Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Just One Bad Run

Sunday I had a bad run. I had planned to run really easy for about 24 miles. I ended up running just a bit over 21 miles, though much of the last few miles included walking and moving at a very relaxed pace. One bad run. It’s generally a thing to just throw out and never worry about again. Bad runs happen. But I’m left wondering about that one bad run. 

It really hasn’t been just one bad run. Over the past couple months, the Sunday long run has frequently been a not great run. I’ve quit really early a couple of times...something I haven’t ever done in the past. I’ve had several long runs that I finished, but that didn’t feel great at all. And there have been a smattering of long runs that I’ve been happy with. 

But the Sunday long run has been my training keystone for the past few years. 20 or so miles on Sunday morning was a weekly ritual that was completed without much thought and almost always with joy. And that’s suddenly no longer the case for me. So, it doesn’t feel like one bad run at all. And I’m left wondering why.

Maybe it’s my new training plan for Ouray 100. I may have layered in too much difficult work while not reducing the difficulty elsewhere. I feel like a weighted pack hike a couple times a week shouldn’t be a dramatic thing in my training, and that running over a small Florida bridge isn’t a huge stress increase. But perhaps those bits of new training stimulus added to the tough track session I run on Tuesdays and tempo session I run on Thursdays is just a touch too much. Maybe mix these all together, and I arrive on Sunday just a bit too fatigued to be happy with the long run. It’s certainly a possibility. I am considering adjustments to my training plan, though haven’t made a decision to do so yet.

Maybe it’s the impact of COVID and having no races on my calendar to look forward to and to use for motivation. Yes, I’m training for Ouray, but that’s 10 months away assuming I get into the race at all, and the Sunday long run really isn’t specific to Ouray. Maybe I need more race motivation than I realized. Maybe I was wrong that I enjoy the long run just for itself.

It may simply be that I have changed my training and it’s a bit of a shock to the system. My body is revolting while it adapts. And perhaps in a few weeks I’ll pop out the other side even stronger and the Sunday long run will again be joyful and not the mental grind it is at the moment. This might be the case physically, but it doesn’t explain why the simple joy of running the long run has disappeared.

I have no definitive answers. I don’t know that any of the above items capture why I’ve had several bad long runs recently. Or maybe it’s a bit of all of them. Irrespective of the reason, I sit here frustrated by that one bad run. And I sit here wondering what to change, or if anything should even change, to find the joy in the long run again.

Or maybe it really just was one bad run.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Resetting My Runner's Mindset

As I begin my nearly year-long journey to participate in the Ouray 100 ultramarathon, I’m quickly realizing one of the biggest challenges will be to reset my mindset about running training. For the past couple years while I focused on my goal to run a marathon in under three hours, I was always acutely aware of the number of miles I was running each week and the average pace of that mileage. That weekly mileage number became a bit of a bellweather to let me know if I was training the way I intended to.

Weekly mileage will not be that bellwether during this year-long training focus for Ouray. In fact, the opposite. I need to break my habit of watching the weekly mileage and making sure I am hitting predetermined benchmarks. My mindset has to reset to allow myself to do the right training each day and let the mileage focus fall away. And that is going to be a really tough thing after two years of really chasing big mileage.

Yesterday offered just such a challenge. When an evening meeting at work ended much earlier than anticipated yesterday, I had the opportunity to go for a run that I wasn’t sure I would get to do at the beginning of the day. On my training plan, if I did get to go, it was supposed to be a power hike and not actually a run at all. For Ouray, I’m going to have to become a far better walker and hiker than I am today. But as I faced the decision to use this newfound time, I also found myself being pulled toward running instead of fast walking. In the 45 minutes I now had, I could run a very easy 5 miles. Alternatively, I might be able to walk a bit over 3 miles with my fastest walk. 

It was really challenging to give up those 2 extra miles. 2 miles doesn’t seem like a lot, but make that choice 5 days in a week and a 75 mile week becomes only a 65 mile week. I’ve been siding with the higher number in these trade-off decisions for two years. I am conditioned to seek the higher mileage option reflexively now.

