Genetics: A branch of biology that deals with the heredity and variation of organisms
Basically what that means is that your parents, and their parents, and their parents, and their parents provide you with everything from your muscles to brain power to blood pressure to bone mass to lung capacity to baldness and everything in between. I am 5'10" and weigh anywhere from 170-180. My father is about 6'0" and in his youth weighed about the same as me. My mother was about 5'3" and had a fairly small frame. I know both of my grandmothers were less than 5'5" and had fairly small frames also. I didn't know either of my grandfathers so I don't know how big or small they were. My own children are smaller than most other kids. Abe has always been just a little shorter and skinnier than all of his classmates. Eli I suppose is just about average but by no means bigger than anyone. So needless to say, the Arnold genetic makeup is that I am designed to be of average size and build, slightly on the skinny side. In order for me to build muscle or gain speed and/or endurance, I have to train very hard. There's a saying in the Exercise Physiology field, that if you want to be an elite athlete, you need to choose your parents wisely.
I am saying all of this because I am now 35 years old and realizing that I might have some limitations that my mind doesn't agree with. My mind thinks that I can run this marathon. My mind thinks that I can train harder than everyone else because I've always been in good enough shape to just jump right into a training schedule and complete whatever it is I want to complete. Traditional training schedules have never applied to me because I have always kept myself in good enough shape to allow myself to just jump right in. But I'm getting older now and I am finding that I can't do that anymore. I'm looking back at all of the little setbacks I've had over the years and realize that while I have been mentally superior, actually just more stubborn, to everyone I train against or everything I train for, my body hasn't necessarily agreed with me.
When I played little league baseball, I had elbow problems that started when I was 12. I still have these problems if I throw too much to my kids. When I was in junior high school, I had a stress fracture in my back that forced me to wear a back brace while playing football through 8th and 9th grade. When I was in high school, I had different elbow problems that forced me to wear a pad on my elbow because it swelled up after every practice and game. I have a reverse curve in my neck, a recurring muscle problem in my ribs, had 2 shoulder surgeries on my left shoulder, and probably need one on my left. My mind never let me quit. I always worked harder than everyone else which is what allowed me to be a better athlete than what my physical genetics would allow. It's not too often you see a 155 lb guy walking on to play Division I football for a Iowa State but I did. Granted, I got crushed once I got there and my physical limitations had a giant spotlight on them, but I kept getting up off of the ground after every nasty hit I took. Mentally, I didn't care and thought I was just as good, if not better, than that 6'3", 210 lb receiver I was playing against. Physically, I wasn't. I always put in more hours in the weight room, more hours doing conditioning drills, more hours running than everyone else. Because I was slightly undersized, I knew I had to in order to compete. My mind pushed my body further than it wanted and my success showed on the track, baseball field, or football field.
In more recent years, I have had several setbacks in regards to CrossFit training. Both of my shoulders have recurring problems that have forced me to not compete in the Games each of the last 2 years. This year is an exception because I focused on marathon training, which I will get to next. The point here is that every time I would start pushing myself harder, I would always get setback with some kind of injury. Whether it's my neck, my shoulders, or something wrong with my back, I would always have a setback. Again, my mind tells me to go while my body says whoa.
Which takes me to my marathon training. I have completed 2 half marathons. One of them I ran when I was 27 and it was easy. The next one I ran when I was 29 and that was a lot tougher because my right knee was hurting during my training and during the race. I should've known that was a sign of things to come. This year I decided to train for the full marathon. It's something I've always wanted to do because I always love breaking down physical barriers. But after 12 weeks of training, with 5 more to go, I'm realizing that I won't be able to complete this race. Every time I run over 12 miles, my left knee hurts. I attempted a 20 miler yesterday and as usual, around mile 11, the pain started. It got to the point where there were a couple of times I had to stop moving altogether for a couple of minutes. I alternated 5 minute walks with 10 minute runs the rest of the way. I traveled 18 miles in total with the last 7 being in severe pain. Today, my left knee is in a lot of pain and my right knee is in a little bit more pain than usual.
I realize today I cannot run this marathon. I've never said the word "can't" when it comes to an athletic event. That has never ever crossed my lips. I've always said that I'll train hard and do my best, and I've always succeeded. But I've been training hard and I can't. At least not right now. That's an extremely sad realization. My body is not doing what my mind wants it to do. Again, looking back over the years I've always been able to simply will myself through the pain. But I can't do that anymore. When elite athletes retire, they site one of two reasons. They either don't have the mental capacity to put in the insane amount of work they know it takes to compete, or their body doesn't have the ability to do what their mind is telling it to do anymore. The later is where I am currently at. I have always been able to give my genetics the middle finger and push it aside. But I don't think I can do it anymore. It's an extremely hard thing to realize.
But all of this training is not going to go to waste. I am going to run the Derby Mini Marathon. I will simply cut back my training a little and prepare for that. There is a new marathon in Louisville in the fall. I think I will start training a little further out, adjust my running/strength training schedule, and give it another try. I refuse to quit. I have never quit anything or allowed myself be beaten by a stupid event. I will try again. But for now, I have to allow my genetics to tell me that I can't be that 18 year old anymore and I have to allow myself to heal. So I have a new goal. My half-marathon PR is at 1:52, and that too was with knee pain. My goal for the one coming up is 1:45. That would put me at an 8 minute mile for 13 miles.
I'm very depressed and sad to come to this realization that I can't continue to simply will myself through an event. At some point, my physical limitations win. But I refuse to lose completely. I will do my best at the half marathon and will set a new PR for myself. I will then compete in the full marathon in the Fall and will succeed at that one. I promise. After all, that's the purpose of this blog. To continue being the athlete I thought I have always been.