Friday, January 17, 2014

Don't Call it a Comeback

I’m not really sure where to begin; it has been so long since I’ve written about running. Life has changed quite a bit since I last blogged. I could probably write a book about it, but I’ll try to keep this short. For a while I wasn’t sure if I’d ever return to running, but just like in an Ultra I was patient and determined. There were many ups and downs, but I made it through (with a lot of support from my family). 
My hip surgery in April went very well (thanks Dr. Ochiai!). The hip recovered well and rehab progressed quickly. However, my return to running took longer than I had anticipated. When I first tried limited running about 3 months after surgery, there was some weakness in the hip and I still had lingering adductor/groin pain. When it wouldn’t go away, I resorted to complete rest – no running, biking or anything aggravating.
During my rest, I decided to leave the federal government and took a job with BridgestoneAmericas (the tire company) in Nashville, TN. Good timing too, as this was right before the government shutdown. The new job has been great and we are adjusting to a slower/more “Southern” pace in middle Tennessee. We moved at the beginning of September and that is when I decided to start running again.
At this point my fitness level was relatively horrible, but this was expected. I started running about 30 slow miles per week. I was very reluctant to do anything remotely fast, but was happy to be plodding along injury free. Shortly after we moved, I also got smacked by allergies (apparently the air in this area is known for triggering bad allergies). I ended up developing a nasty sinus infection on top of a cold that lasted a couple weeks. This kept my running even more limited, which in retrospect was probably a good thing. When I could breathe again, I started back at it again. As my running progressed, there was occasional tightness and weakness in my hip, but no pain.
By October I was running regularly, and jumped into a Halloween 10k – my first race in over a year. My time was terrible, but good enough to finish 3rd. After that I decided I would start to return to regular training. I slowly incorporated some speed and upped the miles. At times it was frustrating because I would want to train at the fitness level I used to be, not where I was at. But it allowed me to see my progression, and every week got a little better.  It was nice to focus on normal running problems like sore quads and fatigue rather than being injured.
It also helped that we moved into a neighborhood with a sub 2:20 marathoner, Scott Wietecha. He has shown me many of the local running routes. He is a high-mileage guy and doesn’t mind going on easy runs - around 7 min. pace. This weekend he’ll be in Houston shooting to run sub 2:15!
While the level of competition here isn’t as high as it is in the DC area, there is a really good running community – especially with the Hendersonville Running Company. I’ve met a lot of good people and have enjoyed the Monday night runs from the local pizza joint and the beer we drink afterwards:)
By the end of November my fitness started to return. I was able to win the, very cold, Thanksgiving Day 5 miler by fighting off some high school kids and a college kid or two – they always start out too fast and fade after a mile or two. While not nearly in great shape, things were coming around and I was pain free. As the year came to an end, the holiday’s brought my first break from work since starting the new job. This allowed me to bump up the mileage. I’ve been averaging 90 – 110 mpw, including a 7-day stretch with over 120 miles that finished with the New Year’s Day 10k. I won the race (not too much competition); although it was a little slower than I thought I would run it. Given it was a very hilly course and my legs were pretty fatigued from high mileage, I’ll take it.  
I’ve decided to make my Ultra return at the Rocky Raccoon 100. I’ve never run Rocky, but have done fairly well in Texas at Bandera and Nueces. I’m excited to be returning to an ultra and to see many people I haven’t seen in a very long time. I withdrew quite a bit from the running community during my injury and recovery. I’m an introvert to begin with and I was out so long, at times I just didn’t feel like a runner anymore.
I’m not sure what to expect as far as a performance at Rocky. Normally I like more challenging, technical courses. However my training has been flatter and a bit faster - similar to marathon specific training, with a little extra mileage. I haven’t done extremely long runs, but I’ve done many 2-3 hour runs at a decent pace. I am coming around to the idea that you really don’t get much benefit from runs longer than 3 hours anyway. We'll see how it goes; it will just be fun to be back on the trails in a race.
I’ve also been running about half my miles in Hokas. I’ve tried the Stinson’s and the Bondi Speed; I like the Bondi’s a little better.  Hoka’s do seem to put less stress on my joints, which I think has probably helped speed my recovery. However, I do like variety in my shoes and still like to break out a pair of the much more minimalist Brooks Green Silence – so sad they don’t make them anymore.
I don’t have any solid plans for after Rocky. I did get into MMT, so I will probably return to the spot of my first 100-mile finish. I have also thought about focusing on speed and running a fast marathon time, but I’m just not sure that’s my cup of tea. Since we are in Tennessee, I’ll also probably hang out at Barkley, just to see what it’s like…

Hopefully, I will have much more to share and post this year – right now I’m just glad to be back!

“Do not run through life
so fast that you forget
not only where you have been,
but also where you are going.”