Phantom Pains and Taper Tantrums

taper_madness_graphic_finalI mean, I’m not really even tapering. In all reality, Boston is a long progression run in the grand scheme of my spring marathon season ahead. I ran a lot last week – about 54 miles. Throughout training, I always get little aches and pains. It’s distance running, what do you expect?  I don’t usually freak out about the little twinges unless they persist or begin to worsen. Or, unless I have a race looming in the distance. I’m seriously stoked for Boston. I’m also scared.

Three weeks ago, it was a weird feeling in my right hip that magically disappeared at the end of an easy 18 mile run. Next up was a slight twinge in my right shin, which is also a thing of the past. I spent about three days straight sporting compression socks, thanks to extreme anxiety and paranoia. And for the coup de grace, my left groin decided to take it’s turn on my radar.

I’ve listened to my body over the past 15 weeks. I’ve been diligent about making sure I got on my yoga mat daily not just because I’m am ashtangi, but because it benefits my running and forces me to stretch. I didn’t skip runs and workouts so when the heavy mileage and training ensued, it wouldn’t completely destroy my body. I’ve changed my diet tremendously. I broke my Newtons in and I am IN LOVE. Overall, things feel good, my paces improved, and I am loving running more than ever. I’m ready.

And then, my left groin decided that we were no longer friends. It felt slightly sore last week but I continued to run because it never worsened – even after running steep hills, hitting the track for mile repeats, and logging a sweet 20 miler. In the days following each run, it still felt the same as it did before – actually, it began to feel better. Yesterday was my last “workout” before Boston. A seven mile progression run. I wanted to hit marathon pace in the last mile, and I did. My iPod died, giving me plenty of time to focus on my groin and the “pain”. I was becoming increasingly paranoid as I motored down the Saucon Rail Trail and by the end I was practically in tears. It’s official:  I am now in complete freak out mode. If you know me at all, you’ll know that this is totally normal.

Before VIA, it was my right foot. I was convinced that something was wrong  and I got extremely upset and paranoid before the race. I was so confident in the weeks leading up to the race until I wasn’t. I remember the feelings of uncertainty that settled in the week before, and anxiety as I strolled through the expo. Before the OBX Marathon, it was an ankle “bruise” that I was convinced was a stress fracture. There’s been mysterious IT band issues, Achilles soreness, calf pain, and plantar fascia issues before countless races.  During any given training season, there’s always some teeny nagging pain that worries me in the back of my mind.  In each of the past situations, race day came and things were fine. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

I’m trying to calmly take myself back to the two weeks before the VIA Marathon, where I headed out for a 22 mile run and only made it six miles at a 9:30 pace before throwing in the towel from foot pain and heavy legs.  Two weeks later, I ran a pain-free PR. Or the tempo run I was doing before the OBX Marathon (my previous PR) where my ankle was screaming at me. That one landed me a trip to my sports physican’s office for no reason at all (“weak ankles” was all they could come up with). I always assume the worst, but in reality, if I’m following suit with my past experiences then I should run a PR on Monday, right? Except I can’t bring myself to think that way. Don’t get me wrong – I’m generally a positive person. However, that mindset is way too confident for me, even if I am just trying to think positively.

I’m four days away from hitting the streets of Boston. Other than the groin ordeal, I’m in really good spirits and I’m excited. As I try to calm my nerves by reviewing my training history, I realized that I never feel “phantom pains” when training casually. They show up when I am putting in hard work and high mileage and set goal paces and times. Which is why I am convinced (well, trying to convince myself) this is just my body throwing a taper tantrum. My muscles are repairing and strengthening themselves and are getting ready for Monday. Doesn’t mean that I didn’t just run a few laps around my classroom during my planning period to see how it felt.  Yup, that happened.

Since Boston is fast approaching, I’m extremely hyper-vigilant and aware of even the slightest change in my body. I’m embracing my paranoia and have a few tricks up my sleeve to relieve my anxiety. I’m not much into NSAIDs and typically prefer to do the au naturale thing, but I took ibuprofen. Totally a precautionary measure: there’s no swelling, but who knows what’s going on in there. I iced it last night, wrapped it to keep it compressed, and iced again this morning. Repeat. There will definitely be some yoga and maybe some EASY miles over the next few days but only if I feel up to it. On Friday, I’ve got all of my resources lined up and ready to go. I’m going to yoga to stretch and breathe, and my chiropractor to make sure everything is aligned properly. In the afternoon I’m visiting Mary, my masseuse, to completely flush everything out and in hopes that she can do some sort of kinesio taping as an added bonus.

The timing of these issues is always interesting. It seems that they arise when I am feeling overly strong or confident. In a way, it kind of helps to get my ego in check and make sure I am not too ambitious on race day. I’ve been feeling good, so maybe I needed this to be cautious and not go out too fast. So fine. If my groin needs to throw a taper tantrum – so be it. Marathon Monday, here I come!


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