But that is no longer the good decision. I walked for the 45 minutes yesterday. Afterwards, I was still bothered by the 2 miles I missed out on. Yet it was the right decision, no matter how wrong it feels to me. And improving my decision making is one of the biggest focuses of this entire training journey to Ouray next year.

My runner’s mindset needs to be reset. It’s not about raw mileage, but doing the right things to have me ready to hike for 52 hours and cross 14 very high San Juan peaks. That is the singular focus. Two extra miles of running would have done absolutely nothing to improve my chances of succeeding.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Enjoyment Did Not Have Anything To Do With It

A couple weeks ago, I made my mind up to take on a new adventure and journey. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for at least a year, and have been afraid to really consider. But I have decided to not let that fear prevent me from going on an adventure that really calls to me. Instead, I’ll dive into the deep end and take plenty of time to get myself ready for this journey.

I have decided to run the Ouray 100 ultramarathon next year in 2021. I don’t know that I’ll actually get into the race. It’s possible all participants from the 2020 COVID cancelled race are simply rolled over into 2021. It’s possible we’re still too deep into the COVID pandemic and the race doesn’t happen at all. It’s possible the race director does not accept my meager qualifications for entry, though I do believe I just squeak into the requirements. Even so, I am going to prepare as if I will be running Ouray 100 next year. And that scares me tremendously.

In many respects, I have no business trying to run Ouray 100. I have very limited mountain racing experience. I will have very few, potentially no, opportunities to train in the mountains or even on any real hills. I don’t know how to read mountain weather and don’t have sense for when a lightning storm is rolling in. I’m unaccustomed to the dramatic shifts in temperature that will be encountered during the race. I know little about potential wildlife to be concerned with. There’s simply a lot I’m not prepared for.

And it’s also a very different style of race than what my training has prepared me for. Ouray 100 is high, really high. The race is run in the towering San Juan mountains, tagging a dozen or so of the peaks in the area. It’s a constant shift from climbing up to a peak, then back down to Ouray. The race ascends and descends over 40,000 feet, an unimaginable number to me. I’ve trained primarily for flat and fast running, the kind of running we do in Florida. Ouray really isn’t a running race at all. It has a 52 hour cut-off to go 100 miles, or a 32 minute mile. On flat ground a 32 minute mile is a casual stroll. Yet I expect I’ll need every one of those hours if I want any chance to complete this race. 

My training will have to change dramatically. I’m going to have to become a proficient hiker. I’ll have to become much improved on remaining on my feet for very long periods of time. I’ll have to figure out how to improve both my uphill and downhill hiking and running. I’ll have to give up a lot of speed in the process of becoming a much better hiker, climber and descender. Thank goodness I reached my primary marathon goal earlier this year!

I will have to become a far better decision maker than I’ve been in ultramarathons. The races I’ve participated in have been easy enough to allow for bad decisions to be made. The result of those decisions was simply a slower time than a good decision would have resulted in. I will not have that luxury at Ouray. I will need every minute to finish. A bad decision could put me in a lightning storm at the top of an exposed peak, or in plummeting temperatures without proper clothing to prevent hypothermia. My decision making will have to be dialed in.

Fortunately, I do have nearly a full year to figure this out. My training will look extremely boring and monotonous. While I plan to keep a finger on the speed with two weekly running speed workouts, I’m also adding a lot of hiking around the neighborhood in a weighted pack. Often, that will be just power walking down to the bridge over Interstate 95 and then crossing that bridge back and forth for miles at a time. It sounds terribly monotonous. I’m also going to do my best to make nearly every non-workout run a bridge repeat run. Again, get to a bridge and then just run back and forth. So very boring. And I’ll do this for the next year. I plan to purchase a plyo box to do box step ups and jump downs. My hope is the jump downs exert some of the same eccentric force on the legs that downhill running does. All monotonous and boring.

I hope to organize a trip up to the Georgia mountains early in 2021 with some running friends to spend a weekend putting in big miles running the dragonback trails of the southern Appalachian mountains. This will be the big break from the monotony of endless bridge repeats.

