Has it really been that long?
How have you been? I’m doing well now, but it wasn’t always that way. One of my running friends recently called me out. She told me that I had been "in a funk." I guess she was right. I’m out of it now. But for a good 6 months, running was my best friend and worst enemy. I got injured. Then I pursued a series of goals that were physically beyond reach. I masked my feelings. I suffered through those failures and found it hard to celebrate anyone else’s success. I always want to be fast. I want to be the guy out front that people chase or measure themselves against. Imagine yourself steadily improving, chasing goals, achieving... then suddenly those same goals are no longer attainable. That’s when I fell into a funk.
How did I emerge from that funk? That’s what this post is all about. It’s not pretty. It’s not my normal post race celebration post or pre-race prep post. These are the things that go through a runner’s head and what I learned. I hope it makes me a better runner.
It has been an enormous amount of time since my last blog post. My last post was for Rock n Roll Virginia Beach. After that, I entered a very busy race season with races every weekend or every other weekend. It should have been the best time of the year to humblebrag and score new PR's but I found my self falling off and getting slower. I didn't want to talk about it.
It was all because of a really bad hamstring injury. It all started back in June when I tried to run a 4x400 relay race. I didn't warm up properly. But I did take some cool pictures. I felt the pop. I heard the pop... and I was down for the count. June 27 ,2017. I couldn't even make it to the finish line. It all happened within the first 100 meters. The next day was tough. But as usual, I smiled for the camera at a Saucony event at Raleigh Brewing. That was fun. But for the next week, I dealt with the worst pain in my butt I've ever experienced. It was so bad that I couldn't sleep. I walked with a limp and couldn't sit on it for too long. But for some reason, I thought it was okay to still run.
I tried what I thought was the smart thing. I took several days off in a row. But I tried not to sacrifice my Saturday morning or Sunday morning group runs. I tried riding my bike instead. Before I knew it, I was a coming up on the Fall race season.
So, I started to train. (bad move)
My first race was Virginia Beach half marathon. You saw how that finished.
Next up was Philadelphia which would quickly be followed by the Race 13.1 Charlotte and the Hillsborough Half Marathon.
Every.... Single one... of those races... ended with me hobbling over the finish line... one way or another.
How bad was my training? In all of August, I ran more than 8 miles ONCE! In July I ran a 10 miler and an 11 miler. Everything else was 5 miles or less.
In September, my goal was to run 13.1 miles 3 times: Virginia Beach, Philadelphia and Charlotte.
That was my low point. It was supposed to be a big challenge race for Black Men Run and a regional meetup. It was one team, The Venom against the Mongoose (a venomous snake's only real enemy.)
After finishing that race in a not-so impressive way, I got some very good advice: wrap the hamstring in a compression sleeve or an ace bandage. Put it on while you sleep and when you run. Stretch and Roll.
It wasn't much of an improvement because I was obviously still injured.. but I was ten minutes faster and the cramps didn't come on until later --- much later. But inside i was celebrating. I ran a half marathon under 2 hours for the first time since the fall season began. That was really my first celebratory half marathon in five or six months. The only problem now was that I was one month away from my next full marathon. I didn't have many long runs under my belt and I wasn't sure how my hamstring was going to hold up.
No time to think about it because the next race is on tap: Race 13.1's Raleigh Fall Race.
I was definitely half marathon ready. But was I full marathon ready? In hindsight, No. Absolutely not. As usual it was a great race with support from the community. My pace wasn't even that fast. My fastet mile was mile 3 at 9:32. After mile 10, it all started to fall apart. I progressively got slower and slower. Then the leg cramps started. I tried everything. I had salt tablets, Nuun, Huma Gels. Everything seemed to work temporarily. At one point I thought it'd be better if I took my compression sleeves off. By mile 23, I knew I was approaching the end of the race. But I was also approaching the lowest.. or slowest point in that race for me. 14 minute, 15 minute miles. I walked and I walked. The lowest point was when I was stopped in front of a firehouse holding a handful of ice on my hamstrings and groin area with my calves, quads and groin pulsating from the pain. I would walk so that I could run a few feet and then hobble in pain until I could walk again. My finish time: 5:08.
I smiled at the time.. but it was a walk of shame. 30 minutes slower than my previous marathon PR and an hour slower than my goal time.
Then you use that low moment as motivation. For 18 weeks of training. Every speed workout. Every Strength Workout. Every Long Run. Every Cold morning or dark night. When you body is tired, but you know it'll be worth it. There's no time to think about skipping a workout.
I've learned that sometimes we need failure to remind us how to win. It reminds us what it feels like to be hungry for a goal.
So, I signed up for the next marathon. This time I gave myself plenty of time to train and recover. Goal marathon Tobacco Road Marathon in March. 18 weeks is a long time. Every day, I had to defeat negative thoughts. I had to overcome the memories of the season past in order to focus on the finish line in front of me.
The plan was to find a pace group and stick with them for as long as possible. I found the 4:10 pace group and it felt pretty comfortable. Then my shoe came untied. So, I stopped tied it.. and caught up to the group. Then m other shoe came untied. Same thing. It seems minor... but you need to preserve all of your energy for later in the marathon when it really gets tough.
Then somewhere around mile 6 i found myself ahead of the pace group and "feeling good."
Then I came across the downhill section and I was, again, "feeling good."
The wheels fell off around mile 20. I stopped to do a snapchat for Rock n Roll .. and walked a lot after that.
Still, I was able to squeeze out a marathon PR. 4:21:36.
It was only faster by a minute or so. But it was something to celebrate.
But I couldn't celebrate for long.. the goal race was coming up the very next weekend.
So, I learned my lesson from the previous weekend. I stayed with the pace group. I stayed with them like I was stalking them.
It was really the most amazing thing ever. I didn't get tired or want to stop until the last mile. That's when I regretted scheduling back to back marathons.
But this time I was even more successful -- finishing with another new PR of 4:09:07!
It was a long road to that PR.
I welled up with emotion at the finish line.
I'm glad that I'm over the "funk" but I know that it could happen again. I'm determined to not let it happen again. I also hope that I'll be able to help someone else get out of that funk. I want to encourage someone else to keep pushing. But also to seek help if your injured. Rest, Recover--- then run. Leader boards and Monthly run totals don't mean anything if you aren't achieving your goals.
Most of the races were run thanks to complimentary race entries from the Rock n Roll Marathon Series as a Rock n Roll Ambassador or through FS Series as an FS Series Ambassador.