Monday, March 11, 2013

Never Too Old To Learn; Hopefully Not Too Old To Go Faster And Farther

This post has changed focus and content both in my head and on my computer countless times in the last nearly four months.  Initially, it was going to be about how I trained for my first marathon and perhaps qualified for Boston.  Then, it was going tell the story of my experience managing plantar fasciitis, then a calcaneal stress fracture, then plantar fasciitis, still training for my first marathon.  I was going to talk about overcoming winter weather and seasonal illness and how I (mostly) took my own professional advice, but may have made a few errors in judgement. I put it off for several reasons, primarily because I did not have an ending.  Now, I'm running again, but still dealing with plantar fasciitis and I changed my marathon registration to the half, so...

Life happens.  Challenges and barriers get in our way.  Goals change.  Life continues.  Hopefully, we learn, gain wisdom and strength.

The last few months have been an enriching experience which, upon reflection, was the point.  After realizing that I had never run a full marathon, a friend and fellow trainer, said "oh, you'll do one one day so you will be able to share the experience with other runners that you coach."  That was all it took.  She was right.  I needed that experience to grow as a running coach.  I have not experienced a marathon yet, but I am learning for sure.  Learning things like:

I saw a similar sign in SA that made me chuckle.
Running can be fun!  I am usually quite competitive when I run, mostly against myself and the clock.  I do not race to finish; I race for a fast time.  However, last fall as I increased my base mileage, I visited my best friend in Texas to run the San Antonio Rock and Roll half marathon with him.  The point of the race was to just hang out--a novel idea for me.  Other than having the "buddy time" I also enjoyed seeing parts of the city I had never seen before and I was able to actually enjoy the festivity of the event and the crowds.  While I will continue to race for speed, I would certainly consider doing another "fun" race too.

Fifty percent of all runners this year will have a running-related injury.  Statistics repeatedly show this. So, I consider myself lucky that this is the first time in over twelve years of consistent running that I have needed to take a break from running for longer than a week.  For those who don't know me: I have worked in physical therapy and sports medicine for over twelve years too.  Usually, I am pretty good at taking my own professional advice.  This time, I did okay.  However, I think I should have sought help sooner.  As much as I know, I do not know everything.  An earlier fresh look from an objective set of eyes might have made the difference between four and eight weeks off running.

As I have shared before, I have been running in minimalist shoes for a while.  Having a foot injury has changed my approach a little.  Currently, I am running in a more traditional stability shoe and I plan to continue with this shoe as long as I struggle with plantar fasciitis.  After that--hopefully soon--I will continue to run long with these shoes, but return to my minimalist shoes for shorter runs.  I think my body just cannot handle running high mileage on hard surfaces with minimalist shoes.  Consider that for what it is worth.  Running shoes are as individual as the feet that fill them.

As a coach and trainer, this experience has forced me to be more thoughtful in my own training program design.  I have to focus on quality first and design a comprehensive regimen to include appropriate running workouts, complementary cross training, and focused strength training.  I ask questions like: where am I weak?  Strong?  What led to the injury?  How do I manage it and continue to train?  What are my goals?  A particular race?  Longevity?  After I choose a race, what performance can I realistically expect?  And, how will I get there?  I have really had to think analytically which is only going to help me to improve as a coach.  Before the injury, it was just do a little more of this, a little less of that, ignore the other thing.  Now, I have had to start over.  That was a significant blow coming off my fastest year ever, setting PRs in the 5k, 10k, and half marathon. Patience, patience...

...which leads me to my overall outlook.  "Everything happens for a reason."  "When one door closes, another opens."  "Every dark cloud has a silver lining."  Phrase it however you like.  Whatever.  The point is: adversity must be accepted, then overcome.  Learn from the experience, but keep moving forward.  Change plans.  Modify goals.  There will always be another race.  It actually gets easier to qualify for Boston when you get older, right?  Just do. Not. Quit.

One final thing I learned: the treadmill is even worse than water running. ;)

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