Two steps forward, three steps back
Saturday, April 16, 2011
As I mentioned in my last blog, my sports medicine doctor cleared me to run but said to take it easy. And that's precisely what I've been doing, except for six days ago during a 5K, and now I feel like I reversed a few weeks of healing. Frustrated, but a lesson I guess I needed to learn.
Recap: Starting in mid-March, I had a dull ache in my thigh that wouldn't go away, so I went to the doctor fearing I had a stress fracture. He said I have a bad muscle strain in one of my quad muscles and cleared me for running, but to take it easy and to stretch and ice regularly. I had three great training runs after that culminating with a great 8-mile run with my normal pace group last Saturday.
Then came Sunday. I had signed up for a 5K quite some time ago and decided that I could still run it providing I didn't go all out and try to PR. I decided that I could run it as a tempo run and no faster, not even as fast as the group speed workouts. So I got to the race and as I was preparing I turned on my Garmin.
Well, I hit the power button on my Garmin, but it didn't turn on! (I didn't know until after I got home that a simple "soft reset" would bring it back to life.) So I ran the 5K without my Garmin. It was really hard to try to figure out what pace I was running, especially in a race where there were a lot of people who obviously had never run a race before and were going all out from the beginning. I thought I could figure it out from my perceived exertion level, but seriously, I've become so accustomed to using my Garmin to try to maintain any specific pace that I just felt lost. And in general, I just didn't feel mentally there, not like I normally do during a race or any sort of group run. I never felt like I could find a comfortable pace, like everything inside of me was working against me.
When I finished the race and saw my time, I realized I had made a huge mistake. My race time was about 90 seconds too fast! Instead of running at a good tempo pace, I had actually run a lot closer to what my injury-free 5K race pace should be.
It had been so long since I had run an actual 5K race that I did indeed PR it (and would have even at a slower tempo pace), but that wasn't what I was after. I could tell by the next morning that I really pushed myself backwards. I took 3.5 days off from running before trying again. On Wednesday evening, I ran a very slow 6 miles and could feel the muscle strain for the first 4. On Friday morning, I ran 4 miles with the strain being very obvious for the first 3.
Today I had a group run of 11 miles, so I decided to go back to a slower pace group to do that, and I'm glad I did. The ache was barely noticeable at that slower pace. I'm sticking to that slower group until I feel healed. I also mentioned in my last blog that I was considering pacing some friends of mine in the May half marathon instead of racing it, and today I definitely decided that's what I'm doing. Their tentative race pace is this slower training pace I ran today, so it should work nicely.
So, kids, the moral of the story is to learn from your good ol' Uncle Eric. If your doctor says that you can run on an injury but to take it easy, don't run a race at race pace!