Monday, August 22, 2011

Races, long runs, injury, recovery, and a few random thoughts about Dailymile

After that half marathon on the 23rd of July, my Achilles tendon really started hurting.  I didn’t realize it immediately how bad it was – it hurt after the race, but I figured it was just post-race aching.  In the week leading up to the race, my ankle/Achilles had been nagging at me, but it wasn’t terrible.  After the race however, something wasn’t right.  It felt like I had fractured my ankle or something, I don’t know but not good.  Ended up seeing a doctor, and he said it was likely Achilles tendinitis.  Seemed possible, I guess.  Anyway, once again I was taking it easy and getting nervous about being injured for a long duration.  I rested it for a few days, did some elliptical, and rested some more.  I don't get too worried about missing a couple days of running, but if it is a week or more I do start worrying about losing fitness.  It can take months to get to a level of fitness where you feel like you’re finally getting to where you want to be in your training.  But with high mileage training, I'm finding it's pretty easy for small aches to quickly grow into major problems if you're not careful, and then, yep, wind up on the injured list again.  Not fun.  Over the course of the next two weeks, I rested, worked out on the elliptical several times (which I consider to be several degrees more evil than any ‘dreadmill’ – it is just not my favorite machine), rested some more, and later on did some test runs to see if things were getting any better.  Finally, at the end of two weeks, things had healed up better than I had hoped, and I was running again.  Yay!  Very happy about that.  Of course I’m paying close attention to the Achilles now, in both legs.  Not sure if tendinitis can heal that fast or not, but I will take it.

By August 6th, I was running long again and happy.  But had missed several long runs according to my own Chicago Marathon training plan, so was feeling a little ‘behind the pack.’  Nearly 10 months ago, I registered for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon which was now coming up the following week, and I was really looking forward to running the race, even if it was only to use as a training run and not go after a PR, etc.  I just enjoy the race, the bands, and cheering, and it’s not a bad pre-marathon race to tune yourself up.  Anyhow, to cut to the chase, I had been struggling with how to plan my runs for that weekend since the race landed on a weekend with a planned 9-mile marathon pace run, and a 19-mile long run.  How to rearrange the schedule to best suit a 13.1-mile race?  In the end, I decided to do a 9-mile easy run on Saturday then the 13.1 mile race on Sunday followed by a 6 mile run (to get the 19 in), but simply run the race as a marathon pace run.  That seemed like it would work out fine, but I was not looking forward to running the Half and then going out however many minutes later and running another 6.  But, I went with that, and started my 9-miler on Saturday morning.  So, a few miles into it I realized I felt really great.  I mean great.  And quite coincidentally, I had conveniently packed several energy gels (Honey Stinger) since they expire soon and wanted to use them up.  So I decided the conditions were perfect to tack on another 10 to my 9 and call it a day.  Of course the wife would be expecting me, but another 10 would only set me back 70 to 80 minutes or so.  It was a good run and I didn’t feel too bad after that.  Quads were a little tight, but otherwise great.  With the 19-miler out of the way, I was free to run the Half without thinking about the long run or monkeying around with another 6 miles after the race.  I could just hit cruise control, enjoy the crowds, music, and of course the miles.  Certainly, I wasn’t in race condition - I'll be the first to admit that, but I did want to get a good pace run out of it, so I just tried to keep my splits consistent.  Interestingly, it was considerably different than the previous Half I did, where I went out a bit too hard, yet nailing the first 7 miles at a great pace, but then fell off and sputtered along at a pretty slow speed for the remainder.  For this one, I was able to hold onto a comfortable pace, but still beat my Fitness for America time by about a minute-twenty.  Technically it was a PR for me, but still strangely enough I believe I had a faster training run in March of this year.  Just before I got hurt the first time...

So, RNR was a week ago, and honestly I’m trying to not jinx myself by writing too much about injuries and pain (seems like I get injured after blogs like these), but the week since has gone relatively well.  I took it easy for a couple days after the race, and then got back into the training plan again.  The long 20-miler this past weekend went reasonably well.  I would have like to hold the pace better that day, but my running group disintegrated mid-way through the run (2 go off on their own ahead of us, and 1 drops behind - what was that guys?) so I did the second half on my own.  No big deal, but I also think I was still recovering from the 19+13.1 weekend.

The lakefront path has been extra busy lately with bikers, runners, parents and strollers, tourists, Air & Water show tents and attractions, etc.  I've had to play chicken with at least one cyclist (can everyone please run/ride on the right side of the path? please?).  On the plus side, the weather has been cooler and less humid this month than it was in July.  That has made a big and welcome difference.

This week is a step-back training week, so looking forward to a little rest, but so far I think I’ve been running quite a few miles.  I’ll have to be conscious of not doing too many.  Being on sites like dailymile.com (how did I even get on there?) make it kind of hard for the competitive (equals runner) type to not simply go out and blast through a billion miles simply for the sake of positioning on the leaderboard.  Does that sound incredibly stupid?  I don’t know, but yes, it does.  The whole idea of Dailymile might be somewhat self-destructive to runners, who, as a breed, are perhaps a bit too competitive to begin with.  Of course I don’t know why I care either – I’ve always run just for myself, and only want to improve upon what I’ve already done; and, yes, running is the enjoyment.   But, I suppose it’s hard not to automatically compare yourself to others when you’re involved with a bunch of people all in it with roughly the same passions and drive…?

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