A little over a week ago the small nagging pain in the top of my foot deciding to rapidly escalate to severe pain that prevented me from walking. After a trip to the Podiatrist, I was prescribed a week of zero physical activity, as little walking as possible (basically bed rest), a week of cortisone pills, and a follow up exam. The diagnosis was that I had tendonitis in the extensor digitorum longus and brevis that once again was caused by swimming with fins and then running on it just made it worse.
Those 7 days ended up being pretty tough for me, but in a much different way than I expected. Those who know me or follow my blog know that I haven't once taken 7 days off in a row since I started running over 5 years ago. In fact I took less than 7 days off from running in the entire last year (maybe even in 2 years). I was pretty bummed when I found out I couldn't run for at least a week a minimum. Not only was I going to miss the EN Holiday Challenge, I was also signed up for the Slowtwitch 100/100 challenge this year.
The first few days were pretty uneventful, it was still very painful to even attempt to walk so I limped around the house and didn't do much else. Surprisingly, I didn't miss running all that much since every time I tried to go from the couch to the bathroom it was a 5 minute ordeal and quite painful. The fun started about the 2 or 3 day when the cortisone kicked it. No, the foot didn't get better, but I was all of a sudden on a 24 hour sugar high, and still couldn't move.
After the 7 days of almost zero sleep and no physical activity besides for a few pull-ups I returned to the doctor. I was now able to limp at a decent pace and the pain was going down day by day. He confirmed again that it was Tendonitis and all I could do now was let it heal. However he did clear me to do non-impact exercise and then ease back into running the following week when I felt I was ready. He also suggested I take at least a month off of swimming and never again swim with fins as this is the third time I've messed myself up with them. It appears that no matter how much I stretch my ankles and feet are just not designed to swim.
The next morning I did a very easy bike ride on my trainer just to test things out. After 30 minutes, the foot still felt fine and I was thrilled, but I stopped and called it a day. Since it was still getting better the next day I decided to try an actual bike workout the next morning.
I started out with 15 minutes of easy spinning and then kicked it up to my FTP and figured I would see how long could hold it. 5 minutes in I felt great so I went about 5 watts harder, 10 minutes and I go another 5 watts harder, 15 minutes… ok now it was getting tough but I felt strong so I held to do a full 20 minutes. I had been scheduled to do an FTP test this week anyway so now I decided this ad hoc workout was going to become a 2 x 20. So I spun easy for 2 minutes had some water and then kicked it back up. The second 20 minutes was like any other FTP test... painful. My foot was still fine and didn't hurt at all though, so I pushed through to find that my FTP is up 14 watts! I don't think I have ever seen a 14 watt FTP increase in one block of training.
This only happened about 22 hours ago, but since I've been awake 21 of those 22 hours (thanks cortisone) I've been thinking about it a lot. I've always understood that the body needs rest and recovery. I follow a training plan, there is a ton of thought that goes into how I structure my weeks, months and seasons, but I always push myself as hard as I can for as long as I can, and I never truly rest.
For the 7 days I couldn't do anything, I sat and watched my teams all get stronger and kept worrying that I was going to fall behind and now I come back after my longest break ever and have a great FTP increase … hmmm.
Talk about a lesson learned… as I said before, until this injury I pretty much ran every single day for at least the last two years. I had hard weeks and easy weeks so I felt I was recovering, but I never took anytime off. I'm driven by accomplishments and I like to see my CTL go up on the PMC and my average pace to get faster, but I'm so driven that I'm afraid to rest. I was finally forced to rest and look what happens… my hard earned CTL line drops, but I see an awesome (and measureable) gain in my fitness.
Speaking of being driven, I started this whole endurance sports thing 5 years ago to lose weight and continued because it was fun and I truly enjoyed it. About two years ago my type A personality took over, I decided I wanted to go to Kona, and therefore I had to focus and give it 100%. Somewhere along the way this hobby stopped being about fun and all I cared about was hitting my fitness goals and my performance at races. I was enjoying it because of the results I was seeing not because I was participating in the events that I used to enjoy.
The NYC Marathon and Clearwater reminded me that I don't have to be on the podium or even close to have a great time. NYC was the best marathon I ever ran as I truly enjoyed every step even though I finished well over an hour slower than I could have. Sure there were things that I got upset about at Clearwater, but now that I look back, how cool was it that I was able to compete in a World Championship, visit my family, and have a great vacation with my wife to finish off the year.
For the last two years I've stressed out over every little detail of my training and daily life. I don't regret it for a minute because I got my Kona spot, but it's time to have fun again and this year is going to be different. I'm going to enjoy running in the Boston Marathon and I'm going to enjoy my dream coming true when I get to race with the best in the world in Kona. After that, who knows, maybe I'll want to get back into the competitive mindset, maybe I'll keep doing it for fun, or maybe I'll try something new.
I guess you can't lose (or gain) much fitness in 7 days, but you sure can learn a lot. It will probably be another 7 days before I can start running again. Maybe I will come back stronger, maybe not, but I will get the fitness back and great stronger over time.
By the way, it's 5 AM on Christmas morning and thanks to the cortisone that is still in my system I slept a total of 1 hour in the form of 3 20 minute naps. I guess this is my body getting ready for the baby!