A week ago I set out to run 20 miles. I started out strong and felt capable of anything. I was going faster than my goal pace but didn't think I needed to pull back. Around mile 6 or 7 my right knee started to twinge and I slowed down a bit. Then I hit some crazy, ridiculous hills. I knew the hills were part of the course, but I hadn't struggled on them last time so I figured I run them again. My mistake.
The first hill wasn't too bad, but on the decline of the second hill my knee went from a murmur to a scream. I knew in that moment I was in trouble. I started to use all the coaching techniques I had to help ease the stress on my knees. I focused on using my hamstrings and quads. I told myself how strong my legs are. I tried to glide on my stride and keep my stride short. Nothing helped. My knee was hurting and it wasn't the "oh, wow, I'm really pushing my body" kind of hurt. It was the "I'm injured" kind of pain.
I was at the turn around point of my run. I was the farthest point from home and there was no short-cut to get home. I had 8 miles to go. I changed my running intervals to mostly walks with some shuffle/running thrown in. Then, around mile 14, I stopped running altogether. It just hurt too much every time I ran. I walked the rest of the way home. It was the longest 6 miles.
I called my son, who was waiting on me at home, to let him know that I was going to be later than I expected. Then I called one of my closest friends. I cried as I told her what had happened. I was in a complete panic that I had just totally derailed my training and that I was going to be out of work on top of not running. She calmly talked me out of my panic and helped me formulate a plan of what to do. She let me cry and then gently, but firmly reminded me that I needed to pay attention to what my body was saying (shouting). My last phone call was to my awesome sports massage therapist. I left her a voice mail detailing what my knee felt like and asked if I could come in the next day. She called me back within a few minutes and we talked about what I needed to do that day (R-est; I-ce; C-ompression (not so much this one); E-levation). We also included alternating heat with the ice.
I survived that day. I taught the rest of my classes for the week by pulling back on my usually all-out efforts. My knee felt normal by Wednesday, thanks to Karen's excellent massage work and my diligence with using all the therapeutic tools I had on hand.
It was time to think about my next long run. 13 miles was on schedule. I knew I needed to alter my route to cut out as many hills as possible. That, alone, was a challenge. When you live in the land of never ending hills, trying to make as flat a running route as possible is simply not a realistic option. I did minimize the climbs, though. The other challenge was going to be my pace. I was supposed to run 13 miles at +15 sec over my goal marathon pace. That meant running an average of a 9:15 min/mi. Right.
I set out yesterday morning once I had seen my kids off to their first day of school. It was a later start (~9:00 am) and the sun was bright, hot and the day was humid. I knew straight off that I was not going to hit 13 miles and I was okay with that idea. I wanted 10 miles and was going to make that happen. Long story short, my knee held up, but not without some complaint. My overall pace was faster than I intended at a 9:05 min/mi. I changed my planned course at the last minute to cover the last few miles that had to walk last week. I didn't want my memory of that stretch to be of me walking, in pain, crying. It had been taunting me for the last week, so I wanted to take control and push through the negative thoughts back into feeling strong.
I did it. I didn't strictly adhere to the training plan, but I did what I knew I could do and do well. I listened to my body and when I got home I took all the necessary steps to take care of the knee and legs.
Perseverance. That is going to be my mantra for now.