Trust the Training

With four days to go until the Austin Marathon, I am feeling a mix of excitement and anxiety. The weather is looking great, I get to spend quality time with dear friends, and there will be good old fashioned Texas barbecue to look forward to after the race on Sunday night.

I finished my last interval workout this morning: 4 x 400m at 6:40-ish mile pace on the cinder track in the local park here in Matamoros. It was cold and rainy with 25 mile-per-hour winds. I didn’t exactly feel graceful, but I felt at least a little less anxious being able to maintain my pace in those conditions. My left knee didn’t argue with me, either. A good sign.

I have been worried about that knee for the last several weeks. Well, technically for the last several years, since my 2007 and 2008 surgeries, but particularly the last several weeks. After a lot of poking around the Internet, I have come to the conclusion that my illiotibial (IT) band is the culprit this time. The IT band is a thick tendon that stretches along the side of one’s leg from the hip to the knee. When it gets tight, it gets angry. When it gets angry, you feel it in the form of knee pain.

If caught early, IT band “syndrome” can usually be addressed with a steady regimen of ice, ibuprofen, rest, and rolling it on a foam roller. The first two of these are quite simple. The second two, for someone like me… not so simple. I’ve never been great at taking forced rest days, and as for rolling any part of my body… forget it.

I woke up the other morning with the panicked thought that perhaps my knee surgeries were completely unnecessary and could have been avoided entirely if I had only known about the foam roller at that time. Because the truth is, as much as I detest the foam roller, I have been rolling the bujeezus out of my legs on it for the last week and it has helped tremendously. It’s supposedly a runner’s best friend nowadays, a miracle worker that can prevent just about any overuse injury imaginable. If you aren’t familiar with the magic foam roller, it looks like this:

Doesn’t look so bad, you say? Well, then I invite you to try it. With as much weight as is tolerable bearing down on the sore muscle or tendon, the trick is to roll one’s body back and forth in order to massage the crud out. (That’s the official medical terminology.) It is far from pleasant, and has brought me to tears on more than one occasion, but it works.

I had never heard of or seen a foam roller until I had to complete six months of physical therapy after knee surgery. Knowing what I know now about the foam roller’s mystical healing properties, I question whether the procedure I underwent to correct my knee tracking problem could have been avoided. I had tried all manner of conservative approaches to fix the problem, but none of them worked, and surgery thus became the best option available to me. However, I had never been introduced to the foam roller.

Since the surgery I had cannot be changed, I have moved on from my panic, vowing only to think of it again if one or both of the two titanium screws in my shin ever decide to wiggle their way out of my bone. Meanwhile, the foam roller and I have become buddies, and I am confident that it is helping me through my final preparations for what I hope with be a great run through the streets of Austin on Sunday.

Aside from my anxiety regarding my knee, I am feeling the usual ups and downs that I have felt before every other marathon I have run. Questions about the quality and quantity of my training pop into my mind, often at the most inopportune times, prompting me to log on to my computer and review my training log for the last three months. I review my total miles, my interval workouts, my easy runs, my long runs, my tempo runs, even my rest days, as though to prove to myself that I have done enough. As though seeing it in writing makes me more ready.

Negative self talk is probably my biggest challenge, both in running and in life. You haven’t done ____, it says. You haven’t run as many miles as _____. You haven’t _____. That voice has consumed me before, and I have let it ruin more than one or two races. I am fighting to quiet it now, with a simple mantra: Trust the training. The rest will fall into place.

And if it doesn’t? I’ll still get to spend time with dear friends. The Texas barbecue will still be waiting.

I’ll just have to start planning my next marathon.

Thank you for reading!

One thought on “Trust the Training

  1. You have mentioned rolling before but I had no idea what that would look like. I imagined something like sitting down and massaging yourself with a paint roller. With that picture I would not say “doesn't look so bad.” Not at all. I cringe at how that would feel, and I cringe even more knowing you are doing it on a sore leg. And considering what it's for — the running you do and the way you push to the limits of endurance and beyond — well, amazing is such an overused word these days. It's fitting though. You are amazing. I wish you all the best in the marathon.


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