Friday, March 23, 2012

When the Hammer Breaks

Who's had a Running Injury? Please raise your hands{most everyone raises there hand}.  I've had injuries or nagging conditions throughout my entire running career.  No one who trains hard, fast, or far is going to escape the signals from the body that say, "Hey! Knock it off! That hurts!"  As careful as one ever may be, if you stay at it long enough, you will break down, get fatigued, at the very least, need a rest day or week!
For me as a runner, one of the toughest things to endure is not running due to injury. Imagine, you've been on a roll, building and building.  Every run you can go faster, taking it easy seems pointless.  You run a slew of new PR's, slicing time like a hot knife through butter, the clock is your play thing.  Momentum makes anything seem possible, it's manifest destiny!  You're traveling West young Man, You've got a fever!  And the only prescription is to DROP THE HAMMER!
and then the hammer breaks...
Jump into the time machine with me, venture now to the fall of 2008. I was at an all-time high, I was on my way to my 4th marathon attempt, and had built all my training and racing around a hop-skip-jump to an Olympic Trials Qualifying time. A big part of success is believing it's possible, and I was the first disciple of my own religion.  My first 3 marathon training periods were poorly executed, and the races themselves weren't great either, but along the way between NYC 07' and Philly 08', I smashed all my PR's, and it was all going well...or so I thought.  My Achilles tendon became inflamed a week before the race.  I raced the marathon anyway, battled the pain for 20miles(just beginning to fade at 20, still heading  for a 2:31) before things got ugly, and the last 10k were a painful, limping, death-march to end. Finishing in 2:36:42, periodically being passed by some other very good runners, wallowing in the anguish of not being able to do a damn thing about it.  
I had every expectation that I was fit enough to hit a 2:29 that day. The plan was, simple, get the 2:29, train another 6months, get a 2:24, train another 6-12months, get a 2:22, another 6months-2:21:59, and I was going to be on my way to race the best marathoners in the USA.  But there I was with a 13minute PR, muscles, lungs, and heart, strong enough to smash through a brick wall, and now suddenly, with numerous injuries. 
The next several weeks my feet just ached and throbbed continuously, eventually as I started to run again, my shin hurt too, another stress fracture!  I'm pretty sure I had about 3 of them at that point.  I couldn't run for about 4 months.  Crestfallen fails to describe my emotional state during these months.  The void seemed like a bottomless pit.  I went to sleep wondering what it was going to feel like to rise from bed in the morning and take a couple of steps, never mind go run.  You struggle to figure out what to do with yourself, and you revert to self-defeating activities.(overeating and partaking of the drink too much), But after those 4months, I was able to work my way back.
Zoooom-we're back to the Future(um, I mean present):
It's 2012, I'm running well, going further, and sometimes faster, enjoying it, picking my battles more wisely.
A broken hammer, can be made into a stronger hammer, melted down and recast, presto, new hammer!  Your body will heal, and especially in the case of bones, they often end up stronger than before they broke!  The comeback trail is a rough one, but this is a journey you made at least once before. You know you just need to retrace some steps, what lies ahead is what you're after, so you take your time and you'll get there.  Learning to take it easy is one of the hardest things to do as a competitive runner.  Or maybe to realize, that you aren't competing every step of every run.  Easy running is more beneficial than one might realize, and also more fatiguing than you'd think.
That's a big hammer!
Rest days, sleep, and nutrition can't be ignored, if you want to be able to drop that hammer again!

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