Injury, Aging, and Ironman 70.3

So, in the interest of full disclosure, we need to back up a few months. In late January, I started having some pain in my left foot. At first it was just a little sore in the mornings, but once I was up and moving, the pain went away. As time went on, the pain lingered a little longer each day. Part of Ironman training and racing is pain… plain and simple. The trick is to figure out whether it’s just soreness/pushing past your comfort zone or actual pain/injury. Whether I was being stubborn or just flat out in denial, I kept telling myself it was just another ache that I could push through.

One afternoon, I finished up a ride on my Computrainer, changed, and headed out for a short run. Well, it was in fact a very short run. I didn’t even make it to the end of my street before I turned around and limped /hopped (and contemplated crawling) back home. That was it; I had to admit it. I had to say it out loud. I called Amy at work and said, “My foot’s not just sore; I’m hurt.” I should have been thankful that at 43, having raced for almost 20 years, I’d stayed injury free. But no… I was mad. I was freaked out.

The voice of reason, Amy simply said, “Call Dr. Maloy.” I knew I needed to, but that meant telling another person and making the injury that much more real. Of course, Dr. Maloy told me to relax, and got me on her schedule quickly. She confirmed what I suspected; I had plantar faciitis. Of course, she reassured me that it was not the end of the world or end of my racing career. But, I would have to follow her instructions, take it easy, and I would get back to running (heck, walking) pain-free soon. I’m not sure her and my definitions of “soon” were the same, but I trust Dr. Maloy implicitly. So, I did as she said.

The next call was to Jason Soria, my coach. One more time having to utter the words, “I’m injured.” Ugh. Now, I know that there are FAR worse things that someone can be going through. It was a foot injury, not paralysis or some terminal disease. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Nevertheless, each time I had to admit that I was hurt was hard.

Also a voice of reason, Jason reassured me that there was no need to throw in the towel on my season. He asked if I had made an appointment at SVSS yet. Then, he addressed the changes to my training. We would make adjustments to keep me fit and focus on letting my foot heal. He modified my schedules, kept close tabs on me, reminded me (frequently) not to run and not to worry.

I made routine trips to SVSS, Dr. Maloy worked on my foot, and I followed her stretching instructions at home. Fast forward to April, and (finally) after a few mornings of waking and walking with no pain, I decided (after consulting Dr. M and Jason) it was time to put the foot to the test out on the road. I was so thankful and relieved to find that it actually felt OK. The next morning, still no pain when I awoke. Good signs. Whew!

Then, I panicked. It had been literally months since I had run, and I was just a couple of weeks away from a 70.3. I contemplated withdrawing, but Jason reassured me that I’d be fine. My fitness was great; I just needed to get some miles in my legs. I decided to race a local sprint – the Wiki Wiki Man Triathlon – to celebrate my 43rd birthday and as a checkpoint to see how I felt running off the bike in race conditions. I hoped to do well, but with the race being a Regional Championship and me being more of a long-distance racer (who hadn’t been running), I was less focused on winning than on racing and feeling good.

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It was a good day. I felt good on the swim, I biked well, and then I managed to hold onto my lead and take the overall win. As an added bonus, I was treated to a “Happy Birthday” chorus at the finish line.

Most importantly, it gave me confidence that I was ready for Galveston the next week.

Race week, I felt great. Amy was out of town for a work retreat the first part of the week. She got home, I worked a shift, and then hit the road to Galveston. The hustle-bustle of the busy week made it fly by. The storms en route, coupled with Houston traffic, made for a long ride, but I made it to Galveston in decent time.

I stayed pretty low key once in town… checked in, made my rounds through the expo, attended the Pro meeting, etc. I got to bed early the night before the race, and on race morning, I was ready to roll. I got to site on time, had plenty of time to warm up, and then… I had my worst swim ever. I still don’t why, and simply put, I’m beyond frustrated.

I was demoralized when I got out of the water. But, I told myself can’t go any lower than last Pro, so I might as well fight. I rode the bike like there was no run afterwards, and I managed to move up 7 spots. After the bike, I hit the run course and ran has hard as I could from start to finish. It was an OK plan, but I probably should have addressed nutrition a bit better. I was too focused on just running flat out and lost more weight than I should have. I was down 12 pounds after the finish (and I weighed after drinking two bottles of water). I think I might have run better had I hydrated better, but overall I felt great on the run. In hindsight, likely due to nutrition, I just couldn’t get legs to turn over faster. I managed to move up 8 more spots to finish 17th Male Pro.

Overall, I’m bummed because my swim meant I was out of the mix before I was even out of the water. I’m very happy with my run though. With very little run training (two weeks) and to average 6:30’s was a good confidence boost. So, back to the drawing board, more time in the pool, and three weeks to go before I head to the Woodlands for Ironman Texas.

In spite of being disappointed in my finish, I’m beyond thankful that I’m running pain-free again. I couldn’t say that without my amazing sponsor, Dr. Lezlie Maloy of Spring Valley Spine and Sportscare. Jason Soria not only kept my training moving, but he also coached my head. I probably would have tried to run anyway had it not been for the two of them.

Houston traffic reared it’s ugly head on my drive home too. When I finally made it home, I was in a pretty foul mood. But, then I was reminded that winning the race isn’t everything.

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