Sunday, February 27, 2011

Infirm

February has been my worst month of running in over a year.  The Rocky Raccoon 100 at the beginning of the month seems to have exploited several weaknesses in my body and thus rendered the past three weeks essentially run-less.  I have done one run of more than 40min since the race, and it was a total disaster.  There have been many (basically daily) "runs" in the 10-30min range.

The main problem is that I'm not sure which painful part of my body I should be most concerned with or lend the most rehabilitative attention to: my left foot (some kind of strange extensor tendon/posterior tibial tendon unhappiness), my right shin (definitely an upset post. tib.), or my right lower back/sciatic nerve (bending over to pick up anything right now is still decidedly uncomfortable).

Most of this might be easier to take if I could attribute it to some obvious, boneheaded training mistake.  Instead, it is all pretty much due to a single 100 mile run as things were mostly peachy and smooth heading into the Rocky Raccoon weekend.  The week after the race I ran 12 miles; the week after that, 27 miles.  Rushing back into training is definitely not the culprit here.

The lack of running has freed up an extra 3-4hr/day that I have now banked towards refocusing on my studies and getting my masters degree ASAP.  But, this kind of mental academic focus obviously does nothing to assuage the pull for the local mountain summits that has only been made stronger by the many perfect weather days Boulder has had this month.

The break has also created a space for me to re-realize my most essential motivations in all this, and it's almost silly how quickly and clearly racing takes a backseat to the simple need to be outside, moving pain-free, under my own power.  The fact that I had been planning on racing an ultra per month for the next six months now seems almost absurd and definitely misguided, and once I get healthy I look forward to settling into a long, injury-free build-up that brings me to peak fitness in June.  Any meaningful competitive efforts before then will probably be more distracting than gratifying.  Right now all I can think of is the opportunity to once more become intimately reacquainted with the local trails.  

72 comments:

Vulin said...

Anton,
Your running, for me, has been an inspiration. It really pushes me to try and excel, though I am no where near your ability or the ability of any other ultra runner. I set a goal of running as many days as possible this year, and February for me has also been a total let down with injuries. Im sure you will be back to yourself soon enough, and training hard as always.

Brandon Fuller said...

Some admitting that you are human. It ruins the Mountain Goat-Cheetah-Jesus hybrid vibe.

Dusty said...

You've really captured how I feel once I acknowledge an injury: "screw racing, I just want to be able to run."

I hope you heal quickly and completely.

Barry Bliss said...

Good luck, Tony.

blacksheepfeet said...

kind thoughts for a speedy recovery...

Suza said...

I'm glad you are taking the positives out of your time off and doing other things! You'll be out there soon enough:)

aelaffin said...

I find you very inspiring. I too had a L peroneal brevis/longus tendon problem after a long run. Its very humbling. Remember, rest up and youll be better in short time.

saar said...

Hey Anton.

Best of luck on healing and enjoying running again without the stress of making a time or proving a point.
I always enjoy watching you run.

Saar

Mike Alfred said...

Sorry to hear that buddy. I have a sneaking suspicion that when you're back at full strength you'll be stronger than ever. Keep the faith.

Texafornia said...

Some of the best fitness advice I've ever heard is, "Train for a race and then skip it." Racing is where most of the injuries happen. I don't follow that advice, but I probably subconsciously hold back a tiny bit in a race so I can live to race again. There's no risk of me winning these things anyway.

Rocky Raccoon sneaks up on you because it's pretty flat but it's full of tiny ups and downs and crazy roots. I finished that thing with extreme pain in my right knee and ankle, with visible bruising on my ankle. I think my ankle started rolling in as I fatigued.

When I get over an injury, I'm so unbelievably happy to just be working right again, I swear I won't repeat whatever race I just did. And then I find myself at the starting line all over again. LOL.

Heal, brother! We love the pics and the adventures on your blog!

mi55ter said...

Anton,
I love your blog and am really pulling for you! There is somewhat of a silver lining to the injury cloud- you appreciate how much you love your hobby and what it gives to you. I'd suggest concentrating on the mental benefits of runniing and applying them to other parts of your life (like you're already doing with your studies). Perhaps you will discover a clear cause to your injuries. 'Til then, there's always swimming, massages, and cross training! Good luck.