I have a guiding principle as I work through this monotony, a quote I heard while listening to the Armchair Explorer podcast yesterday. In an episode in which explorer Ed Stafford discussed his trek on foot to cover every inch of the Amazon river, he stated “Enjoyment did not have anything to do with it.” This struck me profoundly. In the pursuit of big goals and journeys, enjoyment might not be a part of the equation. The enjoyment may come in little bits and pieces here and there. Stafford discusses the tiny amount of enjoyment of taking a bath at the end of the night, but that the day was drudgery and even misery otherwise. This is what my training will be. Drudgery, misery, monotony. Probably not much enjoyment beyond knowing that I’m on a journey to do something I don’t really think I can do.

And make no mistake, I don’t think I’m taking anything on like a trek to cover the entire Amazon. Plenty of people finish the Ouray 100 every year. It’s a really tough race and may include some actual risk and challenges I’m not accustomed to, but it’s still just a race. But to me and what I know of myself and my training, it feels as frightening and nearly insurmountable as a trek along the Amazon. To spend the next year changing myself from a marathon runner who runs ultras to a fast climbing hiker who at least is book smart on the mountains feels like a massive challenge...and one I’m excited to take on.

Enjoyment does not have anything to do with it.

Note: I plan to chronicle some of the training I do and steps I take during this year of preparation on this blog. I’ll probably write about gear I’m testing, fears and emotions I’m facing, and whatever else comes to mind. Feel free to follow along if you find yourself interested. And if you have any tips or advice, I’d be more than happy to hear from you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

My Renewed Daily Writing Practice

Beginning today, I plan to rebuild a daily writing practice. At least 30 minutes each weekday morning while I drink my first cup of tea or coffee. I will make no demands of this writing practice other than it be daily and 30 minutes. I will allow exceptions to the daily habit for those mornings when I go for a very early run, as I often do on Thursdays. My plan on those days is to make up the 30 minutes of writing at some other point during the day.

I am free to write about whatever I like. Personal, professional, something I've recently read about, something just bobbing around in my head with no real intention. It doesn't matter. Just write, for 30 minutes, every day. I do hope to eventually start pushing some of this writing back to a blog. I do hope that eventually some ideas will feel bigger and worthy of fleshing out into a professional article or even a book. But none of that is necessary for now. The goal is to just write and get back in the habit of writing regularly.

I am a writer who has not been writing. That's a tough thing to come to grips with. It feels inauthentic to myself, incongruous with who I know I am. Yet, I've been doing this for several years. This writing practice is my first step toward getting back to alignment. 

What are some things I might write about? That's a good question. And, it makes sense to start to start building that list. A list I can add to and pull up at a moment's notice when it's time to write. I think I'll wrap up this first note here, happily having committed to words my desire my plan of action, and then get started on that list for the remainder of my 30 minutes.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

A Little Run In The Sea Of Grass

We met in a little dirt, dark parking lot that sat on the line between the mass of humanity that is South Florida to the east and miles and miles of endless swampy Everglades wilderness to the west. It was clear immediately. The special combination of heat and humidity so unique to South Florida had arrived overnight for the first time this year. The thermometer on my dash read 80 degrees, at 4AM. The air was so thick with water you could see it floating by in the one street light down the road offering us a touch of visibility. Today was going to be tough.

The FKT4Heroes 100K Loxahatchee Loop

Katie Dodge, Marco Hilty and I were taking on a 100K loop around the Arthur Marshall Loxahatchee Wildlife Preserve in Palm Beach County, Florida. We don’t have many official FKTs in Florida, just a smattering here and there. But this loop felt like just the kind of thing to put on the map. Almost exactly 100K in one giant circle. Mostly desolate. Very few opportunities for water. Total, 100% sun exposure if you aren’t lucky enough to get clouds. Crushed gravel and absolutely flat. I wasn’t aware of anyone that had run the full loop, though bikers do take it one with a bit of regularity and I’m certain some intrepid souls have done it on foot before. The idea was not our own. Two running friends had talked about it for some time, but had not had occasion to take it on. The coronavirus life slow-down offered the opportunity. So I began planning, the team to run came together, volunteers to support us materialized like magic (this run doesn’t happen without the incredible help from Kristy Rini Breslaw, Ralph Breslaw and Helena Radshaw), tricky sections of the course were rece’d, the decision was made to try to raise a few bucks for local businesses who would then contribute goods to COVID frontline workers, and the day arrived.

