Monday, February 28, 2011

No More Nueces and February in Review

My last post talked about the injury that has came across me.  For five days, I did not run a single step.  It came at a bad time as I was wrapping up training for the Nueces 50 Mile USATF Trail Championship this upcoming Saturday.  It is a race that has been on my mind since the beginning of this year and I felt like all of my training was leading up towards it.

Even after I got the achilles injury and took a few days off, I didn't weigh out the possibility of racing at Nueces.  I felt that if I could get to 100%, even if it meant taking off until the day before, I would still race.  After a lot of advice seeking from different people, today I decided to cancel the trip.

This is not to say my achilles is not healing.  It has actually made great progress and the pain is hardly noticeable.  I am just waiting for the swelling to go down now.  I even ran today for a little bit.  After five days off, it felt good.

One reason I decided to not run is the risk of injuring my achilles even more.  Sure, it might feel fine now, and it could feel even better by Saturday morning, but what if I get 45 miles into the race and it ruptures?  Then I am out over a year with no running.  I do not want that.

When I was asking Keegan for his advice, he told me, "don't feel the need to prove yourself just because people have been blogging about you and labeling you as the next big thing.  Show maturity and patience so you don't have to pay for dumb decisions down the road."  He is totally right.  Even though I didn't recognize it, I was feeling some outside pressure to run in these types of races to "prove" myself.

Then, a conversation with another friend made up my mind completely.  He asked me if I had been cross training and I said "no."  He told me that I should have did that because I will probably loose my fitness.  I started explaining how I don't run just to compete.  I run for the love of running.  I don't love riding a stationary bike, or running on a elliptical machine, or aqua-jogging in the pool; i don't do it.  Running is the only thing that I feel passionate about and when I can't do it I do not feel the need to do supplemental activities for my fitness.

If you enjoy cross training, good for you.  I know a lot of people who do it a lot and it helps them.  For me, I cannot justify spending a lot of time doing something I don't enjoy.  If my main goal in running was to win races, I might be pounding out the pavement on my road bike right now, but I have come to the conclusion that simply getting back to running is more important - to get back to what I used to be able to do, which is run a lot of miles on trails.  I want to get back there.

Competing is something I think about a lot.  I have the feelings that I talk about from above; about how I simply love running just to run.  People may say, "well you still race and gear up for big events to try to win."  That is true.  I look at competition as showcasing what I love.  Plus, especially in ultra-running as I've found, being with a group of like-minded people doing the thing you love is even more satisfying.  Sure, ultra-running is competitive, but it is more of a communal competition.

This is not to say that I am not competitive.  I want to win the race as much as the next guy toeing the line.  That is the reason I raced that 5k indoor a couple weeks ago.  I was getting antsy with a break from racing and wanted to run fast against people.  Once the gun goes off, I am a whole new person.  I turn into a racer.  Still, running in its purest form is what attracts me most.  It is simple, self-actualizing, free, and self-sufficient.  Often I wonder what it would be like to simply stop blogging, stop showcasing my running log, and stop showing up to races altogether - stop all of that and simply start running. 

February in Review

Total Miles:  465
Total Time:  58:53:55        
Days Off:  5


Thursday, February 24, 2011


Since December 4 2009, I have ran at least two miles everyday...

That is until today.

Being durable with my running is something I have taken pride in for much of my running career.  I have always been able to recover from hard workouts, races or long runs fairly smooth; holding up to 100+ mile weeks for several months straight is not uncommon for me and it is what I love to do.  In fact, the only time I can remember taking a day off from running for being injured was during the summer of 2009 when I tried to hurdle a down tree in the forest and I didn't quite make it.  I busted my bursa sac under my knee - after one day off I was back at it.  The only other times I would take off was after a season when coach recommended a week or two off to recover.  

My Achilles Tendon has been hurting since last Monday, Feb. 14.  Yesterday, after 20 miles for the day, I was grimacing so bad that I ended up walking the last mile back to my house.  It was no longer fun to run and the pain was the worse pain I've ever experienced while running.

I went into the trainers room and talked with Boggs this morning.  He let me know my achilles was inflamed/swollen bigger than he has ever seen an achilles.  After about 30 minutes of talking while he was ice massaging, he said abruptly, "Mike, I know this might be hard for you, but if you keep pushing it like you have been you could risk rupturing that thing and you'll have to get surgery and be out at least 9 months recovering.  Why not take some days off from running and it could heal completely?"

It was basically the same advice he gave me last week when I first showed him my inflamed achilles.  When he told me Achilles Tendinitis was all it was, I shrugged it off because I just thought tendinitis was something that came and went real quick.  I just told myself, "just run through this like the last nagging pain, it will go away...."

