It's Not About the Run

The local running club is holding its annual Purge and Splurge Run on New Year’s Eve. You can go 10, 15, 20 or 30 miles through the mud. Great stuff, but I’ll run zero, and that fact is killing me. Because if 2008 revealed anything about me the athlete, it revealed that running is my true love. I ran 12 races, at distances from 5K to 50 miles. I got PRs at 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon. I ran in a couple of cross-country races. I did a 50-miler in the mountains. I ran Boston and it blew my mind.

Maybe I overdid it, or maybe I was just unlucky, but since August I’ve been battling an Achilles tendon injury. The blasted thing has waxed and waned over the months, taking me out of the Portland Marathon after about 10 miles, but then practically disappearing a week later when I got a 10K PR. In November I stopped running for a week and a half, hoping to put the injury to rest completely, only to find the Achilles still aching when I got back out for a very slow, very easy, very short run.

I’ve seen doctors—one in September who said the Achilles was healthy and another in mid-November who said the Achilles was ... healthy. Doc No. 2, however, did offer a plausible if complicated theory as to what was causing the pain I was experiencing, and gave me a program to remedy things that included continued running. But my first few outings brought as much pain as ever, so I decided to rest until I was completely healed. That was a month ago. I haven't laced 'em up and tested the injury, but just walking around I feel like I’m better, but still not 100 percent recovered.

On the one hand, as I said, that’s brutal, not being able to run. Especially in the winter, when cycling outside is nowhere in the realm of possibility for this soft California boy. I'd rather watch Hannity than ride in the cold. Hell, I'd rather kiss Hannity than ride in the cold. But running? No problem anywhere anytime. I can’t imagine a better way to finish the year than 20 or 30 miles in the chilly wind, rain and maybe even snow in Forest Park.

And yet, when I bring my focus back to Ironman Coeur d’Alene—and if '08 was the Year of the Run, '09 is the Year of the Ironman—I know my conservative approach to this Achilles injury is the right way to go. Here’s my thinking: I ran a 4:34 marathon at Coeur d’Alene last year. That’s weak shit, an hour and a quarter slower than my marathon PR—a half-hour slower than my previous worst marathon. I was in great running shape for CDA, but that didn’t matter because by the time I got to the run, I had very little left in the tank. That’s right: It was poor cycling conditioning that set me up for a bad Ironman run. Get this: My longest ride before the race was a 93-miler, and I crested 50 miles only five or six times. Dismal.

This time around, if I can get in the best cycling shape of my life—which is my firm intention—I’m certain that I'll be fine with as few as three months of solid running training. So in the early portion of these six months leading up to Coeur d’Alene, it’s all about the bike. Which is why I spent 90 minutes on the trainer today, heart rate between 130 and 140, working it nice and steady. And it's why my purging on New Year’s Eve will consist of more of the same—but let’s make it, say, three hours—even though my heart will be out on the muddy trail.

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