Monday, February 13, 2012

Circling the Drain

It's not you Hal, it's me.
Leave it to me to over analyze everything about my marathon training plan, and then to systematically destroy said plan through sheer force of will and stupidity. It seems that I can't say no to running, but running can certainly say no to me.

Let me back up a bit.

Way back in November, after successfully finishing the Medoc Mountain Marathon, I hatched a plan to redeem my craptacular performance at last year's Umstead Marathon. It was a plan full of big ideas, measurable goals, and speed work. It was fool proof. Unfortunately, it wasn't Scott proof (almost nothing is really).

November went fairly well. I started speed work and experienced a few adaptation pains, mostly in my achilles, calves, feet, hips, and hamstrings. And my quads. Can't forget about the stabbing pains in my quads. Oh, and my glutes, they were destroyed as well. But I won't mention my lower back pain, since your back isn't supposed to hurt due to running.

By December I had adapted to the speed work to the point that my legs didn't feel like Guantanamo Bay "guests" after every workout. My heart and lungs were feeling less and less like they were on the verge of complete meltdown when I ran 400m repeats. And, I was seeing improvements in my track times! Unfortunately, those improvements meant big recovery times for my old body, and that, along with catching the stomach flu, caused December to be my lowest mileage month since the previous July.

In January, I doubled down on both the speed work and added a couple of tough races into the mix as well. When I ran the Little River 10 miler in mid January, I should have known something was wrong. I couldn't get my body to generate any real speed. I'm more than capable of 8:30 pace on single track (when I'm healthy!) for 7 or 8 miles. I've ran 8:30 in Umstead on Company Mill and Sycamore, which are pretty tough trails. So when I couldn't break through 9:00 minute pace on race day, I was a bit confused. I chalked up that performance to already having 40 miles on the books for that week, including a hard speed session.

I took a week or so break towards the end of January as a taper for the Uwharrie Mountain Run 20 miler in early February. However, even with the taper, January turned out to be my highest mileage month ever. I only know this now, looking back at my training logs.

The late January taper had allowed my body to recover well enough to survive Uwharrie in early February without too much drama. Not that I was fast in Uwharrie. Uwharrie has its own internal speed limiting system - fear of death. I recovered from Uwharrie pretty quickly. Or at least I thought I recovered. I caught a cold a few days after the race, but otherwise, my legs felt great by the end of the week. So, off to Umstead I went, attempting to get back on my marathon training schedule. That was last Friday.

Last Friday afternoon, I was feeling really good. My cold seemed to be gone and my legs felt fully recovered and ready for a nice tempo run in Umstead. I chose my normal out and back route on Turkey Creek and planned a 9 minute pace for about 12 miles. I've done this particular tempo run before without any real problems, so I was shocked when at mile 5 my body simply shut down. The run never felt right. Not easy, not light, and especially not smooth. Everything felt hard. Maintaining my normal pace was about all I could do, and then I crashed hard at mile 5. I struggled to mile 6 and stopped for a few minutes to take stock. This is where the stupidity meme of my running comes stomping in like a rhino rampaging through a light bulb warehouse. Instead of calling it a day and walking back to my car, I decided that I would be damned if Turkey Creek was going to "beat me"! I decided to run the remaining 6 miles at the same body destroying tempo that had just cracked me at mile 5. And somehow, through sheer force of stubborn stupidity, I did it! I stumbled into the parking lot and collapsed into my car, having held just under 9 minute average pace for the run.

Of course, there was a cost to finishing that run. That night my body decided that it knew better than my brain, and simply shut down for about 24 hours. My entire body seemed to be inflamed. My legs radiated heat. I was nauseous and I slept very poorly.

I felt just like this...

But did I get the message? Noooooo!

By Sunday, I woke up feeling tired, but ready to go run the 4 Mile Godiva Geezer Pleezer with my son Ryan. I made it less than half a mile at a decent (for me) 8:00 minute pace before my body started to feel like it was going to self destruct. Luckily I got distracted by a dog, and then started blabbering away to the dog's owner (Hi Bill!) and slowed down enough to prevent the inevitable implosion. I finished the run with Ryan, but I was feeling very, very tired.

Unfortunately, I still had it in my head that I needed to run 8 more miles that day to finish with a total of 12 miles for the 12athon. I still wasn't getting the message. My body was screaming for a rest, but I refused to listen.

So, off I went that same afternoon on an "easy" 8 mile loop in my neighborhood to finish off my 12athon miles. By now, running was misery. Every step was difficult and unpleasant. But I'm stubborn to the point of stupidity, especially about sports, so I pushed on. I managed to shuffle, run, and walk for about 6 miles.

And then, I stopped.

At mile 6, I simply could not run another step. My legs simply shut down and locked up. Walking was possible, but only very slowly and very painfully. I was reduced to a stiff-legged, old-man shuffle. The 2 mile walk back to my house took nearly an hour. I spent that time thinking about all of this.

Where does that leave me? Well, apparently my overtrained body has decided that I am now on a running sabbatical. With less than 3 weeks until Umstead, my "A" race for the entire Spring running season, I'm lying in the metaphorical ditch, unable to get up. Four months of preparation is slowly swirling down the drain. And I'm the guy who flushed it.

Why did I write this? Certainly not to garner sympathy. Hell, even I am not sympathetic to my situation. I think I just wanted to make sure this entire experience gets burned into my leathery frontal lobe.

I do think I have learned a lesson of some sort. I'm just not sure what that lesson is. I'm sure it will come to me. Probably on my next run...