Well, it never really went away.  Here is a picture I snapped a little while ago:
It is the left achilles (even though the right one looks more alien-like).  Swelling makes the tendon look like it's not even there. 
Taking today off was not easy but after the end of yesterdays run, I knew I could not handle that type of pain much longer.  Plus, Boggs' hallowing words about getting surgery and taking over nine months to recover real hit deep with me.  There is no way I want that and maybe, just maybe taking a few days or more will lead to one healthy left achilles.

How many days I will take off? I have no clue.  Maybe I will wake up tomorrow and feel 100% and go for 20 miles.  That is what happened yesterday.  I felt good enough to run and I ran 20 miles.  Then the chains fell off.  Maybe it will be a whole week or maybe two.  I hope it doesn't take that long...

So, after spending the majority of this new year averaging about 20 miles a day or about 2.5 hours, I ran 0.  It certainly gave me a lot more time to just do nothing - thinking was what I did the most.

I started to think why I got injured.  Over-use is something a lot of people keep telling me.  But I still will not buy into that excuse completely.  I spend 22 straight weeks and 32 total weeks at 100 or more miles in 2010 and never once had a problem physically.  On the other hand, I never went above 130, which I have now did 5 times in 2011 alone.  Maybe I hit the tipping point with mileage.  Maybe 151 was too much.

I also went back to a few days prior to my achilles first hurting.  On the 11th, I ran the indoor 5k at Cedarville in which I went sub-15.  The next morning, I picked right up on my "ultra" training and did a hard 30 mile trail run.  The next few days is when I first noticed the achilles.  Before that, nothing... Then the past week I tried to fix it up with a lot of icing, but never really took it easy.  I even felt good Saturday morning and went for another 30 mile run, and it felt fine!

The stress caused by running around a 200 meter track 25 miles at a high speed plus 30 miles of strength running is a lot to ask a body to do.  I am not so sure I can blame over-use as much as I can blame the things or types of running I did in the middle of the many miles.  All in all, the cause of my injury is probably a huge combination of everything I have did in the past month ranging from running, sleeping, eating, etc...

From here, I don't know what I will do.  I planned on doing the Nueces 50 Mile race on March 5th.  That seems to be out of the picture now.  I will not completely rule it out as I would still race it if somehow I took a week off and I was completely healed.  The past year of fitness I have built will not be lost.  This came at a bad time.  I was really looking forward to Nueces.

Mentally, I am having (or I should say, will have) a hard time.  Running has been such a big part of my life and taking it away abruptly might not go so well.  Eating will not be the same.  Sleeping will not be the same.  But like I said, maybe somehow I will be good in a couple days and this post will be completely irrelevant.

With the way I feel currently and with the amount of swelling, this could be worse than I hope.

I would like to hear any advice from anyone reading this.  Has anyone dealt with an achilles injury?  Why do you think this happened?  What should I do?  Any natural/holistic/simple (or not simple) remedies for recovery?  Anything, let me know...


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Feb. 14 - Feb. 20

Monday 2/14
AM:  10 miles (1:14:13).  Portsmouth + Barefoot
PM:  10 miles (1:19:49).  Portsmouth

Tuesday 2/15
AM:  14 miles (1:47:31).  Brush Creek Area
PM:  11 miles (1:26:59).  Brush Creek Area

Wednesday 2/16
AM:  10 miles (1:12:11).  Portsmouth
PM:  10 miles (1:12:14).  Portsmouth

Thursday 2/17
AM:  12 miles (1:23:58).  Brush Creek Area
PM:  9 miles (1:05:01).  Brush Creek Area

Friday 2/18
AM:  10 miles (1:10:57).  Portsmouth
PM:  10 miles (1:17:17).  Brush Creek Area

Saturday 2/19
AM:  31 miles (4:01:04).  Strouds Run
99% single-track trails.  Kept a good pace for the first 20 miles and then the lack of water hit me with a few to go.  Only 20 oz. of water and 200 calories.  Gently rolling hills and firm trails.

Sunday 2/20
AM:  8 miles (1:04:00).  Meigs County

Total Miles:  145
Total Time:  18:15:14

I have spent the better part of my running career trying to run free, to simply run for the love of running.  When something comes up that inhibits that, whether it is physically, mentally, or both, I have a hard time coping.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Chocolate Milk

Nutrition is something that has eluded me.  Though I consider myself somewhat-of-a-healthy eater, there are a lot of things about nutrition that I don't know about.  There are a few things that I make sure I do throughout the day or week (ex. fresh foods), but I couldn't give you the exact reasons why it works or why you should do it.  That is why I will not be likely to give you advice on how to eat.  Still, I believe nutrition and diet is very important for a runner to stay on top of.  There is only one thing that you might hear me talking about though - chocolate milk.