The loop included almost no access to water, though we’d be near Everglades canals for nearly every step. Brackish water filled with alligators and water moccasins does not make for ideal running fluid. There were a couple places that a car could access, and Ralph was to make the trek to those few spots to save us from our empty water bottles and empty bellies. Kristy and Helena were to spend the day on their bikes, providing water in some of the more desolate sections of the loop.

Wildlife would be abundant, yet was unlikely to be spotted. The Everglades is teeming with flora and fauna. Most of it is very shy. Alligators were a given. Snakes were likely. Bobcats a possibility. Panthers are out there, but nearly invisible. Bugs. Birds. Deer. And most dreaded, horse flies that love to bite and couldn’t care less about bug spray.

The Run Begins

Back in that dark, damp, dirt covered parking lot; we met and got ready to start. We targeted a 4AM start time to get miles in before the sun got on us. The entire week, the forecast had called for an overcast day with meaningful chances of rain and thunderstorms. The day before the start, that all changed. Little cloud cover, no rain and the hottest day of the year so far. And it was clearly that. Within 10 minutes of starting, we were drenched as if having run through a shower and our shoes squeaked and squealed with wetness.

Off into the darkness we trotted, nothing but the spot of our headlamps on the dirt trail in front of us. Here and there, the eyes of an alligator or some other animal would light up on the canals to our left and right. A few stars. No moonlight. Little else could be seen. But all along, we could hear animals rustling in the reeds, alligators grunting feet away, frogs croaking their disapproval of our presence. We didn’t belong, and they let us know.

As the first couple hours passed, Kristy and Helena passed us on their bikes. A quick check in with us to make sure we were good, and they were on their way to the first meeting point at about mile 13. Behind them, the first licks of sunlight began to rise in the east. An Everglades sunrise is unique and absolutely remarkable. The humidity does something to the light. It’s just...different.

The miles passed slowly and easily. We ran at a very gentle pace, with regular walk breaks. For Katie, this would be a new distance PR. For Marco, a match of his longest run. I had run longer on several occasions, but had recently fallen into a cycle of DNF’ing many of my long efforts especially in heat. We took it very easy. We drank heavily. Sweat dripped endlessly.

As the sun rose, the humidity began to break just a bit. For about an hour, we’d get to run with a bit of relief from the weather. But the relief brought with it the horse flies. Fortunately, only about 30 minutes of horse fly bites had to be endured, then they disappeared for the rest of the day.

Our First Turn, Our First Aid

We arrived at the first opportunity for aid with Kristy and Helena waiting water and other drinks in hand. We were also greeted by race photographer extraordinaire Chris Thompson who would end up taking some wonderful shots throughout the day. Thank you to Chris! Most photos are of courtesy of Chris.

After we restocked on supplies, we headed back out into the wilderness. This was the first real turn on the course, sending us north after heading mostly west to begin. Kristy and Helena were riding ahead to the first tricky section in seven miles where we would have to head around one of the water management dams and a variety of trail directions.

North we plodded on what would be the least interesting part of the trail. Less a trail and more a dirt road recessed a bit below the water lines, which were held behind some berms to our right. To our left, farmland and an access road to the dam we had just left. This would continue through to the point were we met Kristy and Helena and then beyond.

At some point, we encountered our first true challenge of the day. Someone noticed a stream of water leaking out of Marco’s pack. His brand new water bladder had formed a leak and he was losing water quickly. My handy-dandy Trail Toes blister kit included some bits of tape that we used to close up the hole as best we could. It wouldn’t be watertight, but it slowed the leak. And Marco was able to pinch it off further by placing the bladder upside down. Disaster averted, we continued on.

On the occasion that we saw the Everglades water, we got our first glimpse of the thousands of gators that had been surrounding us all along. They were visible in nearly every body of water. Sometimes just eyes and the tip of a snout. Other times, the full length of their spiny bodies moving slowly and effortlessly through the water. Always, they were aware of us and when we approached, they’d submerge slowly like a submarine in a war movie disappearing into the depths of the swamp. How many were actually out there just below the surface, who’s to say?

