Monday, April 30, 2012

Building the Base (Again)

Three months ago, as I was tapering for RR50 and coming off my best training cycle ever, I was one of those runners that never thought about being seriously injured. Being that I exercised discretion and caution in my training. I carefully built my base, slowly progressed my long runs, stepped softly when it came to speed work and did all the stretching, rolling and so forth. Sure, I had experienced little aches and pains here and there, but nothing that a couple days of rest didn't clear up. That was before the stress fracture (styloid process fifth metatarsal) and several weeks of no running at all. 
There were the two weeks on crutches, two more weeks before easy walking (just to get around the house), then easy stationary cycling for 20 minutes for a week before graduating to actually riding a bike. But the doc said to keep my butt in the saddle. Over the next couple of weeks I did several 13-20 mile rides before I finally did some serious walking seven weeks after the diagnosis. Then the process of making the comeback began. With a single mile. That's right, I ran 1 mile. For three days and then took a rest day. Then I did 1.5 miles the same way. Then 2 miles and this weekend I did 3 miles. Next weekend I should be able to do a 5 miler. I have noticed that the base is pretty intact (for short runs) but a small hill killed my pace Saturday and left me sucking air. I have much work to do. My plan (doc approved) is to work up to three 7 mile runs before expanding things and adding a long run and some tempo work. I will continue to cycle on my off days as well as the core/strength work (for injury prevention and running economy). My routine has been to run, then cycle for about an hour before finishing with a 30 minute power hike (on hills). An added bonus is that our pool is finally open which means I can find a way to mix that into things as well. 
The fracture site is still tender to direct pressure (from the side) and I have found that some shoes work better than others. The same can be said for inserts. Superfeet are OK but Soles are a problem. The doc said I have the good fortune of having an enlarged styloid process on both feet. Supposedly a sign of higher intelligence or something. I will have to monitor and manage it as best I can. For life. To me that means doing what I can to strengthen the stabilizer muscles in my lower legs, keep my core fit and allow for recovery as needed. Another t-shirt I don't want. 
I was able to grind out a sub 24 minute 3 mile run this weekend. I am on for my first race (although I won't be setting any PRs) this Friday at the Gold Rush 5k, followed by the Joplin Memorial Half on May 19 and then the Hobbs Tail Twister 50k (trail) on June2. All of these will be a way for me to see some of my running friends and to get out and have some fun. I don't foresee and real racing until the Heritage 5k in August. It will be a happy day when I can run for an hour but that is still a few weeks away. 
On the upside, I see this as an opportunity to "re-boot" things. Starting from almost scratch I can change some things that might need changing or just to experiment. I plan on using less shoe more. Huh? By that I mean wearing things like my Brooks Pure Flow and ST Racers more in training and I'm looking forward to the new Saucony models due out in June that have lower heel/toe drops. I want to add strides and hill work and more cross training. I miss running with my buddies. This past weekend I just drove to the Square knowing I wouldn't be running with them. Just wanted to chit chat for a few minutes and make sure they remembered me. I was asked if I wanted to run the Des Moines Marathon in October. Sounds inviting but no commitment. At least not yet. Any technical trail runs are out for the near future. Likely for the remainder of the year. Gravel roads I can do but rocky terrain still hurts. 
I simply have to remind myself that patience comes first. I will build back up one block at a time. Carefully and calculated. Slowly but surely. I want to come back faster, stronger and more durable than before. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Playing a Crappy Hand

Coming off my longest and most rewarding race back in February and straight into a significant injury has been an exercise in patience. A difficult one. Rocky Raccoon is memorable for many reasons, not the least was being able to share it with family and friends. I began running again this week, one mile at a time. Think about it. I was getting 60 miles a week and now I'm capped off at one measly mile. Breathe... and play the crappy hand. 
Two weeks on crutches followed by two additional weeks of no unnecessary walking. Then a couple of weeks of stationary cycling before I could get on an actual bike. Getting out on the road reminded me how much I love the rhythm of cycling. For me there is something magical about the fluidity of man and a simple piece of machinery. Being able to cover so much ground and explore some new routes. I even had a chance to learn about the latest cycling trends after the rear hub on my trusty ol' Giant Cadex was shredded. There are fixies and single gears and 29ers. I have to thank G-Unit (Jeff Genova) for allowing me to use his other wordly tri-bike for a couple of weeks. Sweet ride but I discovered that tri-bikes are twitchy as hell. Currently I have another bike from another buddy (David Newman) to roll with. A nice old school cool Kestrel. Thanks guys. 
The problem, for me, with cycling is that it takes so long to get a good workout done. I don't have 3 hours everyday to spend riding the back roads around here. So I took to doing regular speed work if that is possible on a bike. I challenged myself to ride the course for the local half marathon as fast as possible. The first attempt was 52 minutes. Last week I did it in just under 42 minutes. I guess that's progress. It did occur to me that I should keep cycling in my training routine. If I can manage a hall pass I have my eye on a cyclo-cross bike, perfect for what I need a bike to do.
And I've been walking too. Walking for a workout is serious. I'm not talking a stroll through the woods. What I'm talking about is walking hard enough to sweat and get the pulse rate up. The first few goes at it were something like 15 minutes miles on paved surfaces. I wanted to see how fast I could walk. I tried big steps and quick little strides. I found out if I used my arms and hips I could move pretty good. Yesterday I managed to power out the final mile, up Crystal Bridges, at 13:53 pace. And let me tell you, after a good walk I have been sore in places I have never been sore before. Those climbs at Athens Big Fork should be a piece of cake next January if I keep practicing the power walk. The secret? Walk angry. 
I had to back out of some events that I was anxiously looking forward to being a part of. The Bentonville Running Festival and the Ouachita Trail 50. And I will also have to really lay off the throttle for the events in the near future. I won't be racing, I'll just be out moving and enjoying the atmosphere with friends. The upside of this is the chance I had to volunteer and give back. The Bentonville Half was fun. Dick Beardsley gave an inspiring presentation at the expo and I was asked to drive the pace car the next morning. A brand new Chevy Camaro. Convertible. Last weekend it was the Hogeye Marathon with the Rush Running gang at the mile 21 aid station. The wind blew, it rained, there was lightning, guys in bikini tops, some dork in a fire helmet and beer. Lots of beer. And music and hot dogs and good friends. Two runners even had enough crazy to do keg stands with 5 miles left to go in the race. 
And there has been the 3rd grade Girls on the Run group I have been helping out with at a local elementary school. Their goal is a 5k race next month. Yesterday was the first time I have been able to run with them. Jog 5 minutes and walk 2 was the plan for the day. They did great. There are a couple of girls that can run pretty good for 9 years of age. None of the teacher/coaches can keep up with them so I was asked to go with them on race day. Sounds good to me. 
Over the course of the last several weeks I have received calls and messages from a number of running buddies asking about my recovery. That's cool. And that's what I miss the most. Apparently those social connections made putting miles under the feet don't break so easily. That's a good thing. A friend asked me yesterday if Rocky Raccoon was worth it? Would I give up my first 50 mile race if it meant I didn't get the stress fracture. As much as it meant to see all that hard work come to fruition and to surprise myself at the result the answer was quick. Hell yes I would give up the 50. Being out of the game for weeks sucks. Or does it? You can belly ache about the crappy cards you're holding or you can make the best of the hand you got dealt. I pick the later. And I have some new tools in the bag to use once I'm back in the game. 
So if you're up for a 1.5 mile this weekend to celebrate Earth Day give me a holler. Anyone? Hello...