Post By: Darren Brown – Husband/Father/Coach
This week, I had originally planned to write about how training had gotten back on track after overcoming Sarah’s early PGP issues; how we had avoided another travel-induced setback; how Sarah seemed to be entering the halfway mark in good spirits, excited about her progress and fitness. I mean, everything about the prior week of training told us this was where we were headed. We were wrong … My plans to compare this week of training to the same week last year and the year before to show the path Sarah was on wasn’t going to take us along the same positive journey I once thought.
Last week was a tough week. And today was a tough day. So much so that I have revisited this post in order to put it more squarely into perspective. Sarah’s body is in a constant state of change. Despite only being up 5lbs at this point, her belly is definitely starting to show, her hips are loosening and … well … “knock knock”. And for every noticeable change, there are a hundred more taking place that we can’t see. What complicates things even more is that Sarah is tough. Too tough. She doesn’t stop or pull back at the first sign of discomfort. She’s and athlete. She’s used to that. For Sarah to say “owe”, it takes a lot.
So, as I noted before … this is tough. It’s tough as a coach to plan for progress and to manage the day-to-day schedule when the only valid approach is “on the fly”. Sure, there are staple ancillary exercises that are almost always an option, but the day to day regimen lately has been anything but a regimen … it’s literally been day to day.
After finally feeling like we were getting over one ailment in her PGP, we managed a few really solid days of training before another hurdle seamlessly rose up from the ground and presented itself in the form of a 10ft steeple barrier. After coming back from NYC, Sarah finished out her week strong. She then took a very easy day on Sunday and a reduced running day Monday. Even with these precautions, Tuesday brought the onslaught of the next battle … a literal “pain in the ass”. It popped up without warning and with a vengeance, causing her to come back from a short warm-up in tears because of the disabling pain that had surfaced. And there goes this week of running. Instead, Sarah once again put in a ton of volume between the ElliptiGO and swimming, two modalities that don’t bother her. All in all, the week of workouts totaled 9mi of running, 13hrs of ElliptiGO work and 4mi of swimming. Here’s what it looked like:
Now, instead of telling you how and why Sarah did each of her cross-training workouts this week, I’m going to tell you what the toughest part of this week was. The toughest part as a coach. The toughest part as a husband. The toughest part as a training partner. And, without a doubt, the toughest part for her as an athlete. The mental battle.
As Sarah finished last week, she was riding high. She was starting to feel like herself again and everyone we spoke to kept telling us how much better she’d feel and how much more energy she’d have once she hit the 20-week mark. She’d feel better? Really?! We were pretty pleased with where we were. Anything extra would be icing on the cake. So, when her SI joint locked up last Tuesday morning, you can imagine the emotional tumble she took after a week of such good progress. Frustration continued to build throughout the week as the pain refused to fully subside, despite loads of icing, manual and physical therapy and the complete removal of running. Don’t get me wrong, it got better, but not by enough. Going into this week, Sarah was still hesitant to run, but she gave it a shot this morning to see if the pain had at least stabilized (i.e. easy running wouldn’t make it worse). It didn’t go well. She came back from the run and couldn’t walk in an upright position. She hadn’t run far. She hadn’t run fast. But she had managed to royally piss off her SI joint and every muscle that seemed to run through it. She was broken … emotionally. She wasn’t enjoying training. She wasn’t enjoying the pregnancy. She wasn’t enjoying. Period. The eruption of emotion was hard to watch as a husband. I felt helpless in every role I play. I couldn’t fix the pain, but I could support her emotion.
I was there first as a husband. I can’t understand what she’s going through and I won’t try to. That wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be fair to her. However, I can be there to remind her that, no matter what she can or cannot do, it in no way affects who she is as a person, the blessing we have coming through our unborn child or how people will feel about her … especially me. I was there to remind her that just because she is trying the improbable and wasn’t afraid to share her ambitions, it doesn’t mean that she owes anyone anything or that she will disappoint anyone. That’s pressure she shouldn’t feel. More than anything, I was just there.
As a coach, I took a step back. I reflected. We’ve had disruptions in training before. There had to be an answer somewhere in those struggles. Why should the phrase “history repeats itself” only apply to unfortunate circumstances? Why can’t it apply to successes as well? I’ve seen Sarah come back from injuries and inconveniences to blow expectations out of the water. Why can’t that happen again? After all, Sarah’s typical approach to training has always been anything but … “typical”. That’s just not us. So, remember how I said I was going to compare her training to last year? I did that anyways and here’s what it said:
See all that red. That area represents a period of training at the beginning of last year where Sarah did nothing but ElliptiGO rides while coming back from a PRP procedure she had done on her Achilles. Now, take a look at the dates. At this time last year, Sarah had yet to even run a single step; a year where she would go on to run PRs of 4:03 for 1500m and 2:01 for 800m. From my perspective, we are still well ahead of where we were last year and have yet another week of cross-training before she would have even run her first step last season. As a bonus, having to cross-train again this week seems to have completely settled down her PGP. So this next week, we’ll focus on continuing to build a huge base of volume while really attacking this SI issue head-on with aggressive therapy.
Now, if that weren’t enough, I want you to also take a look three weeks into the actual schedule, on a Wednesday – just as I made Sarah do earlier today. The 60min “3rds” workout is one that she not only accomplished, but accomplished FASTER about a month ago (see it here!). We are in a good spot. This won’t be the last hurdle to overcome and we realize that we won’t always be ahead of where we were last year. But for today, I’m glad I looked back, because it will allow us to look forward and continue to concentrate, day by day, on what we can control.