When Life Gives You Lemons... IM 70.3 Santa Cruz and IM 70.3 Boulder (sort of)
My DNF at Boulder Peak was followed by... Another DNF at IRONMAN Boulder 70.3 a month later. This time it was premeditated, a hard decision to come to terms with, but ultimately my choice came down to either Did Not Finish or Did Not Start. By the end of July it was clear that I was battling a hamstring issue, among other things. I had my first rendezvous with Dry Needling treatment, which feels like a pokey spike climbing into the achiest part of your muscle and burrowing around like a gopher making a little nest deep inside your leg. It's delightful.
I asked myself the obvious question: Was my last minute decision to add an extra twenty one miles to my Ironman "training day" the reason for this late season injury? If so, I accept responsibility for the choice that did exactly what I feared it might (by denying me my next two races).
However, there is also the possibility that the Ironman was not the determining factor in whether I stumbled upon injury this year, and when I look at it that way, I am infinitely more grateful that I seized the opportunity when I did. It is still a shining, thrilling milestone in my race career, and one that even with the benefit of hindsight, I would again sacrifice the rest of the season for.
But it's hard to pinpoint the cause of vague overuse irritations. I felt fine (relatively speaking) during and after the Ironman. I recovered in the following weeks as well as one could hope. But three weeks later I apparently pushed myself over the edge running a 5k. Was it really just the 5k? I ran a 5k two weeks before the Ironman with no ill after-effects. (To be fair, I did run the second one faster, with every intention of running absolutely as hard as I could.) But my personal experiments as well as observations of other people's ill-advised endurance over-reaches have given me familiarity with the pattern of delayed onset consequences. So the 5k could have just topped off the trouble that was already brewing.
Overuse injury comes from a perfect storm of conditions -- physical structure, technique, level of repetition, degree of intensity, as well as external stress and/or benefits. It's impossible to isolate just one of these. It's the combination of those elements (and more) that determine why some people can run back-to-back marathons with no fallout, while others struggle to complete just ten miles without breaking themselves. Overuse injury does frequently pop up out "out of nowhere," but in reality it is the million tiny repetitions of a slightly inefficient movement that lead up to the final seemingly insignificant event that gets blamed for the problem.
I had a rough few weeks accepting the setback. This exposes the obvious vulnerability in the life of the full-time athlete, or really anyone who places a high priority on their athletic pursuits -- an injury, however slight or temporary, threatens your very sense of identity and purpose. The pain of compromised physical capability is felt most acutely by those who put a disproportionate amount of value in the ability to complete the day's workouts successfully, and to achieve competitive goals exactly according to plan.