Last fall, I was hoping to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials. My plan was to pursue it at the Chicago Marathon but coaching took a lot more time than I was expecting and even though it was several months prior, my body still was feeling the effects of the Country Music Marathon. I decided to take some downtime and chase the time at the Rocket City Marathon. I was nailing my workouts and felt like I was in 2:17-2:18 marathon shape but I got sick two days before the race and was not able to toe the line.
This fall, I was planning to chase 2:15 at the Columbus Marathon. Again, training was going really well and I felt like my goal was attainable. I felt like I was having some symptoms of low iron, so I went in for a test. At the same time, an achilles/heel issue flared up. After getting my blood test, I went for a 12-13 mile progression run, but had to end it about 1.5 miles into it due to pain. The next morning, I got my blood test results and saw that my iron was the lowest I've ever seen it. With these two issues flaring up, I decided to take a mini-break from running and look into a December Marathon. I'm frustrated that something messed up my fall marathon plans again, but fortunately, two things happened at once, so hopefully I can take care of them at the same time.
If I don't take iron pills, it's only a matter of time before I crash and burn. I usually will get my iron checked 3-4 times a year but I haven't gotten it looked at in nearly five months. I guess the additional mileage and intensity I was placing upon myself, combined with training in a really hot environment placed an additional demand for iron that I wasn't meeting. Over the past few days, I've started to develop two main symptoms that I typically have when my iron is low: dead legs and lack of motivation.
Last week, my legs felt abnormally fatigued. I ran my fastest ever marathon workout and ran a really strong moderate long run on Sunday but anytime I would try to run fast, my legs would not respond. Running stuff at marathon pace and slower wasn't an issue but I had a lot of trouble getting my legs to move at 10k pace and faster.
The other main symptom I have with low iron is lack of motivation. Training is very hard physically and mentally. Fortunately, I'm usually motivated to get the work in and look at each workout as a challenge that needs to be conquered. Lately, I just haven't had that motivation. I still got the work done to the best of my ability because I understand what needs to be done regardless of whether I want to run or not. Goals and life don't take time-outs, so you shouldn't either. Arthur Lydiard said it best when “it's just a matter of understanding what's necessary and discipline yourself to do it.” I had the discipline but the passion was fading. I still had plans on running my butt off at the marathon but I wasn't really looking forward to it and didn't spend much time visualizing it, like I normally do during my training. I don't know why this is a symptom of low iron but my motivation is always low when my iron is.
If all I had was an iron issue, I would stick to progression runs and light fartleks for a couple of weeks before transitioning into more structure training. However, the injury issue is a literal pain. I can't tell if it's insertional tendonitis or retrocalcaneal bursitis. The pain is down in my heel, hurts a lot in the morning and after I run but I can't find a tender spot. Tendonitis can heal pretty slowly because the blood supply is so poor, but hopefully I can bounce back from this and resume normal training within two weeks.
I'm frustrated that I have to change my plans but maybe it's a good thing. I'll be able to get in a half marathon or two and have more time to train and work on some things that I feel I was lacking in my training. Hopefully this will be the only two bumps in the road until my chosen marathon.