Friday, December 03, 2004

The injury

I've known several people who have trained for and run a marathon. All of them developed injuries at some point during their training. It was the thing I feared the most. My objective at the beginning of the year was to lose weight, and to be a physically fit as possible. Once I determined I had lost enough weight to train seriously for a marathon, that goal became my major focus. If I were to become injured, it probably would have led to some amount of depression. But I did everything right.

Early in the year, I cross-trained extensively. Three days a week I would use a stair-climber and a rowing machine (after warming up with a 1 mile jog). Three days a week I would do a modified circuit training cycle. Again, I would warm up with a 1 mile jog, then alternate sets of weights with 0.1 mile jogs. I would finish with a 1 mile cool down. I lost weight. I gained strength.

Mid-year I branched out. I began cycling and occasionally swimming. I trained for and competed in the Kansas City Corporate Challenge triathlon. It was a sprint-distance tri (1/3 mile swim, 9 mile bike, 2.5 mile run). I was running faster and farther.

In August I decided to begin the training for the marathon. The weekend long runs started getting longer. From 8 to 10 to 12. I decided that once I had run a 14 mile long run, I would register for the marathon. Then came the 16, the 18, and finally three 20 mile runs. At each new distance, as I finished I would realize that, yeah, I could do a couple more miles next time. And each time it got easier.

Early in the schedule I did strength training. I ran hills. I continued to do some circuit training (though I would taper that off eventually). After the strength training, I began doing interval workouts at the local high school on Tuesday nights (typically 8 X 800 meter intervals with 400 meter recovery jogs). But I became paranoid that I would injure myself somehow.

Every pain in my foot would be carefully considered, and massaged. I did ice baths after some of my long runs (it really does work!). Until November 16th, the worst I could complain of was that bane of male distance runners -- bleeding nipples (it really, really stings).

Then it happened. Tuesday night interval workout. Two mile warm-up, 8 X 800 intervals, feeling good, I'm on my 2 mile cool-down. As I'm running back to the old van it's night but street lamps illuminate the street and the sidewalk I'm running on. It is unusually warm for Kansas City in mid-November.

I feel my left foot catch on a discontinuity in the sidewalk. Even as I realize I've lost my balance, I realize also that I'm going down. In the brief moment I am airborne, I instinctively turn my body to the side, hoping I can roll with the fall. No such luck on the abrasive concrete. My left shoulder hits first followed immediately by my elbow, left knee and right palm. Then my face hits the concrete.

I roll over onto the grass, hand to my left cheek bone from where most of the pain is emanating. My first thought is "NO! Not this close to the marathon!". I slowly realize nothing is broken or even seriously strained, but I sit there in the grass for several minutes. A woman walking her dog runs over to see if I'm all right. "That was a terrible fall! Do you need anything?". I assure her that I am OK. I rise, begin walking, then slowly jogging back to the van.

Back home I look the injuries over. My face is swelling, my knee is scraped, and my left shoulder looks like a bloody mess. After cleaning the wounds and icing my face for at least an hour, I gingerly ease into bed. It is difficult to get comfortable. I take the next day off from running.

On Thursday I'm scheduled for a tempo run. I feel good enough, but the weather is not so nice so I do the workout on a treadmill. After I'm warmed up I start cranking up the speed. Two minutes into the 7:30 pace my breathing becomes heavy and I become aware of a serious pain in my side. It took two days for me to become aware of the bruised rib I'd received in the fall (presumably from my left arm tucked up against my side when I hit the sidewalk). I can't breath heavily without pain. This is a problem. I compensate for the duration of the workout with faster shallower breathing.

I do an easy run on Friday and take Saturday off. On Sunday I've got a 14 mile run scheduled. By mile 9 or 10, again my ribs are aching. I decide I need two days off -- Monday and Tuesday -- skipping my last interval workout. My plan is to do an easy workout on Wednesday, then a 5K on Thanksgiving.

Wednesday morning we wake up to 7 inches of snow on the ground. OK, three days off will probably do me some good. I'm supposed to be tapering anyway.

Thanksgiving is just too harried. I've taken off four days now. I replan the remainder of my schedule. Friday, I warm up and then do a 5K time trial. I feel only a little sluggish and manage about 7:40 per mile over a hilly 5K course through the neighborhood. Most importantly, though, the pain in my ribs is gone. With relief I run an easy 4 on Saturday, having to hold myself back, and 10 on Sunday, allowing myself a little faster pace.

With a rest day on Monday, a short set of intervals on Tuesday, and an easy 3 on Wednesday, I feel ready to go. Wednesday night I flew to Phoenix to spend a couple days at my parents house. No running Thursday and Friday. On Saturday I'll drive down to Tucson, pick up my packet and jog about 2 miles just to stay loose. I'd like to jog the last mile of the marathon course.

Eighteen weeks of intense training and preparation. One injury, only temporary damage. Ready to go.


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