A Time for Tough Choices

If you have been reading this blog for a bit, you know that I have been and still am struggling with an Achilles Tendon issue since March. I have been whining enough about it, that is for sure. This Achilles issue has thrown a big monkey wrench into my training this Spring and is causing me to look at my Summer and Fall racing schedule differently than I had planned.

I am not attempting to “wuss out” of my goals or over think what is going on with this injury. This blog post is me writing out my thought process as I continue my Achilles rehab, attempt to figure out where I am now, versus where I need to be, and thinking ahead to see if my race goals are still achievable or if I need to think about other alternatives.

So there is a LOT going on in the old noggin right now regarding my running.

My planned “A” and “stretch” race is the Old Port Half Marathon on October 23rd. the date was changed to November 6th recently, but it doesn’t change my thinking all that much. The extra two weeks won’t really impact my training and it only means to me that a 7:00 AM race start, in November, in Maine, will probably be that much colder.

My goals for the race are:

  • “A” goal — sub 1:38:00
  • “B” goal — sub 1:40:00
  • “C” goal — sub 1:45:00
  • If everything goes to crap – Finish

Times that I believe are achievable if I can train properly for it.

Where I Am Now

The good news is that I am running again. However, the Achilles is not pain or discomfort-free (even when walking) and I have lost a significant amount of fitness over the last three months. I still have to be very conservative with my running form, the duration (past 40-45 minutes, the Achilles gets pretty damn grumpy) or how fast I run. Icing is necessary after most of those runs and again at the end of the day to control the swelling.

And recently I have struggled while doing the Intro to Stryd two-week training plan. Which should not have been that challenging based on the plan’s running requirements. This struggling is really what is driving me to stop to take a look at where I am and what I need to do. If I am having difficulty with this Intro to Stryd training program, how can I do a half marathon training program to race for a fast time?

Yes, I know my race is about five months away, but I am not going to disrespect the half marathon distance or minimize the amount of work I will need to do in order to successfully race 13.1 miles at the 7:30 mile pace I want to achieve. It is the challenge of attempting to run a sub 1:38:00 and that this time might put me in position to challenge for the podium in my age group that drew me to this goal.

When I look back on the post where I announced that goal, I do wince a little with 20/20 hindsight. I believe that my intentions were in the correct place and it is something that I believed was achievable at the time I wrote it. However, with the Achilles still being an issue, that post is losing a lot of its relevancy as each day passes by.

For now, I know that I need to focus on my Achilles rehab, regain and improve my mileage base, and not get caught up in “having” to do this time goal, no matter what. While I believe that I can train well enough (as long as I don’t have any more major setbacks), to finish the race between now and race day, the time would most likely be much slower. Which is not my goal for that race.

Even so, I believe that there is still an opportunity for me to achieve my original goal, but I will be honest, everything will have to fall “just right”, for it to happen.

What It Requires

I know that for me to train to race a half marathon sub 1:38:00, not simply run it, at age 64 will require a solid training base and then a focused training block that is longer than it used to be.

Right now I know that I don’t have that solid training base.

Realistically creating a good mileage base is a 6–8 week process. Yes, base mileage training is necessary and a process if you want to race a certain distance successfully. During this training block I will need to have continued good health, and work my tail off to do all the training, both the running plan and the rest of the work necessary to run well.

While I am going to start Stryd’s base training block on June 14th, looking at the schedule and knowing the current condition of the Achilles, it looks rather daunting, especially how quickly the long runs get longer.

Rehab

Over the past three months I have read several books on running, and more than my share of articles/blog posts, consulted Dr. Google, or YouTube videos on rehabbing the Achilles. Many of those sources discuss that an injury of this sort can take up to a year to fully resolve itself and to expect setbacks (which I have experienced more than once already), so this injury is not a linear heal it and go type of thing. There are going to be good days, bad days or weeks until my Achilles is back to at least where it was before this flare-up.

While I don’t plan on taking a year to fully recover from this injury. The truth is that it has been almost three months now, and based on where I am, it seems that I am still a ways away from running without restrictions from the Achilles. No number of motivational videos, speeches, rants, ravings, dreaming or wishing will change the fact that my Achilles tendon is not ready for prime time yet.

It is not a matter of not doing the work or that I am only wishing that my Achilles would heal while sitting on my arse eating bonbons or ripple chips and drinking a Moxie. I am doing the work, pushing the rehab of the Achilles harder and more intelligently than I ever have, and it still is nowhere near where it needs to be to start a 5K training plan, much less one for racing a half marathon.

