Thursday, March 5, 2015

road2boston: i'm back

The elliptical machine and the bike trainer at the gym can be an infuriating and mind-numbing experience. I simply can't move fast enough on the former to get my heart rate above 125 BPM, and I can't force myself to sit on the trainer long enough to get a decent workout. Over the past week I resorted to various combinations of the two to get to eighty minutes per session, which actually ended up being a nice test of mental fortitude and a nice little dose of strictly easy aerobic training. Trying to look on the bright side, perhaps this calf strain was exactly what I needed at the time.

I feel fresh, rejuvenated, and 100% focused on the task at hand in the coming weeks. And, after an easy treadmill run yesterday and a quality "tester" treadmill workout today where I smashed out 19k with 6 x 4 min hard in the middle without a hint of pain or strain, I'm officially back. Tomorrow brings a road test. I'll continue to do my hip (possible cause) and calf stretches right up until race day. With luck and due diligence, I'm hoping to come out the other side of this injury with minimal time missed and a greater appreciation for simply being  able to run.

Six weeks to go.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

road2boston: injured

Less than 1km to go
I actually had a pretty decent race last Sunday (Feb. 22). It was an 8-miler (my first) and I finished in 50:08 - seventh overall and first in my age group. After an abysmal race a few weeks ago, I was just after a solid performance as it was likely my last race until Boston. With this in mind, I targeted roughly a 3:55 per km pace, which falls closer to my half-marathon pace than my 10k pace, but still pushing it. 

In terms of temperature we lucked out. It was only -12C with a light wind, which felt like spring conditions compared to the rest of February (coldest in Ontario in 115 years). However, the snow started coming down pretty heavy about thirty minutes before the race, which, combined with some of the residential side roads the course travelled through, meant for some slick conditions at times, and a possible cause of my injury.

I went our hard(ish), but in control. I completed the first kilometer in 3:46, and then focused on finding a rhythm. I begin steadily passing all the dudes who went out too hard, and not in control. I hit the proverbial rough patch both mentally and physically after we had looped around and gone up a steep incline for a second time around the 8k mark (I did notice I went through 8k faster than my 8K race a few weeks ago). I was really in a pain cave, but I hadn't quite reached the valley of despair. I didn't want to quit, but I did want/need to back off the pace a bit and gather myself if I was to finish this race on a positive note. 

By this point I had already passed all the overzealous folks who go out too hard and fade from the front. However, there was one dude who was over-so-slightly coming back to me around the 6k mark. I had already targeted him, but I really zeroed in on him now to help pull me out of the pain cave. Kilometers 8-10 were brutally slow (4:03, 4:02, 4:06), but I still managed to catch the guy just after 9k. I could tell when I passed him he was determined to stick with me, and he did because I broke one of the cardinal racing rules and wasn't prepared to drop him when I went by.

Everything changed for me at the 10k mark. My legs and my breathing came back to me, and I was full of confidence in my ability to push it until the finish line. I instinctively picked up the pace and I felt the dude fading.  

At this point we were passing loads of the slower 8K racers so I couldn't tell if, or how close, dude was behind me. I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of a full head turn to check his position, and to be honest I didn't much care. I was more concerned with finishing strong and closing out each kilometer faster than the last, which is what I did (3:58, 3:55, 3:45). 

But, at the end of the day it is a race. As we approached the final turn, I heard various people cheering for "Nick." I didn't make much of it because we were so close to the end (less than 200m). Then, everyone around the finish area started yelling and cheering, and I thought to myself, "Shit. This dude is trying to clip me at the line." I started running faster with about 50m to go, but by this point he was on my shoulder and in full-on sprint mode. I countered with a sprint mode of my own, but it was too late and he beat me by a half step at the line. Well done...bastard.

Winter racing in Ontario

After the race it was time for a quick sock and shoe change, and another 8-mile cool down run with my buddy, Phil, because we're training for a marathon and that's what we do. 

On Monday, I noticed my calves were feeling extra tight and sore, but I didn't make much of it. My calves are always tight and sore after big runs. It was negative South Pole outside so I hit the treadmill for my usual recovery run of 10km, plus 10 x 15sec hill sprints at 10% because I was next to Reid Coolsaet (Canadian olympic marathoner) at the Y. I wasn't trying to "impress" him, but perhaps I was inspired. Plus, I often do strides or surges the day after a long run, and I've done plenty of hill sprints during this training block, so it's really just part of the routine. In hindsight, this probably didn't help. On Tuesday, I did 16k on the treadmill with a moderate progression and felt pretty good. By this point I was barely even thinking about my calves anymore. After teaching on Wednesday, I headed outside for an easy 12k looking forward to a quality workout of 6 x 1km the next day. Within minutes I could tell something was definitely off with my left calf (never had a single issue on my left side). I was really hoping and trying to convince myself it just needed time to loosen up, so I pushed on, slowly. The pain wasn't getting any worse, but it wasn't dissipating either. I my heart of hearts I knew what I was dealing with. I had had this pain before in my right calf two weeks before the 2013 Ottawa Marathon. Calf strain. 

The physical therapist confirmed my suspicion. Minor calf strain of my left soleus muscle. This is not a good time for an injury of this nature, but it's not the worst either. If I let it heal and it holds I can still get four weeks of solid training in before going into a two week taper mode before Boston. 

Today was the fourth day in a row of no running. My P.T. recommended at least five days. Before Ottawa I took ten days off to be extra safe and went on long bike rides because it was nice outside. The race went fine and I haven't felt a twinge since. This time I'm aiming for seven days, but I'm already so sick of the stationary bike and elliptical machine I don't know if I'll make. I could swim, but I'm not a huge fan. I no longer feel a twinge going up or down the stairs, which means it's healing, but I know it needs more time. I hope I have the intelligence, willpower, and patience to give it that extra couple days it needs to heal up properly.