A lousy run every once in a while can serve as a good reminder that there are always improvements that can be made in training. A whole lousy week is quite another thing altogether. As I mentioned in yesterday's training roundup, I had a particularly shitty training week last week.
As I've mentioned before, I've had lower-leg issues for a few years -- mostly in my calves, but I've also had soreness in my tibialis anterior (thanks, Wikipedia). Normally I can loosen my calves up with a foam roller and get rid of the knots. This past week, I wasn't able to. More to the point, the entire shank of each leg was miserably sore, swollen, and tired. When I set out for seven miles on Wednesday morning, my legs were in open revolt -- something that I rarely experience, and I (rightly) cut my run short in response. The same thing happened Friday morning when I headed out. My long run on Sunday saw me stopping every other mile to walk -- more often than before -- and I had to sit on a bench for a few minutes to work the tightness out of my calves (I wasn't wearing my calf compression sleeves on my long run, though I don't know how/if this works into the equation). During the last two miles, I felt my right leg going numb -- something that happens once every two weeks or so. I stopped to walk to try and let the numbness subside, but once I started back up the numbness started creeping back in. After my run on Sunday, my legs were miserably sore all day. (When I wrote this on Monday night they were feeling better, but not great.)
As with any sort of multivariable exercise (especially true given my poor understanding of mathematics), I'm not exactly sure what the major contributor to my bad training was, or if there even is one. That being said, I've got some ideas of where the troubles may have originated, starting with the half marathon that I ran last Sunday.
During the half I didn't feel bad, but I could definitely feel my legs tightening towards the end of the race. We ran on fine gravel for half the race and then pavement for the rest -- I'm doubtful that the race surfaces contributed to my soreness in any way. I've been taking walk breaks every second or third mile on my long runs, and didn't stop to walk at all during this race. It's possible that the lack of even a brief respite tired my legs out more than they're used to, though I don't know if that would result in the kind of discomfort I've dealt with this past week. I'd handled a 14 mile training run well a few weeks prior, so I'm guessing the main contributor from the race is the level of exertion -- racing is more difficult than training.
Beyond the race, my general increase in training is definitely contributing to my soreness. While I've steadily increased my monthly mileage over the past five months, I may have gone a bit too fast with the increase. For reference, my October-March monthly mileage has been 6, 32, 35, 88, 98, 83 (so far) -- probably not the wisest rate of increase when the long-term goal is to build to marathon distances and longer.
Also a possible factor: shoes. I still haven't gotten new shoes yet, and now have over 1100 miles in my trusty Vomero 4s. At this point I'm pretty sure the midsoles are shot. I'm planning to go pick up a new pair of shoes this weekend with the recent study of shoe drop vs. compartment syndrome in mind.
I also traveled down to Carolina to run the race the evening before the race, and returned the day after. I don't think travel would have impacted anything other than my general energy level, which was fine the two days following the race (but dropped afterwards).
I'm pretty certain that my training and the race are the major factors here, but I don't have any concrete reasoning behind this. I'm largely concerned that my soreness may not just be soreness but might be tending towards over-stressing, in which case I'll have to cut back my training further. The best-case scenario for me is that I'm sore and just forget what soreness feels like after taking so many months off. The worst-case scenario that I think is a reasonable assessment is that I'm prone to chronic exertional compartment syndrome (somewhat gory image alert) and that the numbness and swelling of my lower legs is a result of fascia compressing my muscles when I'm running.
The truth likely lies somewhere in between those extremes. I'm not comfortable doing anything beyond making note of what the possibilities are, finding a new pair of shoes (that hopefully alleviate things but will add to the complexity), taking another easy week, and trying to slowly wean my way back onto my marathon training plan. I'm not sure if I'll reasonably be able to run a June marathon, but I'm also not sure if I'm just letting a down week get to me. I'm not prone to pessimism very often, and rarely get worked up over a potential injury. This one, though has me more worried than I have been in a long while, and I'm struggling to objectively wrap my head around it.
I guess I'll just have to see how the week goes and move forward from there. I'm definitely open to suggestions of any kind.