On overtraining and feeling injured two weeks before the Pittsburgh Marathon

Last week’s 16-mile run with the Steel City Road Runners was my longest run during the past two months of training for the Pittsburgh Marathon. I knew that it was about time to start tapering, but I felt that because of my relatively low mileage (mostly under 30 miles a week), I should put in one last hard week of training, and then have two weeks of tapering before the marathon.

Unfortunately, this week I overdid things and today’s 11-mile run was very revealing. I ended that run with a whole slew of real problems that I need to immediately fix, or else I will not be able to even make it to the start line of the marathon in two weeks!!

This week’s workouts


After walking 2 miles to work, I did a tough high-intensity Billat workout on the CMU track, thinking that having taken Sunday off from running, I was ready to get back into action. After doing about 12 minutes of this workout (after warming up first, of course), I was beat. I was feeling pressure on my knees and shins.

Basically, I was not sufficiently recovered from my 16-miler on Saturday, and I made a mistake.

Also, I walked 2 miles back home from work, with sore legs and feet, and still wearing Luna Sandals all day.


I did an easy 6-mile run, which included 1 mile of running to work, 4 miles of running in Schenley Park on the Pretty Good Race course, and 1 mile on the CMU track. Despite taking this run slowly, I felt rather sore afterwards.


I decided to take a day completely off from running, and off from Luna Sandals, to give my legs and feet a rest.


I ran 5 miles in Frick Park.


I did the annual Random Distance Run. By this time, I was quite looking forward to getting Saturday’s run over with and then resting on Sunday.

11-mile run

I decided to make the Saturday run a kind of dress rehearsal for the marathon. I would wake up at approximately the same time, and dress and eat as though running the marathon, and run at marathon pace, and the only difference would be that I would do 11 miles, not 26.2.

So I ate some salted, boiled potatoes for breakfast, and took a gel pack to eat right before the run, and planned to take a gel during the run also.

It was really cold yet again (temperature below 40F, and I saw some stray snowflakes), even colder than last week, so I substituted a short-sleeve T-shirt and shell and long pants in place of the long-sleeve T-shirt and shorts I wore last Saturday. I still had the glove liners and hat, of course.

I wore, for the first time, my calf sleeves that had just arrived, and that I plan to wear during the marathon:

CEP Compression calf sleeves

Moment of silence for Boston

The whole week has been very weird for me because the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday has been on my mind; I did what I could to avoid media coverage of the hunt for the bombers. It turned out that just last night, they caught the remaining official suspect, so that brought a little closure to the whole thing.

The training run was preceded by a moment of silence for Boston as well as updates on changes to the Pittsburgh Marathon setup for increased security.

For this run, I wore blue as well as a “We are all Boston Marathoners at heart” bib

We are all Boston Marathoners at heart

The run

Waiting to start run

I intended to try to follow a 9-minute pace group.

It turned out that the group went out pretty fast. I could not tell whether it felt fast because it really was faster than 9-minute pace, or because I was so fatigued from my week of training.

At some point, I did speed up (as I usually seem to do in my runs, starting out slowly before I’m all warmed up and ready to go faster). Then the problem was that I didn’t know what the route was exactly, once I started passing people! Yes, I got the printed map right before the run, but that’s never a great time for me to study and memorize the map, and I hate pulling out the map while running.

Getting “lost”

At one point when we reached downtown again in Pittsburgh, and we were supposed to eventually cross over north, I asked some runners around me what the route was, and unfortunately, one guy made some assumption and we followed him. Later I learned he made the wrong assumption. In fact, since I ran past him and was following some other people ahead of me, I got myself into more trouble. At one point, I saw someone behind me go right, while the guy ahead of me by a block kept going straight. I immediately smelled that the guy was not part of our group (lots of people were out running, I could tell), and sure enough, I looked back and everyone was taking a shortcut through someone’s back yard to get back to Liberty Avenue and cross the 16th Street Bridge, and so I backtracked and followed.

By that time, I was tired and demoralized by all the weird twists and turns the route had become after having reached downtown earlier, and now that I knew where I was, I just slowed down and didn’t bother to catch up to any pack again, and took some photos:

View from Sixteenth Street Bridge

Crossing Sixteenth Street Bridge

I don’t really know how far I ran or how fast. It just seemed really intense to me.

After the run

After run

After the run, I ate two bananas and some cookies and went inside to stretch and inspect the damage.


My Luna Sandals:

Luna Venado

Tops of feet


My right foot felt OK, despite some indentations from tight laces:

Right foot

But my left foot took a lot of damage, with skin scraped and some blood; the problem was that the strap had been loose, but I had neglected to stop and tighten and readjust it, and as a result, it shifted around and therefore chafed me:

Left foot

It was good to learn this lesson once and for all: I will be more careful in the future to make sure the laces are tight enough, and also not ignore sensations of chafing, and take the time to stop and readjust if I really have to. I could not have run a full marathon with my left foot being chafed in this fashion for the whole distance.

Soles of feet

My soles revealed some developing problems from the entire week.

Soles of feet

My left sole was basically OK, despite some dry skin that I should really deal with, but my right sole had more serious dry and cracking skin problems. In particular, near my big toe, there was a noticeable crack that caused me discomfort with every step:

Right sole of foot


I believe the calf sleeves did help me, even in just an 11-miler. They were not obtrusive at all as I wore them.


Later in the afternoon at home, I noticed that I had developed a debilitating left knee problem. I have no idea what exactly caused it, but the general overtraining had clearly caught up to me. When I put weight on my left leg at certain angles, the pain is excruciating. This particular happens when I go down the stairs. On the other hand, I can control whether I feel pain, by stepping very carefully. Something is loose and out of alignment, clearly. This has happened to me before, so I’m not as worried as I could be, but just two weeks away from the marathon, it is not good news.

Recovery plans?

My left knee is my highest priority right now. I am immediately taking a break from running. I will take tomorrow off, and possibly Monday as well. I will do whatever it takes to get the knee all good again, because there is no way I would even go to the start line of the marathon with the knee being as it is today!

I really need to fix my feet, and especially the right one. I really dried out my feet by wearing the Luna Sandals exclusively for running (and almost exclusively for walking) in the past week. So I’m putting lotion on my feet and deciding to wear socks and cushioned shoes for a while. There’s more I’m going to have to do for my feet also. I’ve never in my life had this dry skin problem before on my feet, because in the past when it’s been cold and dry, I’ve always worn socks and closed toe shoes, whether of the usual monotoed variety or Vibram FiveFingers. I’ve never had my feet so exposed before. Especially, running in temperatures of the 30s with huaraches seemed to cause some of my problems.

Finally, the next two weeks really are supposed to be tapering for me. I will be running easy and short and slow for the most part, just to maintain some fitness, but do not plan on doing any super hard workouts any more. We all know that the body takes about two weeks to adapt to any training, and so no hard training I do now will have an effect on my performance in the marathon.


I yet again pushed myself to the edge and overtrained, and have some real knee and feet problems to solve as quickly as possible. I am so ready to dial down the training and get the marathon over with. I don’t want to sound pessimistic or depressed, but that’s the reality of how I’m feeling at this moment. I hope that within the next couple of days, I’ll have recovered from this low point.

comments powered by Disqus