For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
At some point before the early morning hours of March 14, someone dropped a screwdriver in the middle of Fyler Road, in front of the Middle School in North Chittenango, New York. It was a small screwdriver, the kind used by optometrists working on the small, fiddly screws that are found in the hinges of eyeglasses.
Tessa and I were driving back from Syracuse to my apartment in Canastota. We had just dropped my son off at the Regional Transportation Center; he was returning back to college in New York City after spending spring break upstate. The night was pitch black, and neither of us saw the screwdriver. But we definitely heard the result of its contact with the rear passenger-side tire–the unmistakable “flap, flap, flap” of a flat tire.
I pulled the car over about a hundred yards down the road, opened up the hatch of my SUV, got the doughnut out of the back and started to loosen the lug nuts on the flat. Once I had loosened them, I jacked up the car and began to pull on the wheel.
It wouldn’t budge.
I pulled again, harder this time. It still wouldn’t move. I pulled harder still. Nothing. The wheel was frozen solid onto the axle, like one of the snowbanks that lined the road we were on.
After a good ten to fifteen minutes of pulling on that frigid night, I finally admitted defeat. Tessa called AAA and, twenty minutes later, a young kid in a tow truck pulled up behind us. Much to my relief, and my manly pride, he, too, could not budge the wheel. But he had a big rubber mallet in the back of his truck, and after a few hard whacks, the wheel came loose. Less than five minutes later, he mounted the spare, and we were back on the way to the warmth of home.
So, what does this have to do with training for a marathon? Why is it in a blog about running?
The answer manifested itself the following afternoon. Within a couple of miles of a routine ten-mile run, I started feeling sharp, stabbing pains in the lower rib cage of my left side. The pain was as bad as anything I had experienced–it reminded me of the pain I felt before the Empire State Half Marathon a few years ago, only more intense. I finished the run, and thinking the condition was temporary, I tried to run again the following day. Four miles into a six mile run, however, the pain got so intense that I stopped running and walked back home.
I didn’t want to admit it, but I was injured again. Only this time, it had nothing to do with running.
Last year’s injury at the Mountain Goat taught me a lot–rest, ibuprofen and patience in liberal quantities are the only things that will bring you back better than before. The week after the screwdriver almost cost me the battle, I ran just seven miles, skipping a fifteen-mile long run and coming thirty-six mile short of the program’s weekly total mileage.
(And here, I have a confession to make. I think part of me wanted the break. After all, I haven’t really let up since the beginning of November. That’s five months of training with no races to show for it. Maybe, just maybe, this was not an accident. Maybe this was my subconscious trying to tell me something.)
Last week, I ramped things back up slowly but surely. I ended the week with two strong and focused ten-mile runs that left me just a few miles short of my weekly goal. This week, I am back on track, crushing (by my standards) interval and tempo workouts at or near my goal pace. Despite the crazy, unforeseen chain of circumstances of the last couple of weeks, nothing seems to be lost. The battle is still winnable, even though my side feels fine when I run but painful when I am sleeping.
I think I am past the worst, but I am not fooling myself. There is still a lot of work to be done, and now there are races to be run. First up is a new (to me) half marathon in Rochester, the Flower City. Then it’s back to the Burlington to finish the work of redemption that I began midway through last year. The ubiquitous Boilermaker follows in July and in October, I face the unbelievably exciting prospect of running my first major marathon: the 40th Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC.
It’s shaping up to be another amazing roller-coaster year, and it’s not even a third of the way through.