Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Aftermath & Looking Ahead

It's been more than 6 weeks since my last post. When the blog goes dark, it's never a good thing. Like my training, when it's humming along, good things are happening. Not much good to report, right now. Or is it?

Following Lookout Mountain, I was a hurting unit. Giant cankles two days later, and it took me a good 5 days before I was walking normally again. In the span of two weeks, I ran a couple times. No more than 5 miles at a time. But, after two weeks had passed, I felt dramatically better. Then, quite suddenly, I didn't feel good at all.

As I was finishing up an easy run on a Sunday morning, I noticed a pain on the outside of my left knee. It was debilitating, but it was disconcerting. I stretched well post-run, especially my IT-band, and hoped it would go away. It didn't. I ran on it the next two days, including a TMR TNR during which I barely noticed it. The following morning, I started out with D on a run, but only to get two miles out and have to walk home...on one of the few single digit temperature days we've had this winter. I haven't run since. That was January 4.

What is it? Well, that's the $64,000 question. The pain is clearly on the outside of my knee. It's the cause of the pain that's far more mysterious. I've been getting regular massage treatments, foam rolling, stretching, sacrificing goats, but not much has changed in terms of the pain. What has changed is that with each massage treatment, we're peeling away layers of problems. In short, Lookout Mountain really, really screwed me up. Now, I just have to heal.

Here's the odd part: I'm really OK with it. Yes, obviously, I'd like to be back running daily. But, I'm secure in the fact that it will heal, and I'm willing to be patient. It's very unlike me. But, then again, I'm getting what I deserve. Looking at my long term training leading up to Lookout Mountain, I know now that I wasn't ready to run 50 miles. When I broke my ribs and punctured my lung at the beginning of April, I followed that up with a string of sinus infections and two calf strains. The combination of those maladies kept me from seriously training until the beginning of August. That's four months off. I was able to run a bit during that time, but nothing consistent. So, six weeks after starting my training in earnest, I ran the Pisgah Mountain 50k. Either fortunately or unfortunately, I recovered well after that race and thought I was ready to take on 50 miles. And, perhaps I would have been had I not run the Mount Desert Island Marathon a month later. It took me a good three weeks to fully recover from that race, and such a lapse in training was something that I just couldn't afford. Don't get me wrong, my big PR at MDI (on very little marathon-specific training) was a huge confidence boost. But, confidence alone won't keep you from getting injured in a 50 mile race. And, with three down weeks after MDI, that left me with only 4 weeks to "sneak in" my 50-mile specific training. It wasn't right recipe for me. Throw in the technical and sloppy nature of the course at Lookout Mountain, and it was just too much. And, looking back on it, I'm really not surprised that I'm injured. All of this may sound like I regret running Lookout Mountain. Quite the contrary. It was a fantastic experience. And even knowing what I know now, I'd do it again.

Where does this leave me? It leaves me with no races on my calendar. Normally, I need a race. I need a goal. I need something to motivate me. I've decided that if I'm going to fully recover, I need to remove that pressure. It's pressure I put on myself. Right now, I need to focus on getting healthy then getting strong. It's not until then that I will even think about racing. This shift is radical one for me. If I could, I'd race three times a week. I don't like training. Training is just a means to an end. And, in some ways, it still is, but this time my results won't be posted on Coolrunning or UltraSignUp. One day, I'll be ready. More importantly, I'm convinced that I'll be even stronger than before. Speaking of strength, the state of my body following Lookout Mountain led me to the conclusion that I need to do regular strength and core work. This is another radical shift. I'd often said, "They don't tell you to do pushups in the middle of a race. Why do I need them?" Well, I need them and a number of other exercises, too. Right now, they're my only athletic outlet, so, hopefully, they'll become part of my routine.

I would like to run another 50 mile race again, but, just like whatever that first race may be, it will happen when I'm ready. And, I'm not concerned when that will be. Additionally, it may not even be a race. With the popularity of ultramarathons exploding right now, events are filling up quickly and lottery odds are staggering. Race plans need to be made up to a year in advance. I'm not comfortable with that. Sure, I can easily think of a dozen or so races I'd like to enter, but I want to enter them on my terms. I want to enter them when I'm ready. If I'm not certain that I can be ready when it's time to sign up, then that race isn't for me. And, again, with the growing popularity of the sport, it seems unlikely that I'll be able to sign up as close to the event as I'd like. So, perhaps I'll be doing my ultras in other places, at other times and on other trails. "Two weeks from now looks like a good time to run 50 miles." Maybe this will be how it plays out. Maybe it won't.

Hopefully, I'll be able to post regular training updates soon. It sure would be nice to be a runner again.


If you can't get enough of my ramblings, be sure to check out an interview I did with talking about the experience of my first 50 mile race. Great guys doing great work. It was fun chat. And, it's not nearly as long as my race report. :)