Sunday, January 29, 2012

What a Great Day

Today was a great day.  Why might you ask?  Well, today I was able to don my running shoes and run.  Yes, I, a runner by profession, did what I am paid to do.  So why was this such a great day?  Because today was the first time in six weeks that I was able to run pain free.  It all began six weeks ago when after a rather banal jog, I laced up my spikes to run a few 200m strides around the indoor track at Dartmouth.  Lap after lap my left calf began to tightening up.  By the end of the sixth 200, I could barely walk.  Limping back to my car I figured it was just a knotted muscle victim of the tight turns of the indoor track.  After a massage and multiple icings, the pain in my calf lingered and continued to linger day after day for weeks.  The pain would fade away into the background, only calling out during hard intervals or when I misplaced my foot on the trails of Hanover.  But it would not go away and eventually, it crawled into the forefront, screaming out during every step I took.  I did everything that I could (minus the obvious avoidance of running) to allow the calf to heal.  I went to multiple doctors, trainers, masseurs, and chiropractors.  There was nothing that I could do except icing, stim, stretching and time.  And then two week ago, during 1200m repeats, things went from bad to worse.  On my third interval I felt a slight twinge.  I kept running, but 100m later my calf seized up like a rock.  I lifted my leg trying to keep running, a tear formed in my eye.  I put the leg back down, it could not support my body.  I picked it up again, replaced it, again, it could not hold my weight.  I hopped to a stop and sat down on the track, head in hands, my leg throbbing.  From then, I could barely walk for a few days, limping everywhere and struggling to climb the stairs.  I jumped onto my stationary bike and rode for hours each day.  Slowly the leg began to heal and I was able to start running on an Alter-G (a treadmill that is encapsulated in a bubble that allows you to run at various percentages of your body weight).  Next, I was allowed to do ten sets of jogging for one minute, followed by one minute of walking.  Two days of that, I graduated to two minutes jogging for one minute walking, then three.  Along with the slow integration back to 'real running,' I slowly increased the percentage of body weight I ran at on the Alter-G.  And then finally, finally, I was able to do a complete run at full weight.  It was glorious.  The calf is still not perfect.  While pain free, the soleus is still quite swollen, but progress is coming and there is an enormous grin plastered across my face.  It will be a few more days before I try any intensity on the leg, but the improvement over the last few days has lifted my spirits and reignited the belief that I will be able to toe the line in a few weeks at the Millrose Games and begin my 2012 season.  It has been a long and tough last few weeks, but the sun is beginning to rise and things are starting to look good.  I am excited to get back to quality training and to run some fast races.

Until next time,

Ben

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Inspiration

The U.S. men’s and women’s Olympic marathon trials were held this past Saturday in Houston, TX.  Being able to watch the races unfold online and again on NBC later in the day, I was stuck with inspiration and admiration.  The men’s race went out hot from the gun with Ryan Hall pushing the pace.  By the third mile, there were only seven men in the lead pack.  This quickly dwindled down to five as they passed halfway in 1:03:23.  The rest of the race was a contest of who could hang on the longest as one by one athletes began fading back.  By mile twenty, only three remained (the eventual Olympic qualifiers: Abdi Abdirahman, Ryan Hall, and Meb Keflezghi).  By mile twenty-four, Abdi fell off, and by mile twenty-five, it strung out to just one, Meb, who would go on to win in 2:09:08 for a new personal best.  What is amazing is not that Meb was able to win the race, defeating Ryan Hall and a host of other greats.  Nor was it the fact that Meb ran a new personal best.  The impressive feat was that he did this at the age of 36 and after running the New York marathon two months prior.  And to top things off, he missed considerable training after New York due to a foot injury he suffered from leaving a breathe-rite strip in his shoe for the entire race.  The former Olympic silver medalist and NYC marathon winner bounced back from years of poor results to be able to amass two great performances in less than seventy days and to qualify for his third Olympic games.  The women’s race was just as exciting.  Again, by halfway, there was only a small group of four women vying for the three Olympic spots.  These four women (Amy Hastings, Kara Goucher, Desiree Davila, and Shalane Flanagan) would continue to battle it out and it wouldn’t be until mile twenty-five that their order will be decided with Hastings coming up short and finishing fourth, and Shalane winning.  But my hats must go off to Kara, who finished third and who only a year ago gave birth to her son, Colt, and recently left her longtime coach.  It was inspirational to watch this athletes compete.  To see the hardships that they had to overcome to reach their goals.  To think that only a little while ago, their dreams of becoming an Olympian were merely faint glimmers of hope, only to be able to dig deep within themselves to rise up amidst adversity and to be able to deliver when it counts.  Going into 2012 with my own Olympic aspirations, I am inspired by the might and determination of my fellow runners and hope to be able to find that strength within me as I go forth on my own quest to be able to fulfill my athletic dreams.

Until next time,

Ben

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Busy Week Indeed

This past week has been filled with holiday cheer, family, and more traveling than I know what to do with.  While it has been great to be able to spend a few days in Maine to catch up with friends and family, I am now ready to get back to the routine and serenity of training in the Upper Valley.  Despite an unexpected snowstorm which caused me to play things safe for once- I had to reorganize my training to avoid attempting a nine mile tempo run in the snow and black ice- the training has been going quite well.  The current heat wave that has engulfed the east coast has allowed me to train on numerous occasions hatless and even lead me to expose my forearms during one particularly sultry interval session.  The miles are starting to float effortless by and I am finally feeling like I am sculpting back into form.  But training aside, this week saw rise to many great holiday applause.  The week began with Christmas- always a joyous occasion, followed closely by my birthday.  Yes, another year older, I now step into the world of the ancients.  But I am sure this old body of mine has a few more years left, it might buckle and buck every now and again, but it’s a sturdy rig.  The week of cheer then culminated with an eventful New Year’s Eve in Warren, PA.  Why, you might ask, was I spending New Years there?  Well, it happened to be the site of my college housemate’s wedding.  The first of my Dartmouth mates to wed.  It was nice to be able to share the beginning of a new year and my friend’s new married life with the old group back under one roof.  The wedding went off with a blast- even ending with sparklers for all- and the bride looked as beautiful as ever.  It was good to be able to reunite with the people I lived with throughout my college years and the twenty-odd hours I spent in the great city of Warren flew by in whirlwind fashion.  So with the week winding down to mere hours remaining, I am happy to have been able to share in so much exhilaration.  I hope that the last week of 2011 is only a faint glimpse to the joys and excitement of 2012.  Happy New Year to all, and to all a goodnight.
Until next time,
Ben