I mentally wrote this post in my head this past Saturday morning while I was out running. To be honest, though, it was really more like jogging. (2.26 miles at a 9:13 pace.) Going into the run, I was committed to running the Veterans half marathon on November 8th…coming out of the run, I realized it’s just not going to happen this year. I feel like I quit on my goal of both running another half AND a PR. I’m not one to give up on a scheduled race, so this feels kind of weird for me. I’m not a quitter. However, I realized this morning that I’m not being lazy by quitting…I’m being smart. It’s time to take a break!
First, I have to backup a bit, so I can tell the whole story that led to this decision. It’s a long one, but I’ll try to keep it as brief as I can. You may remember in one of my previous posts that a couple of months ago I stepped on a rock during a dark, early morning run. I wear a headlamp, but I still somehow missed it, and it turned my ankle completely sideways and almost had me on the ground. I was shocked that I felt okay afterwards and kept on running. Well, a few days later, my Achilles started aching. I ignored it and it kept getting worse…to the point that I was actually yelping out in pain if I just moved it the wrong way. At the time, I also noticed that my right hamstring was starting to hurt during (and after) my more intense runs. However, because my Achilles was more of a sharp pain and the hamstring was more of a dull pain, I focused on the Achilles. I took some breaks here and there. I stretched more. The pains would somewhat go away, but never completely. I ran the Fort4Fitness a couple of weeks ago with a hope of a PR. I had a feeling that would be a tough goal to meet considering the lack of speed work over the weeks leading up to it. I finished the race exactly 1 minute and 1 second off of my PR, but all things considered, I was pleased with that. (I wrote a recap of my entire race here.) Plus, I knew I still had the Veterans half coming up and I could focus on a PR there.
After the Fort4Fitness, I took the next week off to recover (which was needed, as I was very sore), ran a couple of times, and then the following week my husband and I took a week-long vacation to the Smoky Mountains to celebrate our 10 year anniversary back in August. It was a much needed break and we had so much fun! (I wrote a post about our trip here.) I had fully planned to run twice while on our trip, but what I didn’t realize was that our cabin was on the side of a mountain and either direction I would have run would have been a major incline or decline. Considering all the injuries I had been dealing with before we left, I knew that wouldn’t be good for this flat-land, Indiana runner. So, I didn’t run at all…but we hiked! And lots of it! So, it wasn’t like I was just sitting on a beach somewhere with a drink in my hand…we were using our muscles every day.
When we returned home, I went out the next morning for an easy 7 mile run. I knew it was a long distance considering I hadn’t run in a full week, but I took it slow and ran around 9 minute pace. Even though I was tired, I had no pain anywhere! However, later on that day, my hamstring started to hurt…quite a bit. It later became super sore to the touch and each time I sat down or stood up or even walked…it hurt. Ugh. 🙁 I decided to head out for an easy ‘recovery’ run the next morning to see if I could stretch it out a bit. (And I stretched well before the run, too.) After running about 3/4 miles, I could tell that running with this kind of limp (aka really bad running form) was not going to do me any good, so I jogged back home again. (My pace was over 10 minutes…and that was as fast as my hamstring would allow me to move.) From Monday through Wednesday, my hamstring hurt pretty badly. I followed my neighbor’s advice (she works in physical therapy) of heating, massaging with a tennis ball, and icing…as well as stretching, of course. (She also pointed out that my hamstring pain was probably due to my body overcompensating for bad form when my Achilles was flaring up so much, which made complete sense when I thought about it!) Anyway, by Thursday and Friday, the pain was letting up a bit (but keep in mind I hadn’t ran at all during this time). The real test was going to be my Saturday morning run. On my training plan was a 10 mile run. I knew that would REALLY be pushing my limits, but I also knew that if I didn’t get my mileage up to a higher level soon, how was I ever going to run a half marathon in 3 weeks?? I went into the run on Saturday not knowing if I would go 4 miles or 10 miles. And here’s the honest truth… I had NO desire to run that morning. Not a bit.
I realized I was completely burned out from running. I hate to admit that because I pride myself on being able to say I’m a runner. (Of course, I will still say I’m a runner while I take a couple months off to recover, but I hate the feeling of having no desire to run.)
