Apparently the loyal readers are getting restless based on the emails hitting the inbox as of late. For those that were concerned I have not fallen off the face of the earth and for those expressing a complete loss in faith I’ll miss my quota this month … you may be right, but what is life without a few challenges every once in awhile. We have a few photo shoots coming up in the not to distant future which translates to devoting more time to getting in flight projects to a point where they can be put on hold. This is hard enough, but May brings with it a start of a new season. This month involves donning the orange and hitting the racing circuit! As in previous years, the first race of the season was the Caterpillar Power Race. This relatively flat 5K allows me to ease into the season and make sure the off season training regiment properly prepared me. This year brought with it a little more optimism and conversely a concern standard with the previous 5 or so years. First of all I opted to keep the road endurance higher than usual, committing to at least one long run a week outside through the winter months.. BUURRRRRR. The second change was a little more dramatic… here goes.. Hi, my name is Brian and I partook in Performance Enhancement procedures. Whew, what a load off. On the road work side of things, I can attest to how much of a pain that was especially in the sub 20 weather (sub teen windchill) runs but the treadmill just doesn’t prepare you for the stress of the pavement. Pretty comforting I am already at 1/2 marathon endurance levels this early in the season. With regards to the enhancing component… well, before you call the governing committees, these were all legit and didn’t involve any forms of illegal substances or transfusions. Truth is I grew tired of always running in beyond normal levels of pain and literally damaging myself during every race. Runners can be stubborn and hard headed but I could argue that is probably a pro when it comes to running. It does take some commitment to the discomfort of training and the annoyance of nutrition regiments. But there is a time when you have to let your guard down and admit something is wrong. For me, that moment was during a conversation with my chiro attempting to once again calm down an aggravated left hamstring. Ever since experiencing a nasty injury in the middle of a Bix and “stubbornly” refusing to fail the race and pounding through it, I’ve been fighting continual tears in that region and worrying about it during every race. Enough was enough and decided it was time for full on gait analysis.
After questioning a number of fellow runners and talking to my local running store, I decided on Accelerated Performance. Wanting to make sure this was the right fit, I opted for their free fitness assessment. This is a 20 minute test of your physical capabilities – balance, stretching, strength etc. Piece of cake, I consider myself fit and work pretty hard to keep myself in that condition. Wrong! it didn’t take long and they had pinpointed deficiencies on my left side…I purposely didn’t say anything about my problems there not wanting to bias the test. By the end of that assessment I was committed to enrolling. Next up was a follow up session where they dived deeper into each of the areas they tested previously as well as doing a detailed assessment on the rest of the joint and muscle groups. Definite issue with the left side and easily recognized the issue with the hamstring. For one thing there was 3.5 inches of scar tissue embedded right in the middle of it. Add to that flexibility restrictions and you have the recipe for problems. From there I was scheduled twice a week for deep therapy message to break up the tissue followed immediately by isolated strength training. I won’t go into it, but for those who have not have the pleasure of deep therapy message let me sum it up in a sentence. The entire time I repeatedly tell my inner self not to cry. I’ve learned to snowboard, broken ribs during martial arts, hell even had my arm ripped out of my socket during a black belt test, but nothing … and I mean nothing compares to the pain I’ve had to endure during this process. Good news is that scar tissue is practically gone now. While all this was going on I was also doing gait analysis. They utilize the Dartfish process involving videotaping you from all angles on a treadmill and then creating an interactive DVD highlighting problem areas. To my relief, there were plenty of problems. Sparing you the details, here are the highlight:
- Not enough forward lean
- Arms too high
- Arms swinging too much forward and not enough backwards
- Arms crossing body
- Cadence too slow
I was basically braking on every stride with a full on heel strike sending massive jolts into the hamstring and back. Not good. For the last four months I’ve been breaking my form down and adopting the new style. This is not an easy project and immediately highlighted the muscles that were not pulling their fair share of the load (like the ankles). My weeks have been spent on the road changing behavior, on the table getting brutalized and in the gym strengthening up. All of this in an attempt to get better.. and better I did. On all out days I was able to bring my pace from 8 to 6.30’s however holding that was difficult over 2 or 3 miles. The cadence (180/min) means your legs are working very hard. The best news of all is my hamstrings felt great after every run.
Last Saturday it was time to put this all to the test. The gun went off and I ticked off the internal checklist and got to work. One mile done .. feeling good. Two miles done feeling okay. Third mile and getting winded and the high humidity wasn’t helping. The clock stopped at 23:06. A personal best but 6 seconds over my ultimate goal. No need to feel disappointed, I had just ran the first race faster than ever without injuring myself! The retooling was complete – a new foundation to build upon.
There was another reason to be happy that day. Turns out my time was good enough to take second in my age group (by the way, first in my group had a 19 so something to shoot for next year). This is the first time I’ve ever won anything in a race. Now, some of the runners had opted out of this race for another being held the next day, but I was there and ran to the best of my abilities and therefore not going to let that put an asterisk on the record books. A little bummed they gave money prizes instead of trophies (as you get older your perspective changes hehehe). My loving wife actually made me a little trophy to commemorate the accomplishment. That little trophy now stands tall next to my other medals. Yes, I needed a performance enhancement but I wish I’d done it years ago!
See ya’ on the road my friends!