Two weeks ago, I ran in the 12 hour Lemming Loop. I started off strong, and was doing fairly well the first few laps of the 5km course. Then I tripped on a root. I had been nursing a minor groin pull for a few weeks, and this trip "tweaked" the muscle in an unpleasant way. I trudged on. The next lap, I tripped on another root and the muscle was tweaked a bit harder. I trudged on.
As I was approaching the 41k mark, 5 hours into the race, I had to dodge a puddle by running over a bump in the trail. I took it at an odd angle, and the "tweak" in my groin began to throb. For the sake of my body, I had to call it a day. I limped into the aid station, hung around, felt sorry for myself, and went home to mope for 2 weeks.
During those two weeks, I ran as little as I could. I took rest days, had short runs on the weekends, and limited myself to 1 fast run on Wednesdays. I figured my season was over, and I should just resolve to running on easy-mode.
Last weekend, I had my last race of the season. It was a 22km trail race. My groin wasn't hurting in the slightest, and I was feeling well rested. I had resolved to make this a "fun run", and the first 50 or so metres of the race I was just jogging along. Then something in my head snapped.
I've never been able to "just run" a race. I have a ridiculous competitive streak in me. I said out loud "What the hell, this is the last race of the year" and I increased my pace to slightly-faster-than 8 min/mile. And I felt great. I navigated the hills and the roots, without tripping or slowing down. The only part of the course that I had to slow down for was a 1 mile stretch where the ground got really soft and uneven, and I had to watch my footing. I finished the race in 7th place, and came within 2 minutes of my half marathon PB!
I'm now a convert to the church of rest days and tapers. I'm going to take the rest of the month easy before I start my speedwork in November. This most recent race has rekindled my dreams of running a marathon sub-4.