Better Health Through Hypochondria
I prefer honing my skills of denial, but one of the things I did right this spring was to step away from my training plans and logs early. At the time, I didn’t have pain during the day, I didn’t have pain on every run, at the end of a run, or even every time I ran fast. I did have pain that came and went, and over weeks seemed to come more often than it went. It was a level of discomfort I’m used to ignoring without consequence, and backing off at the time seemed wasteful, even a little lazy. If it had been another, less vulnerable, body part I might have noted the subtle trend, and probably would’ve let it play out a little longer. That left hamstring however, has a tear in its past. Complete healing took 18 months and involved crutches and canes.
But why is that other voice so loud? The voice that says you’re a baby overreacting to a little niggle? Even with a healthy fear of pain and physical therapy, that voice wouldn’t be silenced. I had to cut hills, intervals, long runs, and slash my mileage by nearly half, but I could keep running without pain while my leg healed. It strikes me now as pathological: the fact I could run pain-free made me wonder whether I should be training harder.
In the end, a month at 60% mileage, and a tempo run or a short race each week hardly had any impact on my race times. On a perfect day, I might have run 90s better on a 10K. I don’t think that’s insignificant, a 90s PR is an accomplishment to be proud of, but it’s surprising how little running it takes to maintain the training you’ve banked. I don’t have much natural speed; I expected that 10K pace to decay from only tempo runs at half-marathon pace, but on race day it slipped out smooth as a stream. I think a two week break with no speedwork would’ve been an imperceptible loss of fitness. A little more laziness and hypochondria a month earlier might have saved my final race.