T-minus 1 1/2 weeks to the Vermont 50. 3 weeks ago I was storming the woods in Southern Indiana as if the oxygen was doubled and gravity was halved, nevermind the precarious pain I had built up in my legs at the beginning of the run, allowing adrenaline to work that minor annoyance out. I was flying, ceaselessly. The next week I struggled to feel my right leg while knocking out speed workouts on the track. I’ve been here before, haven’t I?
Just over a year ago I had another “condition”, same leg, lower on the totem pole though. The weird sensations had built day after day, despite knocking down the fastest workouts and tempo runs I had experienced to date. Sub 5:18 / mile 10 mile runs with plenty left in the tank at the end? No problem. What shooting pain in my leg? Two weeks later I was on a stationary bike on my porch, dripping with sweat and trying desperately to conjure up some motivating story about running to keep the boredom at bay. Down for the count. That time I had no races coming up, so it was just a matter of managing the injury, this time around I’m flirting with a frustration that may drop further than the Vermont 50 course climbs.
115 miles a week is nothing to take lightly. 100 miles in six days is no laughing matter either. Put some speedwork on top of that, throw in some hills, and you have a crucial need to pay close attention to all functioning systems. You can’t just run and expect your body to handle all the other business on its own. We runners are a delusional bunch, duped by our seemingly superhuman capabilities, thinking running more will only make us stronger, which at times it does, but at the same time exacerbates the smallest “imbalances”, both figurative and literal.
You can run 115 miles with relative ease, not having to manage any sort of “issues” with strength, conditioning and stretching if you are one of those idyllic humans with equal leg length, perfect stride and the daily freedoms to come and go as you please. I am NOT one of those humans. I have one leg mildly shorter than the other…or is it longer, I forget. I don’t get enough sleep with a 7am work arrival. I have family obligations. I am, in short, doing it all “wrong”. Of course, I’m not a professional runner, so paying attention to all those little “extras” holds even greater importance. As evidenced by the less than enthusiastic nature of this post.
I am broken. My leg / groin / something is in a state of overexertion, or strain, or weakened to the point of uselessness, and worse yet, is refusing to right itself with the normal prescribed rest I’m forcing myself to take. I want to yell at it. I want to punch it. I want to abandon all sensibility and give in to monk-like devotion to prayer. 1 1/2 weeks I tell you! 1 1/2 weeks! Get your shit together!
I’m left spinning like mad on the fat-bottomed seat of a stationary bike, growing impatient and moving to the elliptical machine, trying to lose myself in the thoughts of an aggressive and triumphant race, but just feeling lame for being on a bike that goes nowhere despite my furious pedaling. I do it all more just to keep my mental game on, and maybe hope the activity wakes my muscles from their slumber in time for race day.
Oh yes, I’m not backing down. Maybe I should, but I’ve put too much effort training for my first Ultra, talked a big game (to myself anyways), psyched myself up, paid too much of an entry fee, etc. I’m counting on one thing…the power of adrenaline to cure what ails me. And if that doesn’t work, I’m resorting to ibuprofen. I’m going to start this damn race…..and I better finish it as well. There will be no holding back. I will run through pain until the physical machinations of my body prevent me from doing otherwise (I just hope it’s further in the course and not the 1st mile). After all…it’s just a weak leg. I’ve got another strong one! And really, in the grand scheme of things….what’s a debilitating bit of leg pain? After all….THIS GUY DID THIS….
He had more reason to back down than I do. Let’s not get too ridiculous though. Don’t practice what I preach. Study the methods of THIS GUY and do it right…
Ok Vermont. Let’s do this.