knee pain

No Room For Fear

“It’s less about the physical training, in the end, than it is about the mental preparation”
-Jimmy Smits

trust

I am officially less than one week away from the biggest race of my “career” and one of the biggest challenges if my life (thus far anyway). With the recent set back of my IT bands/knees acting up and the knowledge that I will likely not be 100% by race day, I feel fully entitled to be completely freaked out right now.

However, nothing useful has ever been accomplished by getting all worked up over stuff that can’t be controlled.  I mean it’s certainly not going to enhance my performance!  Rather, it will just exacerbate the situation and make for a miserable racing experience… which kind of defeats the purpose of signing up in the first place… unless you’re a masochist, which I am not (contrary to popular belief).

Instead I’ve decided to make “No room for fear” my mantra for the Timberman 70.3. Why? Because it’s absolutely true. There is no room for fear when you are taking on the biggest challenge of your life. Fear is a distraction and a hindrance. Ain’t nobody got time for that!  Not to mention that fear will suck every ounce of joy out of what otherwise could be an amazing day!  You can’t simultaneously live in the moment of race day while worrying about all the horrible things that might happen… or the terrible pain you may be in… at some point… probably hours from now…

That’s not to say I’m immune from the nagging fear and doubt that looms in the pre-race period. Tapering is enough to make anyone question your sanity, let alone tapering while nursing an injury. The thing is, while I fully acknowledge their presence, I refuse to let the pre-race jitters undo me.  I know I am going to be uncomfortable at some point during my HIM.  There is also a good possibility I will be in a fair amount of pain on my run.  It is even probable that I will be absolutely hating life by the time it’s over.  Of course, it is also possible that I may have a mind blowing endorphin rush and one of the best racing experiences of my life.  The best part is, they are not mutually exclusive.  I could have a gloriously miserable race experience and still come out as a win. (I may have lost a lot of you there, but I know my fellow ultra runners and endurance athletes understand what I’m saying… or maybe you don’t because it’s late and I’m rambling…)

The good news is my knee issue conveniently started at a point when I was supposed to be tapering anyway.  With just about all my training behind me, the most useful thing I could do was get it taken care asap and trust the work I put in over the past relaxyear. I was fortunate that a fellow Tri club member happens to be a chiropractor. She managed to squeeze me in almost immediately (Did I mention it was a weekend? How lucky am I to know great people!?!). Within a few visits she’s been able to break up the scar tissue along my IT bands and stretch my uber tight hips and hamstrings. With her help and lots of rest, ice, and elevation my knees are now pain free, but they aren’t 100%.

There is a good chance they still won’t be 100% on Sunday, but that is okay.  Yes, it is a set back.  Yes, it really stinks to have worked so hard and avoided injury so long just to blow up my knee on a short, flat run.  Absolutely yes, taking extra rest time pre-race completely sucks; but it also beats the alternative.  I would rather risk being undertrained the last couple weeks than overtrain and potentially develop a real injury.

Plus, there is always a silver lining.  Going into this event not 100% has actually given me an opportunity to step back and allow myself not to expect my absolute best.  Instead, I plan on being in the moment on race day.  I want to savor the whole experience and revel in just how lucky I am to be able to spend an entire day enjoying the outdoors while doing a sport I LOVE. So while I could wallow in how awful it is to have a setback two weeks out, I’d rather say ‘How lucky am I that I get to just race this one for fun?!?’

At the end of the day, it isn’t about the time or PR for me.  It’s about stepping out of my comfort zone and taking on a challenge SO BIG that I had to take on TWO NEW SPORTS to even attempt it.  It’s about pushing past my fear of swimming and cycling and failing and growing into a person strong enough to get to the starting line.  The real victory won’t be crossing the finish line.  The real victory came from overcoming every obstacle along the way.  To me, the Timberman 70.3 may be the biggest challenge yet on this journey, but it is also the icing on the cake.  It’s a whole day of doing something I truly love in good company with tons of support.  What could be better than that?

Now let me ask, when’s the last time you allowed yourself to race with no pressure?

 

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Victories and Setbacks

“I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain,
torture it endures and knows how to turn to its advantage. “
Friedrich Nietzsche

Life is composed of victories and setbacks.  Great victories are always eventually followed by setbacks, and setbacks by victories.  It’s all a cycle. That’s just the way of things. Keeping this in mind helps me maintain perspective.  When I’m doing well, I do my best to enjoy it knowing it won’t last; and when things get rough, I remind myself that it will pass.

In terms of my life and ongoing struggle with daily existence after trauma, I’d say I’m on the victory side of things.  However, running has fallen into the setback zone.  My entire life I have been plagued by knee problems.  As long as I’ve been walking, my knees have popped out of place. The pain and other joint issues associated with this have always limited my running.  When I started using the Vibram Five Fingers (don’t ask me why it’s “fingers” and not toes), I noticed a dramatic improvement in my joint pain.  Basically, I didn’t have any.  I was hurting all right, but it was all muscular.  Everything was going fine and dandy until last week when, deluded with my new sense of limitless, I decided to up my mileage by a full hour instead of 30 minutes.

That is how I became rudely reacquainted with the nagging pain of IT band syndrome.  It’s a running overuse injury that I am all too familiar with.  Initially, I was not aware of its reemergance due to the new location of the pain. However, when it got to the point that even gently brushing anything against my tibial tubercle (the bony knob just under your knee) caused me to jump in agony, I decided to do a google search on “lateral knee pain” and then “pain, tibial tubercle”.  What I found was my familiar nemesis IT band syndrome.  Apparently, if you continue to run when your IT band is irritated, you develop terrible point tenderness –you guessed it– at your tibial tubercle.  So after patting myself on the back for pushing IT band syndrome to new personal heights, I looked up the treatment: six weeks of rest and stretching.  This was not an acceptable option.  Six weeks of “rest” would have me in the loony bin.  I needed to exercise for my sanity sake!  More reading.. there was also a mention of strengthening weak muscle groups- this seemed more palatable.

At the moment, I am trying very hard to limit my running.  I have been spending quality time with the stair climber and doing general conditioning/strength training.  There was a moment or two that doubted I would be able to run the marathon in Oct., or ever.  Of course, then I came back to my senses and realized I would never allow myself to quit.  Plus, if I tried, my best friend Randi would assuredly put me back in line.

Everyone needs a good friend to hold a mirror up when you need it, tell you what you need to hear (even when you don’t want to hear it), and hold you accountable.  Randi has been my best friend since high school; and while I have many incredible, amazing friends who I cherish, Randi is the one I can count on to do all these things.  I, through coercion, begging, and even a little arm twisting, have convinced her to do the Diva Half Marathon with me.  I have been “encouraging” her to do the Hartford Marathon with me as well.  Every time she comes up with an excuse or says she’d never be able to run that far- I assure her that I’m convinced she can.  When her motivation starts to wane or she gets discouraged by running injuries, I do my best to encourage her (like buying her cool running gear and books for her birthday).

I have to finish that marathon, IT band syndrome or not!  I need to prove to myself I can do it.  Plus, I want to show Randi that she can do it.  After all, she is the athletic one!  I would not only be letting myself down if I quit, but also my best friend.  There’s just no way that’s going to happen.

In the meantime, I’ll be training for the NorCal Tough Mudder next month.  On this afternoon’s agenda, time at the gym with my very own personal trainer (my boyfriend Adam- the seasoned marathon runner and Tough Mudder alum)