- Although you spend hundreds of hours every year dedicating yourself to a selfish pursuit, your day job has more meaning in a single day than some people experience over an entire career.
- As a teacher, you are first and foremost a student. You can therefore remain a student-athlete for the majority of your life!
- The mental and emotional exhaustion incurred by this line of work strikes a nice balance with the emotional calm and physical exhaustion of running.
- A true competitive runner is happy to forgo potential income for time to dedicate to the sport. As a teacher you can use the more humane work schedule of the school year in order to train hard when class is out of session.
- Model healthy eating and exercise habits for your students.
- Stress management. As a competitive runner, you may be more stressed out by your after hours pursuit than your actual job. Teaching will keep you grounded because other people's futures are dependent, in part, on your ability to further them along with their personal and academic development. When your job is stressing you out on the other hand, nothing feels better than clicking off some sub 6 miles around the neighborhood!
- As distance runners we have a unique experience with stamina. Furthermore, we know from science that your body tricks you into believing that you are too tired to go on well before your body has run out of reserves of glucose and other energy sources. So basically yes, our knowledge and attitude are assets to the profession.
- Just as you are setting challenging goals for your students, you are setting challenging goals for yourself. You can talk about goal setting and perseverance in your own life and some students may relate to you because of it.
- Work with other runners! Ok, this is true of many jobs. However I have worked at several schools and always found running fanatics such as myself who understand the lows of injury and the highs of success.
- Finally. There is always the chance that you will appear on TechingCenter. Nuff said.
My father took me on my first backpacking trip when I was 9 years old in Yosemite. We have been getting after it almost every summer since then, nearly exclusively in the Sierra Nevada. However, the most recent trip we took together was way back in 2012, making this trip perhaps more cherished.
Although we didn't plan it this way, my father and I met up in Weaverville, CA the day before Father's Day to take on the unexplored Trinity Alps Wilderness. After a mediocre lunch at what is probably Weaverville's only pizzeria, we made for the hills. We started out at Canyon Creek Trail Head late in the day, which leads you on an incredibly gentle and soft first several miles of trail. As the shadows lengthened we saw a bear on the other side of canyon creek.
A word on some fellow backpackers. Where are the wilderness ethics?!?! I know that I will never again be able to traverse the wilderness without seeing it through a Wilderness Ranger's eyes. At every campsite we saw how people either willfully ignored or unknowingly violated the basic principles of Leave No Trace, sometimes with flagrant abandon.The chief failure seemed to be camping too close to the water. I'm talking about not even being ten feet from the water, let alone one hundred feet. And while that habit may only impact the environment, other habits such as the quality of bear hangs can dramatically affect their lives by leaving them stranded without food miles from help.
The first night we camped a mile or so from the Canyon Creek Lakes on a beautiful shelf of granite with a gorgeous cascade of water below us to the west. The second night we made camp above, and just to the south of El Lake. Although we attempted to summit Sawtooth Mountain, we settled for a false summit just to the west. I believe that we most likely could have gotten to the top of the Mountain had we made an approach from the east. Nonetheless, the view of the Trinity Alps and Mt. Shasta was stunning.
The following day is when our trip began to get strenuous. It took us many, many hours of off-trial hiking to cross the ridgeline dividing the Big Bar and Weaverville Ranger Districts. We began that morning at about 9:00am, and made camp at Emerald Lake. The red route below traces our route to El Lake, and the orange route demonstrates the off-trail traverse that rejoined us with the established trail at the outlet of Sapphire Lake.
The cross-over from El Lake to Mirror Lake was some of the most technical backpacking I have ever done. There was zero margin for error as we walked along searching for a route to descend from the steep rock cliff that encompassed the majority of the granite bowl encompassing Mirror Lake. After some scouting, without our packs, I confirmed that we could connect with a rock strewn drainage which descended diagonally to the talus field below us.
After having successfully navigated that, and a short break at Mirror Lake (which is stunning), we saw the second bear of our trip. We then followed in its footsteps around the edge of Sapphire Lake, where we were finally able to rejoin the trail after some 8 or 9 hours of off-trail scrambling.
