We have nothing to fear but pain itself

Intimidated by mileage

This weekend was a breakthrough weekend for me in my training for Ironman Arizona.  I kept looking at the schedule all week, hoping somehow that the plan would miraculously change.   Saturday, we were scheduled for a 90 mile ride followed by a 1 hour brick, and then a 20 mile run on Sunday morning.  My right knee has been giving me problems,, and so I had planned to only run 17 on Sunday.   Regardless, the totals for the weekend were the longest I had ever done, and the last couple of weekends had been tough for me during the run, so I was intimidated by the weekend ahead.

The injury

Last week I had gone to physical therapy because I had started to have pain in my right kneecap after 10 miles of running, if I ran correctly by driving my knees forward.   Dr. Sellers immediately figured out that it was IT band and psoas tightness.  Note: I did not really know that I owned a couple of IT bands, and I had no idea that I have been lugging a pair of psoas (pronouced so-ass, which if pronounced sloppily can sound like another common side effect from cycling).  But the bottom line was that while running would not do any permanent damage, it would likely keep hurting until rehab and therapy were complete if I kept running on it.

Taking action

Anytime I am anxious about something, doing something about it is the only cure, otherwise I get trapped in a vicious cycle of inactivity and fear.  I had started to take action just by going to PT, but went further – doing anything I could to change the game for the weekend and trick my psyche into thinking this weekend’s workout would be drastically different.  First, I spent an hour with Chrissie, one of the T3 coaches, talking specifically about how I felt stalled as a cyclist.  She gave me a ton of advice to put into practice on long bikes, and even long runs.  She also let me borrow her aero helmet (pictured at left).  Now, imagine me with that helmet on, and if you get the following visual, you’re just about right:

Looking a little out of this world

So, yes, I looked ridiculous.  But, it kept my mind off my legs quite a bit.  With the helmet, you’re forced to stay in aero position, and looking left or right is strongly discouraged while riding at high speed.  No one in T3 rides with one of these helmets in our group rides, so my headgear was a source of amusement for a lot of my teammates.  Not only did people ask me why I wasn’t wearing the helmet during our Sunday run, but I even rec’d a “aero helmet?” text message from a teammate who I hadn’t even seen on the ride.  And the real main purpose of wearing the helmet was to test-drive it for the Austin Triathlon next weekend.  Regardless, I could feel the difference in a headwind if I kept in good aerodynamic position.  And I kept laughing to myself, which relaxes all the muscles that I usually tighten too much during a ride.

My teammate Eric and I slogged through all 90 miles together.  The day was cooler and the wind was lighter, and so in comparison to some of the brutal 100 degree days over the last month, we only experienced low 90s.  We cruised in at an average speed of 18 mph, which over the rolling hills of Parmer was great for both of us.

Follow the Painful Brick Road

And then the run.  Neilia had already finished a mile+ of running but waiting for someone to join her on additional laps, and being a stronger runner, she set a tough pace for me to hold after that ride.  On a long run I run around 9:30 miles, while in a 5K I run about 7 minute miles.  Given the 90 miles of cycling that had drained my legs, I was thinking six miles at 10 minutes per mile would be perfect for my hour.  After my first lap with Neilia my watch said 8:10, and then the debate from all parts of my body began:

  • Legs:  Slow down this instant.  We’re tired.  We’ve carried you since 7 AM, it’s 1 PM, and we deserve to take it slow.
  • Lungs.  We are breathing really hard.  Really hard.  You aren’t going to be able to finish the hour running this hard.  And then you will be a loser.
  • Heart: Ahem.  You bought a heart rate monitor.  Look at it.  We’re above 90% of your max heart rate.  Slow. Down.
  • Brain: These guys all make very convincing points, even if entirely motivated from self-interest.
  • Ego: Don’t just give in.  Keep up with her.

So, four laps later, we are still holding the same pace, and I’m incredibly happy.  I had no idea I could run this fast after 90 miles.  On the final hill on the 4th lap, the metaphorical wheels came off the metaphorical bus, and I couldn’t keep the pace up.  My final lap came in closer to 10 minute miles, and I still had some time on the clock.  My body bartered and demanded that because I had pushed harder, I didn’t have to run the whole hour.  But I pushed beyond the end of the lap, and circled back to complete the time (or at least within a minute).

The first thing in my mind after the run was “There’s no way I am running tomorrow.”

Sunday, Painful Sunday

Sunday morning came far too early, and I rolled out of bed about 30 minutes after I had planned, geared up, and started the run with a new secret weapon: my compression socks.  After a conversation with Jack about how compression socks help during a run because they keep the muscle from being jarred by the force of each stride, I ran with my ankle to knee compression socks.   When running, I look even more ridiculous, because I carry a full fuel belt as well.   Chrissie had hold me not to try and hold a pace, but to run how my body felt – if I had more energy, run harder.  Don’t hold yourself back if you feel you have more energy.  As a result I ran not just 17, but 18 miles, the longest I have ever run, and several of the miles were faster than 9 minute miles.    I am 99% sure I could have run two more miles and hit the original schedule of 20, but my knee was aggravated and I didn’t want to blow it out and not be able to run this coming weekend in the Austin Triathlon.


While you never can predict what race day will be like, and while my 6.5 hour workout Saturday is only half of the total time for the Ironman, the two days this weekend gave me a lot of confidence for November.  The next two months of training are going to be harder than any of the previous eight months, but I am excited (despite the fact that pretty much everything is sore today).  Back to physical therapy!

Misc Note: Spin class.

Several of you have asked what our indoor spin classes are like.  Here’s a video one of my teammates took of one of our recent workouts.   Enjoy!

2 thoughts on “We have nothing to fear but pain itself

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