Pre Race Jitters and injuries

*title refers to past injuries  *knocking on so much wood, nothing current!!

Race day is almost here.  Weeks and weeks of early mornings and late evenings.  Hours spent on the track, the road, the trail, all culminating in one final run.  To say I am nervous right now is a bit of an understatement.  This is not my first marathon so I should be used to this, right? Definitely not.  I don’t know if anyone ever enters into their marathon without a least a little bit of pre race anxiety.  If you do, please tell me your secrets!!

For me, my anxiety comes from knowing what exactly lays ahead.  I have felt the pain that slowly creeps in over time.  I am aware of how mind numbing it can be to run for 4 plus hours.  I think it is the knowledge of my previous experiences which impacts me today.  Knowing what to expect is both a good and a not so good thing.  Prior to my first marathon (Columbus, 2012) I really had no idea what to expect once I hit 20 miles.  I approached it with fear and trepidation and a really large amount of self doubt.  In retrospect, every time I told someone I was training for a marathon (which was a lot back then), I had a sneaking sense of doubt that it would actually happen. It took until race day, about mile 23, when I finally believed that it would happen.  Somewhere in my head, I had this idea that something would happen that would prevent me from finishing. Alas, I finished but experienced a tremendous amount of pain from a nagging sartorius injury that I probably shouldn’t have been running on.  At any rate, I entered into those last 10 kilometers and experienced the pain that accompanies those last miles.  A pain I haven’t quite forgotten.

Feeling pathetic at mile 23, Columbus Marathon 2012

So for me, knowing what I am going to face on Sunday is leaving my stomach in knots. I know I can cover the distance.  But can I cover it within my time goal? I have doubts.  I have mentioned before that I had two herniated discs earlier this year but have never really gotten into the nitty gritty.  In early April, I was 75% of the way through training for the Cleveland Marathon.  I was doing long runs with a group of women who are all substantially faster then me. Their 1/2 PR’s hover around the low 1.50’s and mine is 1.58.xx.  I felt strong on long runs and did not struggle to keep up.  We trained consistently at about a 9.45 pace and they were projecting a finish time somewhere in the 4 hour 10 minute range. My leg turnover was strong and I was recovering well with no problem hitting the prescribed paces or workouts.  At three quarters through the training cycle, I figured a 4.10-4.15 finish might be possible.
And then,  I woke up on the morning of Friday, April 8 with some intense pain in my lower back/butt region.  I assumed a tight piriformis and spent the next 48 hours trying to roll it out.  I also had a chiropractic adjustment with the first person who could fit me in (bad idea), and utilized stim and bio freeze to manage the pain.  Nothing helped to alleviate the pain and I started to worry I wouldn’t be able to run the 20 mile race scheduled for Sunday. I woke up early Sunday morning to prepare to race but struggled to get my tights on.  I became very concerned about my ability to cover the distance, and because the race was point to point, it would be extremely hard to drop if needed. I made a decision to DNS and went to the gym to run instead.  I felt more comfortable with the idea that my Advil and Biofreeze would be within 200 meters of me at all times and I could stop if necessary.  I was able to cover the 20 miles indoor with little difficulty but every time I stopped running, the pain returned.

It takes a real friend to run 20 miles INDOORS with you. Pic is of Leighanna  helping me with the biofreeze haha

The following day I could barely walk or sit comfortably when I went to see my regular Chiro Dr. Matt at Ohio Sports Chiropractic.  Long story short, he suspected herniated discs which were confirmed later that week by an Orthopedic Physician.  Eight full weeks of rest plus PT followed and late May, I began to run again.

Putting a brace face on but I was in so much pain this day

While my cardiovascular endurance returned quickly, my pace did not (and really hasn’t to a degree).  In the 18 weeks or so since I’ve returned to running, I have gotten faster but no where near where I was prior to the injury.  I am not running my long runs at about 45-60 seconds slower per mile then where they were 6 months ago.  I’ve done little speed work during this recovery period with the primary focus of safely building my mileage and ongoing strength work focusing on areas weakened by my disc issues.

From my first ridiculously slow run back- bursting with excitement

All of that rather lengthy explanation leads to me today: the eve of my first post injury marathon.  And while I’ve had an amazing training cycle given that I could hardly walk for all of May, I have some lingering self doubts about my time goal.  I am asking myself some hard questions today.  Really wondering whether my time goal is doable to is it stupid to even have an expectation of a finish time.

I do know that no answer is going to be found here.  While it helps to write it all out, the truth is that come Sunday, I will find out what these weeks and weeks of training have been for.  So to end this rather lengthy post; here is to at least maybe one more night of good sleep before the big day.  See you on the other side!!

Tell me: How do you cope with pre race jitters? Is setting a time goal after an injury a wise move?

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