Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ashenfelter 8k, Glen Ridge NJ, 11/26/15

Photo by Mark Nyhan.

Today I ran the A8K. This was my first serious race back since a very long frustrating period of back pack.  After ruling out serious problems and backing down training for long enough to manage the pain, I am ready to start over.  I have not run a fast, short race since Aug 22.  I stopped racing seriously after the intermittent pain became so debilitating in races and training that it stopped me from enjoying the experience of running.

I saw several doctors. I ruled out major concerns.  I then set up my office to allow me to sit for long periods of time in a much more supported position (which I believe is the cause of all this pain… 20+ extra hours of sitting per week while I write paper for school).  I am starting to focus a little more flexibility and strengthening as well, to help rehab the area I need to work on.

Today, I was not sure what I could do. My volume has been low. I have not done speed work.  But I have been running enough to justify going.  I did run 20 miles at Bucks on Nov 15th most at a 9:00 pace.  I knew I could cover 5 miles. But I had so many questions?  How fast could I run?  How much fitness have I lost?  Would I blow up on the course and end up walking?  Would the pain return and stop me in my tracks? 

I almost didn't go to the race. I woke up  thinking I had made a big mistake.  I should have just run a few miles with Sidney and dog, gone into work for a few hours and then headed to my parents house for Thanksgiving Dinner.  But instead I felt like I was setting myself up to run right into a burning building. 

The beauty of a Check-In race is that you cannot fail.  It is a test of baseline fitness and it is what it is.  So after a really nice mile warm up with Nikki, who ran amazing today, I lined up and hoped for the best.  I really just wanted to run without back pain shutting me down. 

Gun Goes Off
I had already used my inhaler before the start, so I was a little surprised that I was having a lot of trouble breathing almost immediately.  But really, I wasn't that surprised.  I have not run this fast in a long time.  One of the odd symptoms I have had, in addition to back pain, has been shortness of breath at rest. It has been a long time since I had this much trouble.  But the breathing trouble slowed me down and helped me find that Red-Line pace that allowed me to pushed up against the entire way.  M1 7:11

I really used the rolling nature of the course to maintain my pace, working the downs, slowing on the ups.  I tried to never let my breath get completely lost. Throughout M2, I started to feel a very sharp pins and needles type pain in the bottom of my left foot. "Oh Great! I am going to tear my plantar fascia today. I knew I should have stayed home!" Throughout the mile it did not get worse, but it was starting to impact my foot plant. I decided to wait a bit longer to see how it changed. I was already in this thing and not ready to step off the course at 1.5 miles.  If the pain got worse I would stop.  M2 7:14

Through the third mile the plantar fascia pain subsided completely, which made me happy. I am not sure what that was about but I am glad it was not significant. I tried to find my rhythm.  I cannot say that felt any more tired than mile 2 and I was feeling like I really could finishing this off at this speed.  Esly passed me and encouraged me to come with him, but I just waived him on to go without me. I really didn't want to push too hard right now. I felt that this was all I had and I wanted to make it to the finish.  I wanted to save a little something for the end! M3 7:10

At this point I had noticed my back starting to feel like it was getting irritated.  Not painful.  But rather just very fatigued.  Not the pain that has been shutting me down for month.  This was more like a feeling like I am simply too week to hold my spine stable.  I could feel myself twisting and I did my best to find a comfortable position to finish off the race. The fatigue slowly got worse throughout the rest of the race, but there was really just one mile left and I knew I could do it. M4 7:12

After the short steep hill that felt like a mountain, we started our trek to the finish. As much as I believed at mile 3, that I could kick in the final stretch, I didn't have any other gears to tap into.  I felt tired, but not fully spent. I felt out of race-shape, but not as bad as I thought I wold be.  My back was tired but not in pain like in May-Oct. Last .97 7:04 

Overall, I took this race very cautiously. I was not interested in reversing all the healing that has occurred from reducing my mileage.  I did not feel like I needed to or should dig for a big finish, even if I could. Since I couldn't kick even if I wanted to, this did not really matter much. 

