Coming Back From Injury Can Be Hard

If there is one thing that I don't do very well it is take my own advice.  As you will recall, during my training for the Publix Georgia Marathon this past March I was in a hurry to build my mileage because of the late commitment on my part to running the full marathon.  It isn't new with me, but I repeat the 10% rule often when talking to people about building their mileage, but I unfortunately didn't listen to my own advice.

It didn't take long before that mileage building took it's toll and I was busy trying to deny that I was injured.  I slowed things down and cut back my mileage hoping that I hadn't sabotaged my marathon, but unfortunately the damage had been done.  I will let my training since the first of the year speak for itself, but you can see when it started to hurt and when I started to cut the frequency of my runs back to hopefully keep healthy.

The weeks leading up to the marathon the running slipped drastically as I decided it would not be wise for me to push forward to the marathon and dropped back to the half marathon.  The half marathon went fairly well considering all the circumstances, but by that time my running schedule was nothing like it was before, it was sporadic and unplanned at best, and a chore much of the time.

It has taken me nearly 45 days for me to get to the point where I am confident saying that I have beat this injury.  I am not ready to say 100%, but I will offer a 99% up here and there.  As hard as it is to keep positive during an injury I am finding that coming back following an injury can be almost as difficult as the injury itself.

I have had times when I have had to stop running completely because of injury.  I can think of my broken collar bone in 2008, and a pulled groin in 2007.  Both of these injuries made it physically difficult to build back the lost base, but mentally I was ready.  I had been chomping at the bit the entire time to get back to the roads, and I was ready for the challenge.

This time, however, it has been much different.  It has been different because I never stopped running, I just changed my schedule and ran when it was convenient and when it fit in.  I wasn't running a set schedule, and I didn't have a plan.  The effects of this meant that I started sleeping in much more than I have since I started my journey in early 2007.  Since I didn't have a schedule or commitment, on the days I was planning to run in the morning, more times than not I rolled over and went back to sleep.

This time the difficulty in returning to a full schedule lies in the mental arena.  The motivation and discipline to get back to my regular schedule of 5am runs will be more challenging mentally than the physical aspect of building back my mileage.  I much prefer the early morning runs, but I also do like to sleep.  When weighing the benefits, I have to conclude that the 5am journeys through the dark roads around me pay much higher dividends than that extra 30-45 minutes of sleep I could potentially get.

And so.... I find my self struggling - struggling to get myself to bed on time so I can wake when the 5am rooster crows (figuratively speaking - if we had one close by I am sure one of my neighbors would find a way to quiet it permanently).  This week, however, marks my first week of taking this really seriously.

I decided over the weekend that there would be no excuses and that I would be on the road shortly after 5am Monday morning.  It was not easy, but I was able to make the first day happen.  Tuesday was not bad because it was the day for our normal Tuesday Night Running Group, and the week we were going to say goodbye to Trey, our long time fearless running leader. (Who can be found on Dailymile, Facebook, Twitter, and at his blog www.uphillrunning.com)

The trouble came today when I was returning after Wednesday being a day off (Don't forget that building mileage too fast rule!) Last night I set all my clothes out and I set all the alarms.  The plans were made but the lingering thoughts of a colder than normal morning in the forecast was whittling away at my best intentions.

Morning came and so did that crazy rooster (I thought someone was going to shoot that thing!).  The night was a rough night.  I didn't get to bed till late, and then couldn't fall asleep.  I slept like a log (floating down the Colorado River) and when 5am came I felt less rested then when I went to bed.  I made it up and endured long enough to see that it was 40 degrees outside.  I gave in, and caved - I went back to bed.  For what it is worth, that last hour of sleep I slept better than I had all night long, but I had given in to the temptation.

Today didn't end up a total loss, but it nearly did.  I got stuck at work late with some pressing issues and all I could see was my chance at a run slipping away tonight as well.  I was hungry, and really wanted more than a light snack on my way home from work, but I resisted and only ate a Cliff Bar.  I was able to get home and get out the door for an easy 3.1 miles before eating a late dinner.  It was what I needed to keep the momentum that I had started earlier this week.

The war has not been won, but some battles have.  This morning the clear favorite was my bed, and ultimately I did what my body needed me to do.  It is not the set-backs you want when you are trying to get back to a schedule, but it is what we call life, and it happens.  Next week I will win more of the battles and the tide will turn in my favor.

Keep in mind, most of us are not professionals.  We are sometimes crazy, committed, and even obsessed but life still gets in the way of our best intentions and throws us off course.  What defines us is how we fight to stay on course, and how we return when we are thrown into the ditch and left for dead. If you have been struggling coming back from an injury, don't lose hope.  The injury will pass, and your motivation, dedication, and desire will return and get you back to that finish line!