THE BEST I CAN SAY about the past few days is that my body has been efficient. If I had to get hurt and sick, at least they happened together. Dual-purpose recovery!
And yet there is something very odd going on during this recovery.
Last Thursday after working out my right knee was a bit tender, so I put off my scheduled five-mile run for a day. On Friday while warming up for the run, I found that a deep knee bend caused a sharp pain in that knee. It didn’t hurt otherwise so I (carefully) completed the run, but my knee did not loosen up.
I emailed my coach and told her I was cancelling my Saturday long run. She agreed; it was time to start tapering anyway. No sense in risking an injury this close to my upcoming races. Just as well, since over the weekend, I came down with my first full-blown cold in years. So Monday’s strength workout and Tuesday’s run were out, too.
The good news is that I’m on the mend; the knee pain is gone, and I’m getting over the cold. So I’ll be back on the road soon, and should be good to go for the April races.
These things happen, and we exercise freaks get through them as best we can. Fellow blogger Sam writes here about a week with no exercise, and blogger eloisedu talks here about a nagging hip injury that is sidelining her for four weeks. They express their frustration but know they will be back. I was going to post on their blogs that I “felt their pain” so to speak, but then came to a stunning realization:
I haven’t missed training at all. In fact – umm – I’ve been enjoying the break.
What’s wrong with me? I should be bouncing off the walls right now, frothing at the mouth, gazing longingly out my front window at the nice weather and the healthy, unhurt runners gliding by. Nope. I’m just resting and going through the other things I have to do each day.
Fortunately, I believe I know what’s going on. My training is not what you would call “elite level” but for the past few months it’s been at the highest intensity and volume in my life. It’s been tough, and despite signs that my body was finally adapting and getting stronger, I’ve had to put up with continual low-level soreness throughout my body and fatigue from all the activity.
So don’t get me wrong – being sick has really sucked, and comes with its own issues – poor sleep, stuffy head, and achy feeling. But my muscles are feeling better than they have in quite a while, and my energy level is rising, too.
But what about my upcoming races? Is all this (relative) inactivity going to sabotage my goals of qualifying for Boston or finishing my upcoming ultras? I doubt it. I’ve trained year-round for a long time, and with the increased effort over this winter, I’ve got the base I need. I’m not going to forget how to run by easing off for a week or two.
This is the classic dilemma runners face when they taper. We’re so used to our training routine that when we cut it down before a race, we feel like we’re slacking off and hurting our chances. But to be in peak form on race day, letting the body heal and rebuild beforehand is the best thing we can do. Running, or any athletic endeavor for that matter, requires mental discipline as much as the physical!
And when April gets here, with three races in four weeks, I get the feeling I’ll be grateful for this enforced rest here in March. And yes, I am still looking forward to the races – very much so. That’s the best sign of all.