Sunday, September 06, 2009

Reviving the blog

It's time to bring this blog back to life. I think the timing is good, right after competing at the Alumni cross country meet this past weekend, my my first race in 23 months. I'll follow up with a race report in another post but first there's some gaps I need to fill in.

First of all, the big question; where are am I at at the moment? The short answer; in good enough shape to run a 29:28 at Franklin Park. Training-wise I've been running around 45-50 miles for the past few weeks and even started running some track workouts about a month ago. The important thing is that the Achilles is feeling good but I'm still being a bit cautious and intensionally only running 5 days a week to give my foot some recovery time.

I know it seems like my recovery process has been pretty slow, especially if you consider that in my last post, which was over a year ago, I was raving about how I was starting to feel like a runner again. Back then I was thinking that it wouldn't be long before I'd be able to get back to some solid training so 20 months after the surgery it's obvious that things haven't exactly progressed as I was hoping to. I could definitely try to analyze everything that happened during all this time but that might take a while so I'll just try to sum things up in a hopefully not too long way.

Back in June 09 I was very happy with my training. I was riding 120-130 miles a week on my bike, even doing a couple of 60+ mile rides. In addition to that I was running 1-2 miles, 2-3 times a week, I was going for physical therapy 2 times a week and even had the occasional session on the elliptical. In general I was very motivated, feeling like I was in pretty good shape and excited about getting back to regular running.

Things took a different after my summer vacation in Cyprus. I didn't really do much for 3 weeks, which was pretty much what I was expecting as I wanted to enjoy my vacation and wasn't really in a position to worry about losing fitness. My summer laziness alone shouldn't have been a big deal but what got me into trouble was that I got a little impatient as soon as I returned to the Bay area. I had been very patient up to that point but suddenly I was really anxious to get back to running and pushed myself more than I should have. I was starting to feel good and thought I could both start running longer and faster at the same time, which I did without much trouble at first. Unfortunately my legs, particularly the calves, were still not strong enough and the faster pace put too much stress on the Achilles. One thing I started regretting about my laziness in Cyprus is that I neglected the stretching and strengthening exercises which I had been so diligently doing in physical therapy over the previous months. In retrospect that could have been one of the reasons of my setback as I lost some strength and flexibility and probably paid for it when I tried to run faster.

With the Achilles flaring up again I had no option but to take a break from running and shift my focus towards increasing my strength and flexibility. It was a frustrating thing to do as it felt like I was going back to where I was 4 months earlier. The frustration was followed by a significant decrease in my motivation levels. I did a decent job with my strengthening program and did as much walking/jogging as I had planned but besides that I didn't feel motivated at all to do any additional cross training. I could barely get myself to stay on the elliptical for more than half an hour and didn't manage to get any good bike rides either. Eventually I felt that I was so out of shape that I didn't see any reason to cross train. Two or three months later I slowly started getting back to running but I took things really easy this time, taking my time to progress from jogging at 10min pace to something I could actually call running.

It wasn't until late last year / beginning of this year that I was able to get back to putting in some decent runs. It wasn't exactly smooth sailing from then on but at least things were heading in the right direction. I was gradually able to handle longer runs but I couldn't get myself into a consistent training regiment. In part that was because I was being cautious and didn't want to ramp up mileage quickly. Also on a few occasions the Achilles would feel tight at the end of a run and I would give it some time off to make sure I wouldn't have another setback. These definitely sound like legitimate excuses but I can't say that I was giving this comeback my 100%. As much as I hate to say it I have to admit that at some point running was no longer my top priority. When you are only trying to run 3 or 4 times a week it doesn't seem like a big deal to skip a run and when you are not exactly in shape and don't have any real goals it's easy to let other things come in the way of running. It was kind of a weird situation overall and it took me a while to bounce out of it.

I can't really isolate a single turning point but I did get more consistent eventually, about 2 months ago. I guess the alumni meet gave me some motivation and seeing how Schmeck was falling behind in his training I started thinking I might have a shot at winning our bet. If it weren't for the alumni meet I would have probably waited a bit longer before starting track workouts and definitely wouldn't consider racing for a while longer. I think it helped though to start doing some faster stuff as I finally started feeling like I was getting more fit. In the end time kind of run out and Schmeck managed to come on top but I have to say I'm very pleased with the progress I made over the last couple of months.

That was kind of a long summary I admit. The last question I guess would be, what's next? Well, I haven't exactly figured that out yet. The important thing right now is to remain consistent and keep putting in more miles. I still need some time to get my base fitness back up to a good level so I probably won't get into any more races any time soon. We'll see, I'm playing things by ear for now. At least for the first time in quite a while, I'm being optimistic and getting excited about the future.