Martini Fridays: Of Tracks + Tests

A (mostly) clear track: thumbs up!
A (mostly) clear track: thumbs up!

In this edition of Martini FridaysAdrienne Martini, training for the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon using the Train Like a MotherFinish It Half-Marathon plan, celebrates some spring-like—or definitely not winter still—weather.

Saturday’s “only 8 mile” run felt like 20 miles, which makes me think that I needed the step-back week more than I’d thought. It was one of those Godzilla-stompin- on-Tokyo runs, where I felt as graceful and swift as a giant and clumsy lizard or, more accurately, a dude in a hot and heavy foam costume.

Working in my favor was our recent less-cold snap—I categorically refuse to call 45 degrees warn—earlier in the week. My favorite track is finally dry enough to use. I love going long on the track because I can just zone out without too much worry about traffic. If a car finds its way down there, so many other catastrophic things will have occurred that the car will be the least of my worries. Also, the hamster-on-a-wheel tedium of a track run is vastly outweighed by the forgiving surface that I love.

Even though the calendar claims it’s spring, the weather here hasn’t gotten with the program. The wind made my plan of 12-minute miles nearly impossible. Adding to that irritation was the fact that I can’t seem to slather on lip balm before I leave the house. I probably have a dozen tubes of the stuff in various pockets but never think to stick my hand in any of those pockets before taking my mouth-breathing self on a run.

But, it should be noted, I got it done—even if my lips needed a good sanding by the end. Little victories count.

My lower leg complained for the first half-mile, then didn’t utter a peep until I stretched afterward. The ache has migrated from the meaty muscles in the back of my leg (my gastrocnemius and soleus, to be precise) to the wiry one at the front, the tibialis anterior.

WebMD explains the muscles Adrienne already has memorized.
WebMD explains the muscles Adrienne already has memorized.

True story (short version): after series of life disappointments when we were living in Austin, Texas, I spent six months in massage therapy school, stopping just short of testing for my license because I had the sudden realization that I didn’t want to spend my days touching naked strangers. The anatomy lessons are still in my head, however, and have made it much easier to enumerate exactly where I hurt.

It’s perfectly normal to worry about every last little twinge in the run up to your first half, right? Because I’m getting a little a) obsessed and b) fatalistic. While I’m 90 percent certain that the ache is nothing to worry to much about, I’m 10 percent convinced that it’s a sign of something catastrophic. The idea of having to stop two-thirds of the way through training for this race fills me with buckets of sadness, which then leaves me convinced that pushing through the pain to make it to a race is how I’ll do myself a permanent injury. Then I’m convinced that I’m going to wind up with plantar fasciitis or stress fracture and then I’ll just never run again and be miserable and ... and.... and.

I’m not alone here, right? These sorts of thoughts will only increase as May 4 gets closer, yes? For the record, I’m pretty sure it’s just a strained muscle that just needs extra stretching and foam rolling and pain plasters. (Unless it isn’t.)

Tests and more tests. And an indeterminate animal (TRex/dog combo?) supervising.
Tests and more tests. And an indeterminate animal (lamb? dog? turtle with no shell?) supervising.

Adding to the crazies is my day job. It’s mid-term time at my college and I’ve been spending lots of quality time sitting on my bottom surrounded by stacks of paper. All I do lately is grade, schlep my stacks to another location, then grade some more. Sometimes, I make coffee, then grade even more. My eyeballs hurt more than my calf does right now. And I’m increasingly convinced that it’s time for bifocals. Hooray?

Two things that I’ve been meaning to mention but haven’t:

Thing one: In an earlier blog, I wrote about my struggle with postpartum depression and my plan to use my first half-marathon as a fund-raiser for Postpartum Progress. I’ve set up a Go Fund Me page for those who’d be willing to shove a couple of bucks their way. Any amount will help further their mission, which is to help moms who are struggling with psychiatric disorders.