Up to this point nothing too out of the ordinary had taken place on our trip. Indeed if not for the events of the last eight hours of that day, we may have considered it just one more carefree backpacking trip in the books. Instead it turned into something else entirely.
After having made good time on the trial, we were beginning to keep an eye out for the "unmaintained" trail which we hoped to connect with towards Alpine Lake. This trail would connect us to Bear Creek and allow us to complete our ambitious loop of the most spectacular country that The Trinity Alps Wilderness has to offer without incident.
Instead, we went off the trail about a mile early or so, and spent the next four hours looking for the trail connector to Alpine Lake. To our credit, we did not separate or panic and we did establish our location once we had risen above the tree line. Despite all of this, the terrain was incredibly exhausting. For much of the afternoon we were fighting for every step through incredibly thick brush. At one point I was stung by a bee on the ankle, and to be honest I barely noticed. When you are in survival mode, that type of discomfort is irrelevant.
Our Wilderness Area map was not nearly detailed enough to use for off-trail orienteering, nor did we have any information as to what condition the non-maintained trail was in. After four hours of searching, and actually establishing our location, I estimated that we still had a good two hours of bush-wacking to have any hope of connecting with our trail. My father agreed to pull the plug, and to descend the drainage we were in to rejoin the main trail. At this point the sun was getting lower in the sky. I knew that I had an appointment at 8:00am the next morning, and I was beginning to get concerned that I would not be able to make it. Nature doesn't care about your survival, and it certainly doesn't care about keeping your schedule.
I can honestly not remember feeling so grateful with the universe as I did when we found the main trail again. From there we had another six miles to get out to a trail head which did not have our cars. Our adventure wasn't over yet. Once at the trail head we were both extremely tired. On our second attempt to get a car camper to drive us into town we were successful. Feet throbbing from walking in wet boots, skin stinging from surface cuts we were able to let our loved ones back at home know that we were OK. They had been fifteen minutes from calling Search and Rescue.
We were unable to get ahold of the taxi service that night or the following morning. It turns out Weaverville's Taxi service doesn't care about your schedule either. Instead we were reunited with our vehicles by a tow truck driver.
If you go, consider stopping at The Etna Brewing Company located in Etna on Highway 3. In the age of the brew pub boom, it's refreshing to sample some quality brews from an establishment that has been around since 1872. Maybe it was that I was looking at the world through slightly fresh eyes after my recent misadventure, but I thought the beer I tasted was exceptionally good, and the Brewery in that tiny town deserved a special shout out!
The much awaited Billy Yang film from The Lake Sonoma 50. Enjoy!
Recently my stress fracture turned six months old. I have long since given up any hope of competing in some of the area's summer flagship races, and I've come to terms with missing the opportunity to see where I would stack up against the country's best in Bend's National Mountain Running Championships. I also gave up hope of competing in the Mt. Ashland Hill climb. As tempting as it may be, I know that I can't enter a race without putting the peddle to the metal in training, and before I can do that, my body has to regain my trust.
One week ago, the high school seniors I worked with throughout the year graduated from their alternative high school. Within 30 seconds of talking to a graduate's mother she was in tears. Graduations at alternative high schools are not taken for granted, and my work has been a powerful way to keep me from moping around all of 2015. Even if my own life has been on hold, I helped 81 young adults get a powerful prerequisite to start theirs.
As long as I can remember, the close of a school year has been followed with a trip into the mountains. Luckily, this year was no different. This weekend's trek into The Sky Lakes Wilderness was certainly not a strenuous backpacking trip. It was however a chance to head into the mountains, and enjoy the relative health that I am enjoying now. Friday night we camped above Cliff Lake. We might have enjoyed the Seven Lake Basin more if it weren't for the incessant and plentiful mosquitoes who enjoyed sucking our blood whenever the opportunity presented itself, which was often. Welcome to Oregon below the tree line baby! Saturday morning we packed up camp with the ruthlessness and efficiency that a couple of Sierra vagabonds take for granted, and bombed up the ridge towards better views, scree, wildflowers and no more mosquitoes. We decided to camp just below the summit of Devil's Peak, and day hiked south along the Pacific Crest Trail for a while.
