Saturday, November 22, 2008

Just Keep Moving... The Best Philosophy

I love reading just about anything Ultra-Running Related. I think I have mentioned in earlier posts that I have Running Through The Wall by Don Allison from Breakaway Books. It is essentially a collection of vignettes from Ultrarunners of all levels, and their encounters with the long run. A common thread through many of these stories is the moment where one encounters the pinnacle of adversity during there ultra runs and must decide how to cope. Unless there is something extraordinarily wrong with the runner (and in some cases there is something extraordinarily wrong) they decide to do one thing: "Just keep moving".

Additionally, I also had the opportunity to finally sit down and watch JB Benna's documentary The Runner last night. The film documents Dr. David Horton's challenge of the speed record on the Pacific Crest Trail. Throughout the whole experience, through the highs and lows, Horton is challenged by the terrain and his own emotions, but he resolves to keep running, and moving forward.

Throughout the last 5 or 6 weeks I too have been dealing with my own issues, only my challenge has not come through the challenge of getting to the finish of an Ultra. Instead I have had to deal with the inner struggle of dealing with ratcheting down my training, even to the point of complete idleness.

The last couple of weeks have been good because I have felt well enough to start incorporating longer distance runs lately. I have not been able to resume a higher weekly mileage, but I have resolved that the best way to deal with the situation is to, at the very least, attempt to preserve one aspect of my training plan going forward into next year. My hope is to conservatively build my long run each week. I was able to run 20 minutes two weeks ago, last week I was able to run 30 minutes without any pain from my knee, so this weekend I was hoping to run 40 minutes.

The basic philosophy is that when one is out on the trail, the measure of a runner is not necessarily gauged in the number of miles he or she can complete. I have realized that many events advertise a certain distance from point A to point B, but, in the end, it is about a distinct length of time one can be on the trail. For instance, my race at the Blue Hills this past summer was a great challenge. I was certainly in shape to cover the 7.2 miles of distance, but I was not in shape to negotiate the terrain and did not anticipate the 2 hours of run/speed hiking I was doing. It isn't a complaint, rather, it is a testament to the adventure inherent in many trail races.

Not that my injury was caused by such a miscalculation, but I think I made the jump from middle range distances to longer distances way too fast this Fall. I was pleased I was able to handle my first attempts at running 3+ hours, but I think I made a little miscalculation in thinking I could run over 3 hours because I was comfortable running 2.5 hours. I really should have built to three as opposed to just jumping up. I also drastically changed my philosophy of sticking to the basic training plan I was using, namely because I wasn't comfortable going into a marathon with my longest run being 20 miles.

I may increase weekly long runs by 20 minutes, instead of 10, for the sake of getting to a certain level in a shorter amount of time, but the basic goal is to get comfortable enough to run a 50k or 50 miler at some point next year, along with the general goal of becoming more fit an faster at shorter distances (I'd also like to bring my half-marathon and 25k times from this year down next year).

So today I planned on running 40 minutes. Of course I waited until after the sun went down, and as I took a peek at the temp outside I was not happy to see the "22" on the LCD display. Hat, gloves, headlamp, three layers, reflective gear, running pants... the works. I actually sort of enjoyed the whole process because it was the realization that winter is here, and I really believe the line is drawn between joggers and crazy-as-a-loon runners in New England. Certainly not an indictment of those that have treadmills and choose to train indoors in the winter, because, lets face it, if you are training indoors in the winter, it is most likely to be able to race in the winter. Winter running just proves to me that I really am serious about the sport.

So I headed out an ran along one of the State Routes near where I live. Lots of traffic, but ample shoulder to run on. Plus, if on coming traffic didn't see my with my headlamp and day-glow yellow, reflective jacket, they have no business driving after dark! Nonetheless I always run defensively, because I have never read a 'runner versus car' article that has ever turned out in favor of the runner.

My head was full at the beginning of the run. Why am I going out after dark, why am I not running a quieter route, why do I feel the need to run when the temp is so stinking low... but after a while I just settled into a collected pace, thought of running ultras, and just settled in. The knee seemed a little tight at the beginning, even with the stretching, but that seemed to abate after the initial ten minutes. I was also able to run on some of the dirt paths along the side of the road - not quite trail running, but with little ruts here and there I was careful to make sure my knee didn't take too much stress.

As I made the turn to come back home I really felt thankful that I was able to again enjoy a little taste of being an endurance junkie. The knee seemed to hold up well over the 40 minutes, and though I am confident I don't have any serious damage to my meniscus or any of the ligaments, I am not about to put anything in jeopardy by going overboard. We'll see what the MRI reveals next week, but as far as I am concerned, I am still simply moving forward.

Before I end this, I want to send a few props out to my friend, Mr. Breakheart himself, Dan for his great results in the Eastern New England Trail Running Series! Not sure how official the results are, but being in the top ten is certainly an accomplishment in itself, especially considering Dan has been on the comeback trail this year. It is definitely an inspiration to me!

I think the Eastern New England Series is one I hope to frequent more next year if I am able to be on the trails.

Cheers, y'all!


Dan said...

Hey Rob
It's great to see you're on the move again. Just take it slow and steady. No need to go too crazy this time of year. I need you 100% healthy next year so we can do the Stone Cat 50! Training together will be cool.

Thanks for the ENE props. I'm sure I'll drop in the standings not doing any of the last three races but I'm still happy with my placement.

Take care and have a great Thanksgiving!

RunninRob said...

Indeed Dan! I'd like to run other ultras in more far flung locations, but the consensus seems to be that Stone Cat is the best first attempt at an Ultra.

Tonight is the MRI and next week is the eval., so hopefully I'll have some clarity soon. All I really want for Christmas is a healthy knee! :-) I am starting to get fat again, but if my knee gets healthy I can deal with that :-).