On one occasion, we passed a small pond just to our left. I noticed a little baby gator, no more than 18 inches long. We stopped and saw that there were dozens of tiny baby alligators swimming in this small pond. Then, with clarity of mind, Katie suggested that perhaps the mother gator was lurking nearby and might be less than happy with us so close to these little ones. We continued on quickly.

The day was heating up. We praised glory when a small cloud would cover the sun. We lamented the beating of the rays when the cloud would move on to save some bikers up ahead instead of us. We drank way more fluids than had been anticipated.

The Boat Ramp

After some time, we arrived at the boat ramp stop. This was nearly the midpoint of the loop and our first opportunity to really resupply from stuff we had left with Ralph the day before. We took a nice, long break here to fully refuel and repack. Ice bandanas were loaded with as much ice as they could hold. Food was slammed down. Shoes were changed (though I didn’t touch my feet because they were feeling wonderful.) Marco’s wife arrived with a new bladder for his pack. A few minutes to just sit in the shade and prepare for more heat.

Then we were off again, now heading west on the prettiest portion of the course. Large bodies of water on either side of us with fish jumping and dozens of gators constantly visible. Birds everywhere. A wonderful seven mile jaunt west. I was feeling so good and strong, though I noted that I really wasn’t eating enough. But my legs, they had just warmed up at this point. Things were going great.

After this seven mile run to the west, we turned north and back toward home down Flying Cow Road in Wellington. This would be the one portion of the day off the trails and on road. There is a trail that completes the loop, but there is frustratingly a fence across the trail with no way around it! One can access the trail up that that fence from either side, making it rather useless. But it did force us onto the road for about seven miles. That said, the asphalt offered a nice change of pace, more efficient than the dirt trail.

Somewhere along the previous seven west miles, my major meal of the day had burst open in my pack and run down my back. It was a light brown, baby diarrhea colored thing (actually a Spring Wolf Pack) and Marco asked if I had poo’d my pants. For the remainder of the run, I’d be known as “Poopy Pants”, perhaps my new trail name. It never dawned on me that now I had also missed out on the 400 calories I had planned to eat in that meal.

In the middle of the road stretch at the Wellington Environmental Park, we connected with Kristy, Helena and Ralph again. This was another opportunity to refill, access to a bathroom, even a water hose to spray off with (though the water was too warm to offer much relief.) It would be 13 miles from here until we saw them again.

The road became a dirt road. The dust from passing cars a challenge. Finally, the dirt road led to access back onto the levee system and our old familiar trail at about mile 42. Around this same time, I realized I hadn’t been eating or drinking. For how long, I couldn’t tell you. But my bottles were mostly full, one of my largest calorie sources was smothered across my back side, and my pockets were still too heavy with other food. Katie also began to suffer, needing to walk slower on the walking portions due to discomfort, but running strong on the running sections.

Finally, realizing I was holding Marco and Katie back, I told them I was going to walk for a bit longer to try to cool down and get in some more water. Then my old heat nemesis became apparent. I hadn’t been eating or drinking because I hadn’t been processing what was already in my stomach. My belly was bloated and distended and I was full of stuff just sitting there. Marco and Katie would pull ahead, then I’d reel them back in. Back and forth for a few miles. Finally, I was reduced to just a walk while they continued their steady progress. I knew I didn’t want to hold them up. I decided I would walk to the next opportunity for aid, about 4 miles away, and see if they were still there and see if the slower pace allowed me to process food and water.
A quick side note: I’ve never figured out heat and nutrition. Literally, 100% of my long efforts in heat have ended up with my stomach shutting down. In a 50K, I can force my way through to the end. Longer than that, the hydration and calorie deficit has led to a hole I can’t dig out of. I may simply not be built for Florida running.

Back to the loop, I could continually see Marco and Katie ahead. They slowly crept away, but occasionally would drift back toward me. But it was clear. I was not improving and would be a weight holding them back from finishing. Could I walk it in? Probably, but I wasn’t even sure of that. I hadn’t had any meaningful food or drink in a couple hours and the day had just gotten hotter and hotter. The only decision I had to make was whether to tell Katie and Marco I’d be dropping or to not tell them so that the decision did not weigh on them. Kristy showed up on her bike and slowly pedaled back with me to the final aid stop at about mile 50. My day was done. My DNF habit further reinforced.

