Physically, I’ve learned how to manage the knee pain even though it meant finding failure regularly. Understanding what works and what doesn’t has been a daily process. My last sidelining injury was during my Sophomore year of high school where I had a stress fracture in my tibia develop during the indoor track season. But since then, I ran for a Division 1 collegiate program and had a decade of consistent running post college, never needing to take an unplanned day off due to an injury. However, in the last month alone, I’ve had to quit on 5 run attempts. The optimist in me now sees that in these 5 failed run attempts I have matured more as a runner than I have over the past decade plus of healthy running.
Here are my three takeaways from this setback:
- Have a Paradox Mindset. I’ve learned to hold this race with one hand open and one fist clenched, at the same time. My fist has remained clenched to accomplish my primary goal; to use this race to gain experience and to test my body in the ultra running world. But my hand has been held open to what training looks like day in and day out. I had plenty of “scheduled” runs that I had to abandon. And I’ve had to be content with not knowing what tomorrow would bring or what type of activity I’d be able to do depending upon the knee pain. However, as they say, if one door shuts, open the next one. Abandoning one run didn’t mean that day was a failure. I had the ability to either try again with a LEVER run, a bike ride, or trust that taking that day off was for my benefit. In fact, there’s a specific day I can recall where I built a ton of confidence in this build up. And that confidence came the same day I abandoned a run in the morning. After too much knee pain led to a failed outdoor run, I did a 4 mile LEVER run (85% body weight) that afternoon at a 4% incline with no pain. I then went on to have a very successful 20 mile trail run a couple of days later. There’s something very freeing about “winning the day”. Not letting the failed run define the day, but completing the day with a short but purposeful pain free run meant that day was a success and worth building upon.
- Trust your key sessions. I didn’t get in the mileage or the intensity that I wanted to for this race, but I did get a couple of key long trail runs banked. When doubts about my fitness creep in (and you know they do), I quickly reflect on the incredible 30 mile trail run I did mid-June in the mountains of Boulder. 30 miles, nearly 6k feet of vert, strong legs, strong lungs, a perfect day, I can do this.
- Become obsessed. I used these last 4 weeks of LEVER/tready time to dive deeper into the ultra mindset. I listened to books (one being Cameron Hanes’ book Endure), I watched videos on some of my favorite runners (Kilian, Courtney, and Tom Evans), and I visualized my own race. An hour on the treadmill goes by very quickly when you finish the tread session more motivated than when you started.
I’m thrilled to line up on the starting line on Saturday. This race means even more to me because of the mental effort that’s been put into getting here ready to cover 50 miles. I’ve learned so much about running with patellar tendinopathy and I hope this journey can help someone else. Finding the right mix of overground running, body weight supported running, incline/decline running, cross training, etc. has been an exercise of trial and error, and patience. But finding that right mix has built so much confidence and belief that if I can push through weeks of being uncomfortable and endure when it was tough, I can push through a 50 mile race. It’s nearly race time!