After my last hard longer workout of the training cycle on Saturday, September 10th – a hilly, very challenging 10-mile cross-country race – it was time to taper! Just don’t do anything stupid and you’ve made it to race day unscathed! Ha.
After the cross-country race, my feet were a little sore and my calves very tight. I’d given it a good effort, trying to go uphill with a spring in my step, then negotiate the steep, rough downhills without face-planting, all of which is tough on the lower legs. I did an easy hourlong recovery run the Sunday after that race and foam rolled lots. On the Monday, I was out and about when I stepped on a rock and twisted my left ankle a bit, but I didn’t think much of it. Walk it off, right? A few minutes later it hadn’t stopped hurting. Hmm. But I’ve ignored all manner of random niggles in my life with excellent results, and I wasn’t about to start worrying about this one now.
Until the next day, when my ankle and the outside edge of my foot hurt so badly I was reduced to hobbling around. No amount of ice seemed to help. WTF?!
A couple of days later the pain had calmed down except for one spot on the side of my foot where the peroneal tendon meets the bone. I did a few test jogs, and the pain got steadily worse as the runs went along. §$%! Pain that gets worse when you run is definitely a bad sign. I started to panic that the marathon wasn’t going to happen.
I’ll spare you a daily recounting of my inner drama and angst, and fast foward to the Thursday before the race. I didn’t run much at all and spent a lot of time massaging my calves; I’m pretty sure the twisted ankle was that bad because everything was so tight down there after the cross-country race that one misstep was the final straw. “Pick up race packet from expo” had been on my calendar for Thursday, September 22nd at 2 p.m. basically forever, but a test jog that morning showed that the foot, while vastly improved, wasn’t ready to run 42.2 kilometers without incurring long-term damage.
I sat down and tried to separate out emotions from logic for a minute. Emotions: BUT I WANT TO RUN THE RACE WAAAAAHHHHH THIS IS NOT FAIRRRR with a bonus helping of “ugh everybody probably thinks I’m crazy. Maybe I am crazy and my foot is fine but my fear of the marathon is holding me back.” Logic: No, dumbass. Your foot hurts. Not running is helping your foot to not hurt. What will happen if you run on it for 4+ hours? Even if I made it through the race (and with enough ibuprofen, anything is possible), the long-term effect of running a marathon on a painful foot was almost certain to be several months of a full-blown injury. I’ve been there before after running a half marathon on a painful achilles and it really wasn’t worth it. Option B was to pick up the race packet and jog/walk a bit of the marathon just to get some of the race day experience, but I’m an all-or-nothing kinda gal, so Option C it was: don’t run the marathon, wait til your foot gets better, and then find a new goal race. No packet pickup for me.
Then I turned on my emotions again, had a bawlfest, and gave myself permission to wallow for the rest of the day. (I’m excellent at wallowing. Anyone needs tips, just let me know.) Honestly, I was pretty emo for most of the weekend, but ended up spectating the marathon for about three hours on Sunday. It was great fun, and though I was a little sad when the 4-hour pace group went by – these were supposed to be my people! – I did not burst into tears like I thought I might. How can you not love watching a marathon? Having done all the training, I felt like I could identify even more with the runners.
My feelings now: Yeah, it was a bummer, but there are other races. It was the right decision not to risk a bad injury. My plan for now is to take another week mostly off, with just a few short jogs, and then see how it goes; if the foot holds up, I’ll do some shorter x-c races in November and December, and then see about training for a longer race in the Spring.