The marathon training cycle that wasn’t

Reports of my demise are some combination of exaggerated and premature.

But it’s been a rough go of things lately. Our November marathon is still a ways off, but my chances of participating–as in, even reaching the starting line–are looking pretty grim at this point. That nagging foot injury I mentioned in passing over the summer became a lot more than nagging. I’ve been making regular visits to the local physical therapist, and have gone so far as to order custom-built orthotics molded to my specific musculoskelature.

The punchline: I haven’t run a single mile since earlier this month, and I’m currently not planning an imminent return.

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Lots of biking! But no running since September began.

I’ve resigned myself to this fate. I fought it for a few months, attempting to keep a running base while also working on healing my foot, but it backfired. I have no realistic alternative aside from avoiding any and all activities that put strain on my foot, effectively ruling out running entirely for the foreseeable future (indeed, WebMD more or less insists on a cold-turkey approach).

Needless to say, I have a lot of mixed feelings.

  • On one hand, it really bums me out that I can’t run at all. I’m missing all the Monday evening group runs at Fleet Feet, the Saturday morning group runs with the Athens Road Runners, and all the training runs in between. I miss it. I miss zoning out over the course of a 10-20 mile run and just enjoying being alive.
  • On the other, I think I needed a break. I was getting way too deep inside my own head, too obsessed with performance metrics and improvement goals. And there’s something to be said for a full-stop, cold-turkey break from running: rather than struggling through sub-par runs–bleeding off speed, cutting mileage, and generally feeling unsatisfied with the few runs I’d go on, all the while risking additional injury–I’ve accepted my situation and am now seeking out cross-training in all its glory.

To that end, I’ve been logging monster mileage on Sybil, my trusty Talus from my summer at Google (she’s just over 4 years old now!).

All my rides!

All my rides!

I’ve been exploring the country roads outside the immediate Athens area and having a blast while at it. I’ve already seen my times improving: my 39.1-mile ride was only 2 minutes faster than my 43.5-mile ride the subsequent weekend, and both took the same route. The latter route is my longest ride to date, in which I biked all the way up to the picturesque city of Jefferson, a classic southern town that I took a few minutes to explore.

Part of my motivation has been simply to get back on the bike; I really do enjoy cycling. But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t at least a small ulterior motive: while logging monster mileage is certainly a lot of fun for its own sake, as is using my newfound and growing cycling legs to explore an ever-wider radius around Athens, I want to log monster mileage on the bike as a way to minimize my loss of running fitness.

I’ll admit: in a sense, it’s freeing to just drop running entirely. That way, I’ve also dropped any expectations for performance when I inevitably get back in the game. Those first couple runs are going to suck, no two ways about it. But as a consequence of no expectations, I’ll get to see and experience the feeling of improving over each subsequent workout, observing my legs getting stronger again. I’ve already seen that in biking: in just one week, I extended the mileage of a really punishing route by 4 miles and finished in about the same time. The lower body workouts aren’t crushing me as much as they used to. I’m substantially upping the difficulty levels on the stationary bike.

The Lady and I are signed up for the Pittsburgh Great Race next weekend (yup, we’ll be visiting the ‘burgh next weekend, WOOT), and my participation will be on a game-time-decision basis. However, the weekend after is a half marathon in Atlanta, and I’m even less optimistic about my chances there. I’d probably have the fitness to finish, but it would be ugly…also, foot injury.

I suppose the long and short of this is: I miss running. I’m actually kind of glad for the break and reprieve, too. But I really miss running.

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3 thoughts on “The marathon training cycle that wasn’t

  1. Ah, I was wondering if you’d been switching over to the bike for a bit. Sorry to hear about the foot but glad you’re taking advantage of the opportunity to get out and explore on the bike! It’s good to have an enjoyable alternative to running to ease the injury-healing waiting period and turn it into an opportunity to get stronger 🙂

  2. Pingback: It’s the journey, not the injury | Where are the pancakes?

  3. Pingback: Rebooting and restarting | Where are the pancakes?

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