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February 20, 2006

Leap of Faith

Everybody has days when they would rather stay in bed than venture outside in the cold early morning for a long training run.

Disciplined runners usually overcome their early morning inertia and drag themselves into the scheduled workout. They know that each time they overcome the urge to skip a workout, they build mental toughness that will be needed on race day.

But this isn't a story about disciplined runners - it's about me.

Sunday morning was one of those days. When the alarm went off at 4:30, my body felt like lead. I lay in the dark for a few minutes, then crawled out of bed and checked the thermometer: 33 degrees.

“Well, at least it’s not freezing” I thought, and went about gearing up for my scheduled 22-miler. But the desire to stay in bed never diminished, even as I headed down the driveway into the crisp darkness.

Usually once I start running, I forget the notion of remaining at home, but that thought never left my mind on this particular morning.

My first steps were quite painful, particularly in one hamstring that has been bothering me for several weeks now. I’ve mentioned this persistent injury only a couple of times in this blog, but not dwelt upon it yet – I’ve been (perhaps foolishly) hoping to keep it a non-issue in my marathon buildup.

But a half-mile later, the leg was hurting me even more, and the prospect of 22 miles seemed overwhelmingly daunting. This is the point where disciplined runners typically overcome such mental hurdles and press onward.

As for me, I stopped in my tracks. I considered my options, then turned and headed back home. I returned to my house, changed my running gear for my pajamas, and climbed back into bed.

Once I made it out of bed again at 8:00, I replayed the decision over and over all day long. Although it’s a stretch, I’m keeping a cautiously optimistic outlook on today’s development (I even changed the working title of this post, which was “Panic Mode.”)

My injury isn’t catastrophic, but it’s certainly enough to derail my marathon preparation if I don’t give it the attention it deserves. Although it has limited my overall training volume, I’ve still been able to do several hard workouts each week, as long as I kept the other days very easy.

This weekend I made the mistake of planning two tough workouts in a row. I knew it might not succeed, and that shutting down one or both workouts would be an option I’d have to consider.

I’ve done long runs for each of the past several weekends, and now the Napa Marathon is only two weeks away, and it’s time to start tapering. I won’t lose too much fitness in these weeks, and the easier workload should help my injury heal sufficiently for me to race well at Napa.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Luckily, I’ve been down this marathon road enough times to know that one missed workout won’t affect the outcome, and that I can still be ready if I play my cards right.

The problem is, you never really know for sure if your decisions are the right ones until you are standing at the start line, or feeling the first miles of the race. For now, the skipped workout was a leap of faith. Instead of feeling well-prepared, I'm going to keep things very conservative and see what happens.

It looks to be an interesting couple of weeks ahead.


angie's pink fuzzy 2/20/06, 11:22 AM  

I like your perspective - choosing to view it as a leap of faith.

robtherunner 2/20/06, 12:46 PM  

Do you ever wonder if we just tend to overanalyze things too much?

I am not one of those disciplined runners either and I depend on having quality runs because I know I will be lucky if I can run 5 days and achieve every target run I have planned for the week. Many of us are too stubborn to give it up and get back in bed. I think you made the right call.

BuckeyeRunner 2/20/06, 6:44 PM  

Hope that hammy is feeling better. I think you made the right call, too - better to not do the run, than to force it, really injure yourself, and be out of the marathon altogether.

backofpack 2/21/06, 8:51 AM  

Definitely a good plan to give it up and go back to bed - and a very hard call to make. I totally understand the second-guessing yourself all day. My husband was attempting to run a "Quadzilla" - the Tahoe Triple and Bizz Johnson all in four days last October. The evening after the second marathon, his shin turned black and blue and he was hobbling. He wrestled with the decison all night, thinking he could walk the third and fourth days, but finally decided not to risk it. Good thing - he ended up on crutches for two weeks. He replayed that decision over and over - even though he was sure it was the right thing to do. Tough calls when you have a goal in mind. Good luck!

olga 2/21/06, 12:55 PM  

I had to stop on my tracks today with very painful shin in a scare of developing yet another stress fracture. Thinking is good, pushing fulishly is not. Good call.

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