So here's the deal.......for those of you out there in 'Netville.........when you've had to deal with a running-related injury, how did you know how long to sit it out to help things heal. I'm not talking about your everyday run-of-the-mill soreness, but the kind of hurt that will make you stop running and start walking home?
I ran 18 miles on the Boston Marathon course last Saturday, and by Sunday morning, there was soreness in the anterior tibial ligament (see, I looked it up!) of my right foot. I didn't try to run on it until Tuesday, but after little more than a mile, I felt the need to shut it down. I didn't want to take the chance of making things worse, so I figured I'd play it safe.
So I didn't run on it at all until yesterday's half marathon (The Half of Quincy - Quincy, MA). My time goals for the day? Well, in my most delerious fantasies, I was actually considering RACING this half, and shooting for a new PR (2:01). Had I been perfectly whole, I probably would've gone for it and seen just how hard I could go for 13.1.......but it was pretty clear all week that it wasn't going to be happening. Considering how my focus in training has been keeping things "under control", I then tried to think about just what would be a reasonable time goal given that I had no idea if I'd even be able to finish the race. I then settled on a range between 2:10 and 2:15, figuring that adding roughly a minute per mile from my previous PR would be reasonable.
It's amazing to look at the difference between 2:01 and 2:15.....when I look at the results from this half marathon, that's the difference between finishing 853rd and finishing 1183rd out of 1426 finishers. Now I'll be the first to admit that I'm slow as molasses on my best day, but anytime I pin a number to my running shirt, I'm going to try to do my best. Even though I know I'm always going to finish in the bottom half, I still want to be at the UPPER end of that bottom half. In this particular half marathon, the dividing line (time-wise) was 1:56.34, so if I hadn't been hurt, would I have acheived my goal? It was a gorgeous day to run, so I truly believe that a sub-2 hour half-marathon was within my grasp......thankfully, there will be other days.
The temps at the 9am start were in the mid-40's, so I was wearing lightweight gloves......and a long-sleeve jersey under my favorite red Asics jersey, along with blue Adidas shorts. I love my Adidas shorts...mostly because they're super comfortable and they have a handy little zippered pocket in back. I had stuffed 2 GU packets in there, along with the key to my Honda, but shortly after starting to run, it became obvious that leaving all that in my back pocket would pull my shorts down. While I'm not a modest person, I don't believe in running naked, so clearly I needed to come up with a solution....QUICKLY! I reached back, took out the GU and put one inside each glove, leaving the car key in the back pocket. I certainly won't be wearing the blue shorts for the marathon! In my previous marathon, I wore my black Adidas shorts which, while comfortable, fit tighter overall and will allow me to cram 4 or 5 GU's in the little pocket, although I might try to either pin them to my shorts or find some other solution.
Anyhow, I started off fairly conservatively, running the first 4 miles in about 39 minutes (9:24, 9:30, 10:06, 9:52), when I first started feeling some little twinges out of the foot....nothing major, but just a little "uh oh". I then backed off my pace, just trying to relax and enjoy the beautiful day. The temps had warmed up dramatically, and the breezes felt nice on the skin. There were also long stretches along the beach, affording the runners nice views of Boston. Of course, by backing off my pace, I started to give back time in miles 5-8 (10:26, 10:08, 10:35, 10:21) by walking more than I had intended. In addition, the course was hillier than I had imagined (or had been led to believe by the course description on the website!).
Around mile 8, I started to feel some pain coming from my already-enflamed tendon. At that point, I tried to relax (DON'T PANIC - right, Mike?) and kept moving forward. My goal was to run as much as possible and bring the thing home as best I could, but I needed to be careful that I didn't alter my stride to try to alleviate the pain. It wasn't that bad, more like twinges...but I knew that it was going to probably cause me difficulty after I finished.....and I was determined to finish! So onwards I trudged.....my splits for miles 9-12 (10:41, 10:41, 11:00, 10:52) were indicative of how I was feeling....and how much I was walking. My final split (10:17) reflected my desire to hit the line, stop my Garmin, collect my medal, and get home to my family.
So I finished.....2:13.03
All things considered, I'm totally happy with my "performance". As I sit here staring at my still slightly swollen lower right leg, I cannot complain. I take a great amount of pride in the fact that I finished what I started and managed to do it in a way that didn't end up with me in a wheelchair. With 4 weeks (OMG....4 weeks!!!!) left until the Boston Marathon, I know I'm going to be able to make the distance, but I want to be able to run strong and finish well. My only real concern right now is how much time off to take before trying to run again. While I was scheduled to run 20 miles this weekend, that's DEFINITELY not going to happen. I might be starting my taper a bit earlier than originally intended, but I probably should run a few times between now and the Marathon. I'm thinking I'm going to wait until the weekend to run again.......giving my tendon an opportunity to heal a bit.
To make matters worse, the weather here in New England has been RIDICULOUS....temps every day in the 70's. While I'd definitely wish for cooler temps on Marathon Monday, the temps are perfect for my training. Living here in New England for so long, I know how crazy our spring weather can be, so the fact that we've had virtually no snow to speak of this winter, it could be snowing on April 16th, so I'm not taking anything for granted. It's just damned frustrating not being able to run when the weather is so conducive......but I'm just afraid to really do damage.
So I'm officially "on the shelf"......the complicating factor is that I'm a classroom teacher, which requires me to be on my feet all day every day. Rest, ice (when I can), elevation, ibuprofen.....they're all good, but it's next to impossible for me to partake of any of that when I'm with my students. I know....I know.....once again, Bill goes "Boo Hoo". I'm just going to keep doing the best I can to get ready for my appointment with Boston in 4 weeks.
BTW, I'm runner #22243, Wave 3, Corral 5.......wish me luck!