Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Cruel Quest for a Fat Dog



Exhausted I plopped down beside Jake in the middle of a grassy field in the small town of Montevallo.

“It’s not happening bro. There’s just no way.”

Jake has been my best friend since freshmen year of college. He’s my wild side. He’s that guy. The guy that has always initiated long, crazy, adventure filled nights of mischief and mayhem. He’s the guy that had us driving down to the beach at 1am simply to spend our single “off day” from baseball clinking bottles and cheering crashing waves with our toes in the sand. The one that convinced me it was a great idea to scale a 4 story dorm building to debo the Chi Omega owl statue. The antagonist that had me and Sweet Pea calmly walking buck naked through a massive house party and running across the President’s lawn. Without disclosing any further incriminating activity… we will just leave it at we’ve shared many crazy stories. Now don’t get it twisted… Jake may be wild… but he is a great guy and has never gotten me into any serious trouble. He’s never initiated or suggested anything that I didn’t truly want to do… he just simply gives me a little push. The same push Tyler Durden gives you…

“Slide.”

On the surface I’m cool, calm and collected but Jake can see right through this facade. He knows deep down I’m pissed and slightly disappointed. He smiles and throws his arm around my neck…

“I know buddy. We’ll get through this.”

I muffled a few curse words and slung Jake’s arm off my shoulders, stood up and took off barefoot across the field for another lap.


This is the run where I knew I was hurt. Injuries suck and every single athlete can testify to this horrific fact. Now if you are an athlete that has NEVER been injured… well… then you are probably a liar, not a real athlete, or you are far too prideful to admit it an injury.

The first step to any injury is admitting you have an actual problem. After my first ultra, I ended up with a stress fracture because my body was not used to the stress I was putting on it through training. It took me a long time to actually get it checked out because I felt invincible. So of course being young and na├»ve… I kept running on it. Training was life. If I couldn’t train… what was the point?



Thankfully… I grew up. I backed off from a regimented training plan and started looking at running in a different light. I started viewing running as a lifestyle more so than just a hobby. I started enjoying the trails and life so much better because I wasn’t anchored to a strict plan. If I felt good I would run. If I felt bad I wouldn’t. It was simple. I’ve kept that same mindset for the past couple of years and it has kept me from burning out and has kept me relatively injury free. The only injury I’ve really had in the past 4 or 5 years (other than the typical twisted ankles and sore IT bands) has been a fairly bad case of plantar fasciitis which started in April 2014. But a few sessions of rehab and hard work at The FARM had me up and running pain free in a matter of weeks.

After a smooth performance at the Oak Mt 50k earlier in March, I was amped and gaining confidence for my upcoming race schedule. I decided to do a traverse of the Art Loeb for one last hard effort before the Cruel Jewel 100. I figured with CJ100 and then Quest for the Crest 50k within a few weeks of each other… I would need to save my legs and be well rested. I also decided to not race Sweetwater 50k. Instead I joined Mike’s Kids 5k that helped support the Mike's Transverse Myelitis charity. Such a fun event! The FARM is a big supporter of Mike and his charity, so I tried to get a few local runners to come out and run it with me.



I figured I might as well go for a 5k PR… when in Rome right?

 


My 5k PR mission was a success. 17:30 ensured me that this effort may be one of the last times I throw down that hard on a 5k.



But damn… 5ks hurt. So to alleviate some tightness, Dr. Beau and I went to Oak Mt for an out and back run to Peavine Falls.



The week after the 5k I noticed a little soreness and tightness in my heel area, but I didn’t think too much of it. It wasn’t anything out of the norm and I brushed it off as a possible flare up of PF. The following weekend was the Battle of Jericho.



The Battle of Jericho was some serious fun! We had a great turnout! BOJ was everything I hoped it would be… a simple, fun weekend of camping, running, and colbeers with some of my favorite peoples.



Between flagging the course, running with the group, and sweeping the course… I put in a lot of miles for the weekend. There was slightly more pain in my heel after the weekend’s activities… but it was still nothing that concerned me.