I have been out of my walking boot since the end of March. Nonetheless I can still feel that my right leg does not have the same level of strength and stability as my left leg. I have been vigilant in cross training, including swimming, bicycling, and using the stair master. I also have been weightlifting since before I removed my boot. I feel that while my leg has progressed, this injury continues to keep me guessing as to when I can return to running and full body exercises. I can tell that I am very close to feeling healed, however I trust the sensation of my body more than anybody else in these regards. When it is time to incorporate step ups, plyometrics, back squats, dead lifts and other exercises, I will know.
It is incredibly frustrating to be so close to the end of a long injury. You are ready to return. You know that it would only take a matter of weeks to regain the majority of fitness that you lost. Even though I don't believe it myself sometimes, the fact is that you will run again! In the mean time, you can check out the volcanoes and smell the flowers, because we all know that I won't be stopping to appreciate these in the same way when I am able to compete again.
Injured Athlete Book Club
George Vecsey does a great job of assembling an informative tour of his personal soccer journey, from bumbling high school defender to New York Times sports journalist chasing the world's biggest games and names. Although some of the names are familiar, he is able to add depth to the characters and the sport which I dedicated myself to without hesitation or reservation for 16 years. It may be a timely read, as FIFA cronies such as Sepp Blatter and Jack Warner have their early exploits highlighted. We are also reminded that FIFA was squeamish about the USA hosting the World Cup in 1994. Why? Because of the level of oversight and accountability that would be demanded by holding such an event in the US.
Forget the sports administrators though! This book reminds us of the quirks, brilliance and controversy surrounding Maradona, Baggio and Zidan. Vecsey also does a great job of tracing the public and media attention to the world's game here in the USA. It seems that I was born in the year that the USMNT (US Men's National Team) returned to the World Cup for the first time in 4 decades.
Anyways. No matter what book you bring along, you will almost certainly enjoy it if you are reading it under the same scrubby tree on Devil's Peak that I did. As the pages turned Mt. Shasta and Mt. McLaughlin maintained a commanding presence over the southern horizon.
I wasn't a fan of Billy Yang's first installment in his 15 hours series, it seemed to represent everything I dislike about the ultra runner scene. Nonetheless, the second installment in his series with Anton Krupicka was dynamite. As one of the sport's greatest, he has dealt with persistent injuries for a while and his perspective is worth your time.
Although not being injured does not guarantee success in running, all running success is predicated on injury prevention.
Being new to competitive running, I have to admit that I didn't understand that. I didn't have a clue. I thought that my biggest obstacle to success was my time constraints and not my musculoskeletal system. I had already run a hundred mile week and had never heard of stress fractures. In retrospect, that is incredible.
I will soon turn 25, and I will still be wearing a walking boot. I have no idea how soon I can return to running. I don't know if I will be back to 70mpw in July, September or December. I'm not interested in competing when I am not in peak condition, and I know that will be quite some time from now. In my first year of running I will have seen 8 months with accomplishments measured in leaps and bounds, followed by at least 4 months of serious injury. If in the next several months I can return to this sport and find a sustainable path in which I continue to improve marginally over time before immediately re-injuring myself I can see a long future for myself in this sport. I truly believe that this is the most likely scenario. If however, I try to return to running with my current cautious and thoughtful attitude and quickly re-injure myself, I would be left with no option but to hang up my flats and put my energy elsewhere. I truly hope that that later scenario does not play out. I have only recently fallen in love with running, and it has been one of the great passions of my life.
Indeed, I truly believe that I was born to run, I just hope that my bones were as well. I also now realize that this struggle with injury is fundamental to the sport, In running it is not the hits and blows from the opponents that you recover from. It is the injuries that you incur through the testing of your own limits that you must overcome. Finding the training stimuli that causes your body to strengthen itself rather than crumble under the stress is where the magic happens in this sport.
