Monthly Archives: June 2010

Status Updates

Today I’ll be attending a press conference in Carmel, Indiana where the mayor and other city representatives will be unveiling plans for a “nationally promoted” June marathon. Aside from the marathon, a 1/2 marathon and 1 mile family fun walk will also take place. The big news though is that Carmel has made a bid for the USTAF 8k championships to also take place that weekend. The 8k championships will bring in olympic caliber runners from across the country to race the streets of Carmel, but Carmel must first win the bid among 7(?) other entries. Local racer Aaron Moody invited myself and two other local elite runners to attend the press conference.

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Regarding training, things are going quite well. I’m still running consistently and am working on two consecutive 70 miles weeks with workouts and long runs. I’ve felt only very minor issues with my leg that seem to be more related to the stresses of building strength than anything damaging. I’m still sticking to my strength routines and the recovery after each workout gets better and better. My fitness is still leaving something to be desired, but considering I was out of running for 3 months straight, this is to be expected. I bombed a couple workouts when I couldn’t hit my goals, but each one gets closer and closer to my target times, which considering the heat and humidity we are running in, is very encouraging. I think I’m about 2 weeks of workouts away from feeling confident in my fitness and close to race-ready, but fortunately my next scheduled race isn’t until August.

Speaking of workouts, next week I’ll be visiting my son in North Carolina and considering they are having 100 degree temperatures right now, I might be doing my more fundamental runs in a way I never have before. I don’t mean in the heat, but rather on the treadmill at the hotel. Once before I did a 15 miler on the treadmill this past winter, but if things don’t turn around out there I’ll be doing a full 20 miles…going nowhere. Fortunately, I have developed the mentality where if something seems really, really absurd, I find a sort of joy in doing it. Maybe it’s part of my extremist perspective, but running 20 miles on a treadmill seems so ridiculous that I just have to try it. I mean, at least I’ll know just how ridiculous it is. What if I died never knowing what that’s like? Tragic.

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I want to run Chicago. My first (and only road) marathon there was such a positive experience that I feel it is another great opportunity and proper course to make a go for the trials. Of course, this means nothing in relation to the level of fitness I will have developed by the time October 10th comes around, so actually registering for the race will have to wait, but I still want to use Chicago as my goal race. Not too long ago I had written it off, but as soon as the injury subsided I feel I can still make a go for it. The window of development is much smaller now, but there is still that chance. And to add even more fuel to my fires of motivation, news articles keep coming out about the elite racers that will be entering this years race. Ryan Hall. Chewy. Desiree Davila. etc. Granted, I won’t be racing any of them, but it’s always cool to run a race with athletes of this level and be able to compare your performances. Then there is the financial incentive. Granted, my ultimate motivation is to qualify for the trials, but added to that, Chicago is offering $1000 to any american runner going under 2:22 and $2500 to any runner going under 2:19 (my goal time). Icing on the cake. Plus, I promised Michelle that if I hit either of those times the money is hers to spend on either a Macbook Pro or a new Mountain Bike. The 1000 would only go so far in those purchases, so now I have even more incentive to go 2:19…and she has more incentive to push me there. ๐Ÿ™‚ Great….now it’s on the internet, which means it’s official, and quite possibly legally binding. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Rude Awakening

This injury, more appropriately termed “situation”, has taught me a number of things about my running and abilities. It has been nothing short of a smack in the face, but not necessarily the painful kind. It has been more of an encouraging slap in the face, if there is such a thing.

For a long time since (re)starting this whole competitive running thing about 3 years ago I had no idea where I stood as a competitive runner. I just ran. I instantly started placing high in the local races, but I felt they were nothing more than just small local races, however, when I started running bigger races or races out of town I realized I was still placing relatively high. And then, when I realized my PR’s were faster than the top world class women runners, I started to consider that I might have tapped into something beyond my insecurities and perceptions of my abilities. I started to think I might be a pretty decent runner.

Still, I curbed (and still do) my ego and continued on, making this an effort against myself more than anyone else. I just wanted to run faster and faster, and as I was doing so I started noticing my times surpassing marks I once thought were entirely unattainable. I also started noticing I was getting closer and closer to competitive running mile markers so to speak. I mean, the term “olympics” became part of my vocabulary in a very real and very personal sense. Granted, we’re still talking about the Trials, but “olympics” none the less. It’s still all so surreal that I am currently pursuing that goal, that mile marker.

