Tuesday's track workout was sketchy & unsettling. Wednesday's easy seven miles sucked royal ass, as all Wednesday runs seem set on doing. By the end of the run my glutes & hamstrings were barely firing, my shins felt tender & painful all evening, & I was absolutely dead on my feet.
I opted to get some extra sleep Thursday morning instead of biking (let's be real; I can't even remember the last time I biked) in hopes that my legs would heal up, but all day at work I could feel sharp little stabbing pains in my shins, especially the right one, and a dull ache in the area in my left calf where I had the stress fracture. Plus I still felt exhausted. By the time I was on my way home, I was thinking very seriously that this might be a good day to skip my run. It's one thing to run through it when you feel worn out, but my legs seemed to be frantically waving big, giant yellow flags at me, and there is no seven mile run on earth that's worth a serious injury (unless you're being chased by hungry cannibals or something).
And Friday morning my legs felt GREAT. No pain!! No soreness!! All the strength work!! No problem!! Friday's marathon pace run was sooo happening. I spent my drive home congratulating myself on my very smart, very rational decision making the day before and feeling smug about the blog post I would write where I would be all like, "Yes, it was hard to take a day off, but Friday's ***epically amazingly fantastic*** MP run just goes to show that listening to my body was the smart choice." Just kidding, I would never blog about "listening to my body" non-ironically. 2011 called & it wants its running blog humble-brag cliché back.
But no. Friday evening I was back to stopping every three blocks or so during my two-mile warm-up to stretch/shake out my insanely tight & painful Achilles/lower calves. It was so painful at times that I was tearing up & seriously considering taking another day off. I did not see how I was going to get through 30 minutes of marathon pace running like that, but sometimes when I run a little faster it goes away, so I figured I'd give it at least a few minutes of trying to run in the low eight's & see how I felt.
Thankfully, speeding up did seem to take care of the pain in my Achilles. But trying to get up to speed was so, so hard. Most of the time recently even my easy pace has usually been under 8:20, but now I found myself working really hard & still seeing 8:30-8:40 on my watch. Heading into the Panhandle I tried to pick it up and did finally manage to start seeing the numbers I wanted, but the amount of effort required was decidedly NOT what I wanted to be doing in a marathon. And, my shin bones were hurting again.
I never stop between traffic lights in the Panhandle, but this time I couldn't help it. That was the low point, the point where I just felt panicked and confused and like a massive Steamroller of Ruination was rolling right over my confidence and world view and sense of how reality functions and smooshing them into a pathetic, twitching smear of self-pity and desperation. My soul may have ugly cried a bit.
And then--I don't know how or why--something clicked.
Wait a second. Bring the pity train back to the station. Let's think about this rationally for a minute.
I'm running uphill. Into a 20 mph headwind. On tired legs. Going > 00:10/mile faster that I really need to.
After that I was a lot less hysterical. I slowed myself down & just tried to get to the top of the hill with marathon effort level & stopped worrying about the pace. Once I was over the hill, I did my best to stick to that: Is this how hard you want to be working in Santa Rosa at mile 10? Mile 20? Mile 24? No? Slow down, then.
Naturally things were MUCH much easier when I turned around & headed back towards home, going downhill with the (kind of ridiculous) wind at my back. (Seriously, at one point I thought I actually felt the wind lift me off the ground a little mid-stride.) My shins still hurt occasionally, but as long as I paid careful attention to how my feet landed, it was manageable. (Still, I did ice the heck out of them when I got home, and they remain a touch unhappy.)
Mile 1 was the uphill-headwind mile, so that was DEFINITELY too fast. Mile 2 didn't need to be that fast, but it was about half downhill-headwind, half uphill-tailwind, so not too egregious. Mile 3 & the last .75 were both downhill with tailwind and felt really easy, so those are probably fine. (I do find it kind of weird that my heart rate was so low on that first super tough mile, and that it was highest on the mile that felt the easiest. My target range for MP runs is ~170-190ish, though, so it's kind of nice to be under that & running a little faster than my rough "goal" pace.)
Speaking of goals, I know I need to manage my expectations about this race. It won't be a massive PR. This will be a short training cycle coming off a bad injury & lots of time off, and though the start is at 6:00 am, it's still Santa Rosa in August so the temps probably won't be ideal. If I can average an 8:10 pace & just BQ, I'll be happy. If I can eek out a little more, say 8:07, & actually have a chance of getting in to Boston, I'll be thrilled. Those paces already feel pretty easy (y'know, when I'm not running uphill & into the wind), so job #1 right now is just increasing my endurance without ending up hurt. I don't need to run every single workout to manage that. I mean, don't get me wrong; I'd like to run them all. But I'd more like to spend August 23-24 in Santa Rosa & not in a PT session/doctor's office.