After about two weeks of shin splints, I finally resumed some base training this week. I am still stuck inside, and will continue to be until the temps here cack freezing, which is, currently, 44 degrees warmer than my current location.
The shins aren't perfect, but they are better everyday. Even over the course of the last two runs they have improved. I did four miles Monday and really questioned whether I should continue, and did six miles today no problem, only minor irritation. A steady stream of ice wraps has kept me recovering most likely, but I expect to be at full strength soon. I will only have about six weeks to train for the next marathon, so I won't be setting any records.
The shin splints were the result of poor planning, ramping up mileage too quickly to try and set a PR, despite the fact that I know my body can only handle so much "ramping up" in a short period of time. And such is life. How many times do any of us start at step 3, skipping over 1 and 2, even armed with the full knowledge of what we skipped. I knew I was overreaching on my mileage, but I did it anyways. Such is life, as they say.
But it is never too late to slow down, regroup, and start anew. If we have gone out of the gate faster than we should have we will soon know, and don't keep moving in that direction just because that is where you are already pointing. If we have to adjust to new circumstances, or change our plans as new information arises, then that is what we do.
Don't be afraid to be wrong. Don't be afraid to fail. You show me a runner who has never been injured and I will show you someone who will never realize their full potential. Boy, if life isn't the same way, may the good Lord strike me down.
So don't be afraid to stetch your boundaries. THe first time you run that new route and double back and make your run two miles longer than you intended will be well worth it the twentieth time you run that route, and I bet you won't even think about that first time.
Anyone who has read my last few posts has seen how I have developed shin splints. Sometimes what begins as a curse is actually a blessing.
Shin splints is an injury that is painful, annoying, can ruin your mood, and impact the rest of your life. Especially when running makes up almost the whole of your free time that you have to yourself, you feel like you have lost an important part of your day, kind of like switching to decaf when you are used to the "jet fuel" your co-workers brew. That goes for many injuries.
Making a large jump in mileage to get ready for an upcoming race was something I knew was a risk. You try to listen to your body, not let a rule of thumb decide for you what training you are going to do. But sometimes those old rules of thumb help. We have to remember that they were formed to keep us non-competitive runners from hurting ourselves, at least too bad.
But this time, an inury may have saved my feet. Having shin splints this week ahs prevented me from running outside, my favorite thing to do. I hadn't even biked, a physical therapist told me, if I had run 16 miles through the pain of shin splints, I may have really hurt the muscle, and a week off was good way to tell. Hence, "The Lost Week". My shin splints, as of this post, are almost completely gone and I will run on a treadmill four miles tomorrow morning. I am thrilled.
It was this past Friday that the most annoying injury of my life became a blessing in disguise. Walking from the parking lot to the bank for work I could barely stand the pain in my toes. "These blisters are killing me," I said to my fiance as we walked into the doors at work.
"Maybe you should call a doctor," she said, knowing that I would almost need to be near death to call the doctor.
"I think I might," I replied, thinking more about my shin splints, which hadn't seemed to go away yet, than my toes.
Once I was able to procure a spot in the doctors office, I don't think I could have been less prepared for what I was told. The doc came in, looked at my shin and said, "It looks a little puffy, but ice it and stretch and some ibuprofen and you will be back on the road soon." To make my fiance happy I brought up my toes. She took a look at my toes and, without hesitation, said, "Oh my, that's frostbite."
I hadn't run outside in over a week, and my last run was a measily four miles, which I cranked out in a bit over thirty two minutes (I gave myself a high-five afterwards). And it was at least remotely close to freezing (OK, 20 degrees), something anyone in my area would call "Great Running Weather" for January. "You are going to need to make sure these toes don't ever get cold. This is like having a second degree burn, the damage that you have on the skin. If it gets any worse you may be looking at amputation."
My jaw didn't drop literally, but I was stunned. Frankly, I was glad to have my toes and that the damage could be reversed if I was diligent and kept my feet warm, but it is the middle of January, and that means at least three more months of weather like this. Can I be that diligent, for three more months?
It wasn't until I was walking out that I realized that I would be stuck on treadmills, unable to do the necessary pavement pounding to really attack my next race in March. Pending some unseasonable, freakish weather, not unheard of in the area, I would be stuck inside listening to an iPod, hoping there is something good on TV.
