To all of the 10 people who are still following this blog (there are still 10 of you out there right? RIGHT?), I’m here to announce my comeback to blogging! Notice I said BLOGGING, not RUNNING, because that’s still at least a few weeks away. But we’ll get to that. Let me start by briefly recapping what I’ve been up to in terms of running for the past six months.
In the last post before my long hiatus, I mentioned that I had just finished running the Portugal Day 5M in a time of 30:49. Although I ran that race under some duress, it was still a rather poor showing for me since it had been well over a year since I ran a five miler in anything over 30:10. It also came at the tail end of a series of disappointing race performances (including a post-injury DNF at the Lansing Marathon in April, a DNS at Delaware Marathon in early May, a lack-luster Brooklyn half marathon in late May, and a DNF 4-Miler in early June). I found it somewhat difficult to train for races appropriately because I didn’t have a clue what my baseline fitness was. Was I still the guy who PR’d the 5K like a rockstar in early March or was I this shadow of my former self who had trouble completing even a four or five mile race without walking? Should I base my training paces on recent races if all of them were subpar for one reason or another? Is my body revolting because I’d been running and training so fervently for the past several years or am I just not pushing my limits far enough? I found these questions very difficult to answer. Moreover, it was an unusually hot summer this year, with many straight days of 90+ temps and stifling humidity. For all the above reasons, I just wasn’t as motivated as I had been in years past to run high volume and train very hard. Whereas in the past two summers, I was consistently averaging 40-50 miles per week every week, this summer I had weeks of 20s haphazardly dispersed between weeks of 40s. It was very frustrating because I really thought I’d be in line for a good fall marathon training cycle after establishing a relatively solid base during the spring. I had run a 1:23:40 half marathon and 5K PR in March for godssake, MARCH!
Despite underwhelming race performances all throughout the summer, including a 38:58 Queens 10K under scorching conditions in early July and a 31:19 Club Champs 5 miler a month later (easily my worst time in that race in 4 years!), I never lost my love for the more social aspects of the sport. This summer, I participated in the Green Mountain Relay for the very first time (thanks to TK for including me) and developed several close friendships along the way. I also helped and coached several runner friends to PRs in their fall marathons. But perhaps what I’m most proud of this year, more than any other, is witnessing every member of my own family take up and develop their own passion for endurance sports. (FYI – My brother completed his first half ironman, Timberman 70.3, this summer while my parents ran two half marathons and will be running their first marathon (Dallas) this coming weekend! I honestly cannot be more excited for them and proud of them!) I cannot say that I did all that much to inspire them all that much (because I certainly never encouraged such behavior during dinner conversations!) but I feel really honored and privileged to be able to share in their journey with them.
Then, something happened in late August that I could never quite explain. Perhaps I was fueled by watching my brother crossing the finish line of his first half-ironman. Perhaps, I was embarrassed by all the age group awards my mom was winning at all the NYRR races she was running in. Perhaps I finally felt guilty enough by my own lackadaisical approach to training. Whatever it was, I panicked and got insanely serious about running. I developed an impromptu 12 week training plan for New York (Marathon). I took 2 weeks to build from 35 to 50+ miles per week of training. I started incorporated two-a-days and fast tempo runs to my regimen. I started hitting the trails and track again early in the morning before work and did 10, 12 mile and then 15 mile long marathon-paced runs followed by twenty milers every weekend for three weeks straight. Although I hadn’t done more than one of these elements all summer, I thought I would just pick it up and do them all at once. After all, that’s what I was doing at this time LAST YEAR and it served me well enough, or so I thought.
Clearly, I wasn’t thinking.
The clincher was a one week stretch where I raced a 4-Miler hard (and finished in 23:39, not a PR, but good enough for a 3rd place AG award, my first ever in an NYRR race) on Saturday, ran 20 miles over the Palisades on Sunday, did a 10 tempo run on Tuesday, a faster-than-it-should-be 14 mile MP run over some hills on Wednesday, and a half marathon in Niantic Bay three days later. In that race, I was tired but was racing well until I developed a sudden cramp in my left hamstring and debilitating knee pain at mile 7. I thought about dropping out mid-race but I was in 6th place OVERALL and I really wanted another age group award to validate all the efforts I had been putting in to running well for the past few weeks. Besides my friend who had driven up to this race with me was spectating and cheering for me at all the turnarounds and I didn’t want to look foolish in front of her! So I did the best I could to negotiate the pain and ran on to finish the race. I came in at 1:25:XX, which was good enough for 7th place overall, but not enough for an age group award as I ended up 4th! But at least my friend got an unexpected PR in her own half marathon, so that race was at least a partial success.
I was in a bit of pain after that experience. For the next several days, I had a noticeable limp and couldn’t run. I was back to running by the end of the week but not without lingering discomfort in my left knee. The following Saturday, I went out on a long run and got into a bit of an accident, the exact details of which I promised to myself I would not share here. Suffice it to say, my left knee was in worse shape after that. When it did not clear up after two week of no running, I knew it was bad. I saw a sports medicine doctor and got an MRI the following day which revealed a Grade I tear of the medial collateral ligament (MCL). Upon hearing the diagnosis, I was legitimately bummed. I saw my sub-2:55 fall marathon goal, something I had been training hard for, just vanish into thin air. He gave me a knee brace and told me to rest as much as I could for the next month and a half. Since I had never been seriously injured before and couldn’t understand the concept of complete rest, I kept going out there every 2-3 days for 4-6 mile “test” runs. The knee pain got progressively better, but never completely gone. When I went back to the doctor a second time, he was quite angry with me and threatened surgery if I did not stop aggravating the injury. So I reluctantly stopped and have not been running ever since. Yes, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t find myself negotiating with my knee for a one-mile jog. But I know better now. Wisdom unfortunately comes only with experience.
So that’s where my running has been for the past six months. As you can see, there’s not been much to write home about (which explains why I’ve been gone for so long). I am still on an injury break. I am still not allowed to run (maybe in a couple of weeks). But I have accepted this fact and am dealing with it a lot better. I have come to view my running break not as a horrible catastrophe but as an opportunity to take a step back and view the forest from the trees. I have a much better appreciation for what I had and what I was able to accomplish when the running was good. Instead of wondering if I will ever get faster or when I can run longer, I have peace knowing that my body has been through a lot in the past seven year and I just need a break right now from the physical and mental demands of training. I am okay with that. And whenever it is that I can run again I will revel in the ecstasy of the body in motion without worrying so much about my current or future performance. I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but I will strive to get back to that magical place as soon as I’m cleared for takeoff.