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When a DNS is the right call

When I first wrote about the A1A Marathon in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., I mentioned that “it didn’t take me long to sign up for my first marathon of 2018.”

At the time, I envisioned the Feb. 18 race to be a backup Boston Marathon qualifier, or at the very least, a long training run for my A goal for this year — my 100K debut in May. The A1A Marathon promised to deliver what I was looking for — flat and fast, fun and, of course, warm.

Along the way, however, an injury surfaced and plans changed.

Disclaimer: I was provided a free entry to the A1A Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro ambassador, and check out to review find and write race reviews!

A lingering heel injury

About six weeks before race day, I encountered some pain in my left heel. Knowing full well how plantar fasciitis can derail runners from their goals, I immediately recalculated my training with my coach, Angie Spencer, of Marathon Training Academy (MTA). Since I finished with a strong Boston qualifying time at my previous marathon last November in Indianapolis, I did not need to run a fast marathon in Fort Lauderdale.

The revised training plan focused on cross training — exercise bike and elliptical — until the heel healed. Angie and I remained optimistic about getting to the start line for the marathon but agreed that it was not worth further injury or damage, due to the bigger goals that awaited.

For about a month, I had a series of ups and downs with the injury. Overall, the heel continued having discomfort and a related issue, Flexor Hallucis Brevis, also slowed my return to full training mode. That made it clear that I would need to drop down to the half marathon, which the A1A race director readily agreed to allow about two weeks before race day.

Unfortunately, my foot would not be ready to do even the half marathon. About 10 days before the race, pain persisted during a short run on the treadmill. That’s when I called it off — my second Did Not Start (DNS). I could have fought through and completed the half marathon — or even the 5K — but the risk of a more severe injury was too great.

Due to a work assignment nearby, I would be in Fort Lauderdale anyway. So I proceeded to the race expo, where I would meet my Facebook friend and fellow MTA member Mitch Goldstein.

An expo worth the visit

The A1A Marathon expo is held at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center, which was a short walk from my hotel across a busy city street. There was not any signage to direct runners so I made a very circuitous route to find the right place.

Once I was in the right place, I was awestruck by the size of the expo. There were probably 40 to 50 vendors, including those promoting other races, companies selling various types of running gear and nutrition, and others hawking food and drink samples.

I spent a lot more time at this expo than I typically do.

One reason was meeting and talking with Mitch. The other reason was because I was not rushed or stressed, given that I would not be racing the following day, I had plenty of time to walk around and check things out.

I never have alcohol before a race, or really within at least a week of race day. But given my situation, I enjoyed sampling different flavors of Michelob Ultra. I mean if you are going to DNS, you might as well enjoy packet pickup, right?

Later, I tried out a Hidow gizmo that uses electronic pulses to stimulate injuries and sore spots. There were nine different options, including

one that felt like acupuncture. And the user is able to adjust the pressure setting. It was cool to try out — and it may have helped my injury, albeit temporarily — but I would need to know a lot more about the product before agreeing to the cost.

After testing the muscle stimulator, sampling the Ultras and noshing on other goodies, I wished Mitch well on his race and we vowed to keep in touch. It was great to get to know him a little better and I look forward to running a race with him, perhaps at next year’s A1A Marathon.

Healing and focusing

On race morning, I knew I made the right decision. I did not feel any pain in my foot, which makes it two days in a row. Instead of potentially damaging my foot, I did 40 minutes on the bike machine and then some stretching.

If my foot continues to feel pain-free, then I will be back to a short run on Monday and progress toward my training for my 100K in May.

However, first things first: I will do the All State Hot Chocolate 15K in Indianapolis next month, followed by a 50-miler in April as my last long run before the 100K.

My A goal race is still out there and far enough away that I have ample time to prepare myself. While no one likes to DNS, it’s always good to focus on the bigger picture. As I finish this blog post, it’s about 5 ½ hours after the A1A Marathon started. Without the injury, I would have finished the race by now, received my medal, had a celebratory beer and started heading back to shower and change.

And while it would be cool to have the medal hanging around my neck, there’s no guarantee that I would have been able to finish. Instead my foot is progressing, my legs are continuing to gain strength thanks to low-impact cardio, and my mind is focusing in on the major task at hand: stay healthy and finish the upcoming spring races.

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