Back to my run on Saturday morning, though… While I had lots of time to think (20 minutes, which is more than I get when I’m home!), I thought about why I was so burned out. I’ve been burned out before (which is partially why I decided not to run in college, like I had planned), but I was so frustrated with myself this particular morning because I felt like I was being lazy and simply ‘giving up’ on my next half marathon goal. Then it dawned on me. No wonder I’m feeling burned out. Every single run I’ve gone on over the last 6 weeks has been plagued with either pain from one of my injuries or worries of further injuries….plus, it’s also meant time away from my kids on relaxing Sunday mornings. My husband usually goes into work on Saturday mornings to get ahead on his overtime for the week (which I’m totally okay with because it means the kids and I will see him a little more during the weeknights). Well, do you know how hard it is to leave the house for a 1-2 hour run on the ONLY day of the week when there is no work or school for anyone to rush off to??? The kids have just woken up and everyone wants to sit around in jammies and cuddle…but I have to head out the door (in cold temperatures) and be gone for a couple hours. I admit, it was getting harder and harder to leave for a run each week. My injuries were not helping the matter.
Of course, even though it was hard, I knew the end was in sight and I fully planned to finish what I started: run the Veterans half with an attempt to PR. As I got about 1 mile into my run on Saturday and felt the familiar pull on my hamstring, I knew I had two choices: keep running and be super sore all week (meaning I wouldn’t run again for several days while it ‘healed’ to the point of no pain), keep running and possibly injure myself further, or be smart and listen to what my body was telling me. I had a feeling there was no real choice in the matter. With only three weeks until I needed to be ready to run 13.1 miles, I didn’t know how I was going to find the time to get in the proper mileage training without pain. And even if I didn’t train well enough and decided to jog the race for the enjoyment of it, my concern was that maybe I would tear my hamstring and make things worse. It just wasn’t worth the risk (and all the frustration, worry, and time involved). So, at the 1 mile mark, I made the decision that I was done running for a little while. I needed to take a break for my body’s sake. It needs to rest and I need to let it fully heal: both my hamstring AND my Achilles (which is still bugging me on occasion if I move my ankle in the ‘wrong’ way).
And all of this was from stepping on a rock. Argh! I don’t remember the last time I had an injury that kept me from completing a goal. In fact, I’m pretty sure the last time I even had a running injury was back in high school (which was over 14 years ago)!
I think I’m mostly frustrated that I ‘wasted’ this opportunity to run with the guidance of a running coach. Mike Else with Three Rivers Running Company provided me with an excellent training plan, which I’m positive would have led me to a PR if I could have followed it!! His plan included the specific pace I should focus on during each and every run, as well as the type of run: long slow distance, cut down run, race pace, recovery, etc. Last week, when Mike sent my last four weeks of training leading up the Veterans, he even suggested I cut back to four runs per week (rather than five) due to my injuries. He wanted to make sure I came to the starting line healthy and strong. He threw in some cross training during the week to go along with my faster days AND rest days. I’m certain I could have PR’ed in both the Fort4Fitness and maybe even again in the next race had I been healthy.
Now…I’d love to tell you I will try for a PR in my next half (whenever that may be), but right now I’m just going to take a break. A break from running and a break from thinking about racing. I’m going to rest…though that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop working out. 🙂 Now that the weather is getting colder, I fully plan to get into a good routine of P90X and elliptical workouts in my basement. As my hamstring and Achilles fully heal, I will venture back out onto the streets for some running again, but I will start S.L.O.W. and easy. I’d like to keep going throughout the winter months, even if that’s running just two times per week. When Spring arrives, I’m sure I’ll be chomping at the bit to get at it again. I’m not promising anything. Part of me LOVES long distance running and I know it’s what I’m good at, but part of me also just wants to stick to shorter distances (3-6 miles runs) and improve those times. So, we’ll see. Like I said, I’m not committing to anything right now. All I know is that right now, I need a break from running for a little while…so that’s what I’m going to do.
And as for the Veterans half? I’m going to be emailing the race director here shortly and see if there is a way I can volunteer and still be a ‘part’ of the race!
And for those of you who are regular readers of my blog, I promise I’ll get back to real food recipes again soon! It seems the majority of my posts lately have NOT been about food and you may have noticed my decreased amount of posting lately. Between my week-long vacation last week, my grandma passing away over the weekend (it was expected as she’s been battling cancer for a long time now), my upcoming 4-day trip to Arizona this weekend (more on that later!!), and then playing ‘catch up’ with all the stuff I missed when I was gone, my blog has had to take a bit of a backseat lately. There is SO much I want to do with it (you should see my blog to-do list!), but only so little time I have each day to work on it. Just know that I fully plan to get back into a routine of creating new recipes again soon! 🙂
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