Lessons from the Ground

I’m back. With some new scars, to say the least, but I’m back with a few solid weeks of training now under my belt.

Where did I go? Well, after my BMO Vancouver marathon May 6th, I couldn’t seem to stop falling. Maybe my legs were tired and that was their way of telling me I needed to rest. To take a break already. If it was, I didn’t listen. Until I was forced to that is. No, never mind. Even then I didn’t listen.

I was just chatting with the amazing Gillian Clayton (yes, none other than the winner of Ironman Canada 2012!!). She was telling me how she is resting right now, after her big race. Eating. Recovering. Taking it easy. Smart girl. She must know what she’s doing. Me, on the other hand… Well I tried to jump right back in with both feet the day after BMO.

May 26th was a beautiful sunny Saturday, not 3 weeks after my Boston qualifier marathon. I was out to do an easy 24km, but at about half way, just after meeting up with one of my awesome running buddies Steph, and running down a short steep hill, I tripped over what must have been my own feet. My palms, knee and shoulder hit the pavement, leaving bloody road rashes on each. My water bottles went flying out of my fuel belt over my head, smacking the ground somewhere ahead of me. Bad enough to do something like that on my own, let alone have someone witness my face-plant. How embarrassing! So I got up and finished my run with her.

The week after, my paces started faltering and my speed workouts slowed. I spent a couple of weeks trying to push through my staleness, to no avail, and finally resigned myself to a week of just running when I felt like it. Then I ran the Vancouver Scotiabank Half Marathon. And on Tuesday, July 3rd, I hit the ground again – hard. Smack on my kneecap. It hurt. Bad. Like, really, really bad. I pulled myself onto the curb and just about bawled my eyes out right there on the side of the road. Instead, I got up and hobbled through the rest of my run.

After a few intensely painful runs, I traded running for swimming in Kits pool. For one whole week. Then I raced Summerfast 10km on July 21. I felt good. Thought I was back. But I think I have a habit of jumping back in before I’m honestly ready. On July 25th, I fell again, my knee hitting the ground for the 3rd time (no, I know, I couldn’t believe it either). To top it all off, one of the worst colds ever hit me early August and tied me into bed for days.

My knees and shoulder now bear scars as permanent reminders of the need to listen to my body. My biggest mistake was forcing my workouts – even when I was grumpy and tired and didn’t feel like running, I forced myself out the door. Tired and grumpy (or not enjoying running) are the first signs of overtraining, the first hint that something’s got to change (of course, tired and grumpy can be signs of many other things too, like stage 1 iron deficiency anemia for example – that’s kind of the problem).

Now all this falling would seriously be for nothing if I didn’t learn something from it. The good news is I love learning (although I wish the lessons didn’t leave permanent marks). I learned that there is nothing to be gained from jumping right back into training without taking a well deserved break after a big race. That big races, such as my BMO Vancouver marathon, take a lot out of us, and our bodies must have time to recover. It is a requirement. I was not ‘tough’ or ‘hardcore’ to get back out running the day after my marathon and each day thereafter, I was a bit disillusioned.

I’m still learning. I see the need to periodize my training, building in recovery time where it must be taken. I’m learning that I’m not a slave to my training schedule – that it’s merely a guideline. If my body says ‘no’ one day, it’s okay to make changes and adapt my schedule at the last-minute to fit how I feel. Oh yah, and I’m learning not to race myself on my easy runs because ‘race’ is the antithesis of ‘easy’. You can never force easy. Finally, I’m learning that if it’s not fun, I need to figure out what’s wrong because the next step appears to be hitting the ground. And seriously, I have enough scars already.

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