2011-07-29

Pulling Out

The Unpleasant Truth
I guess it's time I bit the bullet...

Anyone who has ever run a marathon knows that sometimes it is not your day. I have seen major contenders pull out of the race entirely just ten kilometers from the finish line. Why do they do this? Are they weak? Are they quitting?

The answer is no. Marathons are not just physically daunting, they are potentially injurious. For some - especially for those interested in winning - when things start to go sour, the choice isn't whether or not to finish; finishing is easy for those of us with experience. (I don't mean to minimize the achievements of first-time marathoners here, but the fact remains: once you've done a marathon or two, the achievement of "just finishing" no longer holds any sway with you.) No, instead these athletes are making what amounts to an economic decision: it is more beneficial to stop, eliminate the risk of injury, and live to run another day

So it is with me today. My calf injury, although incredibly minimal, is nevertheless preventing me from training to the fullest extent of my personal satisfaction. My choice is now as follows:
  1. Continue my pattern of rest for a week / try running and aggravate the healing process / repeat; or,
  2. Acknowledge that if I don't give my leg the time it needs to heal properly, I won't be running until long after the marathon anyway.
Notice that neither of the above choices involve running the Montreal Marathon this year.

Where Did I Go Wrong?
At this point, I suppose it is fair to ask where I went wrong. Is my comprehensive 18-week marathon training program a fool's errand? Did I train too hard? Did I run too long on worn-out shoes? Did I preach about good form, all the while practicing terrible form on my own? If John Stanton runs the Montreal Marathon this year, will he have proven the superiority of his philosophy over mine? Am I just a big know-nothing loser? All talk? 

Well, no. As I described shortly after it happened, my injury came on suddenly. There I was, running a relatively easy fartlek workout, when suddenly I felt a strange pop and my calf immediately began hurting. These are the classic symptoms of a torn muscle. 

The muscle tear occurred a few days after my first 90-minute run of the season, but truth be told, I had missed a few days of exercise over the two weeks prior. What this really means is that I had missed too many workouts to continue my workout schedule "as-is." I was ready enough for a 90-minute long run, but because I hadn't properly built up to it (because I had been missing too many workouts beforehand), I needed more rest than I actually took. The result was a buildup of lactic acid and a weakening of my calf muscle. There was probably also some greater-than-normal muscle tightening as a result of the long run.

Put it all together, and what you get is the makings of a minor muscle tear. The only way to really get over this is to rest. Once I have taken adequate rest, I will no longer have enough time to run a marathon without risking another, similar injury.

Therefore...
My only rational response at this point is to acknowledge that running a marathon this September is an incredibly bad idea for a guy who recently tore his calf. It's not about quitting, it's about letting my body heal in order to run a marathon once I've recovered. I'm not happy about this, but that's life, take it or leave it.

Where do I go from here? Well, physically, I'm going to rest up, put on some upper body mass, and plan to run the half-marathon in Montreal instead. Running 13 miles is very literally a casual jaunt to me. It will be a pleasant way to acquaint myself with the race, the course, etc., have some fun, plan for a run, and keep me going. I will also not have to worry so much about streamlining my body for race perfection, which is a great deal of work. (I'm sure you've noticed how much work it is, especially if you've been following my training regimen.)

Next year, I'll try my race program out again. I'm confident in its ability to produce results, but for me, it just can't happen this year.

In the meantime, I have a series of upcoming projects, most notably Solaris, and my ongoing fun with Ryan Ruins Requests and Insipid Pop Weekend. On top of that, there will be another meet-up in August for the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada, and my ongoing economics and philosophy blogging. I will be busy enough!

As for the fitness component of the blog, I will now focus on general fitness and exercise more, and marathon-specific training less. I think this will make for a more well-rounded fitness blog, and I hope you will agree.

Up Next: Learning About Life and Personal Perspectives Through Curry's Paradox