It is not uncommon for me to go through a gallon of milk every couple of day.  I like mixing in Hershey's Chocolate Syrup, it is what tastes the best for me.  Recovery wise, I can contribute this almost-daily ritual to keeping my body somewhat regular.  In a nutshell, chocolate milk keeps my bones strong.  I can't tell you the last time I drank just a plain glass of milk, but you are sure to see gallons of milk in my trash each week, along with a few bottles of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup.

Go to Jackie Dikos' blog about chocolate milk.  She is much better at explaining the benefits of it.  Jackie is a Registered Dietitian and Olympic Trials Qualifier in the marathon.  Plus, she went to college at Cincinnati, just a couple hours down the road from me.  Her blog has given me a better understanding of nutrition and it is nice seeing the thoughts and advice from an actual runner and not just a "regular" dietitian.     

With all the benefits of drinking chocolate milk, I simply love the taste of it too!  It's a win-win.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Feb. 7 - Feb. 13

Monday 2/7
AM:  12 miles (1:25:24).  Portsmouth + Barefoot
PM:  8 miles (1:00:17). Fire Tower

Tuesday 2/8
AM:  20 miles (2:40:00).  Brush Creek Trails
Most of this run was on the trails in Brush Creek. There was a fresh layer of puffy snow all over but the ground underneath was not yet frozen leading to a soft, mushy landing every step. That inclined me to stay out there much longer than I had anticipated because it was like running with no impact. Feeling pretty good.
PM:  5 miles (37:39).  Brush Creek Area

Wednesday 2/9
AM:  8 miles (1:01:51).  Brush Creek Area
PM:  12 miles (1:26:30.  Portsmouth

Thursday 2/10
AM:  5 miles (37:58).  Meigs County
PM:  12 miles (1:26:48).  Strouds Run

Friday 2/11
AM:  8 miles (58:24).  Portsmouth
PM:  11 miles (1:15:59).  Cedarville
For the full race report.

Saturday 2/12
AM:  30 miles (4:08:00).  Shawnee State Forest
Parked at the intersection of Roads #4 and #1. Headed right onto the Main Trail and left on the Silver Arrow down towards the Horse Camp. Got onto the new Conleys Run portion and ran Conleys Run until the Light Blue Connector trail all the way up to where Shake Hollow BT turns into Pigeon Roost BT. From there I ran down Forney Ridge after getting water at Campsite #1. I connected back to Silver Arrow via Hobey Holley, down to Camp Oyo and got more water at Campsite #3. Did the left portion of the Day Hike trail from there until it brought me up to Silver Arrow again. Finished up on Road #2 and finally the torturous paved downhill back to my car on Road #4.
After getting home late from the meet last night I slept until about 10:30 and didn't start this run until 1:45. I put together a much easier "deformed figure-8 type loop" than last week. Also, I must mention, the weather compared to last week was incredible (40 degree's, sunny). I stayed high on the ridges most of this run, and when I did go low, I was low for a few miles. The hilliest sections were the first couple miles on the Main Trail and when I got onto the single track Day Hike trail. In all the other sections, it was gently rolling hills.
When I was around 10 miles I looked at my watch and I was just faster than 8 minutes per mile and I carried a quicker pace for the next 5 miles or so on Pigeon Roost down to Forney Ridge. I was probably a little slower than 8 minute pace from 15-25 miles but I would venture to guess the last 5 miles were a steady 7:30, especially the last 1.5 miles that were all downhill on pavement. 30 is what I call the total, even though I probably was closer to 31-32.
Took in 400 calories (Clif Shot Bloks) and about 50 ounces of water. I felt like that did me well. It was very muddy on most of these trails but a bit of snow-covered-frozen-ground remained on south-facing slopes. I wore the Montrail Masochist for their first long outing with me. I was pleased with how they felt.
Very happy with this run all in all. Also, this was my longest solo run.

Sunday 2/13
AM:  12 miles (1:30:10).  Brush Creek Area
PM:  8 miles (1:02:44).  Fire Tower

Total Miles:  151
Total Time:  19:13:24


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Slightly Different Pace. . .

I remember thinking last year after going 15:00.20 in the 5k at Charlotte, not knowing if I would ever have as good as a chance to break 15 in the 5k. The track season was winding down for us and the only race I was preparing for was the 10k at Duke. When summer came around, I figured my fast 5k days were over since cross country consisted of 8k's and I was surely going to go "all ultras, nothing else" after the season. .21 seconds is the only thing that separated me from Sub-15 and I was content with that at the time. I mean, what is .21 seconds?

