Swim: 0 m/112,725 m
Bike: 42.9/1,394.9 miles
Run: 24.8/649.2 miles
This Sunday, for the first time in a very long time, I had to stop a run early. I was about 13.1 miles into a 13.7-mile run when I stopped for passing traffic at a major downtown intersection. When I started to run again, my left knee seized up and grew increasingly painful with each stride. The pain – focused in the lower outside region of the knee – was greatest when I tried to bend it in the process of stepping forward. In other words, the pain came when I took the pressure off of that foot and bent the knee, and not when my left foot hit the ground. Aside from the pain, I was physically unable to run so I stopped my watch and limped the half-mile back to my car.
It’s hard to explain how demoralized I was. Here I was – the very first week of marathon training and I can’t even get through one of the shortest long runs on the entire schedule. I had set out intentionally at an easier pace, and was happy to be nailing a 7:15 average for almost the entire run. It was a distance that I had raced just three weeks earlier, and not even the longest distance I’d run in the past two months. After all the big talk on my blog about how I was prepared for the marathon this time around, I meet with this failure at the outset.
It made me question everything. Do I really want to go through with this? What’s the point of battling with an injury through the entire training cycle? Spending time and money seeing doctors and specialists, worrying about support devices and therapy, missing key mileage – only to then limp through the marathon and produce a time similar to the 4:07 I already ran four years ago? I want to focus on the running and not the all-consuming peripherals that come with an injury. I didn’t sign up for this marathon because I’m in love with the distance and just want to run another race – I signed up because I thought I had a chance to use the fitness I’ve built all year to really do something special.
It’s not that I expected this to be easy and pain-free, of course. Marathon training is hard and takes a toll on the body. I don’t want to sound like I think I’m entitled to breeze through the training just because I’ve been running well this year. But to have this happen on the very first week of the cycle, when I haven’t even reached distances or paces that are different from what I’ve been running for months, is very frustrating.
But then I woke up on Monday, and there was no pain. I made it through the day without any physical reminder of Sunday’s incident. On Tuesday I rode my bike on the trainer for almost 19 miles – no pain. And then this morning I decided to try my regularly scheduled tempo run and covered 7 hilly miles at an overall 6:57 pace, including the 5-mile tempo segment at a comfortably hard 6:47 pace. Again, not even a hint of pain. It was as if nothing had ever happened.
So what do I do now? Is this an issue that’s only going to crop up on a long run (the most important part of marathon training)? Only when it’s cold outside (winter’s just around the corner)? Some might say it was a fluke, but is there such a thing as a fluke in this situation? Some condition had to be present for this to have happened. I’ve got a 15-mile long run on the schedule for this weekend, and I’m very concerned about if and when it will flare up again. I’m going to plan a route that consists of several smaller loops so I won’t have too far to walk to my car if the same thing happens.
I’m not sure what my next step is, other than to just keep running as long as things feel good. If it happens again, I’ll just have to re-evaluate.