Monday, October 21, 2013

A New Phase of Euphoria: The blood is flowing and I feel the adrenaline!

Man, it sure feels good to be back running.  After 4 months without it, it sure feels good to get those legs moving again.  Besides that, I definitely have much more of an appreciation for the sport.  You definitely notice that you take some things for granted when you aren't able to do them all the time.  But while being laid up, I now realize how lucky I am to be able to run. 

Yesterday, I was running around the track at a nearby middle school in Jackson.  This was my second run back and the beginning of my recovery/base building, as I get back into the running routine again.  As I rounded the track, with headphones on (listening to Keith Urban's new cd: Fuse), I looked up at the sky covered in an abundance of clouds, as the sun shined through.  It was that moment that I felt that Euphoria. That rush.  That amazing feeling that you only get through running.  I also reflected on how much I have been through physically and mentally this past year in regards to my injuries.  I felt accomplishment, for persevering through 2 surgeries and the mental drain on not being able to run.  Running is especially good for releasing stress, so I had to find other ways.  But, throughout it all, I was here on this beautiful day, alive and well, and onto a new phase.

This got me to thinking, as I have had much time to do over the past year.  Where do I go from here?  What are my goals?  How can I achieve those goals?  What do I have to prove?  Should I stop running marathons?  Ultras?  So many questions, lots of time to reflect and think.

I had a lot of things to consider as far as how I should go about returning to running.  I wasn't sure if I should even consider dabbing back into Ultras ever.  Was my training philosophy part to blame?  Would I be better off just "running recreationally"?  I knew deep down I couldn't live with that one.  I knew I had so much more to prove to myself.  Nobody else but myself.  My potential goes so deep, deeper than anyone but I know.  Do I dream of running 50 milers and 100 milers still?  Sure.  Definitely.  I know there will be a time and place for those to come, but that time is not now.  Right now, I just want to concentrate on getting my body healthy and strong.  Once it is healthy and strong, I then want to get stronger and fast.  Once I get fast, I want to get faster.  My main goals now involve laying the groundwork for solid marathon performances.  I've run a 2:46 before, but I know that is way short of what I am capable of. 

The remainder of the year will test my patience, as I allow my body to slowly buildup miles and getting stronger each day with my training regimen.  Hopefully by the end of the year I will have a decent base (I'm shooting for around 30 miles a week at that point).  From there I can consider training for something; possibly a half marathon in the spring, and maybe a marathon in the fall.  All I know is that when I return, I want to return much, much faster than I ever was before.  There's a hell of a lot more euphoria to experience, and I am eager to let it shine through.....

Check out this healthy meal that Nicole and I baked up last night.  We tweaked the recipe.  Doubled it.  Added 2 scoops of Muscle Milk protein and 1/4 cup of Flax Seed.  Can't beat it for a healthy morning breakfast throughout the week, snack, or workout recovery.

Friday, October 18, 2013

It's been awhile

Well, I'm not really sure where to start.  Things have changed drastically since my last post, both in regards to my running and life.  Let's start with life.  First off, I moved to Jackson, MI.  My girlfriend recently graduated from college and found a new position here as an Engineer.  I definitely welcomed the change, even though it wasn't in the best of places.  Also, our plans to stay here were just short term. We've recently made the decision to relocate to the surrounding areas of Boulder/Golden, CO within the next few months.  It's time for a big change and we both love what that area has to offer, as it suits both of our lives a lot better than our current living environment.

In short, that sums up some big changes that have and will occur in my life.  Now, let's get to the running aspect.  This may take awhile.  Tonight, I will be running for the first time in 129 days, if I counted correctly.  If you're wondering why that is, it's not because I decided to become a fat ass and lost all motivation to exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  In fact, it comes down to my obsessive personality and the impact that had on my body due to running.  I'm now coming back from an injury that set me back for quite a few months (probably 18 months have passed since noticeable symptoms came on).  I chose to ignore a lot of the pains and twinges I was feeling for quite sometime.  Even after I knew something was seriously wrong, I kept on running.  I even ran 33.5 miles at once with two sports hernias.  Some might think that is pretty impressive.  Really, it's just idiotic and stupid.  Enduring obscene amounts of pain for no reason really.  Why did I do that, when most would probably hang up the shoes and figure out the problem immediately?  Stubborness.  Obsession.  Hoping the pain would just go away. Denial.