Well, .79 seconds became all the difference to that question last night...

Monday morning one of my friends told me I should run at the Cedarville Meet Friday night.  I honestly did not even know this meet was this week.  I had no intentions on doing a 5k because I was basically full-bore into solid mileage building up for the Neuces 50 Mile race March 5th.  I debated back and forth whether I would run this race all week and by Thursday night I had practically talked myself into not racing.  Eric wanted me to drive the van to the race for the team and he said he registered me for the race and that I could decide if I wanted to race when I got there.  I packed my spikes and after running a few miles at the meet, I managed to 100% commit to running the 5k.

To make a long story short, I got in the race and eased into a comfortable rhythm.  Eric was pacing Matt Brooker who wanted to go 14:45 and I was mid-pack at the mile, 5 seconds behind Eric and Brooker - 4:50.  I was surprised to find myself right on their heels another 400 meters later, Eric pulled out of his pacing duties.  Out two miles split was 9:35 (4:45 second mile for me).  From there, I sat on Brooker until the last 800 meters where I moved around him and pushed hard to the finish.  He ended up finishing 2 seconds behind me and I crossed the line officially at 14:59.41!

To be able to run this fast was shocking for me.  One big reason I decided to do the race was to see what I could do with the training I am doing right now, not really to go for a PR.  Here are all the reasons I am surprised I was able to run so fast:

-2 months + 1 week after TNF 50 Miler
-1 month after the FS 50K
-1 workout since November (4 mile tempo @ 5:45 avg.)
-145 miles last week
-17 miles the day before the race
-8 miles the morning of the race

The Cedarville Indoor meet has been the site of my 5K PR four years in a row now (15:58, 15:54, 15:27, 14:59).  I am starting to think I just need to keep going back every year!  The atmosphere in there is very good and all the people cheering for the 5K seems to motivate me a lot.  From here, I am not sure how many more Sub-15's I will go in my lifetime, or even how many more 5K's I will do period, but I am sure glad I finally broke 15.

The confidence that I took from this race was even more rewarding.  My training style has not always been the "traditional" way of doing things, especially for a 5K indoor track race.  I can practically count the number of miles under 6 minute pace on both my hands and if I add my toes, I could count the number of sub-7 minute miles.  With that said, I have been building so much strength running on trails and my fitness level is at an all-time high.  Plus, with the prior experience of running track races, I can always feel confident with the tactical racing done on a track.

I do not want this post to sound like I am bragging on what I did.  After all, it is only .79 seconds faster than my previous best time.  There are still hundreds of people running in the 14's and 13's every track meet around America and even a handful of people running Sub-13.

If people are reading this, I hope I can provide a source of inspiration.  Goals are not achieved by one set way of doing things.  In running especially, there are dozens of different ways to get to an end result.  It comes down to finding what works for you and loving what you do.  I love running a lot of miles on hilly trails and I bring that love and confidence with me to when I race, no matter the distance.  Sure, people can say I could have ran XX seconds faster if I didn't do this and did do that, but no one can really be 100% sure about that.  I am 100% sure that I love doing what I do and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Trusty Spikes

Run Free


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Jan. 30 - Feb. 6

Monday 1/31
AM:  13 miles (1:33:41).  Floodwall + Barefoot
Connected both of the floodwalls with the Bear Run in between.  During the Bear Run sections I was running close to 7 minute miles.  I also took off my shoes for a little time on the turf.
PM:  7 miles (52:14).  Fire Tower
Wysocki and I came out to the house early and ran to the Fire Tower.  After I crossed the gate going to the Fire Tower I decided to go for the record up to the fence.  Went 4:24 which is a 10 second record.  I was happy with that effort!

Tuesday 2/1
AM:  20 miles (2:29:01).  Brush Creek Area
Did not plan on doing this much but once I got outside I was feeling good and decided to go long. I did two loops around the Main Trail at Brush Creek + 2 Fire Tower summits. As I was getting ready to get back to the house I turned left onto Sedan-Crabtree instead of right and decided to run some faster miles. I did about 4 consecutive miles hard (6:45, 6:45, 6:42, 5:53). That last one I really pushed hard, it was mostly uphill but I got some motivation by three angry dogs chasing me. I felt fairly smooth and comfortable running at a "quicker than normal pace."
PM:  5 miles (38:19).  Brush Creek Area
It was raining the entire run, but the sound of rain in the trees and the swirling water in the once frozen creeks made for a mellow run. 

