Thursday, February 12, 2009

Setback: Get Ready to Ride the Emotional Roller Coaster

Fitting that the day after I post a "Breakthrough" note my very next one is about setback. Woke up this morning with some sharp pain in my Achilles or calf and I'm not sure why. Today's pic is me finishing the Chuncheon Marathon back in 2007. That's not a smile on my face, I assure you. I trained through a serious achilles issue and this was the consequence... barely crossing the line in and two months in a boot after the fact. I'm not going to repeat that mistake this time. Or will I?

Here's the thing: it doesn't matter that I'm injured, it only matters how I feel about it and what I do about it. Setback, or fear of setback is usually a constant state of being for me. If you always push your limits, and if you're easily swayed emotionally by whatever happens like I am, you're pretty much gauranteed to be stressing about something. So it's a balance... the fear of not healing with the fear of losing fitness.

Injuries are the rolling hills of an Iroman build... proper pacing will get you through quickly but overdo it and go over the top too soon and you'll be blown up by the halfway point. Over the course of 6 month build up to Ironman, I will test all kinds of physical limits and have incredible accomplishments and overcome big obstacles, but without the confidence in myself and the mental strength to stay focused, I won't achieve my goals. For those of you scoring at home, "Mental Strength" is one of my limiters for the 2009 season, and as an athlete who tries to train smart, I'm training that aspect too.

Injury prevention and recovery is a full time job for me, as it is for most long course endurance athletes. I'm also a frequent visitor to the local Physical Therapy clinic, and also have a local Sports Medicine guy I see for the hard stuff. They have an electro-shock thing that really works on the most stubborn injuries that just won't go away. Thankfully, there is a small group of ultra-runners in my area who have been very helpful teaching me the injury prevention/maintenance ropes. As I'm new to the sport and ramped up quickly, I have my fair share of nagging injures, so I listen closely to what these ultra-runners have had to say over the last two years. The Stick, TP Massage Ball, self massage, rolling, stretching, digging, pressing, ice, heat, ice baths.... using all sorts of local household implements like a healing McGuyver... it's torture. But you have to do it, or you won't last a month.

The brain is a muscle too. Physical fatigue and injuries are hard, but the mental energy required for six months of focus, six months of strain, six months of stress is much harder. You don't want to feel the kind of mental fatigue I know I'm going to experience in a few months. Trust me.

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