Frustrating

Could I “just do” the training cycle or block that I will need to run a half marathon at a 7:30 pace and hope for the best?

At age 63 gonna be 64 in August. I would likely be setting myself up for further injury. So, no that really is not an option. Things that the motivational gurus spout about working through the pain, enduring the injuries, that suck it up buttercup mentality doesn’t work for me at this point in my life.

An old guy with too many miles on his body.

Yes, I am frustrated, but at the same time, I also know that the Achilles is better than it was last month, and rehab the work I am doing is working. I just have to be patient (something I am getting better at when it comes to running), keep doing the prehab/rehab, trusting the process, using the knowledge and experience I do have, along with continuing to experiment with the Stryd ecosystem to help me regain my fitness.

But most of all, I have to not be stoopid, which I have too much experience being.

That old jump into a training program about half as ready as I need to be, then wondering why I am struggling with the work required or more likely, why I am injured yet again.

Time is running out.

Do the math.

The time frames are not aligning well, to say the least.

If I can successfully complete a base training block, it would put me into the end of July or more likely into August to start a half marathon training plan, but only if I can successfully complete a base training cycle, without any further setbacks.

When I look realistically to where the Achilles is now and then where it needs to be, along the work necessary to complete a base training block and then a hard half marathon training cycle, I am worried that I am running out of time to be ready for a fast half marathon on November 6th.

If there are any further setbacks with this injury, that will make the decision for me. Unfortunately with the slow progress I am making with my Achilles I can’t say that it isn’t already too late, but I have to keep focusing on what I can do to achieve my “A” race goals while there is a chance that I can still achieve them.

All I can do now, is continue doing my prehab/rehab, increasing mileage and pace when the Achilles allows me to, stay patient, be smart, and believe that it will be enough to let me attempt chasing this goal, this year.

That is reality.

What Comes Next?

Focus on how I can get ready to race the Old Port Half-Marathon under 1:38:00.

The best strategy, for now, is to do Stryd’s Base Training plan for 3-4 weeks starting next week, closely monitor my progress, see where I am after finishing that and then figure out where I am and what I can do then.

Attempting to jump into any race training plan while I am still rehabbing this Achilles injury would be stoopid and mostly counter-productive to my long-term running goals.

Which means I need a backup plan for a race that is a shorter. A lot like the Central Maine Strider’s 10K in October that I signed up for with the idea of using it as a tune-up race for the Old Port Half. It would be a different training block and more achievable in the shrinking time-frame that is creeping up on me. So, I have this 10K race is sitting in my back pocket as a fall-back if the Achilles has another setback or isn’t making the progress that I need it to.

The reality is that

Time is running out for me to be ready to run the Old Port Half Marathon in my “A” and probably “B” goal times.

The rehab of my left Achilles will continue, have a successful outcome, and I will get back to running the best that I can at some point this summer. I know that.

No, I am not underestimating what I can do or achieve, but…I also have to have options available if am unable to chase my half marathon goal.

The frustration levels are not as high as they were as when I first started sorting through this mess and the alternatives that I have for my “A” race in October November, versus getting and then staying healthy while building a solid base to grow my running for races this year and beyond are much clearer than they were.

Reality sucks sometimes, but at the same time, it is better to have a realistic plan, with options, about how to move forward. Rather than relying on dreams or wishful thinking and ending up not doing anything other than another cycle of the Boom then Bust Harold training methods that have been used so unsuccessfully by me, for so many years.

I just wish I had started thinking this way about 1985, but one thing I have learned over the years is that you can’t change what has happened. All you can do is keep moving forward the best as you can. That is what I am doing and while I haven’t given up on this race goal and believe that there is still a chance for me to achieve it. All I know is that I have done more than wing-it this time and have a plan in place that is reasonable.

If I can be ready, I will be. If the Achilles doesn’t cooperated then I will chose a different option and do the best I can with that one.

The important thing for the next year is to get healthy, run consistently, and build Harold into a better runner for some other goals that I have.

I probably could have written this post in about five paragraphs and published it last weekend. However, but writing down my thoughts helps me view the options more clearly and think about other options or solutions that I didn’t at first. This, to me, is the most significant value of my blogging. It makes me clarify my thinking because I know that others will read my meandering thought process, and I want them to think I still have a few brain cells left. 🙃

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