I was originally going to title this post "The HOA Aftermath", but then I thought that had too many negative connotations and there's really nothing negative to say about the Heart of America Marathon or my training leading up to it.
It is well documented that the last couple of years have been a struggle in terms of running. In 2006 I broke the 4 hour barrier at Seafair and crossed the finish line with Rob and then went on to set my Personal Best of 3:40:52 at St. George in the fall of 2006. I finished the year with a couple of slow but thoroughly enjoyable trail marathons. In 2007 I started off the year with a decent showing at Eugene on a flat course for a 3:44:39. I ended the year with 3 marathons in about 6 weeks time, all over th 4:00 mark. This was the beginning of the downward spiral. My legs were beginning to rebel and my training was pretty much stagnant. I refused to believe that I was running too many marathons since I knew plenty of others that did more with seemingly no negative consequences.
I started 2008 with a Winter Trail Running Series and eventually succumbed to a stress fracture in my right tibia. After 12 weeks of ZERO running and months of physical therapy, I began running again in June with 6 months to train for the St Jude Memphis Marathon. I suffered from shin splints along the way and went into the race with an inflamed hip. I was in pain from the first step but hung in there with Joe for a 4:36:15 finish. The canted roads of Memphis just exacerbated the hip issue and I started 2009 barely able to walk, let alone run.
A new doc, a orthopedic specialist and a runner, sent me off to a new physical therapist, also a runner for treatment of severe IT Band Syndrome and possible Femoral Acetabular Impingement. Jeff, the PT, worked wonders and the exercises they had me doing really helped strengthen the weakness in my legs. After 2 months of work I was running again, slower than ever (really as slow as when I first started in 2003) but I was running and pain free.
I kept running slowly and went to Jeff religiously. I was able to run a half marathon in March and even took on the Malibu Creek Trail Challenge in May. It was my slowest attempt at that race, but I wasn't hurting. I went out on a limb and signed up for the San Francisco Half. It was about this time that the Heart of America idea was hatched and I signed on.
I'd used the same marathon plan for the better part of 4 years. I needed something new to get me through to HOA. I've got several books and magazine articles with plans. I compared them all and settled on Bart Yasso's Intermediate Plan from his book "My Life on the Run". It was a 16 week plan. I jumped into it at week 2, just in time for HOA. I chose the plan because it was more challenging than what I'd been using but not so much so that I would risk getting injured again. I was a little apprehensive because the plan went up to 50 miles 4 weeks before the marathon and 50 miles had proven to be my threshold for injury in the past.
I zealously adhered to the plan. I looked forward to the hill days and even endured a 10 x 800 workout that I ended up kind of enjoying in a sick sort of way. I kept my easy days easy and my long run pace in check with a 5:1 run:walk system. And all along my legs were pain free.
Why am I so happy with my 4:23:05 at HOA? It's because it is a time that is in line with where I started back in 2004 and 2005, but I feel much better at the end of the races than I did back then and I recover much better. I feel like I'm on track for further improvement. At least I hope so.
Is the Yasso plan magical? I doubt it, but it does have years of experience behind it with Mr. Yasso and the many runners he has trained. The combination of run distances, tempos and workouts just seemed to work well for me.
Some of the other things that I think contributed to my comeback include:
1) working with a doc and a PT that are runners and understand runners. They both knew there was no sense in telling me not to run.
2) I switched out my shoes. I stayed with Brooks but on the advice of the PT I went from the Trance to the Adrenalines.
3) I went back to a run:walk schedule for the long runs and the marathon (I may go back to running only some day, I may not). The walk break has really helped me to dial in my hydration. I take a drink when I walk, I tend not to when I'm running.
4) I began working out with my trainer, Chris, more seriously in March at a smaller gym. I really think the gains in upper body and core strength have been beneficial. I even throw in a few leg workouts now and again.
5) About the same time I started taking supplemental protein. It may seem like snake oil, but I really think it helps in recovery after my longs runs. I have never felt as good as I have after a 20 and 22 miler as I did this time around.
Each of these things alone can't be entirely responsible for my recovery but all together I think they were just the right prescription at just the right time.
I mentioned that my right knee tightened up during the race around mile 20. Soon afterward, I'd forgotten that it ever hurt. Later that day my heels were sore and overnight my legs were a little sore but not terribly so. On Tuesday morning the only real pains I had was in my quads from the downhill running and now two days later they don't really hurt. I ran an easy mile on the treadmill Tuesday afternoon at the gym before my workout with Chris and tonight I walked between 4 and 5 miles in Bonelli.
I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing and I really hope I can stay on this positive trajectory with my running.