 Cleveland Marathon was beautifully on schedule and on pace. But as I turned down my street at the end of a cool down, I felt an ache near my left ankle. It was my achilles tendon.

Knowing that my achilles was nothing to mess with, I took off I couple days. Then the shin splints struck. (You know the story: I felt paralyzed for the first 30-40 minutes of any run and could almost never stretch into my normal pace.) My limited motion probably protected my achilles from being overused, but once the splints cleared up, and I continued training this summer, the achilles ache came and went.

Well, it’s back with a vengeance now. So, I’ve taken off 2.5 weeks (since the Turkey Trot) and I’m not sure it’s done the trick. I cheated with an easy 3-miler on Saturday and I’ve felt achy today.

What a tricky thing this achilles is, however. It’s tight and painful when I wake up in the morning, and can get a little tweaky throughout the day, but the pain doesn’t hinder my stride when I’m running. In fact, after a warm-up I don’t notice the tendon at all.

Some side effects: I’ve been getting some pain in my shins when I run and some afterward too. My sciatic nerve knocks lightly sometimes to remind me that it’s still there. And only every once in a while, I feel what seems like a resultant tightness somewhere else in my leg, like my hamstring or around my knee.

Like everything else in running, though, healing takes time. Especially the achilles. That part of your heel gets lower blood flow than other reaches of your extremities, so healing often takes a long time. And let’s just say rupturing the thing is the scariest thing you can read about doing.

(Pause to shudder and cry.)

So, I sit here on the eve of training for the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 2, wondering if I should give it another week… wondering whether another week should be a month… wondering whether a week or a month would do any good… wondering whether I should just run through it… wondering if I should just break on running all together until my achilles feels perfect.

After Saturday’s test run, I feel inclined to go both ways. Because my achilles aches today, I feel like I shouldn’t run at all. Because the three miles really stunk, I feel like I should get running fast—there’s no way this body’s running 26.2 any time soon!

When I visited Dr. T last spring regarding my shin splints, he checked out my achilles, but it wasn’t as achy at that time as it is now. I’m not sure, aside from shaming me into rest right now, what could be done for it. Is that, however, a reason to not get it checked out? Is the achiness I feel just something I must live with to train for endurance? Oh, these eternal questions.

1. Follow my training schedule, follow my feelings. I start with four miles on Monday morning with no assigned paces for the week. It’s worth a try. I just need to stay vigilant and honest.

2. Warm up like I mean it. Short and simple: I rarely do a proper warm-up and push myself to hit paces right out of the gate and wonder why I don’t hit my paces as often as I like and why I hurt. I think we all know the answers to my questions.

3. Rest when and where I can. My training schedule, for the most part, allows a day of non-impact cross-training between days of running. I’ll have to optimize rest and stretching for my achilles (and the rest of my body) on these days.

4. Return to yoga. Strange this about me is that I’m all about yoga (like seven days a week, 2-3 sessions a day) during some times of year. But oftentimes when I’m training for a race, I skip it altogether. I realize how much it helps me relax and heal. Now I just need to shed the lazy and hop to it… on the mat.

5. Get hot and then get icy. It’s time to get serious about warming up, using heat, seeking massage and icing my injuries. There’s more to healing and treatment than stretching and sitting. I will heart RICE.

I hadn’t intended to be dealing with an injury at the outset of a 19-week plan, but what marathon training doesn’t get interesting? May will be here before I know it. I hope my achilles will be on board for a marathon by then.