This book is phenomenal. I mean it is seriously dynamite, and is a great read anytime, but particularly if you are an injured athlete. The future Welterweight Champion of the World grows up in an ethnically and racially charged South Africa. This book is unapologetically a feel good story, however the intestacy of the story, times and society surrounding the main character keeps it from being a corny or easily caricatured piece of work. It is exactly the kind of thoughtful, successful, humble and able scholar athlete's narrative that is uplifting in dark times. I HIGHLY recommend it.
I wrote this a little over a year ago, and after an incredible year in Southern Oregon I think it's a good time to look back at my experience in the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Time has a strange way of passing in La Laguna. Weather, although marked by the rainy and dry seasons, does not have the same manner of changing my perception of the natural environment as it does in the United States. The Holidays are also an entirely different experience than what I was brought up with. Thus, nearly a year after I first made my way down the road to the volcanic crater lake of Laguna de Apoyo to serve as a member of The Peace Project team, I found my self bringing in the year 2014 on a Granada street corner. The street and sky were filled with a beautiful and quintessentially chaotic barrage of fireworks and firecrackers. Now, almost a month into this new year I'm at a another life junction. My time in Nicaragua is soon going to be marked by my absence rather than any of the incredible things in which I've participated or bore witness to. No longer will I stand in La Laguna at night and watch lightning strike behind the ridge near Granada or walk at dusk after the first rain when the world is converted into a firefly fairyland. Nor will I be able to stand on the deck of The Peace Project and watch a white wall of water moving toward me as the winds pick up and everyone rushes around to remove clothes from the line and other items from the rain. I won't even get to casually happen upon snakes swallowing a geckos whole, or find tarantulas and scorpions.
Nonetheless, as incredible and improbable as living a year within a volcanic crater may be, the extraordinary inevitably becomes the ordinary. Being kept up at night or awaken in the morning by howler monkeys and toucans becomes a nuance rather than a story. Experiencing the mundane aspects of life in a poor country were important parts of my time here. Without having washed clothes by hand for months or waited for buses for far too long I wouldn't truly appreciate or understand the country that I have been living in, nor would I have got to experience the incredibly warm and helpful culture that has been fostered by a country with such a big heart, and so few material
things. Being the product of a comfortable existence in a wealthy community in the US I often catch myself with feelings or attitudes grounded in first-world and privileged entitlement, never the less, nothing brings me back to the here and the now like asking one of my students if they have eaten today.
For an experience to be worthwhile, I believe there must be some difficult elements. Although I put myself wholeheartedly into everything I did, I do not think that teaching English as a second language is a strength of mine. Attempting to teach English, and instill a respect for educational time was one of the most draining aspects of my experience. I'm sure that other individuals could have done better, however I gave it all I had. I did not see the progress I had hoped to see over the course of my year here. I can only hope that in the years to come some of my students will use the base that I provided them to excel in English, and all areas of their young lives.
The community that I'm leaving here is international, exciting, creative, artistic, passionate and dedicated. I'm sad to leave such an incredible group of people at The Peace Project behind. The volunteers, travelers, students and locals I've met and befriended have all become part of my life journey. Even as my every day life here fades into memory they will forever have impacted me, and for that I'm thankful.
As I return to the US I realize that I'm returning to a different country than I left, since my time in Nicaragua DOMA has been struck down, and gay marriage is legal in 16 states (plus Washington DC)! There is a nuclear non-proliferation treaty in the works between the US and Iran. Closer to home I will finally be able to drive across the
new eastern span of the bay bridge in between Oakland and San Francisco, and Richmond has banned the use of plastic bags and California has admitted an undocumented lawyer to the state bar! During the course of this year, I've lost some friends, while other have become engaged, gotten into graduate schools or continued to search for themselves around the world. Leaving is bitter sweet, and it may be difficult in some ways to return to what can often be a materialistic culture in my home country. Nevertheless I'm extremely excited to go and delve into the issues of college access with undeserved students in my home country.
Curious about what is going on Nicaragua today? One of the biggest developments in the Western Hemisphere is occurring without the slightest awareness of the North American public. Check out the latest on the canal being constructed in Nicaragua that is intended to rival the Panama Canal.