Thing two: The lovely Dimity hooked me up with the equally lovely Christine Hinton, who wrote the Train Like a Mother Training plans. We talked about my extra week dilemma and she worked up week 10.5 for me. It consists of a couple of short, easy runs and 9 miles on Saturday. So that’s how long I’ll be going then, as long as I can still see and my right calf doesn’t fall off. If only one of those fates befalls me, I’ll still give the run a whirl.

How much do you fret before a big race you've trained hard for? And how far in advance, exactly, does the fretting start? 

20 responses to “Martini Fridays: Of Tracks + Tests

  1. I SO enjoy your honest, funny stories about your training experience. Keep it coming! Our mothers must have had similar “training” (ala 1970’s cooking) because we, too had the lettuce, peach, cottage cheese “salad,” especially with for dinner on a hot summer night. She skipped the paprika, however. That was for deviled eggs. Which leads me to your snacking question. I make a no-fuss version of “deviled eggs” by keeping dozen eggs hard boiled eggs in the fridge. Peel, cut, mash up the yolk with a bit of mayo, Sirachia, or fave salad dressing and eat with a fork (Do NOT bother with getting the yolk back into the white cups) Better yet, scoop up the yolk mixture with some raw veggies or whole grain crackers. Very satisfying and stays with you given mix of protein, fat and carbs. Some people shun eating eggs, especially the yolk, but I’m a believer, especially because I buy, local, free-range, organic eggs, which really up their nutritional value and Omega3s. I also like smoothies in the summer (it’s too dang cold lately to enjoy them) They can be a pain to “assemble” post run, when I want food NOW, so I get most of it together in the blender before my run and just add the almond milk and frozen banana when I’m back from my run. Lastly, an easy-to-grab and satisfying Cliff or Luna bar (preferably with chocolate) almost always works for me. Stay healthy! You got this.

  2. I’m pitching in my own unsolicited avice: whenever I’ve trained for a half marathon, both of my calves would be tight all the time as soon as I hit 20 miles/week. (I know, that’s very average for some people, but I’m an every-other-day kind of runner!) But my angry calves are all in the past!! I got a pair of compression socks for Christmas. I wear them all day after a 6+ mile run and they have changed my life! It doesn’t *feel* like they’re doing anything, but the TOTAL ABSENCE of any kind of calf pain is proof. Sometimes I’ll feel the *start* of something after a run, but I put on the socks and when I take them off at the end of the day, I realize that absolutely nothing has developed. I really enjoy your posts and hope you find something that helps!

  3. You really are doing well. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It is always easy to worry about what is hurting. Sometimes while I am running I try and focus on things that aren’t hurting. Like wow my fingers are feeling good. My ear lobes don’t hurt at all today. he he he. It starts to become a game.

  4. If I was in your shoes, I’d be having a physical therapist check out your body and your running gait. Are you pronating when you run? Are your hips strong enough? And no matter what, eccentric calf strengthening should begin immediately. Ice, tape, foam roll, stretch, etc. Don’t ignore that cranky calf!

    I am a phyiscal therapist with my own slightly irritated calf, but I’m getting on top of it. Good luck!

  5. 2 weeks ago I pulled a groin. Ironically that was the same week I signed up for the lottery for a local marathon. My first, by the way. My groin is very slow to heal and now I’m doubting my body can handle the strain of a full marathon. Crazy, but I can’t help it. It’s not until October, but it’s scary when you realize you’re not invincible.

  6. I was 4 weeks away from my first race, a marathon, when I hurt my knee running. The diagnosis was a strained ACL and a slight tear in the meniscus. Dr.’s orders were to keep off it for a week and no running for 3 weeks. I instantly became a 3 year old and had a tantrum. I cried and shouted and even banged my fists against a wall. I healed before the marathon and was scared when I got the green light to go for it. I figured worse case I crawl off the road and get help. I didn’t have to. I made it and you will to.
    You can do this Adrienne!

