After Boston, I experienced the usual post-marathon letdown, only this time it was magnified by the fact that not only was one of the best training cycles I've ever run coming to an end, not only that it ended with a decidedly underwhelming race, but also the fact that I COULDN'T run, because I was injured. Yup, as it turns out, loading up on painkillers and running a marathon is NOT, in fact, the miracle cure for tendinitis! I've got to cancel the article I had drafted for the PT journals now! I didn't run at all for a week after the race - that was how long it took me to get to the point where I wasn't walking with a limp anymore. On day 8, I tried a test run, and it was TERRIBLE. I couldn't even approximate a normal running stride and was having pretty significant pain, even at 9+ minute miles. So, I shut it down for a few more days, continued on with my strength work, and lo and behold - things started to feel a little bit better. This weekend I was able to run 3 miles, twice, and today I ran 4.6 miles. I'm running SO slowly, because I've found that I'm still having pain if I run faster than about an 8:20 mile. The quality of the pain is much less scary that it was - more of an irritating soreness vs. a sharp STOP NOW kind of pain. Still, my goal is to be completely painfree, so I've been forcing myself to just jog along without pain in the hopes that things will continue to heal. It seems to be on the right track, and I know that after 5 weeks of drawing this out I can't just expect it to flip back to normal overnight. But I'm such a baby, and I've gone SO long injury-free, that I just want to be back running free and easy and not thinking about it RIGHT NOW.
I've had a lot of time to mull over my training cycle, my race, this injury, and where I want to go from here. Obviously, all my big talk about "oh, I don't even know if I'll do a fall marathon" is totally out the window now - I want 26.2 redemption and I want it BAD. I've spent this whole winter building my mileage with the numbers 3:14:59 emblazoned in my mind (Actually, deep down in the depths of my soul, the number that for some reason I kept seeing when I closed my eyes was a 3:12. No particular reason. I just felt like on a perfect day, that was what I was capable of) and to fall 20 minutes short of that has left me so hungry. All the incredible fast long runs and workouts don't mean squat when you wind up injured, and then the weather sucks, and you're forced to settle. This fall, I want to refuse to settle. I want to do everything in my power to put myself in a position to run the race of my life this fall. The core work, the injury prevention work, the yoga, the drills, the mileage, the cross training, the nutrition - I want to do it all. I've spent most of my running career floating along quite luckily just on running - sure, I've done a little strengthening here and there, a circuit once in awhile - but for the most part, I've been able to get better by the simple strategies of running more and running harder. Weather nonwithstanding, this training cycle taught me that just doing that isn't enough - especially if you're looking to take things to the next level. One day, I want to run a sub-3:10 marathon. That's lofty, I know, especially when you're taking such a twisting, winding path to get there as I seem to be. My expectation with running has been constant upward progression - to drop time with each and every race. If that doesn't happen, in college, my solution was to change events. But in the marathon, for whatever reason, I have absolutely no desire to shift my focus to something else. I want the marathon, even if my progression has been more of a zigzag than an upward curve. I see people on instagram and on blogs going from 3:20 to 3:11 to 3:08 and I think to myself: why not me?
So what am I trying to say with all of this rambling? Well, obviously the first order of business is to get healthy. I've put together a short hip/core routine that I'm committing to doing at least 6 days/week, in addition to at least 2 days of additional core/strength work. I'm currently running every other day and keeping things pretty short and VERY slow - I'm not allowing myself to run through pain or form alterations. Once I'm no longer worried about reinjuring myself, I'm going to do the thing I always manage to avoid and add in some plyometrics and drills - even if it's just once a week. I'm going to keep trying to run generally higher mileage but I'm not going to kill myself over the difference between 55 and 60 miles - to date, I've had pretty mixed results with my attempts to run higher mileage (in 3 tries: overtraining, a PR, an injury) so I'm not entirely convinced it's the magical answer for me personally. But the bottom line is this: right here, right now I am committing myself to doing everything in my power to find myself standing on the starting line in Indianapolis on November 5 (yes I picked my fall marathon, and yes it's extremely random) and KNOWING - not believing, not thinking, not questioning - KNOWING beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am ready and able to run a PR. Anything I can do in the next 5 months that will get me to that place will be nothing short of worth it.