On the domestic front, wow! When I wrote that blog post gay marriage was only legal in 16 states, and I was proud of that. Now the number of states which have reached marriage equality stands at 37!
Objectives for 2015:
1) Recover from my tibial stress fracture
2) Do not contract a second stress fracture
3) Focus on strength and flexibility
4) SLOWLY rebuild my aerobic base from the dust
5) Set myself up for future success - follow the path of delayed satisfaction
I am literally fighting to keep my identity, sanity and sense of self here. Thank goodness I have an incredible job where I put others before myself. I can only imagine the pain and horror of being an injured professional athlete.
I have never twisted my ankle, but all in all I have broken four bones. Two tibias and two fibulas in three injuries to be exact. In fact, my left tibia is the only lower leg bone that I have not broken. However my two injuries preceding this one, a compound fracture of both my right tibula and fibula, and a 'hairline' fracture of my left fibula, were easy to understand. In both incidences someone kicked me. How do you prevent this injury in the future? Simply avoid having people kick you. Simple enough I think. At no point are you led to believe that you yourself defeated your own body.
I personally believe that my stress fracture occurred due to what I was not doing, and not so much by what I was doing...
My review of the literature has led me to believe that, for the most part, doctors and sports scientists cannot adequately explain why this injury happens to some and not to others. I found this study's abstract to be emblematic:
"This retrospective and comparative survey investigates an unusual number of stress fractures seen within a Division I college cross-country team. An anonymous questionnaire - designed to observe factors known to increase stress fracture incidence - was distributed to members of the current and previous seasons' teams. Running surface, sleep hours, intake of calcium, and shoe type were among the factors investigated. Eleven lower extremity stress fractures were found in nine athletes. Athletes with stress fractures reported significantly fewer workouts per week on the new track. All other study parameters had no statistically significant effect on stress fractures in these athletes."1
So, in short, there was a team of Division I runners. This team suffered a lot of stress fractures and a study was conducted which found virtually nothing useful for us to take away.
Great! So, where do I go from here?
Weightlifting and plyometrics will have a positive yet marginal effect on running performance. But will improving your overall athleticism ultimately reduce the risk of injury by building stronger bones? I think it will.
Mathew B from coachup.com offers the following:
• A moderate to heavy strength training program has been shown to increase antioxidant status and help reduce the long-term debilitating impact of physical stress.
• Lifting leads to the release of hormones like testosterone and growth hormone that counter the negative impact of cortisol for a better endocrine profile that may improve reproductive health.
• Heavy strength training that loads the spine (squats, deadlifts, overhead press) is by far the best exercise you can do to build bone strength. For instance, women who powerlift, doing near maximal squats and deadlifts have bone density that is comparable to that of a man, and far greater than that recorded for women in the past.2
Luckily, there is data to support strength training in runners, both for its impact on bone density, and to improve running economy. A study by Roelofs et al. observed a correlation between lean muscle mass and bone mass density leading them to suggest the following: "More muscle mass may associate with higher BMD [Bone Mass Density] and BMC [Bone Mineral Content] for stronger bone structure. Modifications in training strategies to include heavy resistance training and plyometrics may be advantageous for preventing risk factors associated with SFx [Stress Fractures] reoccurrence."3
There is a great deal of evidence that explosive plyometric strength training improves running economy and muscle power and that running training supplemented by strength training are better than running training alone. Spurrs, Murphy, and Watsford (2003) observed a 2.7% improvement in 3K running performance following six weeks of plyometric training in conjunction with participants normal running training, while no changes in maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max) were recorded. Paavolainen, Hakkinen, Hamalainen, Nummela, & Rusko (1999) observed an average 3.1% improvement in 5K running time for well-trained athletes in a 9-week study. These improvements are thought to be the result of neural adaptations without observable muscle hypertrophy. Therefore, it appears strength training programs for distance runners must meet two requirements: (1) include full-range, running-specific movements for the prime movers and (2) emphasize training the stabilizers. - Mathew B 4
To be competitive as a runner in any aerobic reliant distance you need to have a significant base volume of running. As a general rule, the longer the race distance that you are focusing on, the higher the mileage that you will need to put in. In my particular case, which I don't believe to be unusual, my cardiovascular system will be able to put far more miles in than my skeletal system. Enter cross-training!
