Complacency and Setbacks
I got sick a day after getting to Japan and have had medium cold/fever symptoms. I will be racing a track 5k after the Ekiden with the alternates, or not racing at all. This does mean, however, that I will be able to spectate the entire Ekiden!
This setback feels like a continuation of what I’ve been dealing with ever since I got injured after Ivy League Heps last May. I had a tendinopathy in a toe flexor in my right foot, and it took until beginning July to be able to string two days together...until August to start running reasonable volume again. Since then, I’ve felt very healthy and fit at times, only to be shaken up by an injury scare of some sorts. Three weeks ago I injured the toe flexor on my other foot, had to take three days off, and it’s been aching ever since. I’ve recently been reminded of how I used to train before the last couple years; back then, I thought of myself as incredibly fragile and injury prone, and was never able to string together consistent weeks of training.
Of course, that wasn’t true, as my senior year of college was an amazingly consistent year. In Cross Country, I took three days off total. Track wasn’t as consistent -- two weeks into indoors I injured my knee slightly and had to reduce my mileage for January and February -- but besides that, I trained extremely well and got to another level of fitness, until finally succumbing to injury in May. So what changed?
I’ve learned that health and consistency can snowball in either direction. It’s so much easier to continue to be healthy than it is to get healthy. The tricky part is that your aerobic fitness improves much faster than your durability; I am currently as fit as I was in August or September of last year, but I can’t handle anywhere near the same amount of training, or I’ll get hurt. When I started training for last year’s cross country season, I had come off of a reasonable track season in which I had very few setbacks; still wary, however, I never ran that much mileage. Throughout the summer, I built up to 70 miles per week, but my wariness remained, and I would take three-mile down days here and there, proactively trying to stay healthy. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I had ended the previous track season healthy, something that had never happened before. I became more and more durable the longer I stayed injury free. By the time I got to the Spring, I was not only in really good shape in terms of running ability, but I was extremely durable as well. But then I became complacent, and if you check out my training from last March, you’ll see I started training like an idiot: way too many hard workouts with not enough recovery. Still, I was able to stay injury free for two months of this training, thanks to the buffer that I had built up.
This buffer is entirely gone, now that I have had to take multiple months off due to the injury. While the cold that I have right now has nothing to do with my physical durability, the mindset that I developed after months of healthy training -- the complacency that comes with success -- definitely had something to do with it. I could have gone to bed at 8pm in preparation for a 6am flight to Tokyo, but instead I stayed up until midnight and got four hours of sleep. I knew how bad flights beat me up and how much missing my sleep kills my immune system, but still didn’t do things right. Of course, I could have gotten sick anyways, but some things you don’t have control over. Sometimes you also get injured despite doing everything right.
Going forwards, I need to get back to the process-oriented mindset that I developed the Summer before last. Get healthy before focussing on getting fit; be proactive; lose the complacency. Running 24:17 last week for my first race -- eight weeks into base training -- was probably the worst thing that could have happened, as it reinforced the (complacent) belief that I was doing everything right.
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I'm Ben Rainero, creator of BiggerLog. Here's where I'll write more in depth about my training, my thoughts on competitive distance running, and the design process behind the log website. You can also check out my running log here.