Thursday, February 16, 2012

I Saw It Coming and Did Nothing to Stop It

Head in Hands
For the second time in my life, I've decided not to start a race I've registered for due to injury.  And for the second time, that race is the HAT Run 50K.  But what's really frustrating is that I saw the warning signs, chose denial over action and ended up hurt. It was totally preventable, because once I was to the point that I had to admit I was hurt, I knew exactly how it had come about.
Back in August, I was in full swing of my Oil Creek training and my road shoes were aging and needed replacement.  So I had replaced my Brooks Green Silence shoes with the Altra Instinct - a zero-drop shoe (no difference in heel and toe height).  I tried to transition slowly.  I was already using my trail shoes (New Balance MT101) for all my long runs, so switching to the Instinct didn't have a big impact.  But I did notice a little ache in my calves from going to the zero-drop shoe.

Obviously I made it through Oil Creek just fine, but afterwards I replaced my Nike Free running shoes with a pair of VivoBarefoot Evos in my locker at work.  This meant that all of my road running was now being done in zero-drop shoes.  I noticed the impact right away.  The soreness wasn't enough to make me stop, but I was looking forward to my trip to Cambodia when I'd have almost two weeks completely off from running.  Surely I would come back healed up and ready to put in some serious miles in preparation for the HAT run.

I came back feeling better, but the time off didn't do anything to help me adapt to running in zero-drop shoes full time, and I was soon experiencing that soreness again - which was diminished when I ran trails (in the MT101 - not a zero-drop shoe).  Things finally came to a head just before Christmas when I went for a lunch time run and my calf/ankle was throbbing after less than three miles.  I was finally at a point to take action.

I took several days off and purchased a pair of New Balance Minimus Road - with an advertised 4mm drop (which Running Times says is more like 5.5mm) .  I ran trails with Jamie a few days after Christmas and it didn't feel bad but I could tell there was something wrong.  I needed to start putting in some 40-mile weeks soon in order to be ready for the HAT Run, and it wasn't looking good.

For January I ran only in the minimus.  I put in a total of 18.5 miles in January.  I could tell I was improving, but I was not improving fast enough.  Fortunately, the HAT run has a refund policy, where I could still get $45 back from my registration if I withdrew by February 1.  I withdrew and I'm happy that someone on the waiting list will get to enjoy my spot on March 24.  (In 2009 I called it quits too late to get any kind of refund or have someone take my place from the waiting list.)

If instead of waiting until late December to change my shoes and run in the minimus, I might have been able to avoid all this.  My calf would have recovered before I was really even set back by it and I'd be putting in 40-50 mile weeks by now.  Unfortunately, I underestimated how long it would take for my legs to get used to zero-drop shoes, thinking that having so much experience in what minimalists call "transition" shoes had amply prepared me for running in the Instinct and Evo.

It's really unfortunate because I was doing really well in transition shoes.  I hadn't had an injury in 15 months (September 2010 - 6 days off) and had enjoyed over 1,500 miles of running in 2011.  I wasn't completely happy with the shoes that I was wearing, but other than that I had no reason to move to zero-drop shoes.  Now I know that a 4-10 millimeter drop is optimum for me at this time.

As for training, I fully expect be in full swing again by April, and I've already registered for the Finger Lakes Fifties 50K, so barring another setback I should be doing 40 miles a week by Spring and if I can get back to that point by March, I may even try to sneak in a late April or May race.

As for the HAT Run - now I feel I have to run it in 2013!

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