The short of it
I haven't been able to run for 3 weeks. It has sucked. The Boston Marathon is in 3 weeks. It is not good to take 3 weeks off from running 3 weeks before a marathon.
Skip to the Takeaways section if you just want a quick run-down of the goings on of this post. Otherwise, read on and enjoy!
After a long 22 mile run through the snow 3 weeks ago, I started having some pain in my feet. The pain was so bad it hurt to walk or stand for more than 20 minutes. It almost felt like there was a rock in my shoe that I was walking on and couldn't get it out. I even took the insoles of my shoes out a couple times just to check.
Seeing the Doc
At first, I was afraid (I was petrified <-- name that tune!) that I fractured something, but the pain was in both feet and a double fracture was highly unlikely. After putting up with the pain and inability to run for about a week, I tried to get in with the MSU SportsMEDICINE docs to see if they could take a look for me. The only problem was that they were booked for about 3 weeks straight. I went into freak-out mode and sent my buddy Kyle (who works with the sports med docs) a text asking if there was any way they could squeeze me in. Kyle came through in the clutch and got me in THAT DAY! He and the doc took a look at my feet and didn't think it was a fracture, but ordered a bone scan anyway to rule it out.
Am I a superhero now?!
I got an injection of a radioactive isotope (can you say superhero?!) that would cause my body to emit gamma rays for the next 24 hours making me a bonafide superhero! Oh, and it would cause any fracture to show up when I got the bone scan a few hours later...I guess that was the main point, right? Fortunately, the bone scan came back negative meaning there was no fracture. Unfortunately, there has still been some pain in my feet. My thought (and the doc's) is that running for 2+ hours in the snow caused my peroneal tendons (the ones that stabilize the feet) to have to work way harder than normal and resulted in some really bad inflammation. So for the last 3 weeks, I have been diligent with my recovery.
Since I started training for my first marathon in 2013, I have never been so injured that I had to take more than 3 days off from training, let alone 3 weeks. Now normally I'm not one to take anti-inflammatories. I think (and research like that reviewed on Runner's Connect shows) that inflammation is part of the healing process and is necessary for healing injuries and recovering from training. Anti-inflammatory drugs inhibit training adaptations, but I have been taking Aleve every day to try and reduce the inflammation. If I can't train, then the Aleve won't have any effect on my training adaptations, right? In addition to taking Aleve, I have been rolling my legs giving special attention to the outside of my lower legs (where those peroneal muscles are) with my foam roller and Roll Recovery R8 (the thing with rollerblade wheels!) I've also been rolling my feet with a tennis ball and putting some essential oils on it before bed (thanks mom!) Finally, I've been dunking my feet in a nice ice bucket several times a day.
Inability to run
All of this has helped, but the process has been unbearably slow. Since my 22 mile run 3 weeks ago, I have only run 17 miles on the roads and spent about 3 hours "running" in the pool. Many of those road miles were in 10-15 minute bouts where I turned around after 5 minutes because the pain had already started and I knew I wouldn't get through the run without being really sore the next day.
Good news, bad news, more good news, and the best news
On the bright side, I have run three times this week with two of those being 30+ minutes. My "long" run today was 4.5 miles pain free! On the not-so-bright-side, during my 4.5 miles today I did 2 miles easy followed by 1 mile at (what I thought was) marathon pace. I ran this mile without looking at my watch for an indication of pace and just going by feel. When my watch buzzed at the end of the mile, I looked at it and it read 5:48. Uh oh...I guess the good news is that my average HR was only 153 bpm (max 162 bpm during the mile) and my average run cadence was 197. During my previous marathon pace efforts my average HR has been in the 170s and my cadence is usually 200+. So those are my good takeaways. The best takeaway is that my feet didn't hurt at all and they don't hurt later in the day either (even after an additional 90 minute bike).
More good news/bad news
The good news is that I've been able to continue swimming and biking in the meantime so I haven't lost any of my aerobic fitness. It's going to come down to the pounding my legs are going to take on the downhill course of Boston. Fortunately, I did a lot of leg strength work to prepare my legs for the pounding, but it has been 3 weeks since my last lift.
I know you don't mean to, but...
A lot of people have been asking about my progress and if I'm still planning to run the marathon. I really do appreciate all the well-wishes, but part of me really dislikes people asking me if I'm still planning to race. Not because I'm ungrateful, but because it reminds me that there is a very real possibility that I WON'T be able to make it through the marathon; at least as fast as I would like.
Why marathon training is so hard
Marathon training is difficult. You train for 16-20 weeks in the hopes that everything comes together on race day. It's not like a 5k or 10k where you can just do one the next weekend. What's more is that my training had been going SO well. I was hitting every of my long runs and all my tough efforts. To have it all come to an abrupt halt has been difficult to deal with. Now that I haven't run in 3 weeks, I've had to think about tempering my expectations for the race. Not something I like to even think about let alone tell others because, since I signed up for the race, a 2:25 marathon has been my goal and I don't want to give that up.
Something to boost my spirits
Aside from being able to do my "long" run today, something pretty cool arrived in the mail today: my Boston Marathon runner's passport- bib #140! Apparently this means that I was the 40th fastest qualifier of the amateurs who will be racing on Patriot's Day in Boston. Pretty cool!
1. I have some awesome friends who bend over backwards and treat me better than I deserve to be treated.
2. I don't have a stress fracture, just some really bad inflammation in the peroneal tendons of BOTH feet.
3. Not running for 3 weeks has tested my (paper-thin) patience, but has taught me that you can't rush some things.
4. Marathon training is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
5. People asking me about running the race bothers me because it makes me confront the possibility that I might not be able to.
6. I AM still running the Boston Marathon and am going to put forth my best effort on race day. I will be happy if my best is a 2:25, a 2:30, or heck even a 2:40! I am going to earn this jacket.