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Dilemma: When Injured, Does One Race or Merely Compete?

By Alix Shutello
February 28, 2011

Many of you know I rarely talk about my running on a personal level….but when I can use myself as an example, I’ll do it.  And besides, that is what the blog portion of Runners Illustrated is for…..right?

On Sunday I looked at the calendar and my heart sank. It’s only 5 short weeks to the Cherry Blossom 10-miler, my first race of the season.   A few weeks ago I was running fast speed workouts (even down to 6:3o sprint pace and 7 minute miles [in minimalist shoes I might add] which is sick fast for me). Today, I am doing anything I can to keep my heart conditioning strong while I nurse my hamstring injury. My new ultra distance friend, Tony Portera, has been kind to put up with my injury reports and tells me to keep resting. “Go for three weeks of rest,” he suggested to me last week. Oh that is a fate worse that death!

My mind and body want to bolt down the street as quickly as possible….but I need to show some control here.   I’ve been on “rest” for 2 weeks now. I have only run twice in the last few days with my neighbor, Christine, who is training for the George Washington Parkway 10-miler which is a week after Cherry Blossom.  During our first run together last week, we only ran 2 miles so I could test out my hamstring. I felt pain afterwards and with that, depression. However, there was a glimmer of hope this Sunday when we ran a hilly 3.25 miles. I felt great, and my hamstring was fine…..hope once again, emerged.

Race or Compete?
My reality is that I am not ready to race Cherry Blossom. So what will be my race strategy? Just because I am injured does not mean I won’t have a strategy….which includes not running the race at all.   The smart thing, should my hamstring hold up on some light training runs I have planned for this week, would be to use Cherry Blossom as training run for other races to come. I have to let my ego go and show up and even DNF (do not finish) if I feel pain. This race is not about my finishing time, but about my hamstring’s health…..and keeping it injury-free so I can rock the Marine Corps Marathon this fall. That, my friends, is the race of importance for me. The other races I have planned for this year will just have to be taken in stride, one race at a time.

And that’s the thing really – which race is the important one for YOU this season? Is it the first race where you want to just blast out of the blocks and PR or are you practicing for bigger things to come?  My ultra-distance friends that have been accepted into the Badwater 100-miler this year I KNOW are thinking about that as “the” race of the year….question is, how many marathons and other “training” races will they compete in this year before they get to Badwater? And what will be their strategy if they have to nurse and injury like I do?

Will Cross Training Do Me Any Good?
While cross training has transformed me into a stronger, more sculpted human being, I won’t know what good all the core work, push ups, yoga, cycling, and elliptical machine work did for me until I run Cherry Blossom. I am stronger, sure…but am I faster? Who knows? We shall see.

Colleagues in the running groups on Linked In group were kind enough to answer my query about their cross training recommendations. So many runners incorporate core work in particular, into their training regimen. For those of use 40 and over, this makes a huge difference I think.

We shall see……



3 thoughts on “Dilemma: When Injured, Does One Race or Merely Compete?

  1. In my humble opinion I would try a short run at your expected race pace and see how your hamstring responds. If it seems to handle it Ok, then I would proceed cautiously towards the race and look at it as a long training run and dnf if you have any problems.
    Biggest concern? The excitement of the race will pull you into an effort level you may not be ready for, and you won’t know the impact for a day or 2 later. A short race pace run will give you a feel for the pace and effort and hopefully give your hamstring a “test run”.
    For what it’s worth, yoga will give you a good long term remedy, but I think you already know that 🙂

    Posted by TIM SCITTI | March 1, 2011, 11:15 am
    • Tim, you are absolutely right on the approach to the race. As I said, if I can do it great, but if I need to stop I will.

      I did run a very easy 5 miles this morning with a neighbor and my hamstring is neither tight or in pain. This is a good sign…..means rest helped. I won’t run again until Friday, and will continue with my yoga and P90X core workouts, which I believe have really helped me strengthen by body overall.

      Posted by Alix Shutello | March 1, 2011, 1:57 pm

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