This fall, neither my training nor my performance lived up to my expectations.
Three separate injuries caused three separate training setbacks, all of which certainly contributed to my slowest, most miserable half-marathon to date. And when I thought I was finally healed and back on track, my last-ditch effort to salvage my January races lasted all of five steps because my left calf staged a mutiny.
I mentioned this in one of my Festivus grievances last week, but since then, things have gotten much worse.
After my failed attempt at the track workout on Tuesday, I kind of hoped to fit it in on Thursday (Christmas) afternoon or evening. But (not surprisingly) that didn’t pan out, so when Friday morning rolled around and me leg seemed to feel okay, I thought I’d give it another shot. Not the track workout, because I wanted to run 12-14 the next day, but running the neighborhood loop would let me see how it felt.
I got five steps before that sharp pain jammed into my calf again. I turned around and limped back inside. I tried a bike ride, but even pushing on the pedal was uncomfortable and kept me from working hard at it.
Saturday’s long run was out. I turned off my alarm and slept in. Fourteen miles had sounded daunting a few days before, but now that I couldn’t do it, I wanted to. Even when it looked like this outside:
I lit a fire in the fireplace and snuggled under my race t-shirt quilt on the couch with one of my my cats and a book. It was pleasant and cozy, but I’d eaten a lot of Christmas cookies and felt like a slug. Considering I couldn’t even walk normally without pain, though, I saw my January race goals slipping further away.
Sunday turned into another couch day. I’d left the door to the garage cracked when I went out to put stuff in the washing machine, and one of my cats darted out. As I leaped to chase her, guess what? It hurt. A lot. It was exactly zero percent improved after six days of not running. And since it was the weekend, I had exactly zero options to find out what was wrong–all I could do was sit and stew about it until Monday.
With those steps chasing the cat, denial was gone. I was now angry. Frustrated. Mad. Pissed off. But I couldn’t even stomp around the house, or run to let off steam, or much of anything. Now in worst-case-scenario mode, I started looking into deferrals (no practical options). I texted with a couple of running friends (they commiserated). I sulked on the couch (my book distracted me temporarily). And then I opened the fortune cookie that came with the Chinese food I’d had delivered (because it hurt to push my car’s clutch):
Slowly I began to come to terms with the fact that my two January races might be off the table completely. I mean, even if the pain was gone by then, I have hardly run at all since Thanksgiving and am clearly undertrained for a half-marathon. I’ve never not run a race I’d registered for, and the thought of doing so now frustrated me further. Still, I started thinking about having a Plan B in case it turned out I couldn’t run. I could volunteer at the Distance Festival, and that might be satisfying. And a friend is coming from out of town to run 3M–I could still chauffeur her to the race and find good spectator spots along the course. That would be fun too. I began to accept those scenarios as possibilities.
Monday afternoon, I realized I was walking on it almost normally–something I hadn’t done consistently in about a week. I saw my sports doctor, who suspects that the recent problem with my right hip caused me to shift my gait, which overcompensated to the left side and caused that leg to become overworked. The calf–the same one that gave me problems a couple of years ago–was not appeased by foam rolling, and it rebelled. But my worst-case scenario fears seem to be unfounded–it’s likely not structurally damaged. Treatment and time should do the trick. Since he’s fixed me twice before with this strategy, I’m willing to go down this path and see what happens.
I plan to take it easy the next couple of days, foam rolling and doing some core work instead of running. I’m holding out a little hope that it’s healed in a couple of days and I could try a long run Saturday–I’m allowed to run if it’s pain-free, so I pretty much just have to assess it one day at a time.
I may be able to run my races, or I may have to be a spectator for one or both. But I’ve accepted either possibility.
Have you ever bailed on a race you’d registered for? How did you deal with that?
Would you skip a race you weren’t properly trained for, or muddle through it anyway?