L3vi said...

I am in the same shoes man. Before a 10K race, just came out from a serious flu. 2 weeks before a 50K race, injured my piriformis, had a pressure on my Sciatica, crazy lower back and left leg pain. Now that I am kind of recovered, have Right ITB problems just 3 weeks to go till Eco-Trail 85K. Non of them happened during running. Anyway, have a good recovery, FOAM ROLLER is my good friend, might help a few sessions on you. Take Care

Terry said...

Hope you heal quickly. I enjoy the blog; especially as I can't be in CO right now, I can run those trails vicariously through you.(And much faster than I did when I was there too!)

Agiofws said...

Running the RR at that kind of pace, with the daily mileage you put into your trainings, and practically no tapering is really hard on your body. The younger you are, the more your body can take, untill the first signs of injury appear. I agree that you have to enjoy a free injury training period and set your mind for one main race/goal. Things that you need now, is ACTIVE REST, and swimming.Give your body the time to recover fully and respect it. I hope you get better and start running those incredible mountains again...

Speedgoat Karl said...

Hey Tony! Not that I should offer you advice. :-)

One thing that I've found over my countless years of running 100s, is the "slow", active recovery works best for me. It's easy to sit around after a race like that and "recover", but he body gets stiff and seizes up, then you start running again, thinking you'll be fine and the body rebels because it's stiff. I start moving as soon as I feel ok. This time it was Wednesday after RR. I also did go for a 3 mile walk on Tuesday. Each day is one step at a time. I loosen up, jog for a while, then stop. Forcing anything too early always results in tiredness and issues a few weeks later.

Granted you did not just get right back on it, cuz' you were hurting some, but at this point, even if going for a walk to work your foot a little is good. Tendons and muscles need to move, bones need to sit.

Take it one day at time and you'll come back, don't force a race just cuz' it's there.

Not that my opinion means alot right now, :-) but in the future, you might get back on it a little quicker, but slowly at the same time. My weeks have been 33, 53, 70since RR and I feel great. A little slow still, but good.

hang tough, it'll come around, and get some schoolwork done!

Vava said...

Hope the body heals soon. But having been through the Masters Degree grind I can safely say that finishing that Ultra is very satisfying indeed. All the best!

sonja said...

I'm sorry to hear that you haven't been able to run as much as you want to. It is very aggravating to be injured, but sometimes things that are aggravating do bring insight, as it seems this has done for you as you contemplate your racing schedule. I hope things clear up soon.

Andrew said...

Couldn't agree more with you and Dusty: Race related injuries help re-define why we do this in the first place. The joy of our bodies and spirit on the trail should be paramount. I've been in pain since a stupid shoe change thinking I'd shave some ounces for - of all things - a road marathon. My sentiments are like all the others -- Hang in there and ease back to running so we can all enjoy your day-to-day adventures with you.

Jeffrey Horner said...

Dude!

You're getting older and you may need to pay attention to age-related muscle atrophy. You're back pain is due to a weak/overused back, and if you don't fix that it could seriously affect your lower extremities: hamstring, calf, and even your foot muscles. No joke!

Jeff

heev said...

Hey Anton,

I noticed you mentioned a pain in your right lower back. I just came off of an injury that caused much the same pain as you described except it was in my left lower back. Through my friend/chiropractor, we determined it was a minor dislocation of the sacroiliac joint. That particular joint has a lot of connective tissue around it and is also located close to the sciatic.

It took about 14 days along with some adjustments to get me back running. BTW, I run 80-90 mpw with 90% on trail and no prior history of injury related to this. Hope this helps.

JessiePants said...

Thinking of you today. Good job on being positive and working towards your degree. Listen to your body and hope that you are back to blissful runs again soon.

Majo said...

I can hardly compare my running and training experience with yours, but when my old body needs a break from running I do a lot of swimming. I find it perfect for both recovery and a fairly significant aerobic build-up.
Good luck with your recovery.

Anton said...

Thanks all for the kind words.