Bednars and Beyond
While my run was ending, the day and the FKT attempt was not yet finished! I arrived at Bednars to find Marco and Katie still there resting and waiting for me. I shared that I was done, but that I was so excited for them to make this thing happen. It will be up to one of them to share the story of those final 12 miles.

However, I have some final thoughts to share on this loop and attempt. First, while disappointed that I couldn’t accompany them, it was the right decision and I am truly happy that Katie and Marco toughed out an extreme day to finish this loop and to hopefully put the FKT on the map officially! Katie was clearly in real agony when she left Bednars, yet she continued on without a second thought and without much complaint. Marco was devoid of really any complaint the entire day, just a stoic athlete moving forward through it all. Second, we raised more money than a thought we would, and I’m so happy to help our great local Fleet Feet DelrayBeach running store and the frontline workers they’ll be able to give shoes to.

Katie and Marco did push through to the finish in 14 hours, 5 minutes and 18 seconds. The FKT has been ratified making thisthing official! Marco cursed me out (a little) at the end for the idea. Katie sat miserably and quietly in the trunk of her car after finishing. I have a feeling they’re both feeling a significant sense of accomplishment today, several days later.

The last 12 miles, from Katie’s perspective

Going into the last 12 mile stretch felt automatic. There's something magical that happens to most ultra runners, once you surpass the 26.2 mark for the first time, your mental capacity shifts somehow and 10 miles don't feel long, 20 miles don't feel long and even when things do start feeling long they just go by fast and you are not feeling as miserable getting to the next milestone on any given run. This was definitely the case for me.

Having Marco to run with was nice, as we kept coming up with different strategies to just get to the next mile. First, Marco had the idea to jog for as long as we could until too uncomfortable/hot. That got us about 2 and 1/2 miles in. At that point, we were entering the 50s. I looked back and couldn't believe where the miles went.

Then, we went back to our go-to strategy of walking every half mile. In my head, I tried to do four rounds of run/walk before stopping to stretch my screaming hips and calves. Each half mile took forever, and yet I was always surprised when a few miles went by.

With about maybe 4 miles left, I was stretching every mile. The heat did not bother me, but this run was a good reminder that I needed more time on my feet. Muscle fatigue/tightness was my limiting factor throughout the day.

When we hit the last three mile stretch of paved trail, we decided to run faster just to mix up the feeling in our legs. We ran a strong mile at 10 minute pace, when our cyclist friend Rick joined us to push us home. After some walking and another stretch break, it was time for one more push. Marco kept reminding me that everyone was waiting for us! So we started the last mile push back to the finishing point.

It was so cool having more people involved throughout the day than originally planned. It helped keep us accountable and prepared for each section of the trail. Additionally, it was the major factor in getting me past my "comfortable" ultra range of 30 to 40 miles. 

Photo courtesy of Rick Slifkin
Unless noted otherwise, photos courtesy of Chris Thompson and Chris Thompson Visuals

Thursday, August 22, 2019

#runninglifelessons: Complicating The Simple

I do it all the time. Oh man, do I do this all the time. Take something simple and make it really complicated. This is something so easy to do when running, when racing, when training. It's also an easy trap to fall into all over life.

This connected again recently when I began to think about my training plan for the Jacksonville Marathon early next year. First, I wrote out a general plan by hand on a single sheet of paper. It was simple. The date of the race. The date I wanted to start a training plan. Some goals. A basic weekly training pattern. A few shoes I wanted to consider for race day. And a couple shorter training races. That's it. Nice and simple.

And then came step two, the beginning of complicating. I had laid out that I wanted to run two weekly workouts, or runs with a specific purpose at race pace or faster. But which coaching philosophy should I use for those workouts? Daniels, Tinman, Lydiard, and on and on and on...

And how would I determine my target paces for those workouts and for the Sunday long run? Use my last race finish? Or use a VDOT table? Or an online calculator? And on and on and on...

And then came the Google Sheets training spreadsheet. Every run or two for every day for every week for the next 18 weeks. Each run with a target pace, with the exact number of intervals, with the feel for the workout, with the rest between each interval. Every tempo run with an exact distance, a target pace. 126 days, about 160 runs, laid out as if to program a machine. And on and on and on...

