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.

Confusions
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.

Contusions
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.

Conclusions
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...


26 comments:

  1. This is one of my favorite posts Scott. I felt like I was reading my own epitaph. My millage chart looks identical to yours, but starting one month earlier and about 20% more miles (i.e. 20% more stupid). My December was closing in on 140. AND most of my miles over the last 6 months have been single track, hills, tempo or races. I am so broken down. And I am terribly depressed without my endorphin highs. I can't get up to speed, HR is up and everything feels hard. I am praying that 3 weeks is enough time to reset. My body made the choice to opt out. It sounds like yours did too. I have been jealous of your running exploits and every jogger on the road. Maybe you are not Superman, but you sure did look like him for awhile. 3 weeks will be enough. I am still mechanically unable to run, but fingers crossed. I am looking at a swim class this Saturday. Interested? Drop me a line. Really well written post.

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    1. Thanks, Ryan. When I read your post on Friday, I was already spiraling. It took just another day or so to realize how far I had gone down the pipe. The ability to block out pain and not listen to my body is one of my natural "talents" apparently. My HR out of bed was nearly 90 this morning. I'll be doing absolutely nothing for the remainder of this week. I'll let you know about the swim class.

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  2. Good post Scott. I know nothing about running, but I know when I'm tired.

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    1. Thanks, Paul. My problem is that I *don't* know when I'm tired. Over training in endurance sports is weird that way.

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  3. Sorry to see you falling apart before your goal race. You might want to look into doing a daily CNS fatigue test. This can be as simple as putting pencil dots on a paper in set number of seconds or using one of the tapping test programs available for pc/mac.

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    1. Thanks for the CNS fatigue reference, Andrew! I'd never read about that until now. Sounds familiar...

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  4. Take it easy, man, I know you'll feel better soon. Make a big batch of gelatinous broth. Get your sleep. Maybe watch a running movie--have you seen Hood to Coast? Bunch of crazy people. It's streaming on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Hood-To-Coast/dp/B006HBAET8/

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    1. Hood to Coast looks like a fun movie, Gunt. I'll check it out. Thanks!

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  5. Great post. I'm naturally lazy so I'm super good at finding excuses to back off on training. We should get together for beer and I can share my expertise of laziness.

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    1. That's what is so crazy about this over training thing, Jim. I'm naturally lazy too. It's this frickin' marathon time goal that's pushed all my training stupidity buttons. No more time goals after this race (and probably not for this race either). I'll take you up on that beer, anytime.

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  6. Quitter. You are just being plain lazy. The fact you could still walk two miles means you left a lot in the tank. Getting sick means you are on the right track, but you must get back out there!
    You are not done yet. I did not see any mention of stabbing knee pain, Igor style limping, or trips to the surgeon.
    If you don't hit 50 miles this week, you are nothing but a morbidly obese couch potato who will need to be removed from his house with a crane.

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    1. Ok, that made me shoot my morning coffee through my nose, Anthony! Thanks!

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  7. I think you're right on schedule for an excellent Umstead Marathon. From here on out just run whenever, however. You should be totally recovered by March 3rd. Then you can wreck yourself again.

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    1. We shall see, Josh. At this point, I just want to run Umstead and have a good time. But you are probably right. By March 3rd, I'll be recovered and will go out hard and blow up like a human land mine at mile 15.

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  8. Just chill out... it is taper time and you are obviously worked... have been for awhile. You know you've put in the effort so now you need to allow for the recovery. Be a big boy and let your body soak in the goodness!

    And in the future, build in some recovery weeks!!!!!!

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    1. Recovery weeks are a good idea that I have never tried, Sean. If I ever set up an aggressive training schedule again, I'll make sure and chalk in a few rest weeks along the way.

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  9. Did you clean that toilet before photographing it? I mean, it looks nice and clean. But, with the the viruses raging through your household lately...I'd be inclined to burn that book. (Have you seen that virus movie?) ;-P

    Seriously, though, Scott, I'll sympathize with your condition just to spite you. I know you must be terribly frustrated. And, that only makes the pain hurt more, like an angry hurt. Definitely take time off. Maybe make an experiment out of a 3-week ultimate taper in which you do not run at all. (No, don't do that. Run a little.)

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    1. HA! Ash, my wife asked the exact same question. And yes, I wiped the toilet with a Lysol disinfecting cloth before I put the book on there.

      Thanks for the sympathy, but really, I don't deserve it. This training crash is of my own making. You are right though. It *is* frustrating. And depressing. And even humorous in some ways. They guy who couldn't run a mile 2 years ago, now finds himself over trained for his 3rd marathon. Not a bad "first world" problem to have really, now that I think about it. Ok, I'm feeling totally better about this whole thing now!

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  10. Just look at it as your body telling you it's time to start tapering! Nothing like a good ol' fashioned forced taper to make you feel right again :) ...and this way you can give yourself permission to really enjoy the gummy bears and cookies at the Umstead aid stations because... you know... you need to refuel from January's depletion!

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    1. I really like your thinking, Karen. I had completely forgotten about the gummy bears at the aid stations!

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  11. Scott, We know what can happen when we ignore our "Check Engine" light, don't we? Get some rest! You will be fine for Umstead. "Knowing the place and the time of the coming battle, we may concentrate from the greatest distances in order to fight." - Sun Tzu

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    1. Thanks Gene! Strangely enough I have a copy of "The Art of War" at my desk here at work. I need to read it again..

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  12. This is an opportunity. Take a couple of weeks off, do some light training the week before the race, and you might surprise yourself...

    Oh, and Scott, I'm happy that you're back to the sort of posts that we've come to know and love. The Uwharrie post was really a snore, frankly. This one is excellent, especially the two-mile shuffle back home. Nice work. ;)

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    1. Thanks, Tuck! I'm going to head into the Umstead race with no preconceived notions or time goals and just see what happens. Hopefully, you are right, and I will surprise myself. If not, I'll have yet another entertaining suffer-fest post for my blog. See, win-win!!

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  13. Scott,

    I am really sorry for your body. it is awful that you continue to do this to your body even though you do acknowledge how absurd your ideas are. By the sound of your post I don't think you have learned enough yet to change things but atleast by thinking about you are closer to the opportunity to change things. I would recommend getting a coach and following his/her advice to the letter. Best of luck.

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    1. Thanks (I think), Jeremy. Paying for a coach is a ridiculous idea though, considering that I'm just some doofus who runs occasionally. You live in a different running universe, where coaching and performance and achievement really mean something. My blog is not even in the backwaters of that world. However, my body thanks you for your sympathy, and my absurb brain thanks you for stopping by the blog. Cheers!

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