07 June 2013

Had To Happen

There’s still an hour left before midnight.  I could change my mind, but I don’t think I will.  It’s not that it’s coming down in buckets out there as the remains of Tropical Storm Andrea push into New England.  It’s simply that I’ve made the decision.  I’m killing it.  The streak is done.  It had to happen sometime, it might as well happen now, after hitting a nice round number yesterday of seven hundred and fifty days.

The eighteenth of May, two thousand eleven, was the last day that I didn’t run at least three miles.  More than two years.  There were plenty of days when all I did was pop in those three miles and check off the box, sometimes at un-Godly hours of the morning before heading out for long days of travel, or in absurd weather, or under various other unspeakable conditions when a normal person would have acted rationally.  But hey, why be rational?  Every day that the streak persisted built its motivational power not to let my training slip.  And the intensity paid off.  During the streak, I’ve set personal bests in every distance I’ve raced over that period, from the mile to the marathon.  There’s no disputing what ratcheting things up a notch – or three – produced in terms of results.

But there’s also no disputing the need for rest, recovery, and mostly, healing.  I’ve more or less mastered the art of resting while training, as odd as that sounds.  Easy days of three or four untimed miles, taken at an effortless pace, whatever that may be, are as good as days off;  indeed, I’ve refer to these as “VDOs”, or virtual days off.  Over this time I’ve also learned that easy jogs also in fact produce easier and faster recoveries after hard efforts than real days off.  I learned that quite by mistake the day I found myself jogging a workout with the middle-school cross country kids I coached on the evening after what was then my best marathon.  That shakeout felt great and helped my recovery, and since then I won’t miss an easy jog within a day of a big race.

Healing is harder.  Truth is, that pesky Achilles has nagged for better than half of the duration of the streak.  Yes, over a year.  That’s a long time, and it makes it instantly clear why it’s called chronic Achilles tendonitis.  During most of that time it was annoying but manageable.  But starting about a week and a half past Boston, it grew to seriously annoying, painful, and problematic.  Once it reached the point of interfering with normal training, it was time to sit up and take notice.

Though my posts have been less frequent recently, simply because there’s not much going on in my hobbled state, you’ll recall that I gave it ten days or so of light jogs, which brought some, but not a lot of, improvement, and then tried to ramp it back up.  No dice.  Back to the jogs, but even at the light and easy level, each one re-irritates the problem.  It’s back to somewhat manageable now simply because of the light load, but I know it’s ready to re-injure as soon as I ramp up again.

I’ve heard the advice from training friends that this particular injury simply won’t heal without real rest.  I believe them, but have been playing the mental game of fiddling with the definition of rest.  I coach others to think in the long term, but I’ve had a hard time doing that myself.  It’s time to take both my friends’ and my own advice.  In the long term, I’d like to be doing this for many more years.  And in the mid-term, I’d like to be ready for a strong fall marathon.  That means ramping up in July and into August, which means I’d better get this thing healed now.

As midnight approaches, and will pass, the magic of the streak will become a thing of the past.  It’s sad, yes, but it had to happen, so let it happen when it will do some good.  I trust myself to know I’ll have the motivation to crank things back up.  I’m less certain in trusting that I’ll know how long to wait and have the patience to do so.  Mostly, though, I’m just glad to have had this experience.

And hey, look at the bright side.  It was a truly miserable day out there today, and for a change, I pretty much just stayed inside like a normal person!