Later, when I got home, I sat and looked at my toes. I had been lucky. In the three-thousand plus miles I had run since I began running a few years ago, my feet had never even had so much as a blister. I had taken them for granted. No arch pain, no hot spots, and definitely no trouble tolerating hot and cold. Taken for granted, they would no longer be the one part of my body I never had to worry about.
I also realized later, after a few frantic phone calls from my parents (I am almost 30 and my parents still worry about me like I am a little boy, which will probably never change) and my fiance telling me repeatedly, "Everything is going to be OK," that I was lucky. Maybe if I had not run so much the previous week I would not have "contracted" frostbite, although I am unconvinced the running was the cause. But I also know that if I had not had shin splints I would be out there this week pounding the pavement, and maybe, quite probably, losing a toe or two. That would have set my running back more than any case of shin splints, and for that I was glad. It probably would have even impacted my life, "So why do you only have eight toes," "I am irresponsible and don't take care of my feet when I run outside!" "In that case, we do not want you to marry our daughter..." Yeah, don't want that.
I will get on the treadmill tomorrow morning and pound out four miles, glad for each footstrike and smile each time I lose my breath, glad I am able to do it. I will also be glad when I put and take off my socks that I have enough piggies to "wee wee wee all the way home."
Have a great week running! If you live in the Midwest, wear warm socks!
P.S. - don't google "frostbite on toes". The images are something else, and not in the good way.
16 miles this morning, 6 or 7 with mild shin pain. Today the adrenaline of an otherwise enjoyable run won out over common sense. Let's hope it doesn't set me back for the rest of next week!
Despite the shin pain it was a great run. Nothing entered my mind, not work or relationship issues (I am lucky to have few, if any) or even sports and this weekend's NFL playoffs. I just ran. My mind was an empty canvass, and my feet were my brush(es). I loved it. If only every run could be so enjoyable. Even when other runs aren't as good, runs like this remind me why I do it.
I do have one confession. I committed what is, to me (and Bill Bowerman), the cardinal sin of training: backing up a fast run with a long run in consecutive days. I went out yesterday with the intention of putting in an easy run and ended running what was my fastest average run in awhile. My legs, despite the shin pain, were feeling fast.
That is why running is such a confusing sport to me. I love it, don't get me wrong, but how can things feel so good when sometimes something is broken or not right. Must be a microcosm of life somehow that I don't understand yet. My running this week has been great, but legs have not felt good or right all week. I have been icing them and taking advil and putting through the whole regimen. Maybe they will be better next week.
Such is life, as they say. Even when things are going great, sometimes it is hard to see how great things are because of some nagging issue that just won't go away. How many of us are guilty of moaning about some minor, relatively insignificant slight or problem in our lives when everything else is going relatively well, or even great? I am sure there are many.
As I finished up my run, I was thankful to have been able to enjoy my run despite the shin pain and the slower pace. Jumping off the treadmill, I limped over to get a towel to wipe it down and I made my way to the gym floor to stretch, happy to have had a good workout. I think it will make the beer taste better tonight.
It wasn't that long ago I was overweight, by a lot. A typical day could see me in a McDonalds or Taco Bell, or both. The most activity I got most days was hauling a cooler out to my deck to drink a few beers and smoke a pack of cigarettes. From time to time I would pound half a case of beer in one night and fall asleep in my deck chair, waking up the next day to do it all over again.
My first few runs were at around 11-12 minute per mile pace, and I could barely run a mile. My goal, my dream goal, was to be able to run 2 miles under 20 minues. I threw on my shorts every night and shuffled out the door. My motivation then was my health. A doctor told me, in so many words, that I wasn't treating my body well (he said, "You are slowly killing yourself..."). I wanted to get back on track. I wondered if I even could, but I started, the picture of a successful beginning (no idea where to begin, but beginning anyways).
Recently I crossed the finish line of my third marathon. It was after crossing that finish line that I proposed to my now-fiance, and finally realized my dream of bringing my life full circle. Things are not perfect, to be certain, but they are good. I have my problems, as does everyone in this economy, but I am getting by. Things are starting to get really good, even when they are bad. I guess it is more a matter of outlook than actual result.
