Since October I have put on a significant amount of muscle, which has seriously hurt my run. As I lost my runner's body, I slowed down significantly. My body simply was not used to carrying and cooling so much extra weight. This was tough to deal with mentally because I felt that I was losing my strength. I felt like the one leg of triathlon that I know I could do well in was lost. I was determined to get my run and my run times back, so I would stupidly pushed myself more on easy runs and forgot the basic joys of running. When I was was not getting faster, I just pushed myself more.
Then the injury happened and I landed on the couch unable to work on the one thing I wanted to improve. Since focusing on what you can't do, only made matters worse, my coach and I focused on what I could do. Injuries have their own timeline, and all I could do was be smart and let my body take its time. Rushing back would do me no favors, which left me with a decision to make: what was I going to do with my Eagleman and Boulder?
I love racing, and not racing kills me inside. Moreover, these were two big races that I hoped would launch me into the next level of competition, but I knew that if I left them on the schedule and tried to train for them, I would continue to train injured and not be able to recovery fully. Instead I would limp along at 66% getting nowhere and not improving my run, which is what I really wanted. I therefore had to pull the plug and take them off the calendar. It was a tough call but a wise one. Without those races looming over of me, I did not feel rushed or pressure to get back to training. I also did not have to worry about the dreaded scarlet letters, DNF. I could focus on my recovery and getting stronger instead of stressing about the start line. Those races will be there next year as well and I am even stronger and can give them 110%.
Such a call made all the difference. Stress free training is the best training, and it has shown in not only my run but also my swim and bike, which would not have improved if I had not taken some time off running. Now, I am just getting back to running and I feel great both in actually being able to run (regardless of times) and injury free. I have to be patient though or I will relapse. That means I have to remember to be conservative on my runs, not push my times, and stitch/foam roll/mobilize after. My splits will come back naturally and with consistency. If this means going off feel and telling my Garmin to shut up, then so be it.
Comparing myself to what I ran to before is stupid, irrational, and illogical. This is a golden opportunity to remake myself not back into a runner, but into a triathlete. As my friend pointed out, I have 12 years of running muscle memory built up in my legs and that will not go away with more muscle or weight. What I have to do now is get my legs used to running with more weight and apply some WD-40 to kick off the rust. It will take time but time I have.
To summarize, here is what I have gained from being injured:
- Don't take your frustrations out in training especially easy runs; it will only lead to injury.
- When injury does come, focus on what you can do and not on what you cannot. I focused on improving my swim efficiency and boosting my FTP, both of which I did.
- Recognize that you can not will or force recovery; it is on its own independent timeline. Pushing though pain achieves very little
- Use your injury to come back stronger so the same injury does not occur again. Injuries are stepping stones for growth.
- Racing can wait. If you race injured and have to stagger across the finish line or DNF then you will only make your self more frustrated.
- Consistency is essential when making a come back. It is better to make small steps consistently than large steps that make you then make you take some steps backward
- Focus more on feel and the times will follow. Forget about the numbers and just enjoy being back at running
- Trust the process