Monday, July 22, 2013

To Tri or not to Tri

I've been a runner now for three years. I picked up the hobby very passively at first, really almost by accident. I decided that I was out of shape and needed to make some changes, so I started adding some daily walks on the treadmill to my routine. It helped with my stress levels and seemed a healthy way to get some 'me' time.

And then one day, completely on a whim, I picked up the pace a little.  Slowly, oh so very slowly at first. On a 30 minute walk, I ran for 3 minutes. The next walk, I added a little more running, and then more and more running... you get the idea.

And then I did my first 5K, a charity run for Make-a-Wish through a local junior high school. And then I picked up some books about running, and worked my way up to running half marathons, and just like that-- I was hooked.

There have been a lot of stories written about why people train for and compete in endurance sports. The Oatmeal recently did full justice to the topic with this, the best comic I've ever read about running. All of that? It's totally my story too.

On the advice of some very smart people, over time I added some cross training activities--swimming, biking, and yoga--to balance out my training and work on my upper body as well. And although I enjoy them to some extent, biking and swimming are sorta like my second choice ice cream flavor (Red Velvet Cake) if the store doesn't have my favorite (Coffee Heath Bar Crunch). I'll swim, or bike, when I can't run.

Which is the situation I find myself in right now.

I did my latest half marathon back in June. I finished the race, but I knew by about mile 8 that something had gone Seriously Wrong with my right calf muscle.

Image Links here; those legs aren't actually my legs. 

It felt sort of like a really big, really mad hornet repeatedly stinging my leg in the same spot, over and over again, with every step I took, just to show me what a bad ass hornet he was.

Stupid hornet. I barely made it to the finish line. My leg has not been the same since. I've got it now on a rest-ice-compression-elevation (RICE) treatment plan, and strictly no running for another couple of weeks, when I'll test it again. If there's no improvement, I'm off to the doctor.

What do runners do when they can't run?

Mope. Be frustrated. And rely on the cross training. It doesn't help that I've been flirting with the idea of entering my very first Triathlon later this summer. It's a sprint distance Tri (300 m swim, 12 mi bike, 5K run), which is one of the shorter distances in a Tri and felt like a great entry point for me. But with the bum leg, I'm now faced with the run portion being my weakest sport, not my strongest.

And yes, that hurts my pride more than just a little.

So, do I go out there, and do the Tri, and have to face the possibility of walking the 5K?

Or do I put off my first Triathlon experience until my leg is really healed and I'm running again?

I'm not keen on going out there my first time and knowing I'm not going to be able to give it my best effort. Racing already has enough mental hurdles built into it, I don't need more to deal with when I'm out there. But not competing feels a little like giving up. If I give that up, will it make it that much easier to give up on other goals? What kind of snowball effect am I creating for myself? How fast do I slide down into my old lifestyle?

Sadly, I think it comes down to understanding that a muscle can't really heal unless you rest it, and even walking a 5K might put too much strain on it. The more I keep re-injuring it, the longer it will take me to get back out there for real.

I'll give it another test run in a couple of weeks, and make a decision then. Biking, swimming, a some wishful thinking will hopefully get me back out there again soon, scaring the neighbors with my spectacular glow-in-the-dark running shoelaces.

Pretty sure you're going to see me coming.

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