It doesn't work to leap a twenty-foot chasm in two ten-foot jumps. American Proverb
Biting off more than I can chew is a common theme in my life. Most of the time I can chew fast enough to survive, but sometimes I just have to spit it out and start over.
After my first 10 mile long run of the year I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe I can jump into an entry level marathon training plan and run the Shamrock Full.” I was already trained for HM distance with runs up to 14 miles, so why not just keep going. I decided if I could finish a 15 mile long run and still walk, I would register for the full marathon. Of course, this is a bad time of year for weather and running barefoot or in my Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) is not possible most days, so a little over 2 weeks ago I put on my trail shoes and hit the road in the rain. It is possible to run with near barefoot form in a minimal show if you pay attention, but apparently I was not paying enough attention because by the end of the 4 mile run my shins were tender.
I haven’t had shin splints in a long time and running barefoot has never caused shin splints so I figured if I ran in my VFFs for my long run the next day, I would be okay. It was a total rookie mistake. Although I believe very fervently in barefoot and minimal shoe running, it is not a panacea and you can still easily do too much too soon. I might have been okay with a 15 mile run if I hadn’t spent the morning standing and freezing to death working the finish line of a 10K first. Shivering takes a lot out of you and running when you are tired tends to ruin your form, not a good combination. I went running anyway and after my 15 mile run that afternoon my calves felt like rocks and my shin was very sore. The next morning I could hardly walk because of the shin splint in my right leg, so I did not register for the marathon and took the next two days off.
I should have waited until all the soreness cleared up, but I didn’t. I went for a 4 mile run on Tuesday. It went okay and although my shin was slightly sorer in the morning, it wasn’t as sore as it had been the morning after my 15 miler so I somehow convinced myself that this meant running was helping. When the thermometer hit 50 degrees with dry roads and sunshine, I went for a barefoot run and ran for 8 miles. This was like throwing gasoline on a fire. I could feel burning in my shin, but still thought I could work around it. I finished the 8 miles, but the next morning my shins were horrible again. I never realized just how bad shin splints could get since I’ve never been able to see evidence of one from the outside, but after the 8 mile run my shin looked like someone had hit me with a baseball bat. I had a huge goose egg on the front of my shin and swelling from the top of my ankle to half way to my knee.
I decided it was time to get serious about healing and took the rest of the week off and didn’t try running again until this past Wednesday, nearly a full week. This time I just tried a 3 mile run and it went well. Not totally free of tenderness, but it didn’t seem to make it worse either. The next day I tried 5 miles, still so far so good. I took Friday off and like a total moron resumed my marathon training schedule and ran 16 miles Saturday. It went surprisingly well and probably would have been fine if I had stopped at 14, but of course, I didn’t. I wish I knew what my driving force was because I need to turn it off once in a while. I was miserable, the falling rain and snow mix stung my face, and I hurt all over from being tense. I finished though, all 16 miles. The walk breaks were more frequent at the end and I was down to a 13 minute mile, but I kept plodding until it was done.
This morning my shin hurts and is swollen again so I still haven’t registered for the marathon. I can’t imagine adding another 10 miles to my run 6 weeks from now. Of course, my shin isn’t anywhere near as sore as it was after my 15 mile run, so there is still a part of my brain taunting me and telling me I can do this. I wish I could shut that part up and just let my leg heal. I need to learn when to quit, but I know darn well that I’ll run again on Tuesday after a 2 day rest, and that if I can run Saturday morning, I’ll run another long run. And if I can run after that, I may still register for the full marathon. I know; I’m insane. 18, 14, 20, 12, 8, those are the long runs left on the schedule. I don’t know if I can do them. I don’t know if I even WANT to do them, but I won’t stop trying. I’m still planning on the 24-hour relay in April so I still need to keep adding mileage.
I hadn’t broadcast my intentions about the Shamrock full because I know I’m not really ready and with RA, I need to be more than ready. It just seems like I should try to get my first out of the way in a local race and before we leave the country again. Often announcing a commitment will also make me push myself way too hard, although it worked for me with my first half marathon. The bottom line is that I have too many other things going on in my life to sacrifice them all to meet a goal I am not ready for. I may yet run the full marathon, I may not. It may sell out before I make a decision, but that is okay, there will be others later when I’m more prepared. The only promise I make is that I won’t give up, and that I will work on respecting my body and its limits, which at this point seems harder than actually running 26.2.