So there is a chance that I will not be able to run the Olympic Trials. For those that have been keeping up with my comeback, things had been going well and progressing quickly. All along there was a high chance that rushing back to fitness might have setbacks, but I was confidently keeping my thoughts on February 13th.
Since October 20th when my stress fracture was confirmed, I had not ONCE thought I would not make it to the line in LA. Sure, I knew I would be far from my best, but I never once considered I wouldn’t get there. Sadly, 5 days ago those utterly depressing words came out of my mouth.
After 10 weeks and hours and hours of cross training, I was back to working out on solid ground and feeling quite good. Yes, the phantom pains were evident on some days but there had been no setbacks to speak of. I was cautiously moving ahead with an ever growing confidence that I may have just weathered the worst of the storm.
Unfortunately last week I developed some nasty blisters underneath by big toe nails. (I’ll resist the urge to post a picture; just imagine black, blue, grey, and any other sickly color you can think of and that’s about what they look like.) These blisters on their own were nothing more than a temporary, albeit painful, thing but as so often happens I slightly altered my stride to avoid the pain for 2 easy runs. TWO RUNS! 5 MILES AND 6 MILES! And at the end of that 6 mile run I had screwed up my peroneal tendon on the outside of my left foot from all the over-compensation.
I limped through a 2 hour run the next day where I most likely didn’t run a mile under 8 minute pace due to the pain and discomfort (bad idea). I took the next 2 days off and tried again later in the week with similar results. I then made my way to Tampa to visit Dr. Brian Fullem who gave me an injection to hopefully clear out the inflammation in that tendon. I am currently waiting to see if it works. Pete said I need to be able to run without pain by Thursday of this week or we have to pull the plug.
First of all, running is heartbreaking. Running is an amazing sport when things are clicking but it is absolutely heartbreaking when injuries pop up. And it even more heartbreaking when one injury leads to another injury which leads to another. This cycle can wear down even the most motivated athletes. Depressing doesn’t even begin to describe it.
There is nothing more intoxicating and addicting than being in the middle of a great long run or race when you are in full control of your effort to go fast. Your legs are light but working hard and your breathing is heavy but controlled because you are fit. Only a runner can understand what this feels like. It’s a sensation that is often fleeting and short-lived but it can sustain an athlete for years! A taste of peak fitness is addicting beyond words.
I haven’t felt good in almost a year. I was incredibly fit last winter in Florida as I was preparing for the 2015 Houston Half and LA Marathon. I was flying in workouts and feeling invincible until my very last workout in Tallahassee in February. February 20th to be exact. It was a 2k-1k-500 workout at the St. Mark’s Greenway. I opted to not wear full tights in 30 degree temperatures and my calf got tight during my last set. This injury eventually caused me to not start the LA Marathon and shift my focus to the Boston Marathon.
There were some good sessions leading into Boston, notably a 4 mile-3 mile-2 mile-1 mile long run on the marathon course, but overall something was slightly off. On race day I felt quite good through 16 miles or so (on pace for 2:17-18) but then hamstring cramping ruined the rest of that day. I finished the race, which I am still very proud of, but then dealt with hamstring issues for the next 6 months.
Amazingly, through all of the hamstring stuff I ran over 90 miles per week for 15 straight weeks after my break following Boston. Stubborn doesn’t even begin to explain it.
Then, the hamstring attachment crap directly led (IMO) to my stress fracture and my stress fracture has led to this tendon issue. Blah, blah, blah.
Here’s a timeline of how my last year has gone:
January 18, 2015: 1:04.06 Houston Half. Sub-par day but had fantastic training leading in.
February 8, 2015: 2:29 workout during Tallahassee Marathon. 31 mile day. Felt great!
February 20, 2015: 2k-1k-500 x4 workout. Great session. Calf strained in freezing degree temperatures on last 1k repeat. NOTE: wear full tights even if it’s a workout, dumbass!
March 10, 2015: Pulled out of starting the LA Marathon due to calf injury.
April 20, 2015: 2:23 in Boston. 27th place. Terrible hamstring cramping from 16 miles to the finish.
