Calling in the pros

There's a rule in running that goes like this: Your current injury status and desire to run are inversely correlated. The healthier you are, the less you want to run. But if you're injured, you'd give nearly anything to be able to run.

Since the beginning of this training plan, I've had normal (for me) twinges and flare-ups. My left knee. My right hamstring. My right hip. My right ankle. Both of my shins. My back. Looking at old training logs, I know this is common for me in the first eight weeks and usually goes away on its own as long as I take it easy.

My main complaint is my right leg. At the beginning, my right hip felt really tight. I foam-rolled it, and it seemed to improve a little. Then, my right hamstring started hurting: so much so, that when I sit on the back table during Monday morning meetings (as is my habit) and my legs dangle over the side, the feeling of my hamstring pressing into the edge sends shooting pain through my whole body.

Last week, I took the entire weekend off to go camping. I ran only 8 miles that week but got in lots of low-impact hiking and some bike-riding, which I thought would be great for letting my muscles heal. My first run the following week was great: A five-mile tempo that felt much easier than my shorter tempo the week before (not shocking after such an easy week). But on the run after that, my leg cried out again from all the same places.

That afternoon, I had a massage and described what I was feeling to the masseuse. She spent some extra time on my right hip and leg. Afterward, mentioned that both of my ankles felt "crunchy" and the knots in my leg seemed to be coming from my IT band. I've never had IT band problems before (and, um, I'm not even sure I know what an IT band is...*ducks*), so she explained how to foam-roll against a wall. I followed her instructions and carefully arranged myself on my foam roller, but never really felt I was doing it right. I can't get my foam roller to dig into where it really hurts.

On Saturday I set out for my first double-digit long run this cycle. From the beginning, everything was all wrong. I felt like I was running on two wooden legs. My right leg hurt and I was probably compensating for it somehow, because halfway through the inside of my right ankle started hurting pretty badly. That, combined with the "crunchy" ankle comment from the masseuse, now introduced a new worry about tendonitis. Fun!

Stubborn and seeking redemption, I tried to run again the next day. I took two ibuprofin beforehand, and did about five miles feeling pretty decent. But once I was home and showered and the ibuprofin wore off, I still hurt in all of the same places. Don't do what I do, people.

I'm starting to accept that this is getting to be above my pay grade; that I'm in week 7 now and these weird pains aren't "going away on their own" like they usually do.

I do know I need to get to the bottom of this. My theory is that I had a few twinges at the beginning that would have worked themselves out on their own, but I was over-aggressive and jumped into speedwork, etc., and my problems compounded. 

I don't know if I need a few sessions of a sports massage, or this "ART" or "Graston" stuff people are always blogging about, but it's time to call in the pros. It pains me to have to spend money on copays for this, my hobby -- especially when running is supposed to make me healthier. 

I broke down and made an appointment at my in-network sports medicine clinic (fortunately, just a few minutes away from my office). Fingers crossed that this doesn't wind up being a serious (or expensive) problem...

City of Oaks & Tobacco Road training plan

The main idea that motivates my training plan is that I want to be in fighting shape for a sub-3:35 at the Tobacco Road Marathon on March 15. That's the Boston Qualifying standard for my AG.

Why not just try to improve on my current PR (3:45)? Well, I like racing marathons but I am not sure I could make it through another training cycle without a big, scary goal. 3:40 isn't scary enough. Sub 3:35? Yeah, that's pretty scary.

Even scarier is the idea of doing all the work to qualify for Boston, only to find out later I haven't qualified to actually register for the Boston Marathon (see: this year's 1:02 allowance.) Obviously, that's a first world runner problem and I would just try again the next year. But still, I want to take this seriously and do the very best I can.

What I made combines two training plans into one. I start with 12 weeks of half marathon training, then take a week to recover, followed by 18 weeks of marathon training. The 12 weeks of half marathon training also serves as a way of building up a nice, consistent base before marathon training. I can't really be trusted to "just run" with no training plan, so I like the structure it offers.

Plan One: City of Oaks Half Marathon plan. My goal here is to be competitive with myself and run strong through the very end. I think it's not crazy to expect a 1:4x, but I would honestly be happy with running it at my Kentucky marathon pace. Plus, I'm awfully rusty at this distance and haven't done any legit long runs since spring.

Strategy: Besides getting my MPW up to some kind of maintenance level (25ish/week), I am running four days a week with 1-2 workouts per week (usually, some kind of speed session and a tempo run). Four days a week is a sweet spot for me and gives me enough time left over to ride twice a week while still, you know, having a life.

Since having a life is kind of important to me, I should probably start trying harder to do at least a few of my runs in the morning. Eh......

The main point of this is get back into running after a summer spent mostly not running.

Plan Two: Tobacco Road Marathon plan.

After a week of recovery from the half, I jump into 18 weeks of training for my spring marathon. I haven't really decided which plan to use, but I will probably choose something similar to what I've done in the past -- a Hal Higdon-type plan with Pfitzinger workouts, using McMillan as my pace calculator. This works for me and I like being able to compare my progress over similar types of plans for past marathons. Going into Kentucky, I knew from comparing my workout notes that I was faster, and had more endurance than I did going into New York.

Still, there is a little insecure voice that is telling me that I have to do more -- much more. Maybe it's a consequence of reading too many running blogs (especially by runners with far faster workout times and faster PRs at shorter distances than me, who are still chasing that elusive BQ), but when I see my plan on paper I think, "Is this really going to be enough? What about more miles? What about more grueling workouts? What about hiring a coach? What about double days?" That voice is really annoying because this is my hobby, one that (for now!) I enjoy a lot. To be honest, I don't really want to do that stuff. I like running around with my dog, in nice weather, without sacrificing too many other things I like to do. But it's easy to lose sight of my personal reasons for running, and my own generally judicious sense of how my training is progressing and what kinds of goals are realistic. So anyway, a big part of my training plan includes an attempt to be peaceful during this process, to ignore that insecure voice, and just CTFO out about it.

Another thing: I record my runs in four separate places, which seems like madness. First, Runkeeper (which I've been using from the beginning, before I had a Garmin), where IRL friends and family follow me; then, Dailymile, where I follow a bunch of internet people; also, Garmin Connect (which my watch uploads to automatically); and finally, my training plan spreadsheet. This is excessive, no?