Some training cycles start off great and just keep getting better. Others, however, require a healthy dose of "It'll get better!" and "This is only one race of many!". Week 3 of training can best be characterized as a set-back week and a reminder that the human body does have limits, regardless of how much of running is a mental game.
Monday: 6 Miles - The first run of this week started off pleasantly well. The weather was amazing, my legs felt light, and I was changing up my routine a bit as to where I was going to run. Things seemed to be going so great that when I looked at my watch after completing the first mile, I thought that maybe it was broken since the split was way faster than I normally run. Not giving a whole lot of thought to it and just pushing on, I continued with negative splits until mile 5. As I was booking it at the end of the workout, I suddenly felt a pull in the back of my leg between my heel and calf. Ouch! While I didn't feel or hear a pop, I could tell by the pain that it also not just a cramped muscle. When I finally got home, I realized that I had somehow strained my Achilles, which is a first in my running career. I immediately went for the ice pack hoping that the tenderness would subside and all would be good the next day.
Tuesday: 3 Miles - I think when a person starts running, the section of the brain that contains common sense gets lost amid speedwork split times and route locations. When I woke up Tuesday morning, my Achilles felt tight and sore resulting in a slight change in my gait when walking. Nevertheless, I packed my running bag since I was planning on doing my workout between various meetings. As I started my run and progressed through it, the dull ache in the back of my leg grew more pronounced with each mile. While the pain never reached a point where I needed to walk, going downhill was not a pleasant experience. I made a mental note at that point to listen to my body regarding what it could handle, even after a minor injury.
Wednesday-Thursday: Rest Days - After my flub of running with an injury, I decided to take two days off. My run from Tuesday seemed to have aggravated the tendon a bit more than I had realized. I spent the days icing and that's about it. A little bit of laziness also seemed to have crept in, since the small voice in the back of my head that was telling me to at least do a little bit of strength training and stretching was drowned out by Netflix. Bad decision...
Friday: 5 Miles - In always looking for the silver lining, I can say with certainty that I really enjoyed this run for the fact that I got to do it with my brother-in-law who was visiting us for a few days. He is currently getting ready for his first season of cross country (he's much younger than my wife), so we had a great time talking all things running. However, outside of this experience, the workout was down-right ugly. In looking back, I'm thinking a few things contributed to this. First, the decision to run at 4:00pm in summer is never a good thing. Second, I had been pushing my body way too hard. In looking at my mileage from the previous week, including in it my warm-up and cool-down miles, I had logged 37 miles - that's 12 more miles than I had done the week before! And third, my diet was way off. As someone who has recently been working toward a mostly plant-based diet (though I do enjoy my meats!), the fruits and veggies were lacking during mealtime. In some ways, I think my body shifted itself into survival mode. I really knew the workout was bad when my wife even commented how terrible I looked at the end of the run!
Saturday: 4 Miles - My hope for this workout was to redeem myself from the mess of the day before. While I did do better, my Achilles was really starting to hurt and my legs were swinging all over the place. You could say I supplemented this workout with cross-training - the lawn really need cut and rain was in the forecast so out the mower came!
Sunday: Rest Day - My plan for this day was going to go one of two ways - either a run or recovery. After some consultation with my body, taking a little bit of time off was in order. I figured that until I let my muscles recover and my Achilles fully heal, I was making myself more prone to injury and also wasn't allowing those parts of me that were hurting to get any better. I did make a commitment though that unlike earlier in the week, I would spend time each of the next four days doing the following: icing, foam rolling, yoga, and strength training. While not the same as a run, I've come to appreciate the value of each of these secondary aspects of running.
At this point, a part of me keeps thinking, "Only 15 weeks until the big race! That's like three months and I'm so unprepared!" I think this panic is what led me to push too hard these past two weeks. I've since come to terms with the fact that there is still time between now and the marathon, and that I'm in better shape now that I have been in a long time. I also need to give myself a daily reminder that the reason I run is because I enjoy it, regardless of what time is on the watch or if I meet a goal.