The Tuesday following BOJ, Ole John Gregg and I headed out to Oak Mt for a spin on the Race to the Lake course. We kept it pretty casual but as soon as I started a climb along the Yellow trail… my calf tightened. This had never happened before. We took it easy all the way back to the south trail head. The next morning I could barely put any pressure on my foot without serious pain. Great. My plantar fasciitis is back. 3 weeks before Cruel Jewel.



I went to the FARM for some serious rehab. For the record… I looooooooathe needles. Yes. I am well aware that a good portion of my body is covered in ink… which was put there with the aid of needles. I get it. But it’s different. Trust me. Dr. Beard and I put together a game plan of lots of rehab and easy running for the last remaining weeks leading up to CJ.



My foot just wasn’t getting any better, so I made the tough decision to drop from the Cruel Jewel 100. I was slightly pissed because I felt as though I was probably in the best shape I had been in since I started running. I was really looking forward to pushing it a little more than usual at CJ but being healthy and pain free far outweighed the high I would have received from racing. That pissedoffness quickly went away after I got in a relatively pain free run up to King’s Chair during CJ weekend. Besides… it was just a race.



I shifted focus to the Quest for the Crest 50k that was quickly approaching. Surely to goodness I would be healthy enough to at least go up and halfway enjoy the race with my friends. The closer race day came… the more I realized that I wouldn’t be toeing that starting line either. Another DNS. Ugh. I think I was less pissed about missing the races than I was at the fact that I was missing multiple opportunities to run in the mountains.

Finally I went to get an x-ray and MRI done on my foot. They found no fractures or tears… only a little swelling in my heel. Diagnosis? Stress reaction and DAS BOOOOOOOT!!!!



I wanted nothing to do with a boot unless it involved the Beerfest Championship over in Germany…



The stress reaction landed me in das boot for 3 weeks. I felt like a prisoner. I don’t sit still very well and having limited ability in my lower leg had me complainy and whiney. After a few days of sulking… I bucked up and decided to use this time as an opportunity to explore other avenues and activities.

 

I started hitting the gym and the pool.



Somewhere along the way… I actually started to enjoy cross training and doing something other than running. After I promised the wifey I would stay within my skill level and comfort zone while in the saddle… I even got Althea (my mountain bike) fixed… it was still busted up from a pretty bad wreck from last year.



Though I don’t get the same feeling of freedom as I get when trail running… riding still had me out enjoying nature and having fun on single track again!



So where does that leave me now? Well… I’m finally out of das boot! Whoop whoop! I’ve slowly started incorporating some short trail runs into my recovery routine.



I feel slow, sluggish, and still have some tightness/soreness in my foot… but the important thing is that it is getting better. I’m really excited about taking things slow and rebuilding from the ground up. I’m going to continue incorporating more cross training into my normal routine to hopefully become a more rounded athlete.



I am unfortunately dropping from the Fat Dog 120 down to the 30 mile version. I’m less disappointed in this than I thought I would be. I plan on using the race as my first long training run. By doing the shorter race… it’ll give me the opportunity to explore some of the beautiful trails and peaks at a more relaxed and leisurely pace in between helping crew Brandi and Brad as they run looooooooong. But the more I recover… the more I’m getting that itch to run long. I don’t have anything set in stone for the Fall just yet… but I’m starting to plot and plan something big! 

The break was much needed. My body was obviously telling me something… I just needed to listen. Honestly… I think it’s been a blessing in disguise. Like Dr. Beau and Sloan said in my recent visit... injuries give you a chance to take a break that you wouldn't normally take if you were healthy. A break to reevaluate and possibly fix any inefficiencies and become a stronger runner. I'm actually finally at peace with my injury. It made me step away from the running scene and truly reevaluate the direction I want my running to progress. Thankfully I have a solid support group and a handful of close friends that will lend an ear and let me vent my complaints, ambitions, and frustrations without fear of judgment.  Strangely… I’ve really enjoyed the rest and recovery. Yes… I’ve desperately missed the day in/day out act of running in the woods… but running is not my life. So when I get the typical “How’s life been treating you” question… and my only complaint in life is my hobby… I consider myself one lucky ass man.

So what direction do I want my running to progress and transcend? Well to quote a conversation I had with a good friend over my extended running break…

“Welcome to the world of the lone wolves and dark horses.”



Run long, run wild, and howl loudly.