Monday, November 19, 2012

"And all that could have been"

If you ever want to know how I'm doing, just check out my iPod.  My musical choices are often pretty good indication of my mindset.  I may deny that I'm worried or upset (and I'll think I'm fine) but the iPod tells all.

Thus, despite my determinedly, doggedly positive attitude a few weeks back, my choice of Nine Inch Nails' Broken for listening during my arc-trainer session was a pretty strong indicator that I was worried.

"Covered in hope and vaseline /  
still cannot fix this broken machine."
- nine inch nails, "gave up"

And what is a marathon training cycle, if not a confounding blend of hope and vaseline?

I convinced myself I had no reason to be worried.  I had made it through the training cycle, right?  It was at the very end of a workout during my taper, done in the blustery remnants of Hurricane Sandy, that I first felt the burning pull in my left heel.  I knew what it was right away -- about 2 years ago I had a case of plantar fasciitis in that same foot that I forced until it that was bad enough to leave me hobbling.

So I did the right thing.  I stopped running.  Immediately.  Went straight back to my car, went home, stayed off of it for the rest of the day.  Swapped to the arc-trainer the next day, complete with broken audio backdrop, and then got a massage that evening focused on foot and calf.  I had weeks, right?  Plenty of time to clear this up. 

Dry needling.  Has a
pretty good track record for
plantar.  A bit ouchy, though.
But long story short, it wasn't enough time.

I don't go down without a fight, and so I threw everything I know at it.  Strasbourg sock, golf ball self-massage, dry-needling/ART, lo-dye taping, cross-training.   Discussed with others whether to just not run at all for the next three weeks, but it was agreed that I needed to run some on it -- PF is one of those things that full rest just makes worse.  So I taped, ran carefully, treated. 

And it improved.  I know what I'm doing.  And I did the right things.  But it didn't improve quick enough.  With 10 days to go, I stepped onto the track for a careful and easy 5K tempo.  The foot felt good during the warm-up.  But after that careful workout, it was sore and swollen.   Game over.


It wasn't that I couldn't run my race, but that I couldn't run my race.  Months of hard training have resulted in a cardio engine that feels like a marvel of German precision engineering.  But...flat tire.  It's not just the pain (which wasn't too bad), but also the fact that I just can't push off the way I want on that foot.  Protecting and shielding, hobbling and shuffling, is not how I race.

And I've also been down this plantar fascitis road before, and I know where it leads.  Months of rehab and missed races, if I don't fix it now.

So, I pulled the plug.  (coach in full agreement).

And it hurt.  More than the foot did.


It's not that I feel like I've wasted my fall.  Training compounds, and so the gains I've earned here will help me in future races.

Additionally, I loved the training itself.  Marathon training was very rarely a slog, and so often a joy.  If you had told me that I had my choice of a) doing the training cycle, but not running the race, or b) not doing the training cycle, I would have absolutely chosen option a.  Long runs are my favorite workouts, and the steady meditation of marathon pace on the towpath was a gift.  No regrets.
Freytag's Narrative Structure Pyramid
In case it's not obvious, one of
my college majors was English.

But I feel unfulfilled.  I love stories, and the tale of my training cycle jumped straight from rise to denouement, bypassing the climax.

Whimper, when I wanted bang.


Of course, over the week and weekend, I kept getting reminders.  Race confirmation email, google calendar notice, etc.  Heck, the local DC news covered the Philly Marathon, taking special care to note that it was "perfect running weather."  (you just can't make this stuff up).   And as I drove to yoga on my marathon morning, NIN blasted on, observing: 

"Just a glimpse / Just a little reminder 
Of all the what abouts
And all the might have / Could have beens..."
- nine inch nails - "the wretched"

And that's just it.  Hard training doesn't guarantee a good race - it's not a would have been, but a might have been.  Had my foot not busted, I might have lined up that morning, and then had a truly horrendous struggle of a race.  It happens.  My sadness is not that I missed out on the certainty of a good race, but that I missed out on my chance.  I really wanted to know how the story would end.


Sometimes, there's a small part of me that worries - 40 approaches.  I want to run fast before I get old, and I fear sometimes that I just don't have that many training cycles, that many chances, left.  Time may be a Pink Floyd song and a cliche, but it does exact its price.  And the irony is, the more you focus on the limits of time, the more they, ummm, limit you.

On the other hand... I've just written a lengthy, analytical, and self-centered blog post while quoting angsty rock band lyrics and alluding to T.S. Elliot.  Heck, I threw in some lit-crit and morbid references to time for good measure.

So maybe I'm still a teenager, and in that case, I have all the time in the world, plus a naive inability to appreciate such.

Either way, there's only one option.  Rest and recover, and then rebuild and register.  All as a prelude to kicking some massive race ass.

The way out is always through.


  1. I get this. (And by the way, I was an English major, too, so I love the analogy). I also love the flat-tire analogy-- very fitting. It's good that you see that this training cycle has made you stronger in many ways. And that the fitness gains will remain with you and benefit future cycles. Knowing when to pull the plug and prioritize your health is part of what makes you a successful athlete and you have demonstrated that here.

  2. You were missed, girl! Was sad not having you there but you live to fight another day, a better day. Here's to the culmination of your hard work but in the meantime, heal well and quickly.

  3. Ok – I get that you feel unfulfilled. I can totally relate. You put in a lot of hard work – mentally and physically. I have a hard time buying that your “story” has ended though. It’s the end of a sad, sad chapter but it’s not over. Your story is just a little longer than most. As you said, training compounds. You have no doubt learned a lot and when you finally do run that marathon, it’s going to make for a better ending.

    1. Very good point. And I didn't mean to sound that final. Chapter is a better word. :)

  4. "If you had told me that I had my choice of a) doing the training cycle, but not running the race, or b) not doing the training cycle, I would have absolutely chosen option a."

    I agree with this so much, and I believe that the real joy in endurance sports comes from the process and the training, not the actual event. It is those who do a marathon on 1-2 long runs of 10-12 miles miss out on the best part, not those who diligently train for a 14-18 week cycle and wind up missing race day. Missing the race is still painful, frustrating, and terrible, but nobody can take the experience of the last 4 months from you.