And I was just getting ready to start thinking about race nutrition options to consider (Gatorade, Maurten, Sword, nutella bacon sandwiches?), when...BOOM, it hit me that I was falling deeply into the complexity trap when all I really needed was that darn first sheet I had written down at the very beginning! That first sheet had everything I needed 20 weeks away. And it had just about everything I needed to develop my daily running plan on that day in the moment.

I'm really prone to this complicating trap in running, but also in other life matters. Thinking about buying something kind of expensive? I know what I want, but I better list out options and prices and potential discounts in a spreadsheet.  I need to nail down every detail even though I know only a few items will really matter in a purchasing decision. Unnecessary complexity.

Preparing for a trip? Oh lordy...things are really going to go overboard. Checklists, overpacking, double and triple checking the overpacking. Realizing I'm mispacked, unpacking and doing the entire thing again. Unnecessary complexity.

Heck, even writing in this here blog. I want to storyboard longer pieces and mix and scramble things. I want to edit once and twice and three times. (Actually, I hate editing, but feel like I should do that.) I want to scour Unsplash and add dozens of perfect photos to even a 100 word entry. And I've done these things in the past. Unnecessary complexity. Really, I just need to sit down, bang out a few words, maybe read it over once (I mean, who's really reading anyway), and push the "Publish" button. Simple.

Complicating the simple seems to be a hobby of mine. In running, it seems to be a hobby of a whole lot of people. Running, like so many things, is actually really simple. One foot in front of the other over and over and over again.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Deep and Utter Disappointment

Yesterday and today I ran for the first time since Never Summer 100K. Three weeks without a step run. Three weeks intended to heal some lingering injuries. Three weeks designed to improve my health.

I have been dealing with an injury issue that I can't resolve. It first cropped up in the summer of 2017 and has stuck around since then. First, a pinch in the left hip that then spread to the lower abdomen and groin. I've seen my primary care physician and an orthopedic sports medicine specialist and a physical therapist and a chiropractor. I've had X-rays and MRIs and injections and range of motion tests. The issue has been impossible to nail down. A torn hip labrum. An adductor strain. A psoas strain. Severe inflammation.

It has been extremely frustrating. The issue doesn't prevent me from running. I've raced two marathons, run a third for fun, race two 50Ks and Never Summer all with the injury present. I've run around 7000 training miles. I can run. And usually I can do exactly what I set out to do. But sometimes the injury really fires up and I can't run intervals the way I'd planned to. Or I have to stop several times during a long run because the pain manifests as pressure similar to the urge to poop. Or I can't walk up a set of stairs the next morning due to hip soreness. But mostly I can run, so I just continue running.

These three weeks without running were intended to really give whatever this unidentified injury is a good solid rest. If it truly was just a matter of sever inflammation, three weeks should largely help resolve that. Psoas or groin strains should feel a lot better. Three weeks is quite a bit of rest. I should feel meaningful improvement in the injury, at least for a while until the miles pile up again.

So, yesterday I headed out for my first run with high hopes. Not high hopes that it would be a good run. There was no chance after three weeks of no activity other than some yoga every other day (really tough stuff for me, but not aerobic running fitness) that the run was going to feel good. And it was a ragged mess, struggling to make it through a bit more than five miles. No surprise. But there was a surprise. My groin was tight. My abdomen became aggravated immediately. My hips unhappy. I wrote it off to first-day-back gunk and moved on.

Today I went out to run longer. Still a bit of a mess. My legs screamed at me by five miles in. Evidently, the yoga's really been doing a number on my quads (perhaps an answer to my "how to prepare quads for downhill running question!") But the groin, abdomen and hips were also super unhappy. I was immediately right were I had been a month ago. It's like I'd not taken a single day off. No improvement, none.

I was met with deep and utter disappointment. How could three weeks of total rest not improve this at all? How could I immediately be back in the same place I was before? It doesn't make sense. Just as nothing about this injury has made sense.

So I'll continue to blunder through. Mostly able to run what I want to run. Mostly able to train the way I hope to train. And next time I think about taking time off, I may simple ignore the impulse because, why?