Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A (Heavily) Modified Approach to 26.2

My last taper run is complete. I've got nothing but rest and sleep on the schedule for the next six days. I’m as prepared as I can be. The waiting…the long, agonizing, frustrating waiting is almost over.

This is a journey that started out with the best of intentions. In late December and early January I had begun ramping up my total mileage even hitting a high of 17 one very cold day in early January. While not where I wanted to be yet, I felt like I was on the right track.

Then, one of the worst injuries I’ve encountered hit me. This was unlike any nagging, chronic pain I’ve experienced in the past. Even the foot problems that required me to have surgery three years ago were not so pronounced.

Reading various online sources I tried to determine if I had a really bad case of IT Band Syndrome, ligament damage or tear to one of my calf muscles. Lacking an MRI, I guess no one can say for sure, but I think my doctor got it right when he said it was probably and injury to my soleus muscle. He noted this one is slow to heal.

So since early March, on his advice, I’ve been seeking treatment at the Lone Tree office of Cherry Creek Wellness Centers. Nick, my therapist, has done various things to help me heal more quickly than I might have on my own. Most if involves dry needling which is uncomfortable at best and very painful at worst. He also has been working me through various stretches, balance exercises and a taping regimen.

While this has helped, it was no magic bullet either. As March wore on, I became increasingly pessimistic about doing this race. Maybe I could switch to the half or perhaps just eat my entry fee and drop out.

I managed to start running again with less pain, but it was still there and it was clear that recovery from this injury would (and will) be measured in months rather than weeks. As I finished a short run one afternoon, I noticed that my walking pace was under 15:00 per mile. That’s not blistering, but that combined with some running would actually allow me to finish the race while there were still people at the finish line.

Hence, my decision back in early April to try a long run/walk with a big emphasis on the walk part. Figuring it made the most sense to mimic the actual Colorado Marathon course as much as possible, I set out on a point-to-point from home to the far side of the Cherry Creek Reservoir Dam:

It was not easy and a few hills near the end had me walking far more than I had planned to. But I did it. At the end of that run, I had covered 20.75 miles in about 4:06. Not exactly a blistering pace. In fact, slower than my pace from 7 years ago in the Rock-N-Roll San Diego, but not a DNF either.

A week later I fell a little short but still managed to run 17.25 and then a week later, I did 13.1 including a 300 foot climb in the second half.

All of this hurt quite a bit, but it has restored my confidence. So now I have an idea of what I’d like to try and accomplish this Sunday. This is an ideal, not necessarily what I think will happen, but it’s good to set a stretch goal so that even when falling short, you’ve still accomplished a lot.

Miles 1 - 5: Run four at 10:00 pace, walk 1 at 15:00 pace for a total time of 0:55:00
Miles 6 - 10: Run four at 10:00 pace, walk 1 at 15:00 pace for a total time of 1:50:00

I actually more or less did this on my 13.1 mile run a week ago.

Miles 11 – 15: Run four at 10:30 pace, walk 1 at 15:00 pace. Total time elapsed: 2:47:00

Miles 16 – 19: Run three at 10:30 pace, walk 1 at 15:00 pace. Time: 3:38:00

Miles 20 – 22: Run two at 10:45 pace, walk 1 at 15:00 pace. Time 4:14:30

Miles 23 – 24: Run 1 at 10:45 pace, walk the other at 15:00 pace. Elapsed: 4:40:15

Miles 26 – 26.2: If at all possible, run at 10:45 pace. Final time: 5:03:54.

I’m likely to be very tired and sore starting around 16 to 17 miles in. What’s more the steepest hill on the course is at about mile 19.

Yet there is also reason for optimism. Heat, as it has always been, is my enemy. It did me in at HITS last year and has made havoc of multiple training runs. Fortunately, the current forecast is a high of only 62 and that is likely to be later on in the afternoon, long after the race is over. Gravity is also an enemy. I know there are people out there who actually like running up hills, but I don’t understand them. Granted, I don’t like steep descents such as those found in the early part of the Horsetooth Half Marathon but this race averages an easy 0.8%. Indeed, the steepest hill I found on the course profile is 2.2% which is on the down side of the big hill at mile 19.  Finally, I’m resting all week. My sore legs will be given a break this week with nothing more than walking a few blocks in San Francisco when I’m out there for work for couple of days.

This will be a challenge. Next week at this time, I’ll be incredibly sore and tired. But in the end, I’d rather go out and do a full 26.2 at a slower-than-hoped-for pace than have an even more disappointing 13.1 or a downright demoralizing DNS.

Regardless of the outcome, look for a complete race report here next week.

Thanks for reading and have a great week ahead!

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