I'd like to tell you that, magically, these things improved my game, but they didn't. In fact, the slump never ended because I quit playing softball at the end of that season.
Lately, I don't feel like I've been running well. It all started when I made the rookie mistake of buying a new pair of shoes and thought that I could wear them for a 12 miler right out of the box. DUMB! They were stability shoes and I'd only run in light stability or neutral shoes so the added support caused my knee to track differently over my foot. That, combined with tight muscles, tendons, and ligaments due to lack of stretching (another rookie mistake), caused inflammation in my knee which gave out on me 9.5 miles into that run.
As per my coach's orders, I took 3 solid rest days filled with icing, stretching, rolling, and a visit to the an A.R.T. (active release therapy) practicing chiropractor. By the end of the week, I was safely back on the road (in my old shoes) and ran a 10K race in Chicago that Saturday. The knee felt just fine. My psyche....not so much. I ran that race at a 9:57 pace! How did that happen when just 8 weeks prior I had run an entire half marathon at a 9:10 pace?!
I blamed it on the knee, the heat and humidity, the fact that we walked the streets of Chicago for miles and miles the day before. Wipe the slate clean, right? Reset! We all have bad races from time to time.
I continue with my training. We're still holding off a bit (don't wanna aggravate the knee too much) but I'm back to running 4 days a week. Up next? A five-ish mile leg of a marathon relay.
I was feeling fine heading into the race. The air swelled with excitement! This race was more like a tail-gate with some running thrown in there. One friend deemed it a "Festival of Running Nerds". I'm feeling fairly decent as we head into the 4th leg of the relay (my leg). My team was kickin' asphalt and taking names leading up to that point. The hand-off comes and I head out ready to run the assigned plan (as per my coach) of a 9:10 pace. I can do that, right? Should be easy! My tempo runs are at an 8:50 pace and I'd done those just fine.
Needless to say, this run was just a few walk breaks short of a disaster for me. I can't tell you why. I can't tell you what I was feeling. I can't tell you why my body decided it didn't want to do what my brain was telling it to do. I can't tell you why every walk break/motivational speech that I gave myself over that 5.25 miles didn't work. For some strange reason, I just couldn't do it.
When I handed the batton to our anchor leg, one of my fellow teammates asked how I felt. My reply? "Holy Hell"! We caught the glorious moment on video.
My splits were terrible (in my opinion). 5.25 miles at a 9:40ish pace for no apparent reason. Mentally, I'm right back there in my 12th grade softball slump with just 6 short weeks until my attempt to get that sub-2 hour half marathon I've been chasing...pun intended. All that I can say is that, if I have learned one thing from softball it is that I WILL NOT QUIT! I'm going to heed Hank Aaron's words and just "keep swinging".
To be continued...