Handling Injury Before Your “A” Race

October 19th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Brian Reynolds

Age Group Nationals was an “A” race for me so I was doing specific swim, bike, and run workouts to prepare.  Three weeks before, I did a morning speed session run which went well but later that day my right calf became very sore and tight.  When I woke up the next morning and took my first few steps I had a throbbing pain in my calf. It was the worst muscle pain I’ve ever experienced, but I continued with my swim and bike workouts that week.  Three days after my injury was the Tri Del Sol race which I was signed up to do the Olympic triathlon. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do the run leg so instead I did the aquabike (Swim-Bike).  I was disappointed that I could not race the triathlon but it was the right call.

In order to get my calf healthy I had to cut my running back to just a really easy mile so I could keep my running streak going.  For the bike I only did easy rides to not aggravate my injury. The only high intensity workouts were my swims. It was frustrating I couldn’t do my normal training because I wanted to get in the best possible shape for nationals.  After I got through that low period I began focusing on the process of getting healthy again. My goal each day was to get my calf feeling a little bit better each day. Slowly but surely after  one week my calf made good progress and by the second week it was significantly better to the point where I could increase a few of my runs to 20 minutes.

Well three week later, I met my #1 goal which was to get the start line healthy! However, I did wonder how much run and bike fitness I lost from having to back off on training. I tried to not worry about my fitness and just focus on executing the best swim-bike-run and have fun while doing it.  I was at least very well rested for the race.

On race day for the Olympic distance they had to shorten the swim to 750 meters instead of the 1500 meters due to the rough waters.  In hindsight the shorter swim helped me since the swim is my weakest of the three disciplines. I ended up having a decent swim which put me 40 seconds behind the leaders.  When I got onto the bike my legs felt really good and I was able to produce a really good bike split. I ended up leading my age group coming into T2 (2nd transition). There was one guy that got ahead of me coming out of T2 but I was able to catch him by the 0.5 mile marker.  Once I made the pass I was leading the race in my age group. I thought to myself that 3 weeks ago I didn’t know if I would be able to do this race and now I’m in the lead contending for a national title. I held onto the lead until the 4.5 mile marker when the eventual winner passed me and beat me by 16 seconds.  I really wanted to win but I was still proud that I was able to put myself in a position to win.

The next day I did the sprint distance race just for fun.  I haven’t done a sprint distance in 3 years so I did not have any high expectations.  I ended up having a really good swim leaving me only down by 12 seconds to the leaders.  I had a solid bike and I was in the lead coming into T2. Through T2 Todd Buckingham flew by me and took the lead.  Todd would eventually win the race by a very wide margin. I ended up finishing in 2nd place. Unfortunately Todd got a 2 minute drafting penalty on the bike which bumped me up to winner of my age group.

These were the best results I ever had at the Age Group Nationals and I was very pleased considering my calf injury.  It was good to get a little redemption from last year when I crashed on the bike.

I had a few lessons to take away from this race:

Lesson #1 – You can still maintain good run fitness with very little running for 3.5 weeks assuming you’ve been consistent throughout the year.  My run split was not too far off from my usual run times when I’m in good form.

Lesson #2 – ATTITUDE!  My expectations had to change coming into this race. Instead of focusing on winning my age group, I just focused on giving my best effort and to be thankful just to be on the start line.  This led to a much better racing experience and reduced anxiety! This is a lesson I’m going to be applying to all of my races going forward.

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