Thursday, January 12, 2012

Oh, teh drama.

Obligatory Mission Control picture.  Because every
single blog referencing this race uses the cliche
"Houston, we have a problem" or some variant.
Edit:  So after all of the below, I've decided not to go.  Yes, this was a "goal race."  And I'm fit, and have no doubt of my ability to complete the course and most likely set a PR

But in the end, it comes down to the question of what my overall goals are for this year.  And they're not to hit any specific time, or run any specific race, but rather to avoid major injury and have fun racing.  

It doesn't advance those goals to fly to Houston and run this race with the concern of prolonging this silly shin issue or getting a new compensation injury, and that makes the answer easy, though also hard.   It'd be a far easier decision if I was in a boot, or in significant pain -- I'm trying to appreciate the fact that I'm NOT in those situations.

(The decision is also made easier by the fact that I *REALLY* hate traveling)

So, I'm registered for the Houston Half-Marathon this coming Sunday.  I had been focused on it for a while as my chance to run a good half-marathon on a flat course.

And then I gave myself some anterior tibial tendonitis.  And so commenced the drama.   I ran.  And then I backed off and cross-trained for several days.  When I returned to running, the shin was sore, as it had not been beforehand.  But as I began to run on it again, it improved.  Still stiff, sometimes sore.  But slowly improving.  I ran carefully, and occasionally, with a ton of cross-training.

And so the race question: Should she?  Shouldn't she?  What does the magic 8K ball say? 


I have no magic 8K ball, or skull with which to dialogue, a la Hamlet.  But, I did have something arguably better.  An orthopedist appointment, and several PT sessions.

I had pretty much decided that I would NOT run the race, especially since the shin and calf of the leg were sore and stiff on Tuesday after my run, enough so to make me fear I had overdone stuff.

There's never been any doubt that I COULD run the Houston Half and finish it.  But I'm annoyed with how many workouts I've missed already.  And I'd rather get this nagging shin thing done with then let it linger for a few more weeks.


And then I went to see my coach's preferred orthopedist on Tuesday afternoon.  He x-rayed the leg BEFORE seeing me -- apparently any runner that comes in with a leg or foot injury gets x-rayed prior to meeting with him.

Then he came in, took my history, flexed my foot and looked at the x-ray, and confirmed that it was anterior tibial tendonitis, and not a stress fracture.  That was no surprise.  I've done this one before (stupid shoes) and I figure that if you can push hard on a bone and not locate any point of tenderness, there's no developing fracture.  Especially when the discomfort is associated with muscle action, and not weight bearing.

What was a surprise was what he said next.  I mentioned that I had been planning to race a half this weekend, but had pretty much canned that idea -- I didn't want to risk any major injury or setback.  I also told him that I had cut back my mileage substantially, and been cross-training to rest it.

"That's silly.  Have you you been taking anything for it?"

"No, not really.  Some arnica cream and a baby aspirin, both after running."  I really hate using anything with an analgestic effect -- I figure pain is a warning light on the runner's dashboard, and I don't know why you'd want to short circuit that.

"That stuff does nothing.  Take 2 Aleve twice a day for the next few days, and run your race."


So that was that.  I was...surprised, to say the least.  But, I also figured that he hadn't spent that much time with me, and might be focused on bone injuries exclusively, and assume that soft tissue injuries weren't an issue.

On Wednesday morning, I met with my PT.  Despite the soreness from Tuesday, he declared it improved even from Monday.

"I think you should go down and run your race.  I definitely would in your situation."


So, to run or not to run?  And before that, to travel to Houston or not?

Despite the above, it's still a tough call.

On the one hand, the plane tickets are paid for.  And I had really been looking forward to this weekend, especially seeing the trials.  And the course is flat and the weather should be great.  And until I tweaked my shin, my training had been going great, and I was hoping for a real breakthrough race.

On the other hand, I haven't run further than 10 miles in the past 3 weeks.  And the shin's still sore.   And I'm worried not just about the shin, but about aggravating something new by racing after a few weeks of uber low mileage.  One consistent mistake I've made in the past is to come back way too fast after spending a few weeks cross training, and to tweak something new.  I spent a year alternating between soft tissue injuries on my left and right sides, before topping it off with a broken foot that was the result of running hard while my stride was slightly altered.

And my overall goal, rather than any one race, is to avoid major injury.   That's my overarching goal for this year, and it trumps any goal race or goal time.  I don't see anything respect-worthy in risking major injury or training setback to run a race, unless it's something like the Olympic trials, World Champs, etc.

And, this is not a cheap trip - though I lose the plane fare if I cancel the trip, I still save about $700 between hotel costs, cat boarding, taxi fare to/from airport, meals, etc. 

And, it's also not terribly confidence-inspiring that I haven't run anywhere near my half-marathon pace in the past three weeks.  I've been cross-training a storm, but that ain't running, and only gets you so far.


Ugh.  I hate it when decisions are up in the air.  And the Magic 8K ball's no help.  I've currently left it at:

a) if nothing's sore or stiff or tight on Friday, I'll board the cat and hop on the plane (as of Thursday, the calf is still tight).

b) if I go there, and feel good, I'll go to the start and warm-up on Sunday morning.  If I feel absolutely 100%, then I'll race it, and see how fast I can run on 3 weeks of cross-training.

If nothing else, you can't say I haven't tapered for this one...


  1. The indecision! But I agree: "You're on your own, kid." I have no advice, just the hope everything works out great! :)

  2. Ditto Dash. Go and see how you feel. It will be so cool to watch the Trials, so there's that. Can't wait for this report!


  3. If it were me, I'd go to Houston regardless. Being there for trials, even if you don't run, would be so amazing.

    Get some autographs.

  4. Wow, what a quandary, I don't envy your predicament at all. I'm kind of with the camp of "go anyway" since it'll be a blast, I'm sure you have a good amount of teammates going, plus there are a lot of folks from RW. Could be a fun social thing. Either way, good luck with your leg and the decision!

  5. I vote for making the trip, to see the friends you've been looking forward to meeting in person and watch the trials. I have no idea what I'd do about the race though.

  6. Thanks guys. To be honest, if it looks tomorrow like I'm unlikely to run the race, then I'm skipping the trip. I really hate traveling, and I wouldn't mind saving the $700. Getting to see the trials was just a bonus.

    To put another way, if I was NOT registered for the race, and you offered me an all-expenses trip to see the trials, I probably wouldn't go. Again, I hate traveling, I have a ton of stuff to get done at home that won't get done if I head down, and I also won't get to run and continue rehabbing my leg, which is my top priority.

  7. From a purely physiological perspective, I've read that it takes 2-3 weeks for the body to adapt to a training stimulus, so any training you would have done in the past several weeks wouldn't have really counted for Houston. Just maybe kept you sharp. I ran the Houston half in 2008 after not having run for three weeks solid. The goal was a fun run. The watch broke mid-race and I set a 2-minute PR. So I really wouldn't worry about this from a fitness perspective. I think you are set up for a great race.

    From an injury perspective, it sounds like you are good to go. Maybe be prepared to DNF if you get any major pain during the race, but that doesn't sound likely. What does George say?

    It sounds like a tough call, but if I were you, I would definitely go to Houston.

    1. Not worried from a absolute fitness perspective; I was more worried that my lower legs/ankles/feet (which are my weak points) have lost strength and durability from 3 weeks of very limited mileage. I may not reaggravate the shin, but I'm also worried about triggering plantar fascitis, achilles tendonitis, etc, and then having to take more time off.