The problem is, the progression I’ve experienced in my body and consequently in my running times has not translated to my mind as much as it needs to be. I’ve been out of balance between my physical and mental games, and in that I feel has led to my recent “injury”. See, I’ve been thinking like a runner, a competitive runner even, but I haven’t been thinking like an “elite” competitive runner, which means something when it comes to the physical stresses we place on our bodies.

3 months ago, just before my injury, I was running 3 speed workouts a week, including a 20 mile long run on Saturdays and topping out at 100 miles a week, with the intent to keep increasing mileage. I didn’t really think much of that load except that it was going to make me stronger and faster. I didn’t think anything of it except that it was another step in progressing my running abilities. And it was what I WASN’T thinking of that ran me right into an injury. What I wasn’t thinking of was my program being close to the stress level of paid, sponsored, world class runners. I mean, I’m just some hoosier working a full-time job and trying to run when I get the chance. I’m not world class. I’m not even on the radar for free product, let alone a shoe contract from an athletic corporation. I’m just “a runner”. But that sort of stress level, despite the lack of contract and support, is not just for runners. It’s a program that not too many people make time for or are willing to carry, partly due to a matter of inspiration and partly due to the stresses it places on the body.

And that was my problem. I wasn’t taking into account what it takes to run at an elite level beyond running. I just thought I could run more and more, take a shower, maybe do a little stretching and that’s that. But that’s not how world class runners and fully supported runners do it. They know how demanding it is to run at that level and know what extra work they have to do to maintain.

For instance, a fully supported runner doing 3 workouts a week, with a long run and hitting 100 plus miles every week has a significantly different day than I do. They get up and run. Then they take a nap, allowing their body to rest. They spend part of the day stretching and doing strength exercises for their core and legs. Then they take a nap. They get access to all sorts of ridiculous technology (anti-gravity treadmills) and the best trainers around who pay attention to every small little “niggle” they might encounter. And they run twice, sometimes 3 times a day. Then they sleep a lot. Can you imagine?

Conversely, I work full time, run once a day, never nap, don’t have the time to drive for a massage, don’t have the money for a dedicated physical therapist, and probably don’t get enough sleep every night. It’s just NOT the same. Not even close. This isn’t to say I’m destined to run myself into injury every time I put on the stress, but these differences highlight where I am as a runner and what I need to do to stay healthy.

I’m running LIKE an elite runner, but I’m not living like one and this injury was the encouraging slap in the face to wake me up to that fact. Knowing what these elite runners have to do to take care of themselves while running at that level has made me realize just where I stand as a runner and what I need to do to stay injury free. Up until this point I thought I could just run and get away with it, not doing anything else to supplement my training, but that has all changed.

I’m now incorporating a significant amount of strength training for both my legs and core, making sure my body can handle the pounding and stress I place on it as we increase the intensity and increase the mileage of my program. It’s just unrealistic to think I can run so hard and my body will take care of the rest. We have our physical limits and although we push ourselves in order to push those limits, doing so takes a more holistic approach in regards to the physical body.

My gimpy leg was a huge lesson for me and a huge wake up call as to what sort of runner I’ve turned into. Sure, it wasn’t that long ago that I started off on my first run in shoes too small, chafing swimming trunks, a t-shirt and at a distance I wasn’t even sure of (5 miles it turned out), but humble beginnings must be shed at some point. I’m not that runner anymore and just because I’m not at a fully supported level where I get naps, massages, and anti-gravity technology, it doesn’t mean I’m not running at that level.

I need to accept that I’m trying to be one of the best marathoners in the country (125 give or take Trials qualifiers) and doing so takes an effort above and beyond simply running. It means taking care of my physical body in a variety of ways, getting stronger and more balanced. Part of that also entails catching my perception of the runner I am trying to be up to the level of physical effort which will create that runner.

I wish I would have come to this conclusion earlier, but if this injury is what it took to get me there, then so be it. Now ย it’s back to work, a more complete work this time.

Squarely square one

I haven’t been very fair in this blogging process. As evidenced by the gaps in posting days, I’ve been pretty quiet lately with my posting. Admittedly, part of this has to do with a busy personal life right now, but the greater influence has been my unwillingness to talk about running when I’ve been unable to do so. I would like to say I could have offered a more complete perspective of my experience, both good and bad, so as to give a more honest insight into what this whole competitive running entails, but I continuously found myself uninspired, sulking and depressed. Writing in this state would not have been very fun for anyone to read, myself included. There really is too much moaning and whining in the blogosphere and although I’ve done a fair amount of contribution to this in the past, I’m trying to be more positive and constructive when I post. I want readers to feel inspired after reading my blog, or at least informed, at the worst amused. I just know, given my emotional state through the past 2 -3 months I would have only have given you all a lot of cryassing and whiny 1st world problems kind of drivel. That’s not what I want from running. I want to offer to you what running offers to me. Inspiration. Satisfaction. Excitement. So I was quiet for a spell.

