If you read the Phoenix Half Marathon review, you know what a challenge that course was. Mentally, I was completely unprepared for what a (nearly) all down hill course would require. On the surface, it sounds easy, right? I couldn't have been more wrong and I'm definitely paying for it post-race.
I've been fortunate to have relatively easy post-race recoveries, so this was a whole new experience. I was sore before the race even finished and knew the recovery period ahead would be hard. What I wasn't prepared for how long it kept me down and the impact it would have on this half marathon challenge.
Nearly every race training plan out there includes a "strength and stretch" day and typically I've skipped it. Foolishly, I never really thought it would have a huge impact, and its worked out seemingly alright. Well, until Phoenix. And now, my friends, I've been reformed.
Generally, I'd be a little sore for a day or two post race but feel good enough to jump back in with a short easy run within three or four days. No icing, no resting, just didn't need it. After Phoenix that changed. I iced. I rested. I took pain relievers. I didn't "jump back in" for 10 days and only ran a total of 10 miles in the 4 weeks between the March and April races. Walking hurt and stairs were excruciating. My weekly social dodgeball game was out of the question.
The foam roller became my best friend and biggest enemy as I worked to get back to something resembling normal. My focus turned to strength workouts instead of running and I took note of how my body felt and what made it hurt. Slowly the pain subsided. I still iced, but didn't need the pain relievers. Stairs became a nuisance instead of something to be avoided (which is difficult when living in a 3rd floor walk up apartment). Some days felt better than others, and there was uncertainty as to if what I was doing was going to be enough, but I knew I had to keep trying.
Mentally, it shook my confidence. The first few races felt so strong, so not even being able to run 2 miles was insanely frustrating, not to mention not knowing how long it would feel this way. Each time I went for a 'trial' run, I was preoccupied with wondering how long until the pain would start instead focusing on the run itself. And the idea of having to give up on the challenge with nine races left felt like a complete failure to me - not even making it half way? Forget it. I wasn't ready to call it quits after just four races - what can I say, I'm irrationally stubborn like that.
Now I'm telling myself that it doesn't matter how long my April half marathon takes, just need to finish and then I'll have 8 weeks to focus on rest and re-training. It's not a great feeling to approach a race with that attitude but its the best I can do at this point.
I've resolved to not skip strength workouts any more and to listen more to my body. I've been learning far more through this challenge than I had anticipated, but I'm glad this one came when it did. Hopefully you can learn from this too. Guess there is some logic to how those experts set up their training plans, huh?