Karl--I totally agree on the "active rest" thing. I've had so many little niggles over the years that I'm convinced would've never healed if I hadn't gotten outside and still moved them around a little every day. I've only taken a half dozen days completely off since Rocky, most days I get out for a good walk and at least a 10-20min jog just to keep my body familiar with the motions. Good advice.

heev--Yeah, I'm not as concerned about the shin/back because I've dealt with those in the past and mostly understand what is going on there--I've already had a couple helpful adjustments to the SI joint.

Soy afortunado said...

Toni,
Take it easy, listen to your body and always think positive. You are a great guy. Take a look back and always remember how lucky we are being healthy.
Best wishes.

jdawg said...

might have to eventually take up some strength training. thanks for writing about your good AND hard times. very encouraging.
and there's not a thing wrong with getting older. I always consider the alternative.

Adamo said...

Hey Tony,

Bummer to hear about the ailments.

I can only imagine that racing 100 miles of steady running is hard on the body, no matter what Karl seems to claim on his blog, although I do agree with Karl that "motion is lotion"in terms of recovery.

Hope to read that you're getting out there soon.

Michael said...

Tony, you've inspired and you will continue doing so....... Rest up my friend. February was nice, March will be the same, but we still have April, May, June,............. (:

Running is the ultimate gift, and sometimes we must endure the challenges of life to to have this gift. Hang in there, you'll be putting one foot in front of the other before you know it!

Channelguy said...

I say, make lemonade! I'm an academic dork who thinks you should take full advantage of this down time to finish and defend your thesis. And, perhaps move on to your PhD. A wise man once told me to never plan more than one big athletic event per calendar quarter. Following this advice has kept me injury reduced (not free) and going beyond that typically results in overuse disasters and forced downtime.

Good luck with school, recovery and returning to your regularly scheduled program.

mthead said...

My guess is that the lack of variety in the Rocky course (i.e. mostly flat compared to your normal runs) meant that you built up much more specific stress than you normally do. In other words, when you're running up and down hills you are constantly changing your stride whereas when you are running mainly on flats your stride stays very constant and thus the stresses with each footfall are similar. It's just a theory, but I run both and am always surprised how much more ground I can cover on the trails without felling quite as beat up. Good Luck, your running and attitude are an inpsiration!

Hills said...

Tony,

My son and I ran with you at the Zombie Runner Event last year. Thanks for the inspiration. He just ran his first half-marathon.

I saw this band last week at the Hotel Utah in S.F. and enjoyed the show. Thought I would reciprocate the inspiration with a song since I know you like music. Here is the link for Everest and "Rebels in the Roses", http://everestband.com/home

Enjoy!

niceshorts said...

What I find oddly encouraging about your blog is not how exceptional your experience is but how similar it is to that of the rest of us who run. I don't run ultras, but I've been dealing with the same things - being mangled after a race, and questioning the importance of competition. Mostly I like races because they guarantee I'll spend a certain amount of time on the trail training. But anyway, it's sort of comforting to be reminded that everyone deals with this stuff at some point and it doesn't mean you messed up.

For what it's worth, I've found that what helps the most with pain is a) pummeling everything with a foam roller/trigger point ball/etc and then stretching, b) getting opinions from a couple of different chiropractors, because they will be vastly different, and c) resting and slowing down for a little bit.

Hope you will be back out there soon. In the meantime, since your photos are always so great, maybe you'll treat us to a scenic panorama of the view from the couch.

David said...

Stay positive Tony. Try and think of all of these experiences as learning opportunities to better yourself for future training and racing! You'll be back in time for the more enjoyable running weather.

Brandon said...

I find it appalling that nobody has offered the most important advice of all...drink beer. Preferably Firestone Double Barrel Ale, born on the central coast of California--it will cure what ails you.

Yours as sage.
Brando-

Charles said...

Hey Tony,

I see that you are sponsored by Highgear. What kind of altimeter do you use from them and does it have accumulated Vertical Gain and some timing features like splits?

Thank You,

Charlie

The Running Gator said...

Hope you are able to keep things in perspective. For everything there is a season, hope you have a speedy recovery.

John said...

