Saturday, September 18, 2010

The agony of the feet.

Oh, we knew it was too good to be true.

At some point ... I had to suffer an injury. Because my training was just going too damned well.

Before you think that this has changed anything about Chicago, think again. I've been training too long and too hard - and have already developed a way-too-cute outfit - to not run this race. It's just that the next three weeks until I get to the start line? Are.Going.To.Suck.Hard.

I know the exact week that it happened. I might even be able to pinpoint the exact run; the exact mile. And I have no one to blame but myself. Oh, and maybe Nike. But that in a moment.

The schedule I have been following is pretty kickass. Kickass in that it rocks hard. But kickass in that it absolutely kicks my ass. I tore it out of Runner's World in May - it was part of a whole special section about making your goals for your next marathon. I had already registered for Chicago but hadn't really thought through a running plan. I didn't love the Nike plan on the marathon website; it didn't seem that challenging and it didn't give me enough hill work. (Everyone has something they love about training - I heart hills. A lot.)

But this schedule started with solid hill work and ramped up the long run miles early. Then you move to tempo runs and end with a few weeks of great speedwork. Seemed challenging but doable. Even looking at the weeks that totaled 45+ miles didn't deter me. I mean, RW would never put a schedule in their mag that couldn't be done, right? Right?

I stuck to the schedule diligently. Hung it on the fridge with a magnet and put a big "x" on every day I ticked off. Would stare at it longingly every night, reading about my run the next morning and trying not to get too excited that I would be one more day down. I got so caught up in following every day to the letter ... that I didn't really think about the fact that I was running hard five days a week. Never saw the big picture.

I was overtraining.

As all of you (okay, just Tina - hi Tina!) remember, Mexico threw me off. Probably a blessing in disguise because I didn't realize just how tired my body had become. I beat myself up on my first 20-miler, fitting it in on a Friday evening because I'd be working all weekend. Problem was? I had run a speedy 10 miles on the Thursday morning before. I simply didn't give my body time to rest.

So my second 20-miler, I swore I'd be stronger. Faster. More prepared. I got up early, ran ten miles on my own, then picked up Barb for the second half. Immediately, I told her how tired I'd been. "I think I'm running too much," I remember telling her. "I've never felt this tired all the time," I said. "Something doesn't feel right."

And then, somewhere around mile 14 - could have been mile 15 - I simply ... stopped.

My foot hurt. Like I had tied my left shoe too tight and the laces were irritating the top of my foot. I adjusted my shoe, tied and untied it. "Sorry, Babs," I whined. "Something is wrong."

I should mention here that I had upgraded my beloved Vomero +4s to the brand-spanking new Vomero +5s. I kind of knew they weren't the same, but I kept running in them, thinking Nike would never have changed them so dramatically. Alas, I think they did. They were no longer like running on clouds. My ankle didn't feel like it was supported by cotton balls.

I hated them. These damned Vomero +5s! Damned Nike for sabotaging me! Saboteur Nike!

And now I cursed them, thinking they had something to do with this new foot pain that was making my second 20-miler suck nearly as much as my first.

I limped home and immediately RICE'd. (Oh, the clever physical therapist who came up with that acronym.) Rest, ice, compression and elevation. Check, check, check and check. And let's not forget the painkillers, since I'm no Scientologist and feel strongly that there is better living through pharmaceuticals.

I won't bore you (Tina) with the details (too late!) ... but two weeks later, I've self-diagnosed tendonitis in my extensor muscles, which run from your toes all the way up your legs. (Good 'ol WebMD. If it weren't for the fact that I'm fairly certain I'm dying of cancer every time I get a headache, that website would be rad). Plan of action for extensor tendonitis is ... omigod, really? ... RICE.

So that schedule on the fridge just sits there, mocking me. I haven't put an "x" on any of the remaining days, since I'm kind of on my own schedule now, largely dictated by the ginormous size 11's on the end of my legs. Besides, it breaks my heart not to tick things off on a schedule. I have my OCD to thank for that gem.

I had one really successful run. Last Saturday, Babs and I did 15 miles, and I did it in good time. When telling people about it, I leave out the part where I limped for the last couple of miles. So while I celebrated a speedy long run, I lamented the fact that I indeed had an injury that now needed to be acknowledged.

I worry. I worry that I won't be able to run for the next three weeks until Chicago. I worry that even if I rest this whole time, I'll still be in pain on race day. I worry that I didn't do something about it in time to heal. I worry that I was a stubborn idiot who insisted on continuing to run. I worry that I've done all this work for nothing. I worry that I won't make my goal.

At this point, the fitness I worry about is not in my body. It's between my ears.

I have an amazing support group of running friends. Erin called me immediately to calm me down, telling me that I have one job - to be healthy at the starting line. And to do everything to insure that I am. Kerry called, too. After berating me for continuing to run (I rely on Kerry for reality smacks across the face - think Cher in Moonstruck slapping Nicholas Cage: "Snap out of it!"), she said it concisely: "It may not be the run you wanted, but if you heal yourself now, at least you'll finish it." Babs had the same issue last year and always gives me a good sympathetic ear. Rose, training for New York, also suffered an injury and like me, is a type-A runner and highly competitive. She assured me that I'll kick ass.

In the meantime, I've ordered a new pair of Vomero +4s, knowing my trusty pals will be just what I need on race day. I've vowed to hit the gym every day to keep up my fitness with low-impact cardio and strength training. I'm RICEing. And with a little luck, I'll show up to Grant Park on 10-10-10 ready to kill 26.2.

Besides, the super-cute race day outfit I bought at Lululemon is not going back.