  7. A couple months before my first half marathon, I didn’t stress so much about getting injured as I did about getting sick. I’m a high school teacher, and I work with little pubescent incubators of contagion on a daily basis. Apparently,they don’t understand how to sneeze into their elbow or how to use a Kleenex. And because I’m a bit of a germaphobe, I freak out whenever anyone in my immediate proximity sneezes, sniffles, or coughs. I was a stress case the weeks leading up to my first half because I just KNEW I’d get sick. Well, of course, I didn’t, and everything went fine.

  8. I have to say I started to get paranoid about quite a few things that might end my first half marathon about a month out. The dog pulling me on a walk, lifting groceries etc.

    For your calves I can recommend this stretch.I’m fortunate enough to run with Catherine. I love this stretch, it’s easy to do and feels so good

  9. I get it! I’m six months into training for my first marathon and I have fatalistic thoughts all the time. Most recently my knee started acting up. I can run on it fine and then suddenly when I try to stand up, it caves on me. Will I make it to my June race? Have these countless hours and hundreds of miles been for not? I try to remember that it’s about the journey, not the destination, right?

  10. The doubt seems to always loom in the back of my mind and worsens as race day gets closer. I try to focus and tell myself what I tell my daughters “just do your best and it will all work out”. Can’t say I’ve felt fabulous after every race but I always remind myself that I did my best that day, at that time. And that is good enough for me 🙂

  11. I think when I hadn’t done a lot of big races I worried constantly about issues tripping me up. Now that I’ve done quite a lot (and have been sidelined a bit here and there) I think about it less. It can happen, yes, but there’s always another race. You only have one body.
    Enjoying these posts, as I’m training for the same race, thank you!

  12. OMG! You have just articulated everything I worry about now since I have returned to running! I have returned after years (and many injuries) of not running and, although, I am only a couple of months in, I find myself fretting in the same way. The problem is that I am loving running so much and want to eventually do halfs, that I am so fearful all my old injuries will rear their ugly heads. Some comfort is, though, that I have read somewhere that no matter how long or how many times you have to stop running, for whatever reason, it is always there for you when you are ready to return!

  13. Oh – the indeterminant stuffed critter is Bert the Farting Hippo from NCIS. If you squeeze him, well, he makes a funny sound. He’s helping me grade.

    (Actually, one of the kids was playing around with him and left him there. I failed to notice he was in the picture. Oh. My. Brain.)

  14. Thor closer you get to race day, the crazier you’ll get 🙂

    About your injury- when I get pain like that, a pair of new running shoes almost always helps cure it. Also stretching by putting the front part of your foot on a was all with the heel touching the floor. The fact that the pain does not last the entire run is a good thing. If it starts affecting your hair then you need to get it looked at. You are doing awesome. Hang in there.

  15. Oh Adrienne…thanks for the morning laughs! I too REFUSE to say 40˚ is warm, although since I haven’t felt 40˚ in more than five months, I wouldn’t know. 🙂 Hope the calf cooperates this coming week!

  16. I am wondering if you are not developing shin splints? As a massage therapist myself, and some sports medicine background, I would suggest icing the shin area before and after a workout for no more than 20 minutes (don’t want to give yourself frostbite too.). Keep rolling and running too.

    I started running in high school, so the fears you speak of are a Bit foreign to me. Not that I have not had some of the same self talk, only not over running a race. My advice, remember all the training hours you have put in, you don’t want to be disappointed in yourself by not crossing the finish line. And I don’t remember if you had a goal other than to finish, that you can also do. If the leg continues to bother go the the athletic training room on campus and have them take a look.

    You are an inspiration, don’t forget that!

  17. Oh my goodness – the closer my first long races got, the more terrified I was of even stepping out the front door! What if I step on a stick and roll an ankle? What if I miss the edge of the sidewalk and fall? What if, what if?! I’m pretty sure it’s totally normal (or we’re both nuts!). :0)

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