LA Marathon 2012: Rookie Mistakes, Nervous System Fail, Semi-Retirement

Well it’s been almost a week since I ran the LA Marathon last Sunday. Last year, I ran it in a rainstorm and nearly went hypothermic (see LA Marathon Race Report 3-20-11: Misery Redefined. I had hoped to redeem myself this year but it was not redemption I got.
The forecast was for rain again and my brain just sulked at the prospect of running it yet again in cold rain. Saturday before the race, the rain came down midday and I looked out the window at cloudy, wet skies and really was not psyched to run at all. If I had woken up to rain race morning, I was determined to just stay home and quit.
Here was my first rookie mistake: how can you run a race when you’ve already psyched yourself out before it even started?
Training before the race had not progressed well. About 2 months before, I was doing some Turkish Get-Ups with kettlebells and managed to strain some muscles in/around my left quad at the knee. This set off a chain reaction in my nervous system where if it started to get sore, my fascia would clamp down on my knee – first my left, and then a complementary reaction in my right knee. I never let the strained muscle heal completely; my time was short to the race and had little time to take off. So I trained through it. However, it was exacerbated by the fact that I added weekly mileage too fast. Normally I would add about 15 minutes each week. During this build, I decided to just add about 25-35 minutes each week. Looking back, I’m sure that this build was too much for my strained muscle and it kept bothering me, creating tension that would arise in response to high stress during the latter part of my long runs.
Second rookie mistake: Adding too much mileage during the training build.
This all caused my nervous system to flare up. By the time race week came, my quads were in a perpetual state of flex. Never felt anything like it. I did no running at all in the last week just to let them calm down. They finally came down to some semblance of relaxation before the race, but they needed a full detraining to reset them from flexing too much in response to race stress.
Add to that the fact that I wasn’t sleeping well in the weeks before all added up to a heightened nervous system that always ready to go, but never let me calm down enough to recover. There was also stress in finding time to run 3 hours; winter training meant reduced day time hours, as did responsibilities with my family. I managed three 18 milers but I usually like to do at least one 20+ miler, if not two, before a marathon.
Heading into Sunday morning, I woke up at 330am, wishing that it was raining so I could just call it quits. But the roads were dry so I got myself up and prepped, and drove out to catch the bus to the start.
The race itself was not very eventful in memory. I was not psyched to start, so I went out easy although I hit the half way mark past 1:50 so I was on pace for a sub-4 hour finish.
As for the rain, it turned out to be a nice sunny but cool day with whipping winds but thankfully no rain at all. I was very happy to be wearing a cool waterproof running jacket by REI called the REI Airflyte Running Jacket with eVent Fabric. Although it was not raining, the jacket was very breathable and it cut the wind amazingly well.
The sub-4 hour time was not to be. My nervous system acted up at around mile 16 when muscles around my right knee started tightening up. This lead to successive tightening up and down the kinetic chain, into the anterior tibialis and up my inner quad up to my hip. There was also stiffness and pain in my right foot arch and around the inner ankle bone.
The tightness in my right leg soon caused a reaction in my left leg in nearly the same places although not as worse. Soon it became painful to even move my right leg in running form; I had to stop and walk every few steps to calm it down. Then I would run and it would tighten up again. I tried to find some movement pattern where it would not flare up in tightness and pain and tried to vary it in little ways, but to no avail. This went on all the way to the finish line where I finished in my worst marathon in years at 4:46.
Well, no such luck with redemption. But it’s OK. I resolved to semi-retire after this race in any case. Having kids and being back in the work force just made long runs too hard to manage. I already gave up on triathlons and Ironmans, and now I’m passing on marathons and focusing on my swimming and half marathons, Total Immersion swim coaching, and my strength building work. Time for new challenges and phases in life….