Sunday, March 11, 2012

First, Do No Harm

Can I tell you how much I hate falling short?

My running week started out okay, but this weekend has been a little bit of a disaster. Saturday I had 14 miles on my schedule (long for me these days), the same 14 miler I've tried & failed to get in for three weeks running. But this time I had plenty of time and the weather was nice, so I'd been cautiously optimistic that the third time would be a charm.

No such luck. Long story short, every physical ailment I've been dealing with for the last few weeks (none of which are that major) decided to rear its ugly head within just a few miles. The left forefoot & right heel pain that's been there for months, the weird Achilles thing that started Tuesday, the left ankle I rolled twice earlier in the week, the right hamstring sore from strength testing at SF State the day before--they were all there. The emotional part of me wanted to "power through" and "be hardcore" and "git 'er done," and very probably could have, but the rational part knew that the smart thing to do was to cut the run short as quickly as possible and not risk making anything worse. So I ended up with ten miles for the day.

On Sunday I had eight miles planned -- 2 wu + 3 x 2 at HM pace. I went to bed Saturday night still not able to put my full weight on my right leg thanks to the Achilles issue. Sunday morning it felt better, but then a few experimental strides down the hallway brought the pain back immediately. I'd feared I wouldn't be up to HM pace but hoped I might at least get a few more easy miles in; clearly neither of these things were happening. (Which is to say, I could have made it happen, and in the process made everything worse.)

I'm a firm believer in setting high expectations for yourself. And as a recovering Type A over-achiever, I know a thing or two about high expectations. In particular, I learned the hard way that there are ways of defining success that will guarantee you always fail. (This may or may not have something to do with why I am no longer in my previous job.)

I've felt this way quite a bit about running lately. I believe that I'm capable of a lot more than I've thus far accomplished, and that one of the things I need to do to get there is run solid mileage consistently. This has been at the front of my mind as I'm planning mileage for each week. My goals aren't unreasonable by any stretch, but they are subject to "life" -- sudden changes in plans, bad luck, injury, illness, etc. I don't think I've had a single week thus far where I've been able to run all the mileage I had planned, and not for lack of trying. (At least not 95% of the time.)

Watching those numbers fall short week after week after week, no matter how much effort I put in, can really take its toll on how I feel about myself as a runner. Two miles short here due to getting home late. Four short there due to to a last-minute social engagement. A day lost because I can't put weight on my right foot. It adds up. In two days I'd gone from on track to break 50 miles for the first time this year to leaving it at 41 and resigning myself to at least two days of complete rest. I know I should be glad that I still got in a reasonably solid week, that nothing major is wrong, and that it's basically time to taper for Oakland anyway, but there is something about not meeting my weekly mileage goal--yet again--that still stings.

And that's when I start to have thoughts like these:

What's the matter with you? Other people get their mileage in--more, even!--what's your problem?

If it was really that important to you, you'd find a way to fit it all in. Don't you ever get tired of explaining why you didn't do/finish a run?

Well, at least when you tank at x race, you'll know why.

I know they're destructive and inaccurate and I should just banish them, get over it, and move on. And usually I'm pretty good at that. These recent weeks are really testing me, though.

Well. That's surely enough wretched self-pity for one day.


  1. 41 miles is still great!!!! It sounds like you just needed some rest and hopefully you will be back up to your mileage this next week. I will send some positive thoughts your way.

  2. You are human -- and we all have our ups & downs. Hang in there through the downs, and ups will be right back. Take care of yourself & can't wait to see you at Oakland!

  3. Those kinds of thoughts are one reason I stopped planning out daily and weekly mileage. I felt like a failure if I took it easy due to a random pain, or if I overslept, or if life got in the way. I was losing sight of the fact that I love running just for the sake of running. When I couldn't run for four months due to a stress fracture, I came back and was SO grateful to run.

    I'm not saying that you should scrap your training plan, because you know a lot more about running than I do, and you know yourself. (I don't actually tell anyone to do that.) But if you need to skip a run, try to remember that running WILL always be waiting for you the next day, or the day after that. It will still welcome you back, it will still sometimes kill you and it will still make you stronger.

    1. Excellent points. I think I benefit from the structure, but it's definitely a fine line between having enough of a plan to keep me motivated & letting it become so set-in-stone that I feel like a failure when I don't stick to it perfectly. It's been a tough week for me in my non-running life, and I'm sure that's played into letting these little snags get to me more than usual.