Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pre-Chicago Marathon Update

Okay, it's been awhile since I stopped by here and a lot has happened since then.  Here's the short short version for those who don't want to read on.  After Dam to Dam the official marathon training plan started.  I ran a lot in June.  I ran even more in July.  Did a couple of local races.  Went on RAGBRAI.  Got drunk and wrecked my bike and broke my collarbone.  Got depressed while I took some time off to heal.  Got better and ran a lot in September.  Now I'm ready to go run a marathon.

Whew.  Okay now for the long extended version.  Let's cover the good stuff first.  After Dam to Dam I took about a week off to recover and get ready to start an 18 week focused plan that would get me to the start line of Chicago.  The plan would be a bit of a departure from what I had been doing up to that point.  Essentially that spring I had gotten my legs to the point of tolerating 50 mile weeks.  The plan would add even more miles, along with focused speed work and marathon pace long runs.  I was excited to get started.

The first few weeks went well.  I had a great week while vacationing in Holland, Michigan.  I love the variety of running somewhere new.  It didn't hurt that there were trails galore there.  I was able to sleep in, go knock a workout off, then either relax by the pool or go hack around the golf course.  By the next workout I was nice and recovered and able to get a good run in.  Coming back to Iowa though was a bit of a wake up call.  Back to work and back to being on my feet all day.  Not to mention this was about the time that we started hitting our streak of 90+ degree days.  It compounded together to give me a streak of poor workouts.  I knew I needed to change something and that meant waking up early while it was cool(er) out before work.  Now I'm usually at work by 6 or 7 in the morning so early morning runs started sometime between 3 and 5 depending on how far I had to go.  Waking up early was never easy, but it was a necessity, and something about running 15 miles in the wee hours of the morning before most people wake up just makes you feel good about yourself.  Speed work was a little difficult in the dark, but the workouts definitely got better from there on out.  I was seeing improvement from week to week and completing my key workouts with success.

My next race rolled around on the fourth of July.  It was a 5k held at the park I do a lot of my running at so I couldn't pass it up.  Plus I wanted to see what kind of 5k speed I had because I wasn't particularly training for that.  I got left in the dust by a couple of high school kids, but still managed a respectable 19:50 finish for a 6:23/mile pace.  Not bad.

Midnight Madness, Ames's annual 5k/10k race was just around the corner a week and a half later.  I've run this race a few times, but this year I was crazy enough to run both the 5k and the 10k race.  The 5k was up first and I took it a little conservatively knowing I had to run another race shortly after.  Surprisingly I finished in 19:40 for a 6:19/mile pace and a finish of 99/1634 people and 4/62 in my age group.  I wasn't really too keen on running another race at that point, but 40 minutes later I was at the start line for the 10k.  That races started okay, but I couldn't a fast pace and faded hard the last half.  I managed a finish in 41:56 for a 6:44/mile pace and a finish of 58/488 overall and 5/32 in my age group.  They kept track of combined times so when compared to other insanos that did the double I was 18/145 overall and 2nd in my age group (out of 11).  All in all a pretty successful night of running.  I'm not sure if I would ever do the double again because that hurt.  I think I would prefer to just go run a half marathon.

Little recovery time was needed after that I was back to training.  Soon enough the week of RAGBRAI crept up on me.  I squeezed in one last long run the morning of departure (21 miles at 4:30 in the morning) before meeting up with the Butt Ice bike team to take me to the start at Sioux Center.  The original arrangement was for me to ride with my friend's dad in their gear truck.  I was looking forward to napping and recovering after the workout.  Instead, they had extra room on their team bus and they invited me aboard.  When you get on a bus with a bar in the back and four or five coolers full of beer in the middle it's hard to not get a little sauced on a five hour bus ride.  My hosts were nice and made sure I always had a beer in my hands so by the time we rolled into town I was pretty well obliterated.

Details get a little fuzzy here, but I know I called my friends I was to be riding with to come and pick me up and take me to camp.  They laughed at me while I struggled to put up my tent and it was at that point that my drunk ass should've just crawled into said tent and called it a night.  Instead we decided to go ride and find some food.  At some point I got separated from our group and in an attempt to pull a u-turn I hit some gravel and laid the bike down, landing on my shoulder hard.  I was bleeding a bit from road rash so I found my way to the medical center (thankfully close by).  They cleaned up the scrapes, but my drunken machismo was talking for me and I played off how hurt the shoulder was so no x-rays at the time.  I finally made it back to my tent later and promptly passed out only to wake up to one stiff and sore shoulder.

I was getting sharp pains with certain motions and it generally just hurt like hell so I opted to drive the van for our group.  Driving wasn't too bad.  I got to meet the guys halfway through the day and then go find a campsite and sit around and drink beer while I waited for them all to get in.  After drinking all night I would talk big and say I was going to ride the next day, but by morning the alcohol numbed pain would have returned.  So I drove all week and only rode a little bit one night to test it out (even with beer painkillers it hurt a lot). When I got back to Ames I schedule a doctor's appointment right away.  It had been 5 days with little reduction in pain and still swollen as hell.  I was about 95% sure I had a broken collarbone at that point, but just needed to confirm it.  One quick x-ray later and yup, I was right.

It was small hairline fracture that ran pretty much perpendicular along the end of the scapula.  It was a little hard to believe that small little crack caused that much pain.  The good thing was no surgery and no chances of it healing incorrectly. The doc said six weeks in a sling and no running. Yeah right.  After a small protest she got on the phone to an orthopedist and came back with a much better number: 3 weeks no running.  Okay, I thought, 2 weeks it is.To be honest, those two weeks were not a whole lot of fun.  I was down on myself for doing something so stupid and generally just irritated at all of the training I was missing out on.  Eventually I got to the point where I knew it was pointless to keep dwelling on what happened and instead look to the future and focus on what I could do to maximize my return on training and give myself a shot at my goal of qualifying for Boston.

So two weeks after the crash I went for my first test run in my sling.  I made it four miles.  The shoulder didn't hurt too much, but I was cramping badly in one of my quads and calf.  Having that arm stuck by my side was really screwing with my form.  It's funny how you take for granted how much your arms are used for balance and propulsion.  Turns out my shoulder got really sore in the days after that run so I decided the doctor might be right and waited another week before attempting another one.  I kept the runs short at first and made sure I took a rest day in between each one.  Eventually I lost the sling while running and I quickly found out how weak my shoulder had gotten during all those weeks in the sling.  After four or five miles of running it would cramp up so bad I would have to stop and rest.

At that point I was 5 weeks post break, out of the sling completely, and starting to regain a bit of range of motion.  The cramping got better and I was able to stretch the runs out a little longer.  Once September hit I was pretty much back on a regular schedule.  In hindsight I may have ramped up the mileage a little too quickly.  A few of my old nagging injuries have cropped back up in the last few weeks, but hopefully the reduced workload of the taper will wipe those away.  Aside from that it was a good month.  I ran around 230 miles, including one long run of 20 miles and some successful speed sessions that have gone a long way to restoring some of my confidence.

I know I didn't just lose a month of training.  I basically lost two months as this month September was used to get me back to where I was in July fitness-wise.  Will that be enough for me to run a Boston qualifying time? I don't know, but I at least feel that I've done the best I can given the circumstances.  If anything it's taken a bit of the pressure off of myself.  I'll show up on race day and run as hard as I can and see what happens.  I'm hoping I'll be pleasantly surprised like I was at Ironman in 2010 when injuries wiped out my last month of training. If not, it's still looking to be a fun weekend in Chicago. 

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