Saturday, August 29, 2009

Out and Back, Not Down and Out

On July 13th I began marathon specific training as a member of Team Point Two. The plan was to train through the Crazy Horse Marathon in 12 weeks and focus on the Amica Seattle Marathon in 20 weeks. With my ultimate goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon in April 2010. John Ellis, the team marathon advisor sent me the training plan for the week on July 12th; which consisted of a track workout, a hill workout, a long run, a cross training workout, and a couple medium distance easy runs. Now to be clear, I had been splitting my training time between three sports during triathlon season in May and June. At the end of June, when my tri season concluded, I took two weeks of active recovery before starting on the marathon focus.

Day one of marathon training began with a track workout. The plan was for a 2 mile warm-up, 2 sets of .75 mi, 1 mi, .75 in 4:36, 6:08, and 4:36 with a 4 minute recovery jog between each distance and 1 mile jog between each set, followed by a 2 mile warm-down jog. The workout was going great and I was feeling tough until the last .75 mile. As I came down a straight away at 600 meters, my right calf cramped up to the point that I had to stop. I tried stretching it and walking it out, but I knew immediately that I was done for the day. I went home and contacted John to let him know what had happened. His advice was to take a rest day the next day and then to try running again the next day. That workout was an 11 mile trail run, which was fairly painful, but I gutted it out. I then followed that with a bike ride the next day. When I finished the bike ride I noticed the amount of swelling from my ankle to knee, and self-diagnosed something more that just a cramping issue. After the initial injury, I had been icing and popping vitamin Ibuprofen as much as possible. John advised me to switch my runs to elliptical or bike rides. I decided to get in and see a physical therapist as soon as possible.

By the middle of the next week my recovery had begun. I had done a few elliptical workouts and decided, that is a drudgery that I would not wish upon anyone. Not to say that elliptical doesn't have it's place in training; but like with so many stationary machines, they are not designed for my 6'4" frame. I visited a physical therapist and we started an aggressive course of treatment to get me back on the road as quickly as possible. They diagnosed me with a moderate strain of my soleus muscle. The plan was to use a combination of electronic stimulation, ultra-sound, massage, ice, stretching, and strength training. I was also released to begin running again with lower miles and moderate pace. The PT continued on a twice weekly basis for 4 weeks, along with ice, self-massage, and ibuprofen. At which point I was released to get back to focussing on my goals. Through the entire recovery John and the rest of Team Point Two was there for me with appropriate workouts and lots of support.

There are few things that I took home from this whole experience. First off, when you find yourself injured, remember there is a future after injury. It was immediately depressing to find myself injured at the very beginning of my focused training. I had to be willing to change my goals and re-focus on getting healthy again. Several of my fellow teammates have found themselves in same position this season. All of them have been able to start down their own roads to recovery and in some cases change there goal races to later dates. Next, listen to the authorities. I firmly believe that my rapid recovery was based on my willingness to listen to and obey the advise of John and the physical therapists. The next wasn't so much of a learning point as it was reminder, STRETCH. Focused stretching is every bit as important as the workout itself. The last idea is to be open to trying new things. I avoid doctors and medical professionals if at all possible, but in this case the physical therapist was exactly what I needed. My natural response would be to tough it out and not say anything, which would have been extremely detrimental in to my training. I also picked up a pair of compression calf guards and begun to use them on my hard workouts. I started using ice baths more often to speed my recovery after challenging days. To wrap this up, I am even considering scheduling a weekly massage to reap the benefits of muscle recovery and repair.