Cross Training can keep my cardivascular system strong, even as I build up the bone strength to be able to put the work in on my feet. Cross Training is less specific and, I believe, less beneficial. That said, not being able to run at all is certainty even less beneficial to running fast. Elite runners can use AltG Treadmills, for the rest of us, we have to cross train until Project Nike picks us up.
I hate to say it but, "Another small study found that treadmill runners may be at decreased risk for stress fracture compared with road runners because of less tibial strain seen with treadmill running. This finding indicates that training surface may have an influence on stress fracture risk."5
Although potentially useful to know for the rehabilitation period, treadmill running can and will not be a viable option for myself. Although we may run for hours outside only to return to where we first began, at least we don't run for hours in the very same two square feet area inside a concrete box.
Meb’s biggest bodily setback came at the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials, held the day before the 2007 New York City Marathon. At the time the reigning Olympic silver medalist, Meb finished eighth, in severe pain. He later learned he had a pelvic stress fracture. Meb has said how even walking became so painful that he would crawl around his house. It would have been easy, even understandable, for Meb to have thought, “I’m 32 and an Olympic medalist. Time for something else.” Instead, in 2009 he became the first American winner of the New York City Marathon in 27 years. - Runner's World
Even the Greats Suffer This Fate
Inconceivably, I can't seem to find a list of inspirational runners who have overcome the terrible stress fracture in order to continue to be the bad ax world beaters that they are….. Oh wait a list is below.
Great Runners who have suffered stress fractures:
*This is by no means a comprehensive list.
- Kenensia Bekele
- Meb Keflezighi
- Ryan Hall
- Mo Farah
- Dathan Ritzenhein
- Mike Wardian
- Paula Radcliffe
- Deena Kastor
That's right. Almost anyone you have ever heard of in distance running has endured at least one stress fracture, and some have endured numerous stress fractures! I guess everyone but us newbies in the running world know that everyone gets these things. Why would anyone waste their time compiling a list?
Where we stack up against other athletes.
Self Righteous Lupe Fiasco at his best. This song is clearly about cancer, however I have adopted it as my recovery mantra.
Beautifully shot short about running The Fish River Canyon in South Africa.
Seven weeks since my tibial stress fracture, and some two weeks since my X-Rays confirming said injury, I dragged my sorry self out from Grants Pass's fog laden valley and up into the surprisingly strong sun shinning down on the mountains.
Although I can not run, I can walk, and as mundane as that is compared to my favored exhilarating cadence, it is most probably the best way to explore most of the unkempt trails that wind their way through the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area. The Kalmiopsis, in the Rogue RIver-Siskiyou National Forest, is the most hauntingly rugged and desolate wilderness area in which I have ever been. The 2002 Biscuit Fire burnt the entire wilderness area and makes any planned single track running traverse of the area into more of a step picking and route checking orienteering expedition. The area is also practically void of noticeable animal life, and fortunately, human life as well. If you are looking for an eerily beautiful, rugged place in the Klamath Mountains, this would be a good place to start.
I'll admit that I had no idea The Standard Charter Dubai Marathon was going to take place Thursday night (in this country), but luckily I figured it out before missing this sensational night. When these events come around, I am reminded by why we put up with Let's Run, or rather why we need it. Despite it's racist, sexist, anti MUT, and just down right condescending message board trolls, it is the ONLY place that can deliver this level of journalism on the sports elite. If you want race analysis and real talk, and not a one liner on the biggest upset in sports this year, this is what you read.
Go to 7:57 to watch the most SENSATIONAL marathon finish dual that I have seen yet. The women's race was decided by the slimmest of margins. Tragic for second place Cherono, but so good for the sport, and really, just a sensational day to be an Ethiopian. 17 of the the first 10 men and first 10 woman were representing Ethiopia, (and another is Ethiopian by birth).
