Thursday, June 07, 2012

Diary of a Sub 40 Minute 10K #3

Right now I'm suffering from a stretched hamstring in my right leg.  See that inflection point at about 5.8km on Sunday's run?  That's where my muscle let rip.  What doesn't make a lot of sense was I was on pace to run about 29:20 - a minute slower than the previous week.  So I wasn't exactly exerting myself through uncharted territory.  ButtThe injury has been painful enough to prevent further training this week - a fact far more painful than the injury itself.  The injury is fairly serious.  For the first two days the injury niggled even when walking. It feels like someone has jabbed a needle into the back of my leg.

So how to explain it?  I suppose it is a combination of too much running, and too hard running.  Whilst the previous week's record effort was achieved on 4 runs (including the record run), and an easy LSD of just 10km, this week I did 5 runs including a hard 12km+ LSD, a run in Vibrams and at least two hard "easy" runs during the week (climbing Albrecht on one day, and Lucas Steyn the next).
The long run on Saturday also included a heavy drag and a very steep climb.

On Sunday morning before the run I could feel my calves were sore and stiff.  It was a particularly cold morning, and I'd had a terrible sleep, but I reckoned the record was worth gunning for.  Shane headed off a few seconds before I did, and I basically paced just behind him until 2km.  We hit 1km at 5:10 and he turned at 3km on 15:30, me 8 seconds later.  From the graph you can see my HR reached the 160 level close to 6 minutes.  But we had run up against a stiff headwind, and given the strain my legs were already under, that was an unwelcome load.

On the way back Shane pulled away to about 20 seconds, and I started gritting my teeth for a final surge in the last 300 metres. I was - I must admit - trying to close the gap to Shane.  What was undoubtedly also a factor was the length of my stride in the final 1-1.5km.  But given that my max HR was at just 167, I presumed that I had something left in the tank, and so was determined to burn it. The curious thing was as I was about to hit the gas, I felt a stabbing pain at the back of my right leg. Note, I hadn't quite hit my stride, I had just decided to, when the pain hit.  I had to pull up and walk. I walked, tried to run again and repeated this two or three times.  I finally limped the last few metres, finishing in just under 30 minutes (Shane finished in a touch under 29 minutes).  To say that I was - and am disappointed - is putting it lightly.

But this brings one to the important question - how do you respond when a clearly stated goal, and an execution that has gone according to plan is suddenly, and obviously frustrated?  This is important in sport as it is in life.  The answer, I think, is that one has to focus on what you can do.  Not to wallow in what is lost.  Triathlon has taught me when one part of you hurts, train the other part.  In terms of a running injury like this, it's possible that cycling is a mild enough exertion to not aggravate the injury, and if it is, then swimming.  It's important - when pursuing physical excellence, to maintain fitness.  Injury may frustrate one or a few paths, but there are always alternatives one can do.  Gym.  Yoga.  Walks etc.

In my case, since I've also felt a cold looming, I've decided to give myself a few days completely off.  I'll possibly run again on Friday or Saturday next.  If it still niggles - what can I do?  Swim.  Gym. Walk.  If it proves to be a problem I'll have to get some physio to sort it out.  But two good things have emerged from this experience:

1. The realisation that I'm mentally tough enough to push myself hard (but also hard enough to get injured).
2. I know now to maintain the program I was on before last week, which was dominated by many slow, easy runs.

On the other hand, I also have to realise that I'm not invulnerable.  I have to push gradually harder, as certain muscle sections are quite week.  If I can continue to lose weight and gain strength, the latter impasse can be overcome.  Stay tuned to find out how that happens.

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