Sweet and Sour

Well, the deadline is over, the long run is over, and I finally have time to do the laundry. Friday was a comparatively calm day at work and I managed to make it to the Lounge Spa at lunch for a quick massage. Kiril went to town on my IT bands for a solid 20 minutes and managed to find quite a few knots that I didn’t even know I had.  I can’t say for sure, as I was face down for most of it, but I’m pretty sure there was liberal use of elbows. He also showed me to areas I can work with a golf ball during the week to keep things loose.  I left feeling a little tender and wonderfully loose, which was the ultimate goal.  My new mantra these days is “sore is better than tight.”

I was feeling so good on Saturday that I decided to go ahead with my 7-mile easy run, with the addition of the IT band strap I picked up.  The workout went fine, with the exception of the giant chaffed spot I developed behind my knee from the strap. (Honestly, I can’t win.) Still, I had no knee pain, so I went into today’s long run feeling pretty confident that I had finally gotten the problem under control.

So the good news about my 20-miler today is that the first 18 felt super easy.  It was actually the easiest long run I have done in recent memory, including that darling little 7-miler a few weeks ago.  The bad news is that there were no miles 19 and 20. I was cruising along happily for seven miles when I started to feel that dreaded ache in my knee again. It ramped up pretty quickly and I decided to play it safe and turn around at mile nine. I was pretty gimpy at the end of 16 last week, and I really didn’t want to end up trying to limp home from four miles out. I did, at least, learn the lesson of last week, and I never slowed down to more than a very brisk walk for water from mile 8 on. Cardio-wise, I was feeling great.  I actually kept experiencing speed creep the whole way back and had to keep reminding myself to rein it in a bit.  Other than the stabbing knee pain, my legs even felt fresh.  At mile 18 I was back at the car and had to make the call whether to keep going or not. I felt like I had run 10 or 12 miles at that point, not 18, and I knew I had the endurance for 20 without much problem. It was also clear that I was going to be limping soon. When a run is going well, I tend to settle into the sound of my feet on the pavement. In the last mile, though, my internal metronome had gone from pad-pad to pad-Gah!-pad-Gah! I remembered reading somewhere that plus or minus 10% on long runs doesn’t make that big of a difference, and I made the decision to just call it.

I feel bad about it, but I also feel like it was the right call. I’m not sure how to handle the next few weeks.  I should probably suspend Saturday runs, but I haven’t decided yet whether to move them to Friday or try to work the mileage by doubling up a few days a week.  I’m really happy with where my endurance is right now, and I hate to cut back the mileage during the week when I can do those runs without pain. I have the taper before the race, and I’m hoping that will be enough to alleviate things before the big day. After some hard-core foam-rolling and golf ball massage this afternoon, I was able to release my knee pretty completely, so next week is looking doable.  My plan right now is just to keep the current plan flexible. That, and Advil.

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