…I took a bunch of steroids.
No, that’s not true.
First things first: some stolen race photos, because heaven knows I will never buy these.
There were a number of others, all pretty
ugly typical race photos—but the theme is really that I’m smiling in almost all of them. Call me a photo whore, but truthfully I didn’t see most of the cameras along the way. I just had that fan-effing-tastic of a race.
I want to talk a bit about the steps I took in order to both a) get myself to the race and b) finish it. I consider myself lucky that I was able to race after a month of injury, and I do think that some good fortune fell into play in regard to my run-ability. (That, and some very powerful wishful thinking/begging the run gods for a break).
However, there were some very deliberate things I did both pre- and during taper to ensure that I would be able to make it to the finish line last Sunday.
Going into taper was really tricky. I’d only been running a week since taking two full weeks off from running—and now I was supposed to cut down as much as possible. As much as I wanted to run to build my confidence to get through the race—I knew that there were no physical benefits that could come from too much running during taper, so I played it safe. In essence, I did exactly what I would have in a regular taper schedule. Here’s how it looked:
Taper Schedule (Sunday-Saturday):
S: 75 minute yoga
M: 5 m slow run
T: 60 min swim
W: 4 m slow run
T: 60 m swim
S: 2.5 m shake out with 3, 30-min strides.
This schedule worked perfectly for me. It was enough activity to keep me from feeling too restless, but it lacked a lot of impact—which is exactly what my legs and ankle needed before taking on a marathon.
In addition to the workouts, I rolled my legs essentially every night—like painful rolling. After Thursday night, I stuck to gentler stretching, but I wanted to make sure that all week I worked out any lingering knots.
I also iced my ankle 2-ish times a day, no matter what. When an injury doesn’t hurt (as my ankle didn’t during taper week), it’s really easy to neglect recovery efforts—but I made sure to keep icing even though there wasn’t any noticeable pain.
I also wore my compression socks around the house whenever possible, and wore them on the plane en route to Chicago.
These things, I believe, all really helped in having a successful race—but perhaps the bigger factors were the way I ran the race and the time I took off when I got hurt.
Having a marathon in sight helped me to buckle down in terms of not pushing it with my injury. Like other runners, I’m prone to working out through an injury (which more often than not makes it worse). Of course, I should never do this—but I think that having a race on the horizon forced me to recognize that R&R were the only means of getting to Chicago. So rest I did, and look at that—I finished, PR’ed, and had the best time—without any ankle pain.
This injury was obviously less serious than others, certainly, which helped with recovering in time for the race—but I’m really trying to take a hint from this experience: if there is one thing that heals an injury, it’s rest.
I hope other runners can see this as a case study of sorts on how rest is a big part of getting you toward your running goals.
It’s not just about the perfect tempos, the multiple 20 milers, or the weekly yoga.
Let’s take a look back: My last 20 miler before Chicago was on August 25, 6 weeks before Chicago. I completely took off 2 weeks of running during what should have been “peak” weeks, and I didn’t run over 12 miles in the month before the race. In other words, the odds were not stacked in my favor.
I’ll stop soon I promise, but I’m reiterating these points to remind everyone that a missed workout, missed mile, or a missed pace goal during marathon training is not the big deal we make it out to be. Sure, it’s not advisable to miss too many workouts or long runs, but I’m realizing there’s way too much stress put on the day-to-day specifics.
It’s just running. When we remove all the accessories that distract us from the simplicity of this sport (gels, garmins, BQs, Yasso 800s, fartleks, rollers, barefoot, not-barefoot, Dean Karnasez, etc.) all of a sudden it becomes a lot more manageable. All those extra things are important, but they are really just details. Kara Goucher has a great quote that puts it in perspective:
“Do the work. Do the analysis. But feel your run. Feel your race. Feel the joy that is running.”
This is how I approached Chicago. All I cared about was feeling the run—enjoying it for the simple act it is, an act I love so very much.
By ridding myself of the stress of perfect training and specific goals, my ankle decided to cooperate with the “go with the flow” mentality and lasted all 26.2 miles in fine condition.
It took me a while to get to this place, have no doubt. I had a lot of anxiety the week before the race about finishing, getting re-injured, etc. It was also very, very hard for me to let go of goals for this race. Admittedly, I know I could have gone sub 3:35 without the training malfunctions—which stings a little. But honestly, I don’t know if a BQ would have felt as good as this “no-goal” race did. By running for the fun of it and instead of obsessing over splits, I remembered just how magical the simple act of running can be.
So am I suddenly a goal-less, no Garmin, hippie runner? Absolutely not. In fact, I have goals that I’m itching to get started on. More on Monday 🙂
However, I’ve realized that running for the love of it can sometimes get you to the finish line just as easily as a flawless 22 miler. Okay, maybe I am turning into more of a hippie, but I truly hope that in a sport that’s full of specifics and details—the basics of putting one foot in front of the other and enjoying the ride isn’t lost on you.
If you couldn’t already tell, a lot of what I write on this blog is as much for myself as for my readers. So I appreciate you reading my somewhat stream-of-consciousness style of blogging.
Maybe someday I’ll have an agenda or a means of drafting my posts. But for now, these self-therapy sessions will have to do. Thanks for sticking around 🙂