On Coming Back

Have I said yet how hard it is getting back in shape?

Run #2 (Jan 2) :


“Long Run” #1 (Jan 5) :


I will shamelessly go on the record saying I (naively) didn’t think a month off would be completely detrimental to my fitness. I envisioned myself hopping right back out for double digits and seamlessly transitioning right back into hard training, maybe just SLIGHTLY slower than before.

Apparently, not the case.

Spending all of December after CIM with beer & cookie marathons did a serious number on my endurance and fitness. SHOCKER!! For an injury-forced break I’d normally have done some low-impact cross training to get my heart rate up over comatose level every once in a while, but with the skin sutures requiring clean healing, sweat was kind of out of the picture.

Which was fine. Health is most important. I knew my leg would be better afterwards and really didn’t want to be bothered with a staph infection, so I happily soaked up my newly minted free time and embraced Zero Month.

But boy am I paying for it now.

It sucks and it hurts and I hate how even the most compression’y of the compression leaves room for something to jiggle. I hate how uncoordinated and awkward I feel – like a baby horse learning to walk. … with three legs. … on ice. … blind and deaf.

photo 1

But with all the pain and extra focus required (to avoid bad habits), each run seems purposeful. Everyday I feel myself getting stronger – still a long way from where I was pre-injury, but on a smart and steady path there.

And the real benefit of being totally, completely, fatass out-of-shape?

Reopening a world of constant improvement. Where PDRs (personal distance record) are reset and expectations attainably low. Progress is obvious and undeniable – from running my work loop without stopping, to eventually double digits, to the first race back. Feeling the gradual increase of ease and decrease in exploding kill-me-now lung burn.

photo 6

In distance running, at least after the beginning initiation, that obvious sense of accomplishment gets squeezed and hard to come by. Shaving seconds off tempo pace, maybe a few minutes from a race PR – the “glass ceiling” is pretty quick to hit and can become frustratingly monotonous.

After five marathons, I found that sense of improvement again when I started going to the track. New workouts, new times to break, obvious gains. Those confidence-boosting workouts spurred an inspired training cycle, and I’m hoping this “start from scratch” approach will do the same.

Yesterday K and I got to run together again, the first time since before CIM. It felt good to be back in a Saturday Long Run routine, and ease back into harder running. We covered eight miles, with the last two “hard”.


(No idea how fast or slow “hard” is, since I made K promise beforehand not to tell me any paces no matter how I begged, and like a good runfriend she obeyed.)

I decided to run “wireless” the first two weeks back, knowing that getting wrapped up in numbers would be defeating, frustrating, and unnecessary for an institutionalized headcase runner. I wanted to get back into stride based on feel, measuring success by things like “no walk breaks!” and “didn’t feel like an elephant!” and “looking less and less like the Phoebe run everyday!!”


I’m prepared to be horrified by what I see when I finally strap Garmin back on this week, but vow to measure myself only against me now, not the me of 2012 or anyone else.

If “easy” is 10:+ and tempos are old MGP, so be it. ACCEPTING IT. There’s only up to go from there, and I’m ready to put the work in to see just how high that will be.

So here’s the summary : I’m back running, PAIN AND STITCH-FREE, and am excited to someday stop feeling like a herded buffalo disguised in Oiselle & Brooks. Eugene Half training starts in three weeks, I plan on running at least two races with “K” in the name before then, and am not looking at reuniting with 26.2 until fall earliest.

Sarah OUaL

31 thoughts on “On Coming Back

  1. Hi! I totally agree with going wireless after a few weeks off of running just to get yourself feeling acclimated. Then, it feels really great to see what your pace really is. Good job on putting the 26.2 off for a while. For me, taking some time off of the full and focusing on halves this fall has really motivated me for my upcoming full in a month or so.


  2. Love the idea of running wirelessly when you’re getting back into in. It’s tough to not compare times to per injury times but you’ll get back there!


  3. Oh God… It’s so hard… TWSS. But really, I so feel your pain. I’ve been there and if nothing else, I can offer the unhelpful words of: You’ll get back to where you were! (eventually) (but, MUCH quicker than you think!) Chin up lady :-)


  4. Even when you’re at the top of your game, it still feels good to ‘go wireless.’ Plus, slower splits can be helpful both for recovery and and creating a solid base. You’ll feel like your old self in no time!


  5. I’m just getting back into the groove of regular fitness after recovering from an injury and I understand the awkwardness of starting all over! Its like the body is trying to remember what it did, it is there, but just out of reach.

    And I too like to go wireless and watchless once in a while just to force myself to ‘be free’!


  6. Hey! Glad I’m not the only returning-from-injury, slow-paced runner out there! Except I’m coming of of 3 months, not 1… and it sucks. My pace has been hovering around an embarassing 10:30… with burning lungs too! (Haven’t had burning lungs while running since I started running 4 years ago – it’s that sad!). But like you said, with every run, you’ll feel improvement – a little less awkward, a little less slow, a little less lung-burny… and a little less sore the next day. I’m hoping/planning to do a half in 6 weeks. My brain tells me I can do it… however, my legs may not agree. Will see how things stand 3 weeks from now. It would be one of those “races” where I’m not racing at all, but rather just hoping to go the distance. Without a “race date” on my horizon, and with my runs still hurting (emotionally just as much as physically), I fear I’ll talk myself out of going for a run more than I’d like to. So Feb. 23rd is the goal date….We’ll see what happens. Good luck to you as you ease back in. And who knows – you may come back stronger than you were before, having given your body a solid month of rest! :-) I look forward to hearing how things go for you!


  7. Wow, I am in the exact same boat right now! My first couple of runs of this base building cycle have been stupidly frustrating, but reading this post and the comments make me feel a lot better! I’m actually training for the full in Eugene!

    Here’s to those tough “getting back into it” runs!


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  9. Sounds like you are doing the right thing in going Garmin free coming back! After my Ironman I gave myself some time off and then came back feeling like absolute crap and unfortunately wore my Garmin which validated my loss of fitness…it was depressing! For now, just enjoy the little milestones again like you said!


  10. Oh goodness can I relate to this. I ran my first 26.2 last April and was sidelined for a solid 5 months with SEVERE PF. I am just starting to get back into running and it is harder than I ever remember. In fact instead of a spring marathon I am training up for a half and hope that it comes easier and I am passionate about it again.

    Wireless running is a great idea for now :)


  11. “progress is obvious and undeniable”. I went to see the doctor yesterday and disovered that my super fun at the time Christmas Baking Spree ensured that I gained 8 pounds in a few months. I already knew i’d gotten softer. I was thinking of the bright side this morning, though: it may be damn hard to do, but what is more fun than watching unneeded pounds drop off? I know i just have to keep up with the exercise and go back to planning/tracking every morsel of food i eat. For me it is simply an exercise in self-discipline, which post-holiday-sugarfest i clearly need. A big part of me loves the challenge. I just hope i can remember that next time someone offers me a cupcake at work. Next year i think i will make ornaments rather than cookies. :)


  12. I must admit that I am glad to hear that I am not the only one that has trouble picking it up again. Great thought on going wireless!!


  13. After my little man was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in October I quit running for 11 weeks. Coming back has sucked salty balls. But, like you said, it feels awesome every time you claw your way an inch closer to your goal. Keep up the hard work woman! Kick running’s ass one mile at a time.



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