But I’m writing you now eh? So that means something.

With fingers firmly and hopefully crossed, it means I’m standing solidly on square one of the path that leads to a fall marathon and, if all goes well, an attempt to qualify for the US Olympic Marathon Trials.

More specifically, this means my injury has turned around and as of this week I’m back to consistent, dedicated and difficult training! WOOOOOOOOOOOO! Seriously. I mean that.

Things started to turn around a couple weeks ago when I got so fed up with riding my bike, on the trainer, on my porch, sweating, staring into a not so vast landscape of….my neighbor’s porch, going nowhere, that I just HAD to try running again. I knew I wasn’t “there” yet, but I just couldn’t tolerate missing morning runs, missing the amazing Spring/Summer weather, missing everything I love about running in this season, so I made an effort to add more runs to my biking. And things went decently. I would head to a grouping of grassy soccer fields blocks from my house and run them in circles. First for 30 minutes, then 45, then back to 30, then 45, all the while trying to gauge how my leg was handling the stresses. Everything was going pretty well and I kept doing some bike alternating, but then one day my leg got all messed up and I feared I had set myself back another few weeks. A few days later however, I was able to gently run again. I relayed this to my coach who excitedly informed me that if being able to run 4 days after my leg was “jacked”, then that is progress! Being the experienced optimist he is, I considered his words and realized he was right. When this happened in the past I was down for weeks, but this only took 3 or so days. That WAS progress!

So I continued taking it easy and more importantly concentrating on my strength workouts that Darrel Barnes of St. Vincent’s Sports Performance Center had given me and slowly, but surely, my leg got stronger and stronger. I was able to do the exercises with greater ease and I started including more reps each time. I could actually see my atrophied muscle getting bigger and each time I went out to run, this time on the side of our paved trail, the pain lessened and lessened. Everything was starting to work again!

Then it happened. Last week I went out for a run…a full 10 miles. Something I hadn’t done since early March, just before the race that put me out of commission. It wasn’t just that I had completed 10 miles though, it was HOW I completed it. There I am running along, my stride not comprised by tight muscles or pain, and all of a sudden it hits me…that running feeling. All of a sudden I was my old running self again, spitting the ground out behind me, passing every runner sharing the pavement with me and getting faster and faster later into the run. It was like a switch had been thrown and I was running as if I had never been injured in the first place. And that was that. I was absolutely, uncontrollably ecstatic.

From there on out I’ve been remaining consistent with my running plans, still being tentative about my situation in that I don’t relapse into another brief hiatus as my leg builds up again. I’m still doing a little bit of alternating between running and the bike, but man is it hard to be on the bike when I know I have the ability to run freely again, and this past Tuesday I even had my first workout (12 miles with 4 x 1 mile) since pre-injury. It wasn’t the greatest ego boost, but I was satisfied with not only how it went, but that I didn’t suffer any residual pain or repercussions from the effort, save a sore butt muscle or two.

It just feels SO GOOD. Like I had a limb reattached or something.

And just in time….at this point last year I had JUST made the decision to run a marathon and started the preliminary training that would lead to Chicago. Granted, I’m not as strong right now as I was last year at this point, but since I have such a solid base from last year, once I get rolling again and get back up to fitness, I have no doubts that I’ll respond well and surpass my abilities from a year ago. I just need to keep taking it slowly as we get to that point and measure my progress.

The plan now is to keep building fitness slowly, continue my strength program, continue my core program and see where I’m at as we approach Chicago. If I’m ready by Chicago, we run there, if not, we find a marathon about a month later and try then. Everything depends on how and how fast I return to fitness.

The good news is that I’m now there, standing back on square one and ready to move forward again. It’s been a loooong 3 months. And I have a number of people to thank who helped me through it, but I’ll get to that in another post. I’ve also learned a lot about injuries, recovery, the demands of running at this level, my emotional investment into this and so on, but again, we’ll save all that for another post.

Until then, here we go again.

It’s good to be back friends.