I'd run through pain before; that was the mindset I had.  Ignore the pain, and eventually it will go away.  However, this wasn't like my previous injuries of tendonitis in various places, plantar fascitis, swelling, etc.  This was much more serious.  Diagnosis: two sports hernias and a franctured pelvic bone.  Yep, ignornance got me here.  An ultrasound, MRI, two sports hernia surgeries (followed by several days of pain), and 129 days without running a step, and I'm here today.

How it all started.....I'm not really sure.  I pinpointed a lot of things that I believe led to it though.  #1 High Mileage.  Not necessarily the mileage itself (although I think that was partly to blame), but mostly the lack of dropback weeks (decreasing mileage).  #2 Not enough rest (this goes a bit with not backing off the mileage).  Not only did I not back off mileage weeks, but I would go many days without taking a rest day or taking "easy" days.  #3 Racing frequency.  I raced too often and did not allow myself adequate recovery afterwards.  You can't go go go all the time.  Somtimes you just need to lay low and take it easy or not run at all.  #4 Racing weight.  I personally feel as if I was too bulky for the type of running I was putting myself through.  You don't have to be stick thin like Ryan Hall to run marathons, but if you're goal is to run fast, the more weight you have, the larger the toll will be on your body.  #5 Stretching.  Once I started running more miles, I all but stopped stretching.  This was one thing that I used to do everyday, but when you are running anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a week, finding time for that can be difficult. #6 Lastly, heavy weight lifting.  I used to always pride myself on having a strong body and a pretty large amount of muscle compared to a typical runner.  I often felt that added weight could make it difficult to run faster, but I also felt like having a strong body (not just lower) would help me to stay healthy and avoid leading to injuries.  The excessive heavy lifting however, negated my goal of avoiding injuries, because the type of lifting I was doing wasn't really all that suited for a runner (more sets, lower reps, heavier weights).

The 6 reasons that I just expanded on, are things that I believe at least partially contributed to my injuries.  So, what have I learned from this?  How have I changed?  What will I do differently now?  These are all appropriate questions and I will answer them now.......

I'll just go through each of the 6 points I just covered, one by one and address how I will change each aspect and ultimately become a faster/leaner/stronger, and smarter runner going forward.  #1 High Mileage/Drop back weeks-Going forward I will most definitely alter my strategy when it comes to high mileage and drop back weeks.  Part of my problem with this is that I was training for a 50 miler, and in altering my training from my typical marathon training plan, I went with the notion that "the more miles, the better".  That is definitely not true.  I most certainly will not being running 100+ mile weeks; especially not anytime soon.  If I ever attempt to approach that number, there will definitely be a rhyme and reason; not to mention adequate rest and recovery days mixed into the schedule appropriately.  My goals going forward will be a bit different anyways, but as a general rule of thumb, I think probably no more than 75 miles a week is a sufficient number to max out at when training for a marathon.  #2 Not enough rest-When running a lot of miles, rest/recovery is definitely important.  I now know that more than ever.  Sometimes, some of the most important gains you can make are when you're NOT RUNNING.  In the future I will listen to my body more and give myself more rest and easy days.  Running everyday is not necessary.  #3 Racing Frequency-Hahaha.....let's just say I won't be doing 20+ races a year, let alone 13-14 marathons in that time frame.  I got too caught up/obsessed with racing.  I love to race, but it took a toll on my body.  I now will set my sights on goal races (a handful a year), instead of racing every/every other weekend and literally running myself into the ground.  #4 Racing weight-This one I feel will have a large impact on my running performance/staying injury free in the future.  Excess weight slows you down; that I know.  Although, I didn't consider myself "fat" or "overweight" by any means, I did feel as though I were too bulky/muscular for the type of running I was doing.  I'm not saying if you are 250 pounds that you can't start running, I'm just saying that if your goal is to run as fast as possible, the excess weight takes a larger toll on your body (due to the higher forces that are generated from the pavement pounding).  So, since I am a competitive runner and am training to run as fast as possible, I might as well do it the right way.  When I was last racing, I weighed roughly 163 pounds (give or take a few).  When I hadn't been running (in the months where I had been injured), I peaked at about 170.  Just before we left for vacation to go to California/Colorado, I made the decision to lose weight to get to a weight that would be more optimal for my level of training, and hopefully lead to staying injury free and faster race times.  I felt like that weight was around 150 pounds.  That is now my current weight.  To get to that weight, I counted calories, walked and biked a lot (especially post surgery), and really focused on my diet.  Part of the weight loss was easy, especially having two surgeries in there (you really aren't in the mood to eat a whole lot after those, needless to say).  However, the majority of the weight loss was on purpose and required strong will power and a change in my diet.  I'm happy with my current weight, and I will adjust it accordingly (a few pounds more or less), depending on what I feel most adequately represents "my racing weight".  #5 Stretching-I feel strongly that stretching is an important part of a successful training program.  I will go back to my daily stretching routine.  This also involves warm-ups and cool-downs before and after workouts that had been neglected, as well as dynamic stretching prior to running, and static stretching after.  Back to my nightly stretching/foam roller routine as well.  Icing/ice baths will be implemented into the routine whenever necessary.  #6 Heavy lifting-I've changed this aspect already.  Coming back from the hernia surgery recovery, involved backing off the heavier weights anyways.  So, I've now been lifting with more purpose; higher reps, and lower weights.  As I continue to recover, I will implement plyometrics and more running specific exercises into my routine.  When it comes to weight lifting, anything that will benefit me on the road is where my mindset is now.

