Breaking the Blog Jam

Time to get back to my blog. It’s been far too long since I last posted, and a lot has transpired since so this will be a catch-up post. I’ll try to be brief.

October, 2015 — Appalachian Series Report

Here is my flickr album from the series: https://www.flickr.com/gp/dolton/45y15B. This was my second complete Mainly Marathons series (see Dust Bowl report here) and the quality of their events has been consistently spectacular. It is enjoyable, social, well-organized, highly supportive, and the hard work of running day after day is mitigated by the sense of community that develops from day one.

Clint and Hanne Burleson are expertly assisted by George and Kate Rose and Norm and Cathy Duesterhoeft — hands down the best race crew I have come to know. And this series, I had the pleasure to get to know the Bird family who ran and volunteered for the hydration table. They brought energy and fun to every race, but on Day 6 in Georgia, where the course was unusually and dreadfully boring, they made it tolerable by heading out before the race began to chalk sayings on the asphalt — many about each of the runners — and left chalk at various spots so runners could add their own messages. Here’s just one:

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So how did I do? I was on track until the last race. I had planned to run a marathon in WV, then a half in VA, followed by marathons in the remaining states of TN, NC, SC, GA, and AL. In South Carolina I started to experience some pain in the front of my left leg just above the ankle. The next day I struggled through the Georgia marathon but managed to finish. The last day in Alabama, I started out OK and thought I was going to be able to finish, running strong during the first 6 to 8 miles. But the wheels started coming off and I struggled during the next laps until I had to walk — and even that was painful. I decided to stop at a half marathon since that option is available for those registered for the marathon distance. I knew it would only get more and more painful and I was afraid of doing some real damage and/or not being able to finish anyway. I didn’t want to finish the series that way so I took the half marathon option and ended up picking up 5 new states instead of 6, but I added Alabama to my half marathon states so I still accomplished that.

Recovery

It turned out that I had a stress reaction — not quite a fracture, but it still halted my running for six weeks to recover. I think I was more disappointed by having to stop running than having to miss my goal of six new states for the series. But I dutifully held off running for the allotted time.

What I am discovering is that each time I have to take that kind of time to heal and recover, it seems to be harder to get started again. It’s not just like starting over again (which it feels like), but it also feels like it takes longer to get back to running normally and build up to my base of about 25 to 30 miles per week. Perhaps that’s a function of my age. I turned 67 in January so I guess it’s normal for it to take more time to get back up to speed.

Perhaps it was the time of year. By the time I was running again it was Thanksgiving and, of course, the temps were falling. We didn’t have a terrible winter, but it’s not my favorite time of year to run and I really don’t like running on the treadmill — especially if I’m trying to do more than 4 or 5 miles.

Weight Gain

And then there’s the inevitable weight gain when I stop running. My appetite does not go into hibernation even though I’m not burning the calories I normally burn when running 30 miles or more per week. Although I was building back up to my base level as of Thanksgiving, that period through New Years often sees me pick up 5 pounds or more. But on top of the six weeks off before then, and a two week trip to Florida in late January when I ate and drank more than usual and didn’t run due to playing too hard in Disney World then getting sick the following week, I packed on even more pounds. Ugh!

No question, I could feel the extra weight as I trained. Definitely discouraging.

Diligence Pays Off

I plugged away and stayed with my training plan. I gradually built up the mileage and managed to overcome some temporary pains and issues along the way. I scheduled regular visits to my chiropractor and started getting monthly massage treatments, too. After losing time in late January, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to ramp up to high mileage weeks, but I managed to get there without any injury flare ups.

By the last two weeks of March I managed to put in two weeks in a row with 20 mile runs. After that, in April, I averaged more than 60 miles per week the first three weeks including another 20 mile run in week 3, then hit 80 miles the next week including two back-to-back days of 20 milers. The last week I backed down to 50+ miles but still included another 20-miler. So this training period, I recorded six separate 20-mile runs and sustained four straight weeks of high mileage.

The volume has paid off. My endurance has clearly improved, my speed has slightly improved (not a real concern given my current goals), and I have finally shed the extra weight I had gained since my shut down after the series in October. Most importantly, I feel like I am better prepared for my next series than I was for either of the previous two series. In fact, I cannot wait for it to begin.

Next Up: New England

May 15 through 21 I will be running the Mainly Marathons New England Series. My goal is to run marathons in Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, and half marathons in Vermont, Connecticut, and New York where I have already run marathons. The sequence will be 2 marathons (ME and NH), a half in Vermont, 2 more marathons (RI and MA), and finish with two half marathons (CT and NY).

Given my training and the way I feel right now I am very confident. But I know that anything can happen so I plan to take it very easy starting out each day and, especially during the first 5 days. I have heard that the Massachusetts course is hilly so that could be my biggest challenge. Fortunately, that would be my last full marathon and I’ve been training on the hills of Valley Forge National Historical Park so I hope I’m ready.