Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Club XC Nationals 2014, Hernia Repair, and proving you can still run that darn marathon

A career change can change a lot more than who you work with and for, or where your work happens. It has taken much of my mental focus away from running.  Honestly, that is fine.  I can balance it all out eventually.
So, as you may wonder "Have you been running, Mike?" Some of you know, yes  I have a bit.  But here's the catch up:

December: I limp into Club Cross Country Nationals at Lehigh University and run a sub-par effort on a painful hip/groin or some mysterious still undiagnosed thing. I won't even give it the legitimacy it yearns for and call it the "I-word". Shh, they can hear you and it makes them grow larger, angrier, vengeful! Just don't talk about them and they will leave you alone!
So, really, from step one to the end of the race I felt like I was running with a tear somewhere in my hip socket/groin or perhaps an attachment point between my glutes and hamstring. Despite this, I shaved 3 seconds from my personal best at 10k xc on a course that was somewhat slick an loaded to the gils with fast guys!
To provide a temperature of things: Olympian, Matt Tegenkamp, didn't win the race.  There were some very high quality professionals and rising amateurs in this race.  Flatly, I was mid-pack, in the low 300's of almost 600 runners.  At this level, I guess I can't complain.  Had I finished 100 spots further ahead, it would have made little difference in my life overall. Of course, yes, I would like to finish inside the top 200 at Club Nat XC, maybe in the 2015 race.
Finishing the last 100m of The Club National XC Championship at Lehigh University, I swear I beat at least one of the guys in front of me here! Photo credit to Michael Scott
One of the great things about this race for my team was that it was a fairly short trip for a national championship, we had more Athleles in the races than any other club by far!  It was really a lot of fun to be surrounded by all of them for the weekend.  Many shenanigans and laughs.
The Men's Teams at 2014 Club National XC Championship at Lehigh University, so many fast guys!

Winter: In the time since that race, I simply shut it down for a while, figuring somewhere in between Jan 1-8 I would get rolling again into training for the Boston Marathon.  Bad weather is always a challenge to training. Developing an inguinal hernia while shoveling snow was a show stopper.  While helping my housemates shovel about 8 inches of heavy snow in Mid-January, I felt something funny in my lower abdominal/groin area. Symptoms were obvious, and so running became very scary and awkward.  It is a weird sensation to have your intestine pushing through your abdominal wall, even if it is "minor".  That night and the next I had runs planned at a couple of running stores that I deal with for my job as a Technical Representative for TomTom GPS; I couldn't back out.  After these runs, it took me a few days to stew on what to do about this problem.  I tried taking a week off thinking maybe it was an inflamed muscle, and in that time my delusional theory was clearly proven false.  I was able to get an appointment in a couple weeks with Dr. Tomer Davidov at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick.  The Dr. recommended surgery, no surprise. But he told me that I can run until the surgery date, just take it easy. This was a relief, but I had already not run a  step for 2-3 weeks at this point.  I ran 4-6 days per week until surgery on March 18th, no runs longer than 9-10miles. It still felt weird/bad to run for more than 70mins. Honestly, it felt weird from the 1st stride every time, but I had to maintain my sanity and fitness until this was dealt with.

Surgery/Rebounding: Surgery itself wasn't stressful, the tightness of the muscles afterward was awkward for the better part of 10-14 days. But My follow up visit with the Dr. went smoothly. I had already been trotting across streets to beat changing traffic lights. He gave me the go-ahead to start running. So, I went home and did a 6mile run.  Not so bad.  I felt plenty rested over the several weeks and not sore from that run, so the next few days I went 8, 8, 3, 0...and 15. Yes, I decided I had to see how a longer run would feel. Along the way, I could still feel the muscles around the surgery site being stiff, but it was more simply this, I hadn't gone 14 miles since early December. So now here in March, 15 was admittedly unwise. I trudged the last 3 miles in a fading state of mild hunger and general bonkiness. Mike Dixon ran the middle 9 with me, so it was a bit like going off a cliff. You know the feeling, suddenly, you are alone and slowing down against your will...bummer.  3miles in the hurt box did not deter me.

One more try: At this point the Boston marathon was now just 8 days away, I had done a few moderate runs since the 15 I suffered through. I figured, my body will adapt quickly from this recent return to moderate mileage. I was leery of attempting 18miles. So I gave myself the "range" option, "Try for 16, feel alright , go as far as 18, feel bad stop as early as 14."  I met with Adin Mickle and Joe Zeoli and I ran 13miles with them at a fairly casual pace on the Wissahickon trail. When they were done, I quickly grabbed another energy gel and some more water that I had in a crumpled 16oz Poland Springs bottle to reduce sloshing; and soldiered on. I ran downhill on the trail toward the Schuykill River. As I approached the intersection of Lincoln Dr and Ridge Ave, I saw my good pal, Michael Daigeaun running by headed toward East Falls. Now somewhere around 16miles into my run, I was feeling alright and he was too far away to shout at...I gave chase. Thankfully, he wasn't going too fast and in about 1/2 a mile I was able to run him down to his surprise. "Too slow kid, too slow!", I said as I rolled up on him touching a low-6min pace. He laughed, "Mike Anis, always good to see you!" He told me about his recent running/races, I explained how I was testing the waters to see if I could/should still run Boston. It was about time to turn back, I was already too far out and we parted ways. I realized then, that yes, this run was going to be 19 miles, not 18, the last of which was all uphill. Which is actually fine, it rounds out the effort, all flat is bad. Heading uphill to end a run changes the angle of impact, engages your muscles differently, all good. I pushed it a bit, wanted to feel like it was a real effort, running in the 6:00-6:19 range for the last 2 miles felt good.

The significance of a single run: I couldn't tell you how many runs I've done that have been close to or over 20miles, just because I care to not over-stress these facts. Many of them blur in the mind and have little significance due to their repetitive nature. Familiar faces and places are a happy thought always, but this run will last in my memory. Simply because I figured it would be much tougher and would be a lot shorter, and fate brought me to bump into a friend at the right moment, to pull me past where I thought I could go on the day.  The feeling of accomplishment and thankfulness for a run like this can't be matched. The fact that I ended it by myself and most immediately had just myself to celebrate it with more firmly entrenches it into its place in my memory of long runs.
Afterward, I got together with my girlfriend, Anna, showered, ate/rehydrated and then went to a Phillies game. I ran for 2:16:00 that day, that's long enough to prove you can run a marathon.  And I'll tell you about that one...when I have a little more time to sit and write some more.  You might have heard, the Boston Marathon is kind of a big deal. ;)

To be continued...