There, that's my injury story.  Ya, I was a dumbass.  Ya, I've made mistakes.  Do I have regrets?  Some.  Do I wish this never happened?  Part of me does, but most of me is grateful that it did.  Really, I needed to experience this.  This has made me a smarter runner, allowed me to get over some exercise related obsessions, and hence, allowed me to pursue a very bright running future.  Had all of this never happened, it was bound to eventually.  I'm just glad that I am able to take so many positive things away from a situation that tested me mentally more than anything.  I've endured a lot of challenges over the past year, and I've gotten through them all.  I'm here today, ready to run again.  I'm going to attempt to run 2 miles tonight.  I know I can do it, that's not what I'm up against.  My goal is to make sure that I do it right; listening to my body, slowing/stopping, running less than that if need be.  I plan to run for the rest of my life (or as long as I can).  My body is my vehicle to complete that goal.  I just gotta fill it with the right fuel, listen for aches/pains, and back off when necessary.  I'm leaner, faster, and stronger, and ready to prove to myself what I'm capable of........

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Kal-Haven Ultra Marathon-33.68 Mile Race Summary

Kal Haven Race Summary

Well, another Ultra is in the books.  I must say, that it was extremely rewarding to be able to get out there and race again.  That was probably my longest race hiatus in quite some time.  I truly missed the feeling.  I had been absolutely craving it.  

Friday Night
Friday night, myself and Geers drove separately up to South Haven to the finish line and dropped my car off, so that we would have a car to take us back when we got done.  There was a torrential downpour on the way up to South Haven and once we arrived, I quickly locked up my car and jumped into Geers' car.  We then made our way back to Kalamazoo and headed to Nicole's place for some pasta dinner.  We whipped a massive amount of pasta, which I indulged in several servings because I have no self control :)  We stayed over there for a bit and discussed race plans and mostly what we were going to wear the next day, then Geers dropped me off and I gathered a few things that I hadn't packed and got ready for bed.  I hadn't slept that much this week, so I was hoping to get a good nights sleep.  I actually fell asleep just after 10 pm.

Saturday morning-Race Day!
I have been training for this race for the last several months.  I hadn't really indicated a goal, but when it came down to it, I wanted to run it in under 4 hours.  That is basically around a 7 minute pace.  I have to admit, I was a bit unsure of this due to the fact that I haven't down a ton of running at that pace lately. A lot of my runs have just been about going out there and getting them done.  High mileage definitely effects your pace.  I had hoped that the high mileage would result in some amazing endurance however.