Somewhere I found the tools to give myself the strength to get on the track I wanted. I honestly can't give you a specific answer what that is. And I lose it from time to time. But I stick with it, even when my motivation wanes. Sometimes I don't even know why. Maybe that is the answer: I stick with it.
I have a friend who keeps telling me he is going to run a race with me, or do a triathlon with me, but I know that he won't. Race day is glorious and magnificent, I wouldn't trade it for the world. But race day isn't really "RACE" day without all of the "Oh god, I DO NOT want to get up and run in the -10 degree wind chill" mornings and the "Geez, I have tons of bills to take care, I don't have time for a four miler" nights. But the dedicated runner knows to tie on those shoes when they don't want to, and to not run when they know shouldn't, even when they really want to.
My friend starts meaning well, but he loses steam because life gets in the way. To him, running is toil, hard labor, punishment. He cheats by skipping a run here and there for a meeting or a kids doctors appointment, and before you know it a month has gone by and he isn't ready to even run a 5k, let a lone a 7 mile race. He never stopped to think that he might have to wake up early to get his run in, or stay up late.
You can't cheat the run. You can tell your friends and family that you ran slower than your goal because you were hurt or because it was too hot/cold, but in the end, you don't run for them. Even my nephew, whose esteem I treasure above all but my future spouse's, isn't the reason I run. I hope he finds motivation seeing my cross the finish line. But in the end, I run for me.
I hope you run for you. Don't do it because you told someone you would. Do it because you promised yourself you would get up early and run. Don't do it because it is something cool to brag to your friends about. Do it because you want to justify going to Florida to run a race. Don't do it because it is good for your "image". Do it because you can leave your cell phone, spouse, dishes, laundry and other stupid chores at home. Most of all, do it because it is yours.
When I first started running, I always envisioned the sun rising in the East with glorious sunbeams coming over the horizon as I laced up my running shoes, ready to begin my day by attacking the road.
I woke up this morning to the beginnings of an ice storm, the temperature was slowing plummeting to below freezing, and my running log had me down for 16 miles. Yikes.
I got out ahead of the storm, and had to concede the roads to the rain as I drove over to the gym. I also decided to extend the long run another two miles due to the fact Christmas travel had me short for my base mileage. I also synched up a new Nike + iPod running system for the workout. After a 1.25 miles of trying to get the thing calibrated (I knew I was running better than 11 minute miles!), I finally began my workout.
Having begun a new training cycle since my last marathon on October about a month ago (about 5 weeks), my legs still were not back to marathon shape. Add to that the fact I had not eaten properly the night before. I was literally running on empty. The first few miles I was barely able to hold a 9:45 min/mi pace, about 25-30 secs slower than I can comfortable run a 20+ mile run. After pushing some thick Powergel and Gatorade, I felt the sugar kick in, and before I knew I was back to my normal pace. Two and a half hours later, I stopped, checked my Nike + for my pace (9:08 min/mi!), stretched and got out of there. The ice was sarting to form, and I wanted no part of it.
I have always found the middle part of the run harder than the beginning or the end. You lose your motivation and sometimes pace because you are too far gone to stop, but too far from the finish to feel that pull you get from almost being done. Today just underlined that. My mind wandered (did I get that loan application to the loan processor? How is the status of the Johnson loan progressing?), I hadn't eaten properly, and I was depressed from a bit of a Holiday Hangover. The guy from the army running with his fully loaded backpack (is he REALLY running that fast with that thing on!?) only dampened my spirit, dousing it with a healthy dose of inferiority. He stopped after a few miles, but I doubted my ability to run with that thing for more than a mile. Than I remembered I was on mile 14 of an 18 mile run, and it wasn't so bad.
But I finished. I guess the experience of pushing through the troughs of other long run propelled me through this workout. This prepares you for those last few tough miles of the marathon, you pay your dues before you can even see the starting line.
I always hope that someday all of this work will payoff. Only God knows what that means. I like to think this strange compulsion to run is part of a bigger plan, one that I won't understand until the right moment.
Until then, I'll just keep running, hoping I don't run out of gas.