At the end of this run, I can say I am happy that I don't feel broken.  I just feel out of shape.  I can fix "out of shape."  This is what I do. 

Time: 35:4
AG 12th
Gender 88/ 1529
OA 448/3497

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bucks County Marathon, Back Pain, and “Rebuilding the Car”, Washington Crossing State Park, PA, 11/15/15

Photo by Byran's wife.  Kim, Rich, me, Bryan, and Gary
About Bucks.
I ran 20.65 miles. 19.5 of those were pain free. This makes me happy. As soon as my back started to feel a little off, I shut it down and got out of the race. Right now, I am not trained to run very far and had no business expecting to finish a marathon.

So why even go? Because I had six athletes entered in this race. I wanted to be present to witness their success or to provide support and perspective if needed. I also wanted to give myself the chance to run as far as could with Kim and Gary at a sub-4 pace before I stepped off the course. I wanted to be helpful. I wanted to feel like myself again. I also wanted to try out a pair of new shoes, Adidas Adios Boosts (breaking all the rules). I wanted to see how far I could run before the pain started so I would have an idea of where I stood. I never expected to finish. I never expected to get 20 miles!

Bucks County is a really nice race, especially for those who enjoy running on dirt. I would do this race again, but not as a goal race. In my opinion the course is slow but the dirt does minimize impact. I felt that I was working too hard to hold the pace we needed to have a chance at breaking 4 hours. But I am out of peak shape, so I was not surprised to find 9:00 per miles tiring for me. I also feel it ended up being a very warm day that started off cold. Many people were over dressed. I was extremely dehydrated during the race despite drinking often.

I am happy I went. I had a great time. I enjoyed running just to run. I feel disappointed that I did not finish, but not really. The reason I can race well is because I train hard. I felt I hit a wall at 18-19 miles and it Felt GREAT to hit that wall. There is something amazing about running until you are out of fuel. This is how to stimulate change. I was feeling amazing at 13 miles. By 15 the work was getting harder. By 18, my legs were exhausted and by 20 I was done. I am sure it did not help that I gave away one of my 2 gels to a lady trying to BQ, but I had a feeling she might need it more than me.

I always have fun with Kim and I wanted to start the race with her. We found Gary just before the start. I have trained Gary for months but never met him in person.I really love my job. I can build relationships with people through cyberspace. Then we meet in person, feeling like we know each other so well. It was nice to see Rich and Antonio out on the course and Kirsten there for support. It also was great to finally meet Bryan (and his wife) in person, who is one of my newest runners working on a Spring goal.

About Back Pain.
What can I say.... I have back pain and no one knows why. The best news is that no one knows why I have back pain, so I can rule out anything really serious or really scary. I can go on and on, but it doesn't matter what is wrong. What matters is that I focus my efforts on making things right. 

About Rebuilding the Car. 
Now that I feel much more confident that I can get through this, I will use what I know about training in a healthy and safe way to rehab myself. If I stumble along the way, I will seek out guidance from medical experts. However, if my pain is a result of strength and flexibilty imbalances (caused by me adding A LOT more sitting to my life) then I can work through that on my own.

I like Anthony. He makes me crazy, but he is one of the most honest, genuine, kind people I know. He too is working on recovery. It is a struggle. He posted a great photo with the caption: "Time to rebuild the car." I like that!  
Anthony, let's rebuild together! 

My plan is simply to do what I know how to do in a slow, realistic, and systematic way. I expect this process to take months. I plan to race more as I rebuild. I am starting with a decent residual base so I feel that I am in a good place.  I hope to share my progress here.

At the very least I would like to show how proper training and self-care can help people reach goals that often seem impossibly out of reach. And if I cant get through this pain, then I hope to demonstrate what graceful acceptance of limitations look like. I will plan for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Please, follow me along as I attempt to rebuild and return to a sport that makes me feel complete.