I just wanted to say that you all pulled off a great event for CEES with Christopher McDougall and Scott Jurek. The Timmy fellow was a hoot too. Wonderful to have you all so accessible.

My take on running injuries is that we can do what we train to do. Running on the flat is torture on the body of the one who trains on the vertical every day.

Dave said...

Too much mileage week in and week out--in addition --not enough rest before big races, I see that from reading your blog posts before some of your past races--that's your problem and that's why you are injured---just as a body needs training--equally important is rest--if you don't change you will continue to have such problems.

Anton said...

Charles--I use a Highgear Axio Max altimeter. It has a chronograph with it, too, but doesn't take splits. I think barometric technology like what Highgear uses is the most reliable for tracking vertical change (much more so than GPS).

However, the Highgear Alterra does both (altimeter and splits)--I just find it to be full of other confusing functions that I never use.

Dave--You might be right.

David said...

Hope you are feeling better soon!

Just did first run in the Trail Minimus (on grass & dirt) - pretty effing sweet! Cool design and smooth ride, nice work.

Dustin said...

Hey Anton I too just bought the new Minimus and I'm incredibly pleased with it. Can't wait to ref the first games of the season with them good work.

run.bart.259 said...

Hello Tony,
Like all of us who are posting I am very sorry to hear about your injuries and problems. I started running when I was 14 and I am still at 51 years later. I love it but I have had my share of injuries; they come and go but the culprit was always too much fast running, whether it is racing to much or too much fast training. The general rule I have had to adopt was that I had to train slow in order to race fast and stay healthy. My only advice: be kind to yourself and go easy. You have the guts and talent to race successfully but you need to show up to play healthy. You are a tremendous inspiration to the running community and we all appreciate your blog and sharing your experiences.

God bless, get well and yes, hammer away at the degree.

Bart
Asheville NC

Kelly said...

For me it has been a tough few months as far as running goes. I had ITBS and it has completely hampered my spirit. I missed the first official ultra I was signed up for.

Im feeling beeter and you will too. This lifestyle isnt something that just totally leaves you.You miss it...

Wyatt Hornsby said...

Agree with Dave. Less mileage (like around 120-140 during peak weeks), more recovery weeks, more quality (intervals and tempo runs) and more tapering would, IMHO, make Anton even more dominant. Anton with fresh legs come race time is a scary thought.

Fact of the matter is that when you've been handed ridiculous running talent and the desire, you have to manage that talent and channel the desire in ways that maximize your talent. I don't know of many people--maybe any people--who can sustain excellence on 200 miles per week.

Wyatt

Unai said...

Hi Tony from Madrid- Spain, all the very best. i hope that you have a speedy recovery. Keep it Real mate

David said...

That other David was kinda blunt, but I think correct about rest. It's important and you don't seem to get much.

What about just running 6 days a week?? I think Kami Semick and a few others do that. You could still rack up 125+ miles and seems highly doubtful that plan would affect your fitness enough to matter. Then you'd have a day each week to really rest and rejuvenate. So the downside appears low, the upside is you in a state of tip top health.

Just sayin'...

Wyatt Hornsby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

Tony,
Very sorry to hear you're having trouble getting back out on the trail at 100%.
I really enjoy your blog and look forward to seeing you out on the trail again soon(we've run by each other a few times on Green Mtn).

I agree with what a lot of people have been saying about rest, and think it could serve you well.

But since you live in Boulder, I also wanted to ask, if you've ever considered seeing a Rolfer for some Rolfing sessions?

As former Semi-Pro Mountain Biker that had an accident a few years ago which left me with 7 broken bones, I can attest to the positive benefits that Rolfing has on the body and how it helped me get back on the bike and feel bette then ever!

In fact, the Rolfing sessions were so positive and life changing that I moved to Boulder and I'm now a student in my third/final unit at the Rolf Institute.

For more info, check out www.rolf.org
There's plenty of Rolfers in Boulder that could help and/or I'd be more then willing to do some work with you, if interested.

Healing vibes...
Scott

Michael said...

IMO, it may be worth experimenting with your diet as well.