Anyways, back to race morning.  So, Geers and Nicole met at my apartment at 6:45am and we drove over to the Kal-Haven Trail head together to get our packets and get ready to race!  We were there pretty early and were one of the first few cars there.  The early starters just started right after we got there.  We put on our numbers and gathered around Ryan's car.  We took a few pictures as other friends of ours started coming in and I stood there doing a few different stretches to get warmed up and debated on my shoe choice and whether or not to carry a water belt.  In the end, I feel I made the right decision by going with my Kinvaras as opposed to my MT110's, because of the hard surface of the trail.  I do however kind of wish I didn't take my waterbelt, but there is something comforting about knowing the fact that I have water/gatorade on me at all times and it wasn't a huge additional weight, so it wasn't a big deal.  I went to the woods for a quick pee....twice and then put on the waterbelt, turned on the music and headed for the start.  A few friends wished me luck and I wished them the same.  I headed towards the front of the start line and before I knew it we were off.  South Haven here we come.

Thinking about the fact that I would be doing something this "crazy" 5 years ago would have shocked the hell out of me.  I mean, I was lining up to run from Kalamazoo to South Haven, which is nearly 34 miles a way.  I mean, who in their right mind does stuff like that?!?!  It takes a different kind of thought process to enjoy this stuff, but I absolutely love it.  Back to the race.  We were off.  I saw Chris Greggory at the front.  He has won this race the past several years.  I had no intention whatsoever of trying to keep pace with him for 34 miles, I just wanted to do the best that I can.  That's always my intentions.  I will always give my best, hope others do their best and what happens, happens.  The first mile was pretty slow.  I ran like a 7:14, but it was good to warm-up.  I hung with the lead pack for about 3/4 of a mile and then I let them slip away.  I have one too many times made the mistake of going out to fast, only to cramp like a mother fu*#@* later in the race.  It is one thing to feel such immense, horrible pain during a marathon, but to experience that in a 34 mile race, well, I wanted no part in that.  I always try and run a race the fastest I possibly can (duh), since I am racing it. For that, I pace myself accordingly.  Several runners that I see taking off early, I know will pay later in the race and I will catch them.  And, that is exactly what happened.  For the first 13 miles Geers and I ran side by side.  We were running around 7 minutes, maybe a little over 7 minute pace for a lot of the early miles, which was fine with me.  My goal was to get to Bloomingdale and feel like my legs felt ready to hammer down the remaining 16 miles.  Once, we hit Gobles I kicked it up a bit and blew through the aid station, managing to run by and grab a Shot Block without stopping.  I kicked up the pace the next few miles and I noticed a guy that was running with Ryan and I for the last few miles decided to follow suit.
He caught up to me and we ran together until Bloomingdale.  I stopped quickly to grab some water and then caught back up to him.  Little did I know, we'd end up pushing each other for 20+ miles, right until the very finish.  We started pushing the pace and I looked down and saw 6:40s.  I was kind of scared, because I realized we were going to be running nearly 34 miles, but I was feeling great so we kept at it.

Over the course of the race, we continually picked people off as we ran side by side.  We were making an incredible team.  We caught the last guy with a little over a mile to go and he seemed very bummed when we told him we were doing the Ultra.  The last mile was a 6:07 pace, I couldn't believe it.  I hammered down the last few with Rob and it came down to a sprint to the finish.  Rob edged me out by two seconds, but I most certainly wasn't bitter.  If it weren't for him, I would have never pushed that hard to begin with.  I managed 4th place overall and won my age group.  I was pretty satisfied with the fact that I ran a 6:53 pace for almost 34 miles and besides Rob, the only people that beat me was a former world champion ultra runner that ran a 3:38 and broke the course record, and the two time reigning champ.  Next year, I want to take a stab at that 3:38.  Overall, it was a very rewarding day and I was pleased with how I did.  I'm definitely digging these ultras.  The strangest part about this one was that I think I could have held that pace for a good 5 more miles, which I means I should have pushed harder, especially earlier.  Next race will be the Glass City Marathon coming up, but I am really looking forward to the Yankee Springs full!

Elapsed Time:3:51:58
Avg Pace:6:53 min/mi
Best Pace:4:19 min/mi
Elevation Gain:234 ft
Elevation Loss:586 ft
MinElevation:584 ft
MaxElevation:966 ft
Avg Pace