What's that old saying? It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt?
Well, in the past several weeks, the fun and games stopped for my friends Dave and Darryl, who've had to scratch from fall marathons because of stress fractures. Another running buddy, Chris, recently went down with an Achilles tendon injury; he's crushed to be missing the Marine Corps Marathon this month. Then last week, I learned that a friend who was planning to run Chicago next weekend with her husband will have to go it alone because he has a stress fracture in his tibia. Fun and games: OVER.
Needless to say, I should know better than to overdo it... which is why the first half of last week made so much sense (but felt so incredibly miserable), and why the second half made almost none (but felt so incredibly awesome).
This is what Week 12 of my 16-week training program for the New York City Marathon on Nov. 1 called for:
Monday: Easy 7.
Tuesday: Mile repeats -- 2-mile warmup, 4x1 @ 10K pace (with 800m recovery), 2-mile cooldown.
Thursday: Easy 7.
Friday: Easy 8.
Saturday: 15-mile long run.
And this is how the week actually went down:
Sunday: Easy 7.5. I decided to forgo the rest day because the previous morning -- Saturday, Sept. 26 -- I'd ditched a 20-miler so I could do the Hit the Brixx 10K and 5K. That afternoon, while mowing my stupid backyard, I started to feel a tugging in a muscle in my lower left leg. (For the record, I felt like a million bucks after the races; I remain pretty sure I did something to it while cutting the grass, which is like a NASCAR driver getting hurt while changing a light bulb.)
Monday: Easy 5. Within the first mile, I could feel some pain. It was like a butter knife was being dug into my leg, about calf-high, but more on the outside of the leg than the back. Not long after I stopped, though, it felt more like a steak knife. In another day and age, who knows how I would have reacted? In this day and age -- with Facebook, and with me having maybe 100 hardcore runners as friends, maybe more -- I got a lot of feedback when I posted a status update saying I was in pain. One friend suggested I get to a orthopedist pronto, and it snowballed into people recommending specific docs around town. It prompted a mini-panic attack, and I made an appointment with Dr. Clay at Greenapple for that afternoon. I feared the worst on the drive down Park Road ... even though the pain had subsided considerably. Forty-five minutes and $158 later (haven't met my deductible for the year), I had a diagnosis: mildly strained soleus muscle. Recommendation: a few days' rest. Long-term outlook: "Uh, I think you'll live."
Tuesday: Rest. Made more difficult by virtue of it being one of the 10 most beautiful days of the year.
Wednesday: Rest. Made more difficult by virtue of it being one of the five most beautiful days of the year.
Thursday: Rest. Made more difficult by virtue of it being perhaps the most beautiful day of the year.
Friday: Easy 5 on the Davidson College cross-country trails. Ecstatic to be back out there. Soleus pain never got higher than a 2 on the 1-to-10 scale, but annoyingly, I got shin splints.
Saturday: 20-mile long run. As many of you know, NYC will be my first marathon ever, and it's worth noting here that this was the longest long run I've ever done in my life. Three weeks ago, I cranked out 19 on a day when I was only supposed to do 18, but then two weeks ago, I cut a 20-miler short (at 19) because the humidity was killing me and I'd overhydrated to the point where I felt like there was a water balloon in my stomach. But this past Saturday -- with so much rest behind me and cool temps propping me up even more -- I breezed to the 20, averaging an 8:33 pace and finishing strong with a 7:43 final mile. Pain never got higher than a 2.
Sunday: OK, so Sunday is my normal rest day, and conventional wisdom definitely suggests that after putting in 20 miles on a Saturday, one rests on Sunday. But ... rewind to Hit the Brixx, where I ran into Scott Campbell, founder of Garrett's Wings, a nonprofit organization that supports research for infantile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses and provides help and nonmedical care for terminally ill children and their families. (His son Garrett died of infantile NCL at age 2 in 2007.) Anyway, during our great chat, Scott invited me to compete in the Take Flight sprint triathlon at NOMAD aquatic center in Huntersville. And despite the fact that my priority is New York, that I hadn't been swimming in more than a week and hadn't been biking in more than two, that my 20-miler wasn't budging -- I couldn't resist the opportunity to do one more tri in 2009.
I took for granted I'd be sore from the previous day's run, and throughout the week I'd been telling people I'd just "enjoy" the 250-yard pool swim, the 10-mile bike and the requisite 5K. But as soon as the race official said "GO!," all that talk about having fun and taking it easy went out the window. Like at Lake Norman in August, my full-throttle pace in the water and on the bike only makes me a midpacker for those legs, but I crushed the hilly run course in 21:48 (just 26 seconds off my standalone 5K PR) and finished in 1:02:16 -- 60th overall male out of 351, 13th out of 65 in my age group (35-39).
The air was a little chilly coming out of the pool but otherwise the weather was near-perfect, and the event was pulled off pretty much flawlessly by organizers. Big field; good crowd support; amply stocked post-race snack spread; much more convenient parking situation than Latta or LKN (the other two tris I did in '09); best race tee I've gotten all year (long-sleeved dark-blue technical with solid logo); and a terrific cause. Triathletes of all skill levels should strongly consider this one in 2010.
Bottom line: It wasn't all fun and games this week, but I didn't get hurt. And while I know I wouldn't get away with overdoing it like this forever, today, I did. Oh -- tomorrow? I'm RESTING.
Four weeks till New York, folks. Stay with me...