I am only now able to write this post, because I see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, I have prepared this nice instructional guide for any of you who may be worried you love running too much, or who need a two-three week break.
1. Run a full marathon.
Come off of it like NBD, have some celebratory beers and junk food, and check out your spring calendar full of awesome races you are going to STOMP.
2. Head out for a three-mile "recovery run" two days later.
All your training buddies are doing it! Who cares if your hamstrings feel like ground meat! Just do it, right???! Go ahead and roll your ankle on this run because, sure. Feels good! Wear the marathon t-shirt. You rock.
3. Wait two days and try to run again.
Feels horrible, right? Left hamstring hurts so bad it's almost numb? No problem! Just jog home and summon some of your nonexistant patience. LOL.
4. Go on an extended business trip where you sit on your rear for 14-16 hours a day.
Be sure to drive a lot. Eat sparingly or not at all, depending on when you have the time. Do some hour-long jaunts on hotel treadmills set to 0% incline and tell yourself you are fit. Feeling good, my friend!
5. Lose your foam roller somewhere on the business trip.
6. Once you're home, hit up an eleven-mile group run.
Make sure it is hilly as Hades. No one shows up to run your intended pace??? FEAR NOT! Just play slingshot with the 8:00 min/mile group. Feel totally out of control? Good! You are right on target! If you have some shooting pains in your left hip and hamstring during the run, just ignore them. I really can't stress this enough...KEEP RUNNING THROUGH THE PAIN. During this run and over the weeks that follow, you must ignore every signal your body is sending to try to get you to back the eff off. Running is good for you.
|When in doubt, just run more.|
7. Do a couple of rushed little training runs.
If you don't have time to run, just run really really fast. Shoot for 2-3 miles at your anaerobic threshold. Shock yourself with a couple of 6:30 miles. No biggie. Take Advil until you run out of it. You are still super fast from marathon training, and there is no way you need a break.
8. Race a hilly half marathon.
Just put yourself out there! Pull off a not-so-great time, but don't worry. The important thing is that you enjoy yourself. And forget about your leg pain. By the final mile of the race, you should be telling yourself, "I really need to work on hill training!"
|Smile! You have poor instincts!|
9. Take three days "off" and then run some hill repeats.
This actually works best if you are on a trip to an unfamiliar area, and the only safe place to run is a quarter-mile hill. Just run up and down it until you are drooling all over yourself. Your legs are fresh and rested, so this seems like a good idea, too!
10. Top everything off with a ten-mile hill session.
This should be done at a moderate/hard pace, preferably while underdressed. Run with a group, and pick a few guys who are slightly faster than you. Spend the whole run trying to keep up with them. By mile eight, you should be feeling your left leg again. Once it starts to hurt, run one more massive hill before you decide to head back to your car. If the GPS says 9.62 miles, you should definitely keep running to see that even 10.00.
|Birmingham, I love you but you're bringing me down.|
Success! You can now enjoy a few weeks of limping like the Tin Man and slowly feeling your sanity slip away as you well and truly, finally have to rest. If you've followed this plan correctly, you should have a strained femoral hamstring tendon, a strained piriformis muscle, and ITBS. JACKPOT! Make sure to budget several hundred dollars for the pool membership.
Of course, I write this in jest. After the ill-fated March 21 run, I immediately backed way off. I eliminated all running except weekly three-mile test runs on flat terrain. By no means did I take the time "off." Instead, I cross trained by swimming, biking, and stair climbing. As an unintended bonus, I joined a fancy pool/gym and had a full round of complimentary fitness testing (VO2 max, body composition, metabolic efficiency...more on all of that later). I started weight training again, which has been an immense help. Finally, nineteen days later, I ran three miles pain-free. Then, a few days later I ran four.
I feel cautiously optimistic about things. I am glad I had the humility to stop what I was doing before I did more than strain some soft tissues. I have found that I often don't identify and respect physical pain the way I should. Moral of the story: know your limits.