Gone are the days when I could run as far and as fast as I pleased without consequence. The invincibility that I knew would one day expire finally did just that. A substantial increase in mileage as I swiftly transitioned out of the triathlon season and into marathon training resulted in my first bout of running-related knee pain.
I had spent the entire summer splitting my training across three sports — a lot of swimming, not as much biking as I probably should’ve, and running about 24 miles per week. After wrapping-up my triathlon season at the USAT Triathlon Age Group National Championships in mid-August, and then taking a week off, I had about five weeks left to really focus on running before tackling my first ever marathon — the Twin Cities Marathon. The training plans I had looked at were set on a 18-week schedule. I had hoped all of my other training would provide a good base, so I plugged into a plan at week 15, made a couple modifications and hit the ground running from there.
In the first 15 days, I logged 84.5 miles — about double the weekly mileage that my body had been used to. That included three long runs at 13, 16 and 18 miles respectively. The 18-miler was the one that did me in. Well, all of the summer’s mileage added-up to the pain that would occur, but it happened during the 18-miler. I felt a pain behind my right knee within the first mile that I’d never felt before. It was like there was a cable in the back of my leg that was being pulled as tight as it could be, with the tension right behind the knee. I kept running and after a few miles it kind of loosened-up. Kind-of. Then during the last eight miles, I felt a strain on the outside of that same knee. It started as a dull ache and intensified after taking off from a stoplight. This was also unlike anything I’d experienced before. I knew something wasn’t right.
I saw a physical therapist with a running specialty and was told I had a strained distal hamstring tendon and a strained IT band — both caused by overuse. I had probably ramped up a little too quickly in my training plan as I attempted to make-up for some lost ground. The good news was that they wanted me to keep running, just shorter distances and at a slower pace. Whew. What a relief that was to hear. I had to skip the 20-mile race I had signed-up for to complete what would’ve been the longest long run of the training plan, but the physical therapist said that if I had already built-up to 18 miles, I should be able to do the full 26.2 miles in a few weeks. Another relief to hear.
So for the last two weeks, I’ve stuck to a modified training plan, with long runs of 10.5 and 8 miles. I’ve been doing my assigned stretches and foam-rolling the heck out of my legs. Side-note: I’m new to foam-rolling but I love it. I never knew how tight some of the muscles in my legs have been until I pressed them into the foam. Leveraging my body weight to help massage my legs with the roller has already done wonders.
Overall, my knee is feeling much better. I’ve logged the majority of the miles I needed to during that last five weeks of that 18-week training plan. I’m rather relaxed about the challenge ahead. With only five days until toeing the start line, I’ve done about all I can do –minus the few remaining more short runs to stay loose, getting plenty of rest and executing a nutrition plan a few days before the race. I’m honestly just excited to get out and run the course that’s been dubbed the most beautiful urban marathon in the country.
Oh, what’s my goal? This has been a great question. The first answer is to finish. That’s the big thing. And since I’ve never ran the marathon distance before, I’m not totally sure how my body will respond in those later miles. Last fall, I finished my first half marathon with a time of 01:45:33. If I could keep that same pace across a full marathon, which I’m unsure of, that would put me at a 03:31:06 time. I averaged a 08:10/mi pace during the knee-pain inducing 18-miler a few weeks ago. Based on that, and accounting for the unknowns that could happen during the last 8 miles, especially with a knee that isn’t 100%, I’m setting a goal time at 03:38:00. It’s certainly achievable if all goes well, yet will challenge me to keep a 08:19/mi pace or better across all 26.2 miles.
The unknown is what excites me most about this race. This is something I’ve never done before. And the only way to find out is to try it. This reminds me of a quote: “Only those who will risk going too far can find out how far one can go.” Well, I’m going to find out!