I’ve always been a runner, sometimes frequent, sometimes less so, but I’ve been a runner since I was a child. I’m also a cyclist and I ride my bike to work everyday. I use my bike more than my car. My resting heart rate, which hovers around 40, reflects the fact that there is rarely a day when I don’t get some cardio in. What’s maybe even more telling is that I don’t consider the 16-18 miles it takes to bike work and back each day an adequate amount of exercise to scratch the itch that runners know so well.
So I’m in good shape, great. Well, at the height of the winter spike in Covid cases I was looking for healthy things to keep myself occupied, anything really. Riding my bike for recreation in the winter after I used that same bike as a tool to get to work always seems like a chore, even during the mildest of Colorado winters, so that was out of the question. Hiking was good, and running around my local park on the days I couldn’t hike became a regular occurrence in my life. It was just what I would need to keep the winter and Covid blues at bay.
I started trail running because, why not? I could go farther than I could hiking, in less time. I’ve been into trail running before, but I never had it in my head that I wanted to be strong enough to run up 2000 feet over two miles until I found a Colorado Front Range trail that does just that. It escalated from there.
And of course, without a plan, I did not build up to the mileage I was putting in how I should have. I got a running belt, which allowed me to bring enough water and snacks to stay out for several hours. Trail running became so fun. I felt like 10 miles was the minimum I should run once I had gone through the trouble of driving to a trailhead and lacing up my shoes. I felt good, really good.
You know where this is going: a bored man with a beard is in good shape, maybe too good of shape, gets really into trail running and starts running too far, too often. But it’s so easy to think I feel awesome right now, I can run another 5 mile lap. Well, you can’t just go by feel when you’re running 10+ miles on steep, rocky trails whenever time allows.
I should have made a plan. I should have been meticulous with logging miles. I should have at least logged my weekly miles. Then I would have known it’s time to back off the distance for a bit, even if my pain tolerance made me unable to see the signs of a repetitive use injury brewing in my leg. If I had someone to talk to about my running they might have said, “hey wait a minute, you’re feeling a little bit of pain where? You should take a little time off.”
This is where a coach can be the most helpful. I could have easily made a running plan, stuck to it, and slowly built up mileage as I progressed. I could not have given myself an outsider’s perspective into how my body obviously telling me to take a little time off. A coach can be your sounding board. A coach will notice that you just aren’t performing as well as you’re capable of and know that it’s because you’re tired and just need a few days off.
If I would have taken just a few days off, then I wouldn’t be sitting here, electromagnetic heating pad wrapped around my hip, starting week 6 off from running. Looking back on it I see where I ignored the signals my body was sending me, and now I’m dealing with the consequences. Trail running is so simple, we were perfect for each other until I ignored the complicated parts. I should have hired a coach. You should hire a running coach too.