Finally, I have never used Strava, don't intend to (unless they pay me to of course), and think "sharing", read competing, your workouts with others is ridiculous. There is the time to compete, and that is on race day. Nonetheless, they can sure put together a ridiculousness, star studied (both mountains and people) video.
X-ray Tech: So what happened to you?
Me: That's what I'm trying to figure out. I think I have a shin splint or stress fracture.
X-ray Tech: Runner?
X-ray Tech: See that's why I don't run, it's not good for you.
Me: I don't run cuz it's good for me, I run because I'm competitive.
Cortical thickening consistent with callus formation and a faint lucency distal tibial diaphysis near junction of middle and distal thirds consistent with subacute stress fracture. No displacment. Fibula appears intact.
Conclusion: Findings consistent with stress fracture of distal tibial diaphysis.
I'm not saying that there aren't runners who run because it's good for them. There are. I'm saying that I don't run to be healthier than I already am. I have a goal to be the best runner that I can possibly be in the next several years. I know that it is never going to get easier than it is now. In all likelihood, my commitments and time constraints will only increase in the future, and I want to see how good I can get before that time comes.
So, what went wrong?
As Runner's Connect puts it so well, "This issue of structure vs. metabolism simply means that a runner’s aerobic and anaerobic fitness develops at a faster rate than his or her tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones." Unfortunately, running in fast and straight lines does not make you athletic. I don't think that in training to be a good runner I am approaching any sort of well rounded fitness. I'm not delusional. The fitness I enjoyed as a soccer player was far better for my overall fitness.
When training for my marathon, I had great muscle soreness. Total muscle fatigue such as I have never experienced before. And yet, when training for my unrealized 50K, I experienced none of this muscle fatigue, my lungs seemed to be firing on all cylinders and my "high" weekly mileage seemed to be relatively easy for my body to handle. Alas, it seems that my bones had not successfully adapted to the new, higher levels of stress even if all of my other body systems had.
I have no regrets. To find your own limits and push them requires a certain amount of living at the edge of injury. I honestly don't know what else I could have done. I am self-coached, self-motivated and self-reliant, for better or worse. Furthermore, I have never been coached as a runner, and I doubt that I ever will be, not that I don't think it would be beneficial. In 2014, I experienced just enough success, and certainly enormous amounts of joy to want to dive into running head on in 2015. Not being able to run due to a stress fracture is daunting in its undefined impact on the beginning of my season and humbling in its reminder of the fragility of the human body.
As with any difficult experience, it can feel good to know that others go through similar pain, and struggle. What I have found about the prevalence of this injury is down right jaw dropping. "In any given year, more than one in five runners will sustain a stress fracture." I'm sorry. What!!? That is truly insane. If you are interested in learning more about this, feel free to delve in to the following articles. As for me, I have another doctor's appointment in 2 weeks. Fingers crossed that I can swim or engage in some type of heavy cross-training by then.
A plethora of articles and studies which I have recently uncovered.
The Ultimate Runner’s Guide to Stress Fractures: Causes, Risk Factors and How to Return to Training
Owner's Manual: Is it a Stress Fracture?
Stress fractures in runners
Stress Fracture Depression in Runners
Treating and Preventing Stress Fractures In Runners
On a slightly lighter note. Here is a look back at 2014 From Billy Yang's perspective. It really was a breakout year for him!
It's definitely a good thing that I don't believe in New Year's resolutions, because I continue to be injured and am losing fitness as I write! Amazing how the body doesn't pay any attention to the somewhat arbitrarily important initiation of the Western New Year.
I would not have chosen to take a break from running for quite as long as I have been forced to do by my body. Nevertheless the reality is that I have had a huge, mammoth, physical, but more importantly mental, break from the sport. I am restless and hungry to pursue my goals for 2015. Unfortunately for me, I'm being forced to wait this injury out. The bright side of course is you can reengage with other elements and hobbies in your life that have been squeezed out by the high volume consistency that competitive running demands. I can come home from work in the rain, and not have to brace myself mentally for a wet 11 mile puddle fest. I can take the time to experiment in the kitchen, try my hand at beading, painting and actually being able to read enough for pleasure that I can finish a book with the beginning chapters still fresh in my mind. Yes, there are advantages to not training. I would not trade all of these things for the joy that running provides me, but it looks as if for the mean time I have no choice.
