“To Be or Not to Be? That Is the Question.”
No, actually, that’s not the question. The question is, “rest and be healed or not rest and heal?”
What are you getting at? I’m sitting here in a cabin at 7,464′ just northeast of Colorado Springs, 60 hours away from the IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder, wondering if my choice was the right one.
Who heads into their “A” race, having not run for a month? Me, that’s who! What? Why? The timing of that little calf “tweak” was interesting. Had it been a week closer to this race, not running ’til the race would have been a no-brainer. Had that slight strain been a week or two further out from this race, there would have been time to get back into some easy running and not lose that much fitness. What to do?
More than 50% of runners/triathletes in any calendar year deal with injuries. When we’re pushing the envelope in training and racing as much as possible, we live close to that red line of injury. Stay just below the line, and you’re fine, ready to kill it. Cross over that little red line and, “Ouch!” The challenge is that we don’t know exactly where that line is. Yes, we learn over the years what we think we’re capable of handling in training, but most personality types who do these crazy events aren’t good at holding back.
So, Saturday will be four weeks, four and half to be exact of no running. My calf felt sore after an 11-mile run four and a half weeks ago. The next day it was sorer, so I did some self-PT on it. Then went in and got some treatment and then I did something stupid. I raced the Sunday following that “little ouch.” I was signed up for the Shawnee Mission Olympic Triathlon in Kansas City. Already paid, hotel secured, etc. “I’ll be fine,” I told myself.
Shawnee Mission is a good race. Tough, but well run. There were some challenges, though. Almost half the swim was straight into the sun, and the bike is a multi-loop 4 ½ mile course with several very steep ups and screaming fast downs. I’ve been on flatter roller coasters. On the run, I started out very slowly to ease in to so as not to aggravate the calf. The second mile was mostly downhill. No problem. In the third mile, I started to feel it. Slowly the pain increased. Rats! Now, what to do?
Interestingly enough, I had taken a wrong turn on the run and ended up back at the start/finish area, having only covered three miles. (That’s a story for another blog.) At that point, I should have stepped off the course, taken a DNF, and called it a day, ending any further aggravation. But I thought, “Hey, let’s head back out on the course and cover 1.55 miles, turn around and come back, making it a full 10K and get a finish.
Being stupid, that’s what I did. I walked/jogged out and back and finished and yes, it hurt. In life, we’re supposed to finish what we start, right? It’s part of having solid character, right? Sometimes, it’s just dumb, as in this case. Yes, I won my age group. I also got last in my age group. You know what that means.
Four days was not enough to let whatever was wrong down there heal before the KC race. So, with four weeks ’til Boulder 70.3, what do I do? I decided that since I was an idiot before, I’d try to keep it to once a month and just rest the leg. Yes, I would be losing run fitness during those weeks, but hopefully, being fully healed for Boulder.
I did keep up with all my core and lower body strength work. I did water run. I did walk a lot. I did a LOT of PT on it. I ate every anti-inflammatory pill ever made. I wore compression sleeves and used my recovery boots. I used my Firefly devices. It took about ten days not to feel it when I walked and then another ten days not to feel it when I did PT on it. So now, 60 hours out, what will happen?
Short answer is, I have no idea. It’s strange to start a race having no idea how it will unfold injury-wise. I know I’m ready for a good swim and pretty solid bike. Training has gone great in those area. But, when I get off the bike, I have no idea if I’ll make it a mile, 4 miles, 8 miles or the whole 13. No idea. Again, a strange feeling. I am hoping and praying for the best, though.
Lessons I’m reminded of:
• Always err on the safe side of training, especially if it’s mid-season and you’ve got big races coming up.
• Don’t let your “B” and “C” races destroy your “A” race by being too competitive and stupid.
• Better to skip a race and not further injure yourself. Go volunteer instead or do the Aqua-Bike or a team relay.
• Trust your base. If you’ve had good training in any given year, you’ll not lose all your fitness in a few weeks (though you will lose some).
• Do what you CAN do. Water run, elliptical machine, stair stepper, fast walking, etc. If the injury is running-related, swim and bike more. Keep up or even increase the strength/resistance work.
• If it hurts to do it, don’t do it.
• Adjust your race expectations and just go have fun.
Well, we’ll see what happens. Several friends from Omaha are also doing this race, so good encouragement should be shouted to each other out there. I’ll really need it, and if things go sideways on me, I’ll be a cheerleader for the rest of them. Either way, it’s going to be OK!