03 March 2014

discipline and the hurt locker

on a recent group run our 'leader' commented to me that he thought that i would surprise myself at how well i could compete in ultramarathons - partly because of the distances that i was covering in training (the week prior to our conversation i'd hit 121km/75mi) but also because of the discipline that i had in including various speed workouts and recovery days.

it reminded me of the conversation that brought me into a relationship with my coach last year - he also mentioned that he was willing to take me on because he recognized that i was disciplined enough to put in the requisite work.

whenever i hear this said of me, i'm encouraged.  

i'm also reminded not to distort the meaning or let it go to my head.

this past saturday i put in what i would consider a really tough 34k run on horrible road conditions - 10-15cm of moderately soft snow in sub-freezing temperatures.  

it felt like running through beach sand the entire way.

while i prided myself on completing the day's run, some of my joints decided to voice their displeasure with me later that night during my sleeping hours - in particular my knee.

once before i'd had this nearly unbearable pain running up the medial side of my left kneecap while lying in bed.  i couldn't stand to bend it, and i couldn't lie on my side in a way that applied any pressure to it.  it was discernibly swollen.

yup - sounds like an MCL (medial collateral ligament) sprain.  

i've had this experience once before - about four months ago, after running my first ever double workout day.  then i thought that i'd just gone out too hard in my second run.  this time i think that it was the combination of unstable terrain and breakdown in form over the course of a long distance.  regardless, it left me hurting.

the thought of having to take an unplanned rest day was far from appealing - besides, i'm 'too disciplined' for that!  but i've also learned that being disciplined is about recognizing that sometimes your body is screaming at you to pay attention - a different sensation than it nagging at you to just give it up already - and that doing so is just as important as inputting more miles into the garmin.

as such, i've banked an extra day off yesterday and taken my normal rest day today.  it feels like a mini-vacation, but last night's sleep felt like a million bucks compared to the night before - plus all swelling has disappeared and there's no residual pain standing, sitting or climbing stairs.  the plan is get back at it tomorrow.

so do you think that i'm a wuss?  would you have gutted it out where i turned back?  or do you think that i'm a numbskull for launching myself back into the fray so quickly?  

i'm no M.D. (or even B.Sc. for that matter!), so all this self-diagnosis is sketchy at best.  but i must say that i feel good about being able to deviate from the training plan with time off and not feel like a traitor.



  1. Not usually a good idea to run when your body says otherwise...I've done it before and ended up being fine, but I've also run when I shouldn't have and made things worse.
    It's cliché, but you can't lose your fitness by skipping one run...but you can throw away months of fitness by hurting yourself when you should be resting.
    Running through this winter is all the proof you need that you're no wuss!

    1. wise words, mike! i know that it's a bit of a roll of the dice ... and for sure each of us has a unique gauge in terms of knowing when to disengage/re-engage. it's funny how one's athletic ego can try to convince oneself that all of the scientific evidence supporting the fact that only a sliver of fitness is lost over the first week of non-exercise (http://runnersconnect.net/running-injury-prevention/losing-running-fitness/) is bunk. :)

      i'm willing to invest a little bit of extra time off in exchange for an optimal racing season!

  2. Interestingly, yet not surprisingly, the more I learn about training, running, nutrition, the more I've learned to simply trust my body. If it doesn't' want to run, it lets me know. The problem with humans sometimes is we think we know more than we actually do. And this is when we get ourselves in trouble the most.

    Rest away and come back stronger next time. Trust your body. BTW, 121km...very nice work.

    1. ah stan - my compatriot! i know that you know whereof i speak ... and what's interesting about this human is that the older i get the more i recognize how little i know ...!

      i really do appreciate you pointing me in matt fitzgerald's direction, as reading "Run" has certainly inspired me to be more attentive to the feedback that comes from the inside out.

      i hope to someday be able to peak at your 160km/wk mileage - i think that this round of training might top out at 140km.