May 8, 2015: First day I indicated in my log that my hamstring/glute were hurting.
June 6, 2015: Asheville 10k, 2nd place. Hamstring hurt every step of the race.
June 30, 2015: Pete and I decide we won’t run any more races until the hamstring heals. Mileage continues however.
July 12-18, 2015: Active release treatment by Rob Green in Richmond to clear out hamstring damage.
August 29, 2015: 2 hour, 5 minute long run with Griff. Realized after this run I couldn’t get ready for Twin Cities Marathon because hamstring was still bugging me.
October 3, 2015: 19:43, 2nd place at Apple Fest 4 miler in Erwin, TN. Muscled through the entire thing with hamstring still not perfect but slightly better.
October 14, 2015: 6×1500 workout at Moses Cone. Hamstring felt nearly 100%. First pain in my ankle during next to last 1500.
October 20, 2015: Stress fracture confirmed in Sustentaculum Tali. Out at least 8 weeks.
January 3, 2016: After weeks and weeks of cross training I had gotten in 2 weeks of 90 miles and then my peroneal tendon gets irritated.
(FYI: The 2016 Houston Half Marathon is this weekend. Like I said, it’s been almost a year.)
I have been preparing for this Olympic Trials since I joined ZAP in 2010. Sure, I didn’t even run a half marathon until 2014 but the goal all along was to slowly increase my volume and racing distance until I reached the marathon. The slow build was working well with success at 10 miles and half marathon but the marathon has been a headache.
I vividly remember sitting in my interview with Pete in 2010 as we counted ahead to 2016 when I would be 30 years old and well prepared for the marathon. I walked in the door of ZAP in 2010 as a 24 year old runner with only 2 years of training in my legs. 2016 would be great. 2016 would be the year.
Whether I run the OTM or not in a month, I need to take a long break to piece my body back together. I have no desire to stop training but I need to hit the reset button. I think at least a month of no training is needed. I have been a ZAP athlete for longer than anyone ever but my body is getting worn down. I have pushed through so many injuries and pains the last 3 years that I need to refresh my body in order to get the most out of my running career. I’m rarely fully injured, but I’m almost ALWAYS partially injured.
To some extent, this comes with the territory of training at a high level but I think I’ve become too resigned to accepting this as the norm. Why does it have to be this way? I’m slowing realizing if I want to train for many more years at a high level, it CANNOT continue to be this way. It’s not sustainable mentally or physically.
Here are some things that I believe about myself as a athlete:
- I am very talented.
- I am injury prone.
- I love to train.
- I am not honest with myself about injuries.
- I incorrectly believe that more training is always better.
- My best races are still ahead of me.
As of today running the OTM may be largely ceremonial but regardless of whether I step to the line or not, February 13 is a pivotal day for me. It will be the beginning of a new 4 year cycle where things need to change for success to be realized. I just want to feel good again.
I don’t blame Pete for any of this. I was never completely honest about the level of my pain because I didn’t want to seem soft or uncommitted. I’ve also watched my training partner and friend Tyler Pennel reach a level no other ZAP athlete in history has and I wanted to be a part of it. This pursuit probably got me into trouble, too.
Pete has always listened and coached me based on how I tell him I’m feeling. He watches me run and forms his own opinions but he also takes my feedback seriously and schedules my training accordingly. I know I told him I felt better than I really did many times since Boston because I wanted to be super fit again. In reality, I was chasing a ghost.
I want to move forward and have that triumphant moment when I am back to where I used to be, but I need to be much more honest with myself, my coach, and my support system for this to happen.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned…
Here is my last week of training (1/3-1/9):
Sunday: AM: 5 miles PM: 5 miles
Monday: AM: 16 miles
Tuesday: AM: 70 minute spin PM: 40 min spin
Thursday: AM: 7 mile run PM: 4 mile run
Friday: AM: 3 mile run, 60 min spin PM: OFF
Saturday: OFF, travel to Tampa for shot
Total: 40 miles, 6 runs, 3 spin sessions