Week 17 started off the same way Week 18 ended—limping. I have been pretty exhausted from trying to fit in marathon training with all the logistics of the holiday season. Nonetheless, Teresa and I went for a 17 mile easy run Saturday morning. It included a significant portion in the Marin Headlands, before we returned over the bridge and finished around Crissy Field. It added to my largest week of total mileage in a long time (70 miles); maybe I was feeling the extra stress. A pressure, a tightness on the medial side of my right knee persisted the whole run and hurt pretty badly by the end. Massaging the surrounding muscles brought relief, so I figured it was tendonitis via tight muscles. I massaged that evening and then hobbled and massaged my way through an “easy” 4 miles on Sunday. Monday morning to start Week 17, I made it a little over a quarter mile from my house before stopping, hobbling back, and getting ready for work. Forecast was grim: take time off.
In the past week I have learned about new muscles and their attachments, especially the sartorius muscle. Its location and twisting around the front thigh seemed the only logical cause for the pain of the tendon or its sheath. I have also learned that I need to recalibrate my approach to this whole marathon thing. Not that what I set out to do in training was impossible or foolhardy, because I don’t think it was. It is clear to me now, though, perhaps fittingly because the Marathon is such a big race that requires so much of a person, that I must address the holistic nature of my training if I am to keep these setbacks spare and to avoid problems metastasizing into failure.
You might have an idea of what I’m talking about, right? Skipping the “little” things that make up the complete runner. How many of us have stopped doing core after a week or two of trying? How many of us have stopped rolling or stretching after runs, especially our longest runs? While I can be good about disciplining myself to complete the tasks I set out to do, I’m not perfect. But we walk around before and after our runs as if we are perfect, don’t we? We rush off to our jobs and back from them having not properly budgeted time to eat, stretch, and relax after intense training efforts, as if we should be more than fine. Eh, I don’t need to all the time. I’m busy enough as it is, and I’m doing things. I’ll do that other stuff on the weekend, when I have time, and it’ll be fine. And to think that we think we can get away with it!
Sorry to bear bad news that we all know is true but forget when running seems great: we cannot do it all without every essential component of it all, if we are to expect to come away unscathed and accomplished. Leave it to the true endurance sports, the longer they are, to expose a weakness, a flaw, an imbalance or insufficiency. Even the most minor defect can compromise the whole. A car with a loose lug nut can only drive so far before the wheels start to come off; a human with a missing link in the ABCG5/8 genes, can only live so long before suffering cardiovascular or hematological setback. We can only ask so much of our bodies and minds when we do not take care of them otherwise. We must work within our limits if we wish to expand them.
I think I take better than average care of my running body, but I can always do more and better. More yet, I can better respect and pay attention to the stress I put it under. I admit I have recently been distracted by fitting more and more into the already short days I have, including all that is already required, non-negotiable. Well, taking care is no longer negotiable. And to think that I could keep asking my legs to churn out the miles and the pace and give them nothing back but rolling before and after. To think that I could just swing right into full weighted squats immediately after a 5 mile tempo on a treadmill, immediately to save time, not having done them in over a month, that I could keep myself stable and not twist one hip one leg one knee when trying to get lower than ever before. And to think that I could even imagine myself improving at anything at all, that I could run faster, lift better, get stronger, set goals and succeed! Haven’t I already learned enough the past three years, that my body will forever be oxygen depleted, that I will be depleted, that I am now a mere static organism ripe for regression, that trying to thrive is futile, that beating on will only result in being borne back ceaselessly?
No! Nemesis has no place here; I won’t allow it. Holos is for me. We have to think as much as be as much, especially for the Marathon. No surprise that when I started addressing tightness, misalignment, and weakness in my glutes, hips, and other quadriceps that I started to experience real relief in my knee. I am certainly now a less dispirited but ever more respectful runner. With each little investment in my running self, I’m sure I’ll let confidence measure its way back into the whole until I’m once again striding anew.