I can’t believe it’s been six weeks since I have updated this blog, but training for a hundred takes a LOT of time! Every spare moment—and quite a few moments that were not spare—has been devoted to running or hiking or gym class or more running. Laundry, dishes, and vacuuming have been happening only on a crisis basis at my house! Thankfully, my husband is very understanding and pitches in to help.
The third week of April marked my first 50+ mile week in this training cycle. I completed 53 miles running (with a long run on 26.2 miles) and an additional 7.5 miles hiking. The last week of April I ran 55.5 miles with 7.3 hiking miles. It was on the last run of this week that I (literally) ran into trouble.
My training was going very well. I was seeing the benefits of adding consistent strength workouts on top of my running mileage. None of my trouble spots were giving me grief even with multiple 20+ mile long runs. I was feeling strong! It is very encouraging to see your Garmin flip over 20 miles and still feel great! Looking back, however, I can see I had started to feel a bit overconfident. I had started to feel invincible—which always results in trouble!
If you read my previous post “My Secret Weapon for Injury-free 100-Mile Training as an Older Runner,” you saw my training plan, which called for several back-to-back-to-back long runs. The first of these triple runs was scheduled for the last week in April: 10 miles on Thursday, 26 miles on Friday, 15 miles on Saturday. I got the idea for triple long runs from Jeff Galloway’s book Trail-Running: the complete guide. When I drew up my training plan, I intended these three runs to be very slow with generous walk breaks, and I planned to hike a good portion of the third run on Saturday. It seemed like a great way to maximize time on feet.
When the first of these triple runs came around, I ran the Thursday’s 11 miles on a chat trail since my usual single-track trails were too muddy. (Since they are built and maintained mountain bike trails, everyone is strongly encouraged to stay off of them when they are soft.) The smooth chat surface quickly got boring, and I resorted to jumping over sticks and leaves, pretending to be on single-track.
Fortunately, I was able to be back on the single-track trails at my beloved running home of Landahl for my 26.2 miles on Friday. (If I run 26 miles, I feel compelled to add on an additional 0.2! It’s just one of the numbers games I play.) I did NOT run easier or with more walk breaks, because I felt good, “surprisingly good” as I wrote in my running log. (Mistake number one!)
On Friday, I headed out for 15 more miles at Landahl. I was a bit anxious, since I never run the day after a long run. I promised myself that I would hike the first mile and then see how I felt. “I can hike all of it if I need to,” I told myself. But my legs felt fine. I only walked a quarter mile before I started running. Once again, I felt good! Once again, I did not run easier or with more walk breaks. (Mistake number two.) I didn’t practice what I preached. I didn’t use my “secret weapon” of extra hiking to stay injury-free!
About 10 miles into the run, I suddenly developed a very worrisome sharp pain in my left lower leg, just to the outside of my tibia (shin bone). I walked a bit. It did not go away. I ran a bit more. It still persisted. I walked several more minutes. This pain was obviously not going to stop anytime soon. The sharpness of the pain and the fact that I had never felt anything similar before caused a lot of concern. I stopped my Garmin, sat down on a log, and pulled out my phone. My friend Google informed me that the tibia is one of the most common spots for a stress fracture. Yikes! Panic began to overtake me. What if I had a stress fracture?
Googling provided more information. I pressed all along the tibia bone. No tender spots. That was good. I jumped up and down on my affected leg. That did not cause pain. Surely it could not be a stress fracture, I told myself. Nevertheless, I decided to cut my planned mileage short and hike out to my car. My leg hurt the whole way, and I was one very discouraged runner. “Please, God,” I prayed. “Don’t let this be anything that will keep me from running my 100-mile race!” But although I am a firm believer in the power of prayer, I also know that God often lets us reap the consequence of foolish decisions.
At home, I foam rolled and put on compression socks. Finally, later in the evening, my leg started to feel better. The next morning, it was pain free. I had scheduled Sunday and Monday off, but what would happen when I ran on Tuesday?
At Landahl on Tuesday, I took it very easy with LOTS of extra walking and completed my planned 8 miles with some aches and twinges, but no pain in my lower left leg. That evening, I visited my proficient and gifted sports chiropractor for some heavy duty Graston and other soft tissue work. (If you are in the Kansas City area, go see Dr. Nathan Uhl!) It appeared that my scare was caused by inflamed tendons. I had begun to feel invincible and pushed a bit too hard. I have been in this spot before: training hard, feeling great, pushing a bit too far and—bam! Hit with an injury!
Thankfully, this time it turned out all right. The inflamed tendons calmed down quickly, and I was able to proceed with my training without missing any more planned miles.
I think if I had followed my original plan of extra walking/hiking on those three days of running, I might have been okay. But knowing myself and my tendency to push hard, I decided to drop the other three back-to-back-to-back runs from my training schedule and instead adjusted my mileage back to my accustomed back-to-back long runs. Yes, I will be running a few less miles, but the most important goal is getting to the starting line injury free.
And you can bet I have been more careful—paying attention to the signals from my body, taking extra walk breaks, and slowing down for my long runs (at least most of the time).
I still have some nagging trouble spots, but once again, thank the Lord, I can say my training is going well!
What do you do to keep out of the injury zone? Have you had a recent injury issue?
My updated training schedule: