At some point in their lives, all athletes will have to stop in the middle of a training session due to injury, fatigue or a combination of both.
During Sunday’s planned 20 miler, the second 20 miler on my training schedule for CIM, I had to quit running after 13 miles. My left knee was killing me and my right IT Band wasn’t far behind. I couldn’t hold pace, bonked every 30-35 minutes and had to refuel with Hammer Gel when low blood sugar gave me a headache and dizziness due to zapped glycogen stores. If that wasn’t enough, severe GI troubles sent me into the tall weeds twice, even though I had taken care of business before starting the run. This was the epitome of a crap-tastic run that wasn’t in the cards.
I hit the two-hour mark at mile 13 and finally stopped, something I should have done four miles prior when the pain exploded. Not knowing if this was a “push through it and finish” or “stop before you tear something” sort of situation, I dug out my cell phone and got advice from an athlete friend who is rehabbing a serious case of patellar tendonitis in her own knee. I was told in no uncertain terms to stop running before I do any more damage and create more micro-tears in the muscle.
The 1.5 mile walk back to the car was wrought with emotion. I was an hour away from my planned finish time and a full seven miles shy of the total mileage I was supposed to complete. Both legs hurt in various places and my tummy was in an uproar. I felt like the lamest piece of cake to walk around the Boulder Reservoir, especially since there was an adventure race happening that very day; 24 Hours…the Run. People had been looping around Boulder Rez for 21 hours when I quit my piddly 13-mile run. Talk about feeling like a lightweight.
All comparisons aside, I could feel that things were spiraling out of control. Friday’s run of 12 miles was a walk in the park with zero pain, because I had rested for two days prior. My muscles were fresh and glycogen stores weren’t tapped. Saturday’s 5-mile recovery run was fine, with just a little patellar achiness that was easy to ignore once my muscles were warm. But Sunday’s run, taken after the cumulative effects of the previous two days, was a disaster. My muscles were shot and the low glycogen stores in my body contributed to the winning combination of slamming me against The Wall time and time again. Eventually, I stopped bouncing.
I woke up this morning with one word in my head; BETRAYED. I feel totally betrayed by my body. My will power can’t get me through this one. I have a goal, desire, support systems, the time and the tenacity to accomplish a training plan and get me to the Finish Line of CIM, but my body is rebelling. And that, my friends, is a betrayal. I thought we were in this together.
Coach Gwen wants me to lay off running for a full week at the very minimum, and all exercise for at least four days. I’m seeing Bob Cranny of Altitude Physical Therapy on Thursday for a full evaluation of my issues, and will have a better idea of my current challenges after that. Gwen said that after the appointment she’ll rework my training plan to take into consideration whatever program he wants me to implement to get my strength back.
I’m seeing Jennifer of Dragonfly Acupuncture on Tuesday, and we’ll discuss my diet, Leaky Gut issues, and how my low-carb (read: NO CARB) diet is affecting my glycogen stores. She told me at the beginning of marathon training that because of the intensity of the exercise and how much I would need to refuel on a daily basis, we could really only hope to maintain my current level of digestion. We could not hope to improve the situation until after the marathon, when my activity level could be curtailed and true healing could begin.
The body is a miraculous machine, but it has its limits. Athletes regularly push to find those limits, and then work quietly each and every day to expand the limits. Today, I’m seeing what my physical limits are. My body has reached its capacity to endure more training and work, and my spirit is being forced to honor the limitations. I’m not happy about it; truth be told, I’m pretty cranked. I’m being forced to rest, forced to be quiet, forced into inactivity. Gwen talked to Bill yesterday when I was in the shower, and apologized to him for forcing me to rest; “It’s going to be like living with a caged animal,” she told him.
The only thing I can hope for is that this period of quiet will lay the groundwork for healing my body. Maybe the inflammation in my muscles at intestines will diminish. I might actually gain a pound or two back, which would be a good thing. The stress on my body will cease and I might actually be able to come back stronger.
I don’t know what Jennifer and Bob will tell me, but by the end of the week I’ll have a plan of action. That being said, I still feel betrayed. I’m not a hypochondriac. I’m not a quitter. I have goals, dreams and a serious passion for living that doesn’t like being reminded of the limits of the human body, specifically mine.