It’s Friday night at 10:50pm.  Typically, at this point, I’m tucked into bed dreaming away about Saturday’s adventures.

Indirectly representative of my evening instead…

Right now, I’m on the couch, and I was trying to read, and failing because my mind wouldn’t quiet, and drinking some wine.  I had planned to be doing the former, but sometimes you have to save yourself from yourself.

See, I had planned on doing about a 90 minute run tomorrow.  Here’s all the reasons:

  • It’s going to be effing gorgeous tomorrow.  Chilly, crisp, and perfect running weather.  I was going to be able to break out the tights and maybe a long sleeve running shirt for the first time in months.
  • I’m going to a wedding tomorrow night.  It’s much easier to justify enjoying some good food and drink after expending some calories.
  • My half is in about 3 months.  I’d like to get my running ramped up a little bit before I start full on training.

However, my body and the universe has other plans.  I’ve been nursing a cranky knee, which has subsided just in time to give way to a cranky heel.  I don’t want to say the PF word, and I’m hoping it’s just that the sandals I live in all summer just need to be replaced or at least varied, but I’m trying to listen to the universe talk instead of waiting for it to shout (and be sidelined for weeks).

I even had an incredibly encouraging run on Wednesday, where the pace for the last mile had an 8 in front.  But, to be honest, I pushed through a little heel discomfort to do it.  And then it didn’t feel great after.

As an athlete that is self coached, I have to sometimes disengage and talk to myself in two personas.

Me: My heel hurts two days after running.

Coach: Then REST it.

Me: But I need to run.

Coach: Why do you need to run?

Me: Because I feel SO BEHIND and I’m worried I’m not going to train enough for this half coming up that I want to PR.

Coach: Didn’t you say this was your little offseason?

Me: Well, yeah, but a short run shouldn’t make a difference.

Coach: So, you’re going to jeopardize your ability to train well over the winter because you feel like you need to build your base during your offseason while you’re hurt?

Me: ….

And just like that, coach (and the wine) wins.  If I had an athlete that had a race three months out and had the same issue, NO EFFING WAY would I say, “well, suck it up, run on that shit, and hope for the best”.  It’s so different when it’s yourself because there are all these mental games of why it’s not so bad and why it feels like the cop out not to train.  We are strong.  We are impervious to bad things.  We persevere (even when persevering is not the sane thing to do).

After being at this stuff for long enough, it becomes the new normal.  Running when your tired.  Biking when your quads are sore.  Swimming when you want to do anything but get in that cold pool.  Pushing through discomfort and pain.  And then, when you make the choice to avoid pain, it’s a lingering question of, “did I make the right decision?”.  It’s what we do.

The epitome of a smart triathlete knows when to say when.  When to tell the lazy thoughts to go the eff away and get ‘er done.  When to succumb to them because they are actually encroaching on burnout.  When to push through aching muscles to simulate race conditions and encourage breakthroughs.  When to hole up on the couch with wine instead (or better yet, ditch the workout to stretch, foam roll, eat healthy food, and get amazing sleep).  The most enlightened among us know the difference or have really good advice from a coach to help discern when we should suck it up, buttercup, or actually effing lay off our crazies and rest.

I’m trying to get there.  I’m definitely not there because I had a little heel discomfort on Tuesday, and went ahead and ran hard at our brick on Wednesday, rolling the dice it was just a niggle.  But I’m trying.

#mfw I want to run and coach (me) tells me not to run because it’s a stupid idea.

Here are the things I try to ask myself to keep myself in check:

What am I feeling?  Is it pain?  Is it soreness?  Is it residual stress from work?  Is it pure laziness?  Is it fear?  What is currently bothering me, because normally training is fun and feels good.  What about this doesn’t feel good?

What do I have to gain from this training session? Is it just “filler”, like an easy run or trainer, like base building?  Is it a key session that’s actually really important to my training like a long run/bike or a speed session?  Have I missed a lot of sessions lately?  Is it offseason? Is it peak?  Is it race week?

Can I reschedule?  If it’s a morning run and I’m super tired, can I just run at lunch instead?  Can I give myself an unscheduled day off and trade it with another off day I don’t need?  Is it a scheduled workout with my team?  Is it a Saturday morning long workout I can’t do any other day of the week?

What do I have to risk by starting?  If I just feel a little bleh, can I just give it a try and bail if I feel bad?  Is it potentially an injury I can train through and make worse later?  Will I risk getting sick or being knocked out of training by pushing through?  Is it something that if I start, I’ll be unable or unlikely to stop even if it’s not good for me to continue?

As much as sport is a labor of love, we run into periods where don’t feel motivated for various reasons.  Maybe we didn’t sleep well and we snooze the alarm instead of hit the pool.  Maybe work has been stressful and the last thing we want to do is put on our kit and ride with the team.  Maybe our legs are sore from a week of training and the last thing we want to do is go crush a track workout.  It. happens. to. everyone.  No matter what social media says, everyone has that day where all they want to do is be a normal human and eff all this training noise.

However, by really concentrating on the HONEST answers to the questions above, you can help coach yourself.

Sometimes I’ll find I’m pushing off a session that intimidates me.  In that case, I’ll suck it up and commit.

Sometimes I’ll find I’m feeling life stress.  That’s a toss up, because stress is stress is stress.  If I’m not feeling completely burnt, I’ll start a workout with the out of bailing.  Sometimes instead I’ll reschedule or bag it if it’s especially bad and/or it’s not a critical session and/or I’m feeling particularly stabby.

Sometimes I’m feeling sore.  Pushing through soreness has lead to some big breakthroughs for me.  Sometimes it’s a great (albeit miserable) race simulation.  Sometimes it’s unnecessary torture.  In that case, it really depends on what the workout means to me and how likely I am to reschedule.

Sometimes I’m feeling something I can’t determine is a niggle or the beginnings of an injury (like this week).  Wednesday, I pushed through because it was a fairly key workout and might have been just a twinge.  I’m still dealing with it two days later.  In that case, nothing is worth a flare up that could sideline me for 2-6 weeks.

Don’t want to eff up this day in January….

At this point, you have to make the plan going forward.  For me, here’s what I’ll do (and I may be posting this so I actually commit…)

  • I will wear supportive shoes for the next week.  No sandals, no cute shoes, I’ll wear one of my three pairs of running shoes at all times.
  • I will not run until my heel is completely pain free for at least three days prior.
  • I will swim, bike, and do weights that don’t aggravate my heel to stay active.
  • I will ice, roll my foot, and stretch at least every other day.
  • I will not be a basket case about it (or at least attempt to not be…).

I’ve been through this one before.  It’s much less frustrating than my back being out, since you can’t do jack or pucky with a hurt back.  I just have to lay off the running for a little bit (and also replace my shoes).  Frustrating, when the weather is perfect for it, but I will live to pound the pavement another day.

Sub-2 plan is not subverted.  Just on hold…