Back in July, I posted about my run training being confined
to the pool. I had injured my foot – torn or strained a tiny ligament that gave
me a whole heap of trouble. I was in the midst of training for Ironman Canada – which
is basically a really long swim followed by a really long bike ride topped off
by a full marathon – and I was determined not to let an injury sideline my
effort. Under the advice and guidance of my physical therapist (Bob Cranny) and my coach (Michellie Jones), I
transferred all my run training miles to the pool for three weeks straight,
beginning six weeks out from race day. In the final three weeks, I cautiously
added in a bit of land running, still doing the majority in the water. When all
was said and done, my longest land run (I train according to time, not mileage)
was one hour and forty five minutes. My longest pool session was two and a half
hours.

I’ve received many questions from fellow runners and
triathletes wondering how my foot held up and whether or not I was able to
successfully complete the marathon, so I figured some of you might be
interested as well. I’m happy to report that not only did I complete the
marathon, running every bit of the 26.2 miles, I managed to have the fastest
run split of my entire Ironman career (this was my 5th race at this
distance, and arguably the most challenging run course). Prior to race day, I
truly had no idea what to expect. I felt that I was in excellent shape from all
the cycling and swimming I had done, but I certainly did not feel as though I
had trained adequately to run a marathon. My coach reminded me that I had
indeed put in the requisite miles, just in a way that was much less taxing on
my body. (The mental strain of running 2.5 hours in a pool was an entirely
different matter!) She also reminded me of the numerous accounts of athletes
running to personal best performances after rehabilitating in the pool.

By the morning of the race, I had convinced myself that I
was going to have a great day, capped off by an amazing run. All throughout the
swim and bike portions of the event, I looked forward to reaching the final
stage. And when I finally got on my feet, I flew out of the transition area
with a peppy stride and a massive smile – one which rarely faded throughout the
remainder of the race. Never have I felt so fresh heading into an Ironman marathon.
Sure, the balls of my feet hurt from being unaccustomed to running on pavement.
But that was a pain I easily blocked out, overshadowed by the pure pleasure of
finally being able to really run. Aside from the energy provided by my happy
attitude, I felt that my running form benefitted greatly from my time in the
pool. My arms swung with more consistent strength and momentum than I usually
employ and my knees lifted higher and with greater ease – both direct results
of the somewhat exaggerated movements I practiced in the pool. That, combined
with feet, legs, knees and hips that had not been as overly-taxed as is normal
during Ironman training and I bordered on being bouncy out on that run course.

Sure, I slowed down a bit in the latter miles of the
marathon, and my smile likely turned to more of a twisted grimace as I pushed
through the final 10k, but overall it was an amazing and wonderful experience
and a valuable lesson in blind faith and trust. From here on out, I’ll gladly
use the pool anytime I have an injury which might hamper my regular running,
and I might even do so at times when my body is completely healthy, simply in
order to avoid unnecessary wear and tear.

– Holly Bennett