Since I have nothing new to report in my running life, I thought I might include some photos from the places that Haley and I have trammeled over the last year and a half. These photos include Seattle, Redwood National Park, Yosemite, Mt Bachelor, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (Nevada), Three Sisters Wilderness Area and Badlands National Park. Stunning.
This is a difficult post to write. Nonetheless, it must be written. This has been a very significant year - I discovered a passion that benefits me in all areas of my life. A passion that encourages me to be the most that I can be, while enjoying the journey. However, I have to say the year has ended with a big bad anticlimactic void. That's because I will not be racing in my first ever 50K on December 28th as planned.
It takes a great deal of mental strength and discipline to maintain quality and consistency for 4 months. The Woodland Trail Run 50K was the race around which I structured all of my training, during which time I ran some 1,196.9 miles. That is quite a few miles to have run without being able to cap it off with the satisfaction of a goal race.
I have been unable to race since October. In November I was the victim of a date change for a trail half marathon. Icy conditions forced the race to be moved to a day where I had already planned an indoor rock climbing event for my students. In December, I was looking forward to compete in Eugene on a 15 mile trail run against what I presumed would have been some top quality talent from trail town USA. Actually, even though my 50K was the goal race, I think the Eugene race could have been more competitive. A week before that race I ran a 26 mile route through the incredible Applegate Valley, towards Appelgate Lake and back. At that time I thought I could just "shake off" what I perceived was merely minor ankle discomfort that I had acquired a few days earlier. Well, my body had other ideas. Since then I've used a hodgepodge of aggressive icing, cross training and a significant amount of rest. As recently as 7 days before the goal race I anticipated that I would be able to salvage the season, only to have my hopes dashed today with what should have been a rudimentary and enjoyable medium long run. Instead it was a wake up call. This season is over.
Just a couple notes about the above chart. The mean (average) number of miles that I ran every week was 78.9 with a high of 100 and a low of 55. The week before setting a PB in the half marathon is the week in which I ran 100 miles. The half marathon is an incredible distance, as your body can recover so completely, so quickly (In my experience at least). The day following the half marathon I ran my long run, as normal. 19 miles in this case.
Although I did not keep accurate data for my first training block leading up to The Crater Lake Marathon, I estimate that my weekly range (when not injured) was 55-80 miles a week. To keep that in perspective, before training for that marathon, I probably ran 10-25 miles a week for general health and fitness.
Considering that I have changed the demands on my body so significantly, it is not a surprise that my body has pushed back from time to time. Nonetheless, I know it is capable of what I have asked of it, and far more in the future. For now however, a mental and physical break are in order.
Looking forward to the first half of 2015, I am going to focus on improving my speed while maintaining my endurance in order to target the Portland Rock & Roll 1/2 Marathon in May. I am going to be gunning to set PRs in the 5K through half marathon. If you were to ask me for specific numbers, I might suggest a 5K of 15:30 and a 1/2 marathon of 1:12:30. I know those are optimistic goals, but I'm also pretty damn sure that they are achievable. Furthermore, I think that if I am going to be able to achieve what I want to in marathons and ultras in the future I will need to develop the ability and feel to run at breakneck speeds at shorter distances first. I need to develop that VO2 Max of mine! Equally as important, after being starved of races for months I will be able to come back with a vengeance and compete regularly at shorter distances.
I did not have the pleasure to be able to compete in this clash of titans, it was the season's last race for many in the ultra community. You should also consider checking out this incredible post from ultrarunnergirl as she literally hits a wall.Thanks for being a part of The Running Mafia in 2014, and I hope to see you around next year!
My name is Marshall Genn. I split my time in between teaching and running. I aspire to help students break out of generational poverty and to run fast. That said, this blog is about running fast.