This weekend marks the halfway point of the year. Unbelievably, 2017 is halfway over. Man, that happened fast.
I’ve been lucky so far this year, enjoying relative good health and staying injury-free despite having run three half marathons and put in enough miles to keep me on pace to have my highest mileage year ever, surpassing my previous record all the way from 2003!
So I got a little cocky. I guess maybe I thought that a good few months meant that I cracked the code. I must be doing something right, and now I’ll be able to continue running as many miles and as many races as I want! A PR in my most recent half had me making all kinds of plans about my training trajectory. Maybe my thirties are my time to shine!
But even at the beginning of that latest race, a sneaky little spot on my left Achilles was starting to flare up. Usually it would just feel a little tight at the beginning of a run and then loosen up as I got started. The race was the first time I really paid attention to it since I was listening to all of my body’s subtle messages during the first mile or so … wondering how my race would go. By the time I cleared that first big hill and started running the flat terrain to the finish, it had loosened up, and I’d pretty much forgotten about it.
Over the next few weeks, I cut back a little bit on my mileage, told myself that I was recovering, but still found myself hobbling to the bathroom first thing in the morning because the back of my ankle and calf were so tight. I actually even took about four consecutive days off at one point.
But did I ice? Did I use Advil? Did I truly rest it? No. And why? I got greedy! I wanted to write down those mileage numbers. I wanted to keep this pace!! I was actually improving my times, and I was afraid to experience a setback. I thought that taking too much time off would RUIN all my progress.
So instead, I kept running. Not enough to improve, mind you. Just enough to stay slightly injured. Just enough to keep me from actually healing. With each week that went by, despite running relatively low mileage, my Achilles/calf pain was getting worse instead of better.
So this week, I finally sucked it up. I skipped an 8 mile run with my dad, something I’m reluctant to do because 8 mile running partners are hard to find. And in a last-ditch effort to salvage my high mileage year and have a strong fall season, I decided to be proactive. It turns out that to run more miles, the answer might be to run less. At least in the near short-term.
So I did the following: Made a list of cross-training options, planned a lot of healthy meals so I wouldn’t feel like I was sitting around getting fluffy, scheduled a massage, added “ice and Advil” to my daily to-do list, and committed to ten days without running.
And then I did the following: skipped all my cross-training because I’m completely absorbed by the new business I’m starting, rescheduled my massage twice (once because the therapist had to reschedule and then once because I had to – still holding out hope for next week), generally forgot to ice and use Advil because I didn’t have a constant painful reminder from my run each day, became cranky and agitated from lack of exercise, felt guilty for not exercising, and ultimately questioned whether my time off was useful or just a lazy excuse to take time off. Ten days off running sounds luxurious, but it feels like absolute trash.
It only took a couple days before my morning walk to the bathroom felt completely normal, so obviously I was tempted to bail on my plan. However, a brief two minute jog while waiting for the hung-over idiot part-time employee to open the gym (15 minutes late) on Sunday morning revealed that my calf did still, in fact, have some more healing to do. The speed with which I noticed the area flare up (immediately) reassured me that my plan to continue resting for the remainder of the week was a sound plan.
As the sun rises on this next Sunday morning, I will have gone without running for ten full days and intend to start out slow tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes. I might feel sluggish and slow – kind of off my game. I might feel fresh and energetic (probably not). Or that calf might still be a little tight. I’ll come up with a plan when the time comes. Wish me luck! (Afterall, I’ve got a fall Castle Run to prepare for.)