13 November 2017

Gimpy racing and the seven-year itch

"Do as I say, not as I do ..."

Words offered by no great leader ever.

The past month or so I've managed to log about 410km on my feet, including two races.  Some might say that that's none too shabby - except that I know that I logged all of those miles on injured legs.

The stubborn part of me refused to accept what my body was trying to communicate - that after pacing The County Marathon this year I needed to scale back and take at least a few days off.  I'm well familiar with the studies and statistics that indicate how your body continues to undergo the process of necrosis (cellular damage/death) after an endurance event like a marathon, and how pushing through that post-race period without sufficient recovery exponentially increases the risk of injury, often as a result of unconscious (and imbalanced) compensation for muscular fatigue. 

But pride is a powerful and dangerous companion.

And so as soon as my pacing duties were over in Picton I took my normal Monday off and resumed training on Tuesday with about four weeks to go in preparation for helping my buddy Rick tackle the Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope.  Against all of my better instincts (and acquired knowledge) I told myself that I couldn't take my foot off of the gas pedal as I had to be in top form to be able to bump out another sub-3:30 marathon time.  Now ** please note ** that this is in no way Rick's responsibility to shoulder - this is all about me playing my cards foolishly.  I was the one who offered to pace Rick in his BQ attempt and I submitted the registration myself.  The last thing that I would want Rick to believe is that this was somehow all his doing when in fact none of it was - I was and will continue to be glad to be able to offer some small amount of help in the pursuit of his goal.

The first symptom that cropped up was a soreness just below my right kneecap - it was probably some IT band inflammation but it definitely hampered my ability to push hard on my speed workouts, and was only alleviated by running slower and shorter.

For better or for worse I managed to keep on plugging to the point that my knee wasn't locking up in pain while I slept, and I took that as a sign of progress.  But that only lasted until my hamstring started rebelling ...

I began to feel a real pain in my a** ... my armchair doctor diagnosis (ably assisted thanks to Google) was that it was either high hamstring tendinopathy or piriformis syndrome.  Whatever it was, it amounted to a stabbing pain deep in the center of my right buttock, and one that no amount of stretching or massage/hammering could alleviate.  My best guess is that it was connected to me running through my knee issues, and I just swapped one locus of aggravation for another.  What I did find out was that it was short-lived, perhaps in part due to the fact that just as it was raising its ugly head I had to relocate my at-home office and decided to opt for a sit/stand workstation.  The switch to standing 4-5 hours a day instead of lounging back in my office chair seemed to act in a therapeutic fashion, and my rearside pain only lasted about 36 hours.

Then it was back to my knee ... only different.

After only a few days of pain-negligible activity I began to feel a soreness radiating around the lateral side of my right kneecap.  It was probably the IT band acting up again but I'd have to say it felt different, although it affected my running gait all the same.   From time to time I'd do a pseudo-wrap of my knee with KT Tape (as my friend Christina observed about my application of the tape, "well, it looks like it's keeping your kneecap in place") which may or may not have helped me to power through the MEC Barrie Race Five (10k).  That particular race was originally to be a goal race for me where the aim was to finally clock the elusive sub-40 min. 10k ... however, I'd forgotten that it was the traditional pre-Hallowe'en event, and far be it from me not to dress up in costume when given the opportunity.  So on a rain late October Saturday I donned my best Angus Young outfit and put out a solid tempo run, weighed down by a soaking wet blue velour jacket.

This year's theme - favourite musicians/rock stars!

Feeling like I hadn't yet crossed the line of irreparable damage (yep, that's the flag on the field that I was waiting for ...) I stepped up to the start line for the Hamilton Marathon with Ricky in the hopes of getting him across in-between the 3:25 and the 3:30 mark.  His prep in advance of the race had gone well (with consistent Facebook posts declaring #ninjastrong and #bringonhamilton) and so it was up to me to try to keep him on track for the entire 42km.  Although the day of the race didn't pretend to offer ideal conditions (consistent rain and anticipated wind gusts up to 35 kph) it turned out to be a reasonably decent day to go long, and we were accompanied for good stretches of the course by other 3:25 hopefuls.
On the upside I managed to keep it together for most of the race, and we were able to get through 27km still on pace (according to my 3:25 pace band), but that's where things got a bit funky.  I wish that I could say that it had gotten funky for me, but it was Rick that was feeling some spasming in his calf that caused him to slow down.  However, in characteristic Rick fashion (because of his incredible mental focus and determination) he was able to claw his way back up to pace and so we spent the next 6km or so surging back and forth, still within reach of the sub-3:30.

However, as we hit my least favourite part of the course - the dreaded 'out and back' segment - Rick was hit with some kind of significant inner thigh/groin pull pain that reduced him to walking for 100m segments.  It was hard to see him struggle to this degree, knowing that his goal time was now slipping beyond our grasp - but I did my best to keep providing him with a moving target while not stretching the imaginary elastic band to the breaking point.  Still, Rick being the warrior he is managed to gut it out across the finish line in 3:43:34.

That's all mental fortitude folks ... #GoRickyGo!

I'm not sure that I've ever really come to the end of a racing season before where I felt like I wanted to take time off, but this year I knew that I needed to.  Call it overtraining, under-recovery or simply the effects of aging, my body wasn't going to have it any other way apart from a complete shutdown.  As such I've entered into a three-week hiatus from any running time on my feet - and this may well be the longest stretch that I will have gone without running since 2010 (perhaps the seven-year itch ...?).  But there's no getting around my need to rest, to heal, and eventually to re-tool for the upcoming year.  

I'm contemplating working with a coach once again as I think that I may need to break out of the self-coached stagnation/plateau that I seem to have hit.  My good buddy Stan reported that he found significant benefits in working with a coach (and if anybody knows the ins and outs of training and running science it's him) so I have a pretty good hunch that it might be to my benefit to have someone else tailor a program for me and to keep me accountable.

Thus was the late autumn of our discontent ... I'm currently enjoying sleeping in, putting on about 10 extra pounds and not feeling the pressure of keeping up with everyone on Strava.  We'll see what December holds, as all I've got on the radar is the Snowflake Series of road races in Orillia.  I sense a change - perhaps multiples changes - in the air.  

Stay tuned ...

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