Monday, August 23rd – Friday August 27th ……Weather was always the easiest excuse to choose my sofa over my running shoes in prior years. Many a rainy evening I used to leave my running shoes in the closet in exchange for a bag or Doritos (you ever try those cool ranch-flavored ones? DO you like them? Well I don’t. I think they stink. They made Doritos perfectly the first time around – it wasn’t broken…so don’t fix it). Well this week it rained off and on, and I actually felt those old cravings to blow off training like I would in years past. But like I’ve mentioned in prior postings…I’ve changed a bit. Become a bit more goal-oriented. So the running shoes won out this week. There were no Doritos (of any flavor) to be found in my apartment.
Due to work and other appointments during the week, I was unable to make my team runs in the park after work. Somehow, I managed to drum up the discipline to run solo…in the rain…following the training instructions on our team’s website. Now this level of discipline is incredibly new for me, as I normally have the attention span of…..what was I just talking about?
Monday’s workout was a tempo run of five miles. As I ran in the mist, the humidity and heat were a combination that made me….well….cranky. I logged my 5 miles averaging roughly 10:15 per mile – not too shabby for me. However, after all of the work I’ve put in this year thus far, I knew I could have been faster. I am no longer using the heel issue as a crutch to lean on for underperformance. My goal with every workout is to feel spent afterward. To leave the park Monday evening with some spring left in my step told me that I didn’t leave it all on the trails. That sent me home….confused. (and let’s face it: it doesn’t take much to confuse me – I once forgot where I put my sunglasses…and they were on top of my head). I told myself that, regardless of the weather later in the week, I would burn myself out on the next training run to make up for what I felt was a lack of real solid effort.
When I got home, I stuffed my running shoes with newspaper, which absorbs all of the water from the shoes overnight. Tuesday’s recovery run was, once again, done in the mist and rain…but it started with dry shoes. Knowing that Tuesday’s run was for recovery, I logged my miles at an easy pace and went home chomping at the bit for Wednesday’s speed work. I was going to beat myself up. Couldn’t wait.
Wednesday saw the mist once more, with periods of heavy rain and a wind that actually warmed you instead of cooling you down. Let me say one thing here: heat and I do not get along. We don’t like each other much. No…wait…I hate real sticky, humid summer heat. The dry stuff – fine with me. Crank up the thermostat. But throw in humidity and watch me curse – at the air – in three different languages. Once again I needed to run solo, as life got in the way of routine.
I took off around the bridal path and performed “pick-ups” (specific time-set or distance-set training pieces where the distance runner pushes the pace and exerts much more effort than on normal runs. Speed is the key here. Maintaining a faster pace with more rapid leg turnover and wider strides). In the back of my head, the message being sent from my brain to my body was simple: make up for Monday. Let’s go. Push it. And I did. Until the 4” bastard showed up again.
The Tool: “Well things seemed to be going well.”
Me: “What do you mean seemed? THEY ARE GOING WELL.”
The Tool: “You don’t feel that in your ankle? That twinge? You’ve managed to irritate your heel so much that the pain is traveling. That has to suck.”
Me: “Oh yeah…well…your momma has a wooden leg with a kickstand on it.”
The Tool: “….God you are dense. I’m the representation of all of the negativity within yourself. So….technically…I AM YOU. So don’t talk about your mother like that.”
Me: “…..I take it back. You suck.”
The Tool: “Now that’s more like it. But you feel that in your ankle, don’t you?”
Me: “No. Shut up.”
The Tool: “You are a lousy liar. Everyone knows it.”
Me: “I am ignoring you.”
The Tool: “No you aren’t. You know what’s going to happen when we shut this session down. This one’s gonna hurt.”
Me: “Oh please. Trying to scare me. Well it’s not going to work. I’m going to push through this.”
The Tool: “Oh please do. I want you to……”
…and with that, I grimaced and pushed myself harder. Now, ordinarily, I would have shut things down early. But I was so focused on pushing myself and making up for taking it easy in the beginning of the week that I pounded through the pain on Wednesday evening. Par for the course for me: that was a really stupid move.
I should have listened to my body. But I was too busy trying to prove to The Tool that I was stronger than he was that our internal argument drowned out the important message being sent from my left foot. It was a brief message sent as The Tool and I mentally yelled and screamed at each other (and even went so far as tossing out a Yo Momma joke). Since I didn’t hear what was actually said, I am assuming that the messaged sounded a little something like this:
Left Foot: “You are a putz. A complete putz. There are normal, ordinary, every-day kind-of putzes out there in the world…and then there’s YOU. You’re that special kind of putz. And extraordinary putz. I’d dare to even call you SuperPutz. Been trying to tell you for 30 minutes now: this injury has just been aggravated. But do you listen? NO. You are too busy arguing with a 4” schmuck which, by the way, IS JUST A PART OF YOURSELF! Now listen to your foot: shut this workout down NOW……”
I continue to run and argue with The Tool, paying no heed to the jibberish being uttered by my Left Foot…..
Left Foot: “….This is unreal. You two keep yelling at each other. Joe: you and I are going to talk later. And you won’t get a word in edge-wise…..”
At the end of my workout, I completed 5 short sprints, because one of my coaches once told me that “the body remembers the last exercise it performs and how it felt. So, if you want to leave any running session feeling positive, run some strong sprints at the end”. The moment I began my trek home is when the pain struck me. It began to radiate from my heel, up the outside of my left ankle, and around to the top of my foot. It also began to creep up to my Achilles tendon. It felt as if my entire left foot were being gnawed on by a hippo. (I have no idea why I chose a hippo – I guess because I just read something about them being the angriest animals in Africa…and they have really big mouths – just like me). I limped home, and immediately iced my foot. I was miserable. Miserable…and VERY worried.
There is a difference between hurt and injured. Hurt, to me, means that I’m achy and I can push through the pain. That is how I thought of my heel before Wednesday evening – I’m hurt and I can deal with it. But the pain that I dealt with whilst walking home Wednesday evening was different. It made me nervous. I was afraid I graduated from hurt to injured….and I really wanted to be left back – not to graduate.
I attempted a very light recovery run on Thursday…and it felt horrid. I don’t even want to discuss the workout itself, as it was absolutely meaningless. I accomplished nothing aside from reminding myself of how much my foot hurt. I was getting rather nervous. I rested Friday in preparation for Saturday’s long run. By Friday evening, the pain was beginning to subside. However, it was still there, like the beating of an enemy’s drums heard from a distance….
“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers