Slaying Demons

This has been a rocky of summer of running.  The foot issues that started in May have gotten better, but there is still a segment of muscle near my heel that continues to nag at me.  In addition to that, my right calf and Achilles are tight, concerningly tight.  The body, really, has been entirely uncooperative lately. 

When Scott asked me a few weeks ago what my goal was for Kona, I told him that I’d really like to PR there.  This might be unrealistic, but I’d like to try.  That means that my training is going to be intense.  The first taste of it was last week when I had my first track workout since I jumped on the injury train in May.  It was tough.  I didn’t hit any of the paces I had planned on and really struggled mentally.

So, when I logged on to training peaks (the software my coach uses to send me workouts) last Friday and saw that the coming week was titled “Run Specific week”, I wasn’t too excited.  I really had a lot of doubts about whether my body, or my head, was up for the challenge.

Monday started with a 14 mile easy paced run that I had to push back because of Sunday’s Reston Century.  My goal had been to do it  in the morning, but I woke up in such a state of panic about it, that I came up with every excuse in the book to not do it.  I spent all Monday dreading it.  In my last several runs, my fitness level seems to top out at the 12-14 mile mark.  The negative voices in my head were telling me that this was going to be the case again.  Finally, at 5:30pm, I got myself out the door for it.  It started okay, but sure enough, once mile 12 rolled around, I started to feel pretty ragged.  While I finished, it wasn’t the most comfortable run ever.  Still, though, I was happy it was over.  It wasn’t until Monday night that I looked at the runs for the rest of the week.  I immediately felt a pang of anxiety.  It was going to be a tough week, including the hardest track workout I’d had in months on Wednesday, followed by an 18 mile run with some speed intervals on Sunday.  18 miles?!  My heart sunk.  If I struggled with 14 miles easy, there was no way I was going to be able to do a fast 18.  The dread started to build.

Wednesday was the next run day on my schedule.  It called for not just one, but two runs.  The morning run, which I successfully got out for, was an easy run.  While I wore my Garmin, I never looked at it.  I made it a point to keep my pace easy and enjoyable, which is NOT my strength.  The average pace ended up being 8 seconds/mile slower than the easy pace I had benchmarked before injury.  I made the decision to lower all my benchmark paces by 8 seconds.  I just had to be realistic and realize that I had lost some speed by not running for 2 months.  In trying to run at the level I did when I was in peak shape and healthy, I was finding myself disheartened and likely on track for continued injury.  I have to train within my current ability.

Even with the acceptance to lower my goal paces, I once again spent all Wednesday dreading the afternoon’s track workout.  Track used to be my favorite workout of the week.  It’s been so strange to fear it recently.  Literally, my stomach was upset leading into it.  It was tough.  Incredibly tough.  There were 6 hard intervals in it.  I had a lot of doubt, but one after the other I was able to get them done at my new goal.  It was the best run I’ve had since the spring.  It was a huge breakthrough. 

Friday’s easy run, though, was terrible.  I had a lot of ankle and shin pain.  I got five miles in, but it did not give me a ton of confidence.  Sunday’s 18 miles loomed.

The second I opened my eyes today, my long run was all I was thinking about.  Fine, I could do 18 miles, but there was no way I could do the speed intervals in it.  No way.  To make matters worse, the winds leftover from Irene were not going to make meeting paces any easier.  I decided to move the 18 to the treadmill.  Sometimes when I get afraid of a run, I find moving it to the treadmill makes it easier to tackle.  Not really sure why, but it just scares me less.  From the beginning, things got off to a good start.  The first few easy miles felt easy.  The first interval set felt doable.  The easy miles in between felt smooth.  If I could just finish up the last interval set, it would be amazing.  Three fast miles is all I had left before cool down.  They were tough, but I got them done.  The cool down afterward was a breeze, thanks to Shoop coming on my Ipod.  I can’t believe how quickly 18 miles on the treadmill went.  When things got mentally taxing, two things got me through.  I started thinking about what mile I would be at in Kona and how freaking awesome that will be.  I also channeled Ben Ferry, who I knew was running IM Louisville today.  An IM run is the toughest thing I have ever done.  If he would have to face that today, then I could make it through this run.  

When the distance clicked to 18 I was so freaking happy.  I was euphoric with relief.  I finally feel like I’m starting to make forward steps again instead of just trying to eke them out.  Sandwiched in my 18 miles were 2-sub 22 minute 5ks.    Totally psyched.  AND, my inspiration today, Ben, CRUSHED his Ironman.  Success all around!

In the last week I’ve run  over 51 miles which is only 1 mile shy of my entire July volume (not including Ironman).  It’s an awesome step forward. 

Coming up this week is a TON of biking.  I’m feeling a lot less scared about this.  The week does end with a 20 mile run, but I have a lot more confidence going into it now.

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