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........

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