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Facing Reality: Physical Limitations

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, I’ve been trying to avoid writing this one.

Since the day I bought my first bike back in 2005 and competed in my first triathlon in the spring of ’06, my body has never failed to meet the goals I set for it. Whether it was going for a PR, improving one leg of a triathlon, or just friendly rivalries I have never been able to say I physically couldn’t do it. This all culminated in the fall of 2009 when I took on the Silverman Triathlon. I had the goals I was wiling to talk about, break 12 hours with a sub-1hr swim, but like always I had the goals I didn’t tell anyone but Carrie. I wanted to break 11:30 and be top-5 in my Age Group. Well, I hit all my goals with a 54:13 swim, 11:22:13 total time, 7th overall and 2nd in my AG. Needless to say I was beyond excited about my results and just like when I had hit my previous goals I was left wondering, “What next?”

Well, there were a lot of options. Try to qualify for Kona, go back and try to improve on Silverman, try for a BQ, try to get faster over the shorter distances, etc. For different reasons, none of these held much appeal to me. Even during my IM training I wasn’t a big mileage runner, so I decided to see what I could do if I were to run long. Really long. I wanted to take on a 100 miler. I signed up for Oriflamme 50K and PCT50 all as a build up to San Diego 100. Well, if you have been reading this blog or know much about my training over the past couple years, that didn’t happen.

I completed Oriflamme 50K and was happy with the results. 5:25 and 12th o’all. Not bad for my first 50K so I set my sights on PCT50. Unfortunately, a few weeks before the race, the shin discomfort I had been ignoring became a full blown stress fracture. I was crushed. Mostly because I was really excited to run PCT50, it’s a great course, but also because I had never had a serious injury that prevented me from reaching my goals. My running for the year was done. I found a way around it with a lot of swimming and training for the Gatorman 3-mile Open Water Championships in September, it helped but I still had a goal to reach.

After the swim, I put my focus back on the trails and opted for a more conservative goal for 2011. A few 50Ks, one or two 50 milers, and a handful of shorter trail races. The goal was to build up a little smarter and get ready for a 100 miler in 2012. This brings us to the point of the long, rambling blog post.

For what is probably a variety of reasons, my body has not responded to the mileage. Like last year, once I started stringing together multiple weeks in a row of 20+ mile weekends and 2+ double digit runs during the week my lower legs started to rebel. I’ve decided this time to be smarter about it. I’m not going to push it to the breaking point again, there is no reason. I’m going to temporarily shut it down until my lower legs feel normal again. I’ll continue the swimming and gym work and hopefully hop on the bike at least once a week.

Whether it’s true or not, I have the nagging belief that my body hasn’t earned the right to run the distances I want to run. I played soccer growing up and only ran as a necessary thing for practice and games. I’ve had only been doing triathlons for about 4 years and like I said, I was never a big run mileage guy even during my IM training. Even though I’m about as lean as I can be for my height, there’s a reason you don’t see many 6’4″, 183 lb long distance endurance athletes. I’m not going to use my size as an excuse, but I think it’s just going to take more cumulative mileage before I’m able to stand up to that kind of running.

I don’t have any definite plans right now, but once the legs feel better I’ll be signing up for some 1/2 marathon distance and shorter trail races. Who knows, maybe I’ll even throw in some speed work and see what I can do at the shorter distance. Also, I’ll definitely be getting a mountain bike after the wedding in April so that I can start enjoying the trails on days when I’m not running. Basically now, it’s going to be a matter of finding new adventures and new challenges that will allow me to make a return to Ultras in the future.

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8 responses

  1. Matt

    Paul,
    Adventure runs is the way to go. In prepping for the R2R2R, I’ve been doing a lot of hiking (power hiking is no walk in the park;)
    That’s injury prevention and I love it.

    The outdoors is where it’s at, but I hear you on getting the body in shape to deal with some of those big races: it’s tough and frustrating.

    I’m running the GC with a guy doing 6-7 100 milers. WTF.

    I’m pacing him at SD. Maybe that’s a thought to pursue.

    March 8, 2011 at 7:20 am

    • Yea, R2R2R is definitely something I want to do! After hearing about Toby and Mike’s run there I can’t wait to check it out. Just gotta be able to get the mileage up there and stay healthy.

      I’m still planning to pace at AC100 and WS100 for a couple guys so I can at least stay out on the trails with everyone.

      March 8, 2011 at 7:24 am

  2. As someone who has spent the better part of the last year not running, I can totally relate to the frustration. I don’t have any great wisdom to share…other than to say that finding other challenges and ways to channel your competitive energies is a good thing. Variety never hurt anybody. When you are feeling normal again, you might want to consider some strength training to help strengthen your legs, but until then enjoy the diversity of activity that you are now able (forced 🙂 ) to enjoy.

    Cheers,

    March 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    • Thanks John, as much as it sucks it helps to know others have their struggles too and have found successful ways to get through it. Maybe I’ll have to join your concept crew. Maybe I can register for one for the wedding! haha

      March 8, 2011 at 1:09 pm

  3. Kirby

    Does this mean you’re out for Oriflamme?

    I don’t know what I think of some of your comments :p I have only been running for 2 years, so I haven’t deserved it either. Goggins would dwarf you also 🙂 I just read that he had a hole in his heart also that was just corrected through surgery.

    Rest up ’cause it’s going to be a fun time at AC!

    March 8, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    • Yea, out for Safari Park and Oriflamme, and I’m pretty sure it’s not even close to reasonable to compare Goggins to anyone. The guy is a freak of nature. You are too…just not in the same way!

      March 8, 2011 at 1:11 pm

  4. Josh

    Hey dude, I know you’re disappointed but you’re attitude is great. And your approach sounds like the right one. If running long is your goal, you’ll get there. It just might take longer than you’d hoped. Keep up the training and the good attitude and listen to your body!

    March 9, 2011 at 5:51 am

    • Thanks Josh, there’s not much ya can do but just look forward. Find new challenges and keep the goal out there. Gonna take longer than I wanted, but it’ll happen.

      In the meantime, I guess it’s time to get used to being on a bike again. haha

      March 9, 2011 at 7:08 am

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