Fall Training: Week 11

Interesting week. Not quite the one I wanted. But I’m learning that I can’t control everything, and that can’t be a bad thing.

First side tangent about control: I was reading a book about adventure travel (Robert Young Pelton’s Guide to the World’s Most Dangerous Places) recently. There’s a chapter on adventure racing and it’s noted that marathon runners usually make lousy adventure racers. We’re control freaks, apparently (who knew?). In an adventure race, everything is constantly going wrong and you have to deal with it, adapt and change plans along the way. Compare not having the right flavor of gel to losing two of your kayaks on a four person team, or watching helplessly as all of your camping equipment slips into a deep ice crevasse, and you get the picture.

Second side tangent about control: I’ll preface this paragraph with the caveat that everything I’m about to say is completely speculative in nature; my personal observations and opinions only. This year’s NCAA Cross-Country Championships featured one of the most bizarre races I’ve ever seen. College phenom (and Olympian) Jenny Barringer, initially in the lead, but with Susan Kuijken right on her tail, not only faltered at several times in the race but actually appeared to pass out for a moment. She rallied, but with all those stops along the way ended up way back in the field.

I suspect she had a panic attack midrace (timely, given my recent post). Why? Besides the enormous pressure on her, as the favorite, to win, she just looked uncomfortable from the very start. Kuijken was right behind or alongside her for the start and you could see how aware of her Barringer was. Barringer’s facial expression and physical demeanor changed dramatically in the moment that Kuijken passed her (8:00) and things when rapidly downhill. You could see Barringer, looking distressed, talking to herself. Her form was shot and she didn’t look good. Then, a bit farther along, she wobbled, dropped to her knees, and collapsed (0:54, 1:42).

Where was her coach? Even if it wasn’t a panic attack, she clearly wasn’t in racing shape and belonged in the med tent. Even more disturbing than watching her struggle to her feet to finish the race was that she allowed herself to be interviewed right afterwards. On camera, she was clearly upset and shaken from the experience. I saw her doing everything other than taking care of herself. It struck me as profoundly sad, because she seemed so utterly alone.

Updated: Here’s an extended interview with Barringer after the race in which she discusses the incident and the confluence of pressures, transitions and expectations that may have contributed. I’ve also added links to the video above, along with where you can see the key meltdowns.

Anyway, back to my week. My big run on Sunday of Week 10, as I’d suspected it might, pushed my foot into a whole new world of pain. My ankle and foot also blew up overnight, resembling a Virginia ham. My sports doc couldn’t even determine which tendon was the source of the issue, so I spent the week taking NSAIDs (oral and topical) and the swelling and pain improved enough that I could run easy on the treadmill. My one run outside on Saturday caused the problem tendon to flare up, though, so I went back to my sports med guy yesterday, who (surprise!) gave me a cortisone shot.

Needless to say, I didn’t run my 4 mile race in Central Park on Sunday as that would have qualified as Doing Something Stupid. While I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to try for that first corral bib, I gotta keep my eyes on the prize, which is December 6 in Sacramento. Doc gave me the all clear to run and race as much as I like, starting today, with the warning that my race may hurt a little (and possibly a lot afterwards). But I won’t be doing any further damage to myself by running it.

Ankle and foot look and feel better this morning thanks this miracle drug. I had a planned 12 miler with 9 at just below marathon effort. I’m going to go attempt this on the track right now.

8 Responses

  1. Tough week, girl, sorry to hear about the ankle business. Very cool that you got the ok to run CIM anyway. At least if it had to happen it happened during taper time.

    I’m going to hunt out that Barringer thing, I was reading about it on Letsrun yesterday and dying for some video, sounds like it’s around now…

  2. I haven’t seen the video yet either but am heartbroken for her. I was rooting for her. Be interesting if they ever figure out what happened.

    Back in August my man-friend did an Ironman on an ankle with severe tendonitis in three different tendons — achilles, and ones on both the medial and lateral sides. Yummy. They wouldn’t give him a cortizone shot because they thought it might rupture a tendon (no idea), but did tell him that doing the race wouldn’t make it worse. Granted, it’s still not better and he’s still ticked about that 5:37 marathon at the end, but …

    • They probably couldn’t give him a shot because his issue wasn’t localized enough. Apparently if you shoot cortisone too close to the achilles it can migrate and cause rupture. They wouldn’t give me one either until it was clear exactly where the trouble spot was.

      I wouldn’t run my marathon if my ankle was in the shape it was even a couple of days ago. Fortunately, I think I’m out of the woods and (knock wood) won’t be running injured.

      Bummer about his marathon. But there will be others.

  3. I watched the live broadcast on Versus… it was one of those “worst nightmare” moments for Barringer, just a complete meltdown. I felt really bad for her.

    I agree with your thoughts about a panic attack. Under unbelievable pressure, much of it probably self-imposed, the level-headed and seemingly bullet-proof competitor turns out to be a vulnerable young woman after all.

  4. [...] yesterday, and was stunned by what happened to Jenny Barringer. Julie has several links in her most recent posting, including to the race itself and to an interview on [...]

  5. Great interview. She seemed to be taking it in her stride. I like the part where she’s talking about the new experience of running down in the pack and kicking past Washington jerseys at the finish.

    This is probably more of a taper than you planned. Thanks to the ankle, you been doing 9s and 10s on the treadmill all week. Are you going to slide in some extra tempo or MP work this coming week?

  6. Thanks for the links to the race. I’m always impressed at how competitive those races are. Barringer stopping like that reminds me of when Bekele (another favourite) stopped in the world cross country champs in Kenya. It was very hot that day, but I think he succumbed to favouritism pressure when he realised he wasn’t going to win. Kudos to Barringer though for getting up and finishing the race.

    I hope your ankle continues to improve over the next couple of weeks. Good to have the all-clear from the doc that racing a marathon won’t do further damage.

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