Wednesday 2/2
AM:  12 miles (1:29:21).  Portsmouth + Barefoot
Ran after my first class. I am discovering how hard it is to find time for trails these days. For a split second I thought about utilizing a treadmill today because of the gale force winds!. I don't know why I though this, its not me. Once I was outside I realized the wind doesn't hurt that bad. Plus, if I kept running East it was to my back. To bad I had to turn around.
PM:  5 miles (35:18).  Portsmouth
Ran around the Biker Loop a little on the West Floodwall and back. I met up with Sara as she was running the mile back to her house. Back to school from there.

Thursday 2/3
AM:  12 miles (1:29:49).  Brush Creek Area
Main loop, plus Fire Tower, plus a little more on the trails. 
PM:  8 miles (54:11). Portsmouth
Drove into town for a team meeting and ran this run with Bradley. He goes off of this heart rate thing and was apparently feeling good because we finished this run a good 2 minutes up on all the other guys. His garmin indicated we went closer to 8.2 miles but I will log it as 8. Last two miles were under 6:30. Its all about the science baby!
I am happy with the way I felt on this run. I knew I would feel good, because I rarely have a bad 2nd run of the day. Plus, being with a big group of guys for the first time in a while made me want to stay up on them. Set to do a little temp type run tomorrow.

Friday 2/4
AM:  5 miles (36:40).  Floodwall + Barefoot
Flood wall for 3 miles and barefoot on the turf for 2.
PM:  10 miles (1:05:22).  Portsmouth, Spartan Municipal Stadium
First "structured" workout since November. I met the team at four and we did a continuous 4 mile super-controlled run on the track. Hit our times right where we aimed.
-warm-up: 21:06
-Mile 1: 6:00
-Mile 2: 5:59
-Mile 3: 5:28
-Mile 4: 5:28
-cool-down: 21:18
-Total: 1:05:22
This felt very smooth and I was relaxed the whole way. I know this doesn't even compare to some of the workouts I have did in the past, but for easing into this workout stuff, this is perfect. Breathing was real and on mark

Saturday 2/5
AM:  28 miles (4:12:27).  Shawnee State Forest
Counter-clockwise on the Main Trail from Turkey Creek Lake Parking Lot until the Hangover Intersection.  Left on Hangover until Road #2.  Right on #2 and left of Mackletree Bridle Trail down to the Lookout Trail.  Left of S.R. 125, right on the Dayhike Trail, and left on the Connector Trail that brought me back to my car.
Somehow I convinced Corey Culbertson to join me on this run.  He walked the last 2 miles to the car but this was his longest run by 6 miles, next to his 20 miler I convinced him to do with me last fall.  Besides that, 15 miles had been his most.  I did fine all things considered.
The run went well for me.  I never hit a low moment and kept a nice smooth pace.  There were many sections of hills that made this run challenging but compared to the last 28 miler I did in November, this was a bit quicker.
The weather could not have been worse.  The forecast called four 40 degrees and no rain until after we would be finished.  But, it was raining as we started so I wore my wind jacket.  I got warm halfway through the run and took off the jacket but quickly had to put it back on because it started getting real windy.  The last 15 miles were full of high winds and sleet.
Took about 360 total calories and 40 ounces of water during the run. 

Sunday 2/6
AM:  12 miles (1:32:43).  Brush Creek Area
Main Trail + Fire Tower add on. Finished up with a couple miles on the road. After yesterdays run, I am pleased with the way I recovered and how I felt on today's run.
PM:  8 miles (58:47).  Fire Tower

Total Miles:  145
Total Time:  18:27:56

This week provided for a busy running schedule and I got a good mix of fast and slow runs.  I did a little 4 mile tempo on the track with the team that I was very pleased with.  Although it would seem I have lost some foot speed with all the miles lately, I would feel confident about getting it back real soon if I had too.  Early in the week I also finished a run with a few sub 6 miles.

Aside from short faster stuff, I did my first long(ish) run since the 50k in early January.  I was very pleased with the way I felt on it and how I have recovered since.  I imagine I will do one or two more weeks of a weekend run around that same distance before the Neuces 50 miler, which I officially registered for in this week. 

I have also succumbed to the "new media world" and created a Twitter account.  If anyone is interested, there is a widget of my updates in the upper-right side of my blog.  I find it a good way to keep up with ultra-news, such as the Rocky Raccoon 100 Miler Saturday.  I followed a little bit of the progress via iRunFar's Twitter Updates.  I am very impressed with the 12:44:33 Ian Sharman threw down.