I could be entirely wrong since I don't know your current diet, but if I recall correctly, you prefer to eat and drink the bare minimum during training runs, and seem to eat mostly carbohydrates. Perhaps consuming more calories during your longer training runs and some additional post-workout protein may help your body recover.

archery.pro said...

Hope your back on the trails in full strength soon Tony!

Jay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JD said...

Active Release Therapy

Ryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan said...

My guess is that it's got more to do with the foreign terrain of RR than anything else. One way to find out is to look back at your training leading up to the 2007 RR and compare it with your training leading up to this year's RR (assuming you weren't as beat up after the 2007 RR).

Ben Nephew said...

First of all, best of luck with the recovery. I agree that the high mileage may be wearing you down. I have no personal experience at that mileage level, but personal experience is only a n of 1 anyway. I just keep thinking of all the ultrarunners in the 70's and 80's that trained at a very high intensity, and had tremendous racing success, but only for a very brief time, often due to injury. I don't think you are looking for that type of running career.

The monotony of RR probably lead to some overuse issues, but you may also be getting some separate overuse issues from your training, Being on trails is great, but there seems to be a lot of monotony in your training, in terms of the stresses on your body. Could running Green Mt. too often be similar to doing intervals too often?

As for your racing plans, I have a different perspective on that. You obviously train very hard. That 7 hour 55 mile thing last year? What? While racing too much can be destructive, so can never ending training. If I don't have a race coming up, I'll just do workout after workout. I firmly believe that tapering for regular races keeps me healthy. It makes it easier for me to take easy days when I have a race coming up, or am in recovery. You don't need to actually race to have this type of structure, but I enjoy all the aspects of racing. New trails or conditions, keeping in touch with running friends, etc. Using races to build in easy days only works if you are diligent about tapering and recovering. You do taper, but I wonder someone with your mileage needs more of a taper?

My other issue with infrequent racing is statistical. The probability of having everything go right, and having your best possible race when you only race a couple times a year seems pretty low, especially in ultra racing where there are so many variables.

You seem to be good at listening to your body, and that is obviously key to staying healthy. One person I know who had a training plan very similar to yours is no longer running due to a running injury. This person was extremely successful, for quite a while, but it's very sad not to see them run. I'd rather be injured myself than to see this friend unable to run. On a happier note, I'm sure we all know runners who have recovered from incredible injuries to run faster than ever.

Good luck with your recovery,

Ben

Charlie said...

Tony is an "exorexic" and is going through severe withdrawal without his daily fix. He is in a dark pit of agony and despair. He is trying to be philosophical about a situation that for him just absolutely sucks.

Tony, hang in there. I know you have been through worse stretches than this with stress fractures. I wish I could give some advice, but there is simply no substitute for that natural chemical cocktail that comes from running. Of course, Charlie Sheen is testing that theory. I have total faith that you will have a complete relapse and be back to your addiction.

Barry Bliss said...

Tony, are you going to continue doing mile intervals on a regular basis once you are back running?
I wonder if that, over the long term, won't add to your strength and overall fitness in a way that'll make you less prone to injury.
Were you only doing those to prepare for the race?
What about intervals on dirt/grass, etc.?
Not armchairing--just asking.

PS I know for me the whole rest thing is hard to deal with. When do we really need to rest?
Is there a way to make yourself rest before you get hurt?

NICOLAS said...

Do you think you gonna be able to run the UTMB this year then ? I hope so ; as I'll be there ! ;-)

NICOLAS said...

Anton, do you think you gonna be able to run the UTMB this year ? I hope so ; as I will be there !! ;-)

Jane C. said...

Since you are in Boulder, go see Josh at Tri-Massage. He will help you pin-point the issue and heal up fast! Seriously look into it...I drove up from Castle Rock to see him and my "foot slapping" and "heel pain" was fixed by daily foam roller action..on my back and right glute! Good Luck! the trails miss you!

Al Glenn said...

"We thought we had the answers,it was the questions we had wrong". (U2). Think my friend,think. Peace. Al Glenn.

Michael said...

Repetitive use injuries from "flat" race?

Pietrus Gracchus said...

Hi, do you think running barefoot style is one of the reason of your injuries ?
sorry for the apporximative english. thx

Mattew said...

Hi Anton, I'm a student of the University of Verona and attend the course of the activity sciences and sports. I'm writing a thesis on the trail running, if you have time and desire, you could give me your personal definition of the Trail? so that I put in the thesis introduction. would be a great honor for me. thanks. my mail is matteo.giuriato@alice.it

Alyssa said...

Hi Anton,
I've just discovered videos of you online and I really appreciate you're whole "Running Jesus" vibe. I don't mean to turn you into the next mesiah, but you just look like you belong to the terrain that you move through so effortlessly. Also, I recognize those trails of Colorado as an old friend I know from growing up going on weekend family hikes. I'm going to borrow from that vibe that comes through on your YouTube videos to try to not make running about a burden, or an acheivment, or my sweet shoes, but about something I want to be doing in that moment. This new found inspiration helped me catch a great Colorado sunset just last night. Thanks a bunch!

Barry Bliss said...

Hi Anton.
I just got my latest CDR back from the lab.
If you'd like a free one email me a mailing address.
barrynowbliss@gmail.com

Anton said...

Alyssa-Thanks for the good words. It's rewarding to provide that kind of inspiration. However, for me, running is definitely about sweet shoes, too ;-) Enjoy the trails.

david said...

man
get healthy soon!!!!!!!
we miss your running/writing/motivating contribution.

sending best vibrations from the other side of Atlántic Ocean.

montagnes said...

I think that your last competition was not adapted to your mountain training and you beated your best time! And I think that your training had proved it is the best for you and that it will be excellent this year for mountain races that you will do. André from France

PunkRockRunner said...

I agree with Jane C. Josh at Tri-Massage might be time well spent for you. He works with a lot of elite/pro triathletes/runners and he’s pretty darn fast too.

I actually flew from CA for a Gait Analysis from Josh and it was a huge help.

As long as you’re in the same town, you might want to reach out to him.

Tomorrow I’ll be running my first Ultra (Way Too Cool 50K) and just wanted to say thanks for sharing your adventures.

All the best,

Ron

john.lavoie said...

I am a 58 year old ultrarunner who hasn't raced more than the marathon distance in almost 20 years. This year I decided to return to the scene of my first 100K at Lake Waramaug in Connecticut and try to get started again. The first year I did the race was 1983. I start with all of this only to say that you are an inspiration even to an old shuffler like me. Your take on running and shoes and life is reminiscent of the mood in the serious running community in the late 70s and early 80s. Reading your accounts of your training and racing is what I would call "practically inspirational". I used information I gleaned there to pattern my own training.(Proportionally of course.) Over the years after my first ultra, I did have a plethora of injuries. Only a couple of them were serious, but any downtime, even any cutback in training, I viewed as the blackest of black curses. That view, unfortunately, has not changed with age or experience. I have come to envy my 20 year triathlete son who is wise enough to rest when he needs to. I have never had such wisdom. You seem to be so in tune with your body and the roads and trails you move over. I hope that they are soon in balance again. I hope that you are able to return to form soon. I know how important running is to you. Although your other pursuits help to make you the person you are and will be in the future, I sense that without running and your time in the mountains, things don't feel quite right.

Nano said...

Hey Tony,
As an ultrarunner and PT student (with experience in running injuries) here in Santa Monica, CA I would definitely go see a GOOD PT, if you haven't already done so. It can help tons in facilitating the healing process in the right direction. If you want you can send me a list of your ailments in detail (ie what aggravates it, what helps it), maybe in a video, and I can collaborate with the PTs at my work to get a sense of what's going on (movement impairments etc.) I can then send you some advice on what can help. Not being outdoors stinks so I'm empathetic.
Good luck.

Jill said...

Hey Tony,

The truth is that only YOU will know what you need/want mentally and physically to get through this time.

I herniated 6 disks in my back and was told I would never run again since I could barely walk at the time.

Everything is possible. Reach inside yourself and be prepared to entertain any and all possibilities with regard to training, nutrition, and recovery strategies.

BELIEVE in yourself.

BELIEVE in running...not perfect running...just running.

Every step is a gift....DON'T forget.

"Yesterday is History,
Tomorrow is a Mystery
Today is a Gift"