I’ve been consigned to hell. EllipticHELL.
During last week’s 10-mile tempo, I made it to the 6th mile feeling strong. We were running Pebble Hill, aka “Rusty’s Loop,” aka “Pebble Hell” (notice how the word “hell” seems to creep into training blogs on a regular basis? Hmm….), a 4-mile marked loop, in preparation, one assumes, for the ups ‘n’ downs of Boston. I had won round one with Mile Three, a gradual uphill that has chewed up and spat out my ego on many a tempo run. Mile Three’s evil cousin is Mile One on Mountain Drive, run in reverse. I take these courses personally, and every training run is “unfinished business.” My marathon pace is 7:25, and I hit Mile Three in 7:24 on the first loop. Yesssss!
On this second loop, though, Mile Three was edging me out. My hamstring “issue,” which has now become sort of (whisper) chronic, piped up at the very beginning to let me know it would be hitchhiking the whole ride. I was running well up to that point, though, averaging 7:22 on the course. But by mile 7, which is Mile Three the second time, my whole leg was torqued, and the inexorable slowdown began. Mile 7 in 7:30, mile 8 (mostly downhill) 7:30, mile 9 7:40, then WHAM. The running gods decided it was time for a smite.
(Disclaimer: I know the concept of the “running gods” is a favorite with another SBAA blogger. The first time I used the phrase in print was in my 2007 Twin Cities blog, the day after an 85 degree, 85% humidity crash course in marathon hell (there’s that word again): “Cruel irony: Monday, the next day, as we make our way to the airport, it is 57 degrees with a slight drizzle at 10 a.m. I hear the running gods snicker.” I’m not saying Drea stole it from me. I’m saying great minds think alike.)
And smite, they did. With swift vengeance. How dare I have the temerity to think I could run a PR marathon with a hammie problem? Hubris is always a bad idea in training, because it inevitably brings on the wrath of those merciless immortals. This time, they cut me off at the knees. Literally. After the turnaround at mile 9, my whole leg seized up. I couldn’t run another step, I was in so much pain.
On my painstaking crawl back to the finish, Jill and George stopped by and walked me in. I had a teensy little cry, then bucked up and hitched a ride back to my car with Rusty, who vowed to get me to the starting line in Hopkinton.
Diagnosis: Popliteus spasm. The popliteal muscle is a small, deep muscle that unlocks the knee. When you run with weak or tight high hamstrings, you recruit too much of this little guy, and he can have a temper tantrum. Which is what happened to me. “You were basically running from mid-thigh, down,” said Rusty.
Prognosis: Mike, who saw me in his wonderful rehab center, filled with soothing friendly people and cool animal photographs, said if I was going to injure a muscle, this was a good one, because it heals fast. With a week or so off of running, the popliteus would have a chance to recover, and the hammie would be more likely to let go, too.
Treatment: Crosstraining for a week plus, which means ridiculous workouts on the elliptical trainer. Speedwork on this machine is cruelly comic. I mean, how do you keep your dignity when you are rocking and hammering and gasping and flinging sweat in the midst of a bunch of calm people who read magazines while they work out?
So, I missed the monster 13-mile tempo with the rest of my peeps (although some of them were down in Agoura winning races, I hear), but if all goes well, I’ll make it up next Saturday with a two-week taper.
So, wish me luck. But not too loudly, or you-know-who will have to add a reminder aftershock.