Four days left before fifty…

Four days before I run fifty miles that is… NOT before I'm fifty years old!

I will be running the Antelope Island 50 mile Buffalo Run in Utah on Saturday March 28th. It will be my first ultra of 2009.

I haven't blogged for a month because, well, I haven't run much the last several weeks. I've been sick, annoyed and frustrated.  Before that, I was doing a bang-up job with my training. I added intervals to my training and they've been the fastest they've been in 20 years.

But then, about a month ago, I caught a cold and was sick for 10 days. I cut back my mileage, even stopped running entirely for several days. It was annoying, my training was going better than expected and now I had a stupid cold!

When it just wouldn't go away and hung on and on… what did I do? I went and ran 20 miles. For the first 3 or so miles I coughed, wheezed and gagged… but then suddenly I felt better. My lungs and sinuses had been flushed out.

I felt so much better, that I decided that if I ever have a cold that just hangs on,  next time instead of feeling sorry for myself, I'll run 20 miles to clear out my upper respiratory tract!

Feeling well lasted for only two days. I had sudden onset of pain in my teeth and behind my eye. Thick, brown, foul mucous drained from the left side of my nose. I had gotten an acute maxillary sinus infection.

I guess running 20 miles when not fully recovered was not very wise, was it?

I started a course of high potency antibiotics. I hated doing that; antibiotics are overused and too frequently inappropriately for viral syndromes. I avoid using them myself unless absolutely necessary. However, this was a secondary bacterial infection. I had no other choice.

Within three days I noticed a slight improvement. Suddenly, one morning something large and dark felt out of my nose. I won't go into details other than say it somewhat resembled a partially incubated bird's egg.  I flushed it down the toilet immediately, not  inspecting it too closely. I was afraid that it might start moving or I would discover that it had begun developing its own circulatory system.

After not running for a week, I did a few shorter runs (4 to 10 miles). Although my legs felt strong, I had no lung capacity. My heart rate shot up to the 180s, even when walking. I was out of breath within a few hundred yards. Only  a few weeks earlier I had been running faster than I had for years, now the effects of my hard work had vanished because of stupid infections. It was very discouraging.

I thought that was the last of it but then the next week, I saw a woman in clinic who was coughing and sputtering from a viral bronchitis. I washed my hands and tried to minimize exposure. I vainly hoped that she had a virus I had already had and which I was resistant to. No such luck. In two days, I was coughing and sputtering myself.

Now, not only was I sick, tired, and frustrated… I was MAD!  How many infections must I fight this year?

The bronchitis lasted another ten days but finally it too resolved.  I still have a trace of reactive airway for which I must take a couple of puffs from my inhaler before running.

Two weeks ago, I tried running the Yasso 800s again. They were difficult but to my surprise, my average for the ten intervals was actually the fastest that I've ever run them!  I don't know if  did them so fast because the four weeks of illness had been a taper of sorts, or  frankly because I was so ANGRY about not being able to run. Either way, it was complete surprise.

Maybe I haven't lost as much fitness as I thought?

This weekend I was in Florida for a meeting. I asked the concierge about jogging trails. He suggested I try the1.25 mile nature trail.  When I responded, "That's not very far but sure, I'll just run it several times…" he laughed. He thought I was joking, but I wasn't.

The warm humid air and low altitude felt good for my lungs. I didn't have to cough and there were no signs of reactive airway. The vegetation was interesting and the greenery smelled good. However, I soon became bored with the nature trail. I decided to climb over a gate to explore more of the surroundings. 

I took no heed of the posted red warning signs: "Beware of alligators and poisonous snakes."

"Those are for the tourists," I thought, "I'm an ultramarathoner, as long as I don't step on a water moccasin, what do I have to worry about?".

The swamp was beautiful. Spanish moss hung off the cypress trees. Turtles and egrets were everywhere. The water was so crystal-clear, I could count the fish. I found a wildlife path which had the footprints of a thousand raccoons in the dust.  Scattered along the embankment were shells of golf-ball sized snails and small freshwater mussels, remnants of previous raccoon dinners.

Then I came around a bend and saw an alligator!

It was six feet long and splashed immediately into the water. Nevertheless, my heart rate went to my max. Six feet is as long as I am! I saw two more after the first one but they were mere babes… only three feet long apiece. My heart rate didn't go up at all with them.

"Wow, I'm definitely not in South Dakota!," I thought. 

After returning back to the "official" nature trail for tourists, I ran some 30 second strides. They felt good, I could feel my quads and other muscles stretching.  Not wanting to overdo it or injure myself with only a week left before my race, I headed back to my room after only a half dozen of them.

It amazes me that so much wildlife can be found only 1/2 mile from the hotel. So many people come to Florida for vacation, yet they never see or experience the "real" Florida away from the golf courses and theme parks.  I was tempted to go back out there with my headlamp after dark to see what else I could see. After speaking with Jeanne on the phone that evening, I thought the better of it.  

Maybe my race this weekend can be salvaged after all? There are many who take a prolonged break from running before a major race only to do better than expected come race day.

Who knows?

My legs still feel strong and evidentally I still have some speed. Do I have endurance? Will my lungs hold up? I really do not know what to expect- so I will expect nothing.

Only six weeks ago, I had hoped to possibly get a PB at the 50 mile distance at this flat race. At this point, I think that is an unrealistic goal. It's not impossible, but it is unrealisitic. As always, I will focus on finishing. I know I can do that as long as I pace myself and eat/drink intelligently.

If I seem to be having a better day than expected, then I will go with it and we'll see what happens. If I don't do as well as I had hoped for, that'll be too bad but not a problem. This is only a single ultra out of the five total I'd like to run in this year. There's no point pushing myself beyond my capacity and then ending up injured. I've done that before and do not want to do it again.

No matter how I do at Antelope Island on Saturday, after this weekend it will be time to start focusing and training for my other upcoming ultras. I simply don't have time to worry about excuses, "what if's" or "what might have been's." I'm already registered for the Strolling Jim 40 Mile in Wartrace, Tennessee on May 2nd and the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic 50 Mile Trail Race on June 20th. 

All the best.. and keep on running!!!

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4 responses

  1. I knew there was a reason you weren't posting anything. Glad you are feeling better. Good luck this weekend!

    March 25, 2009 at 5:46 pm

  2. Of course, this morning I woke up with a runny nose, slight sore throat and I don't think it is allergies… Aargh!!!

    March 25, 2009 at 5:49 pm

  3. i'm very in tune with your woes. this tendon surgery has kept me grounded for 4 months now and i'm just starting to make some headway in recovery!you're going to run great this weekend and have a great time doing it.if there is a miracle i'll see you at strolling jim. if not, i've got some friends that will be there you should meet!

    March 26, 2009 at 1:54 pm

  4. Thanks for the words of encouragement!
    Yesterday I woke up with yet another cold.. the fourth infection in six weeks. I'm sneezing and coughing as I write. This sucks.
    What the heck is going on? I eat right, exercise (when I'm not sick), get plenty of rest, don't smoke, don't stress out too much… Do I have to get one of those space suits to protect me from infection just like the boy in the bubble had? I know there are much much worse things and I don't want to sound like a whiner, but this is starting to get ridiculous!
    I see so many people every day who live unhealthily, don't exercise and eat wrong. Why can't they catch at least some of these germs instead? It wouldn't interfere with their smoking, eating too much and watching TV as much as it does with my running.
    Oh well, there's no point complaining. Ultra-running is about overcoming adversity in whatever shape it comes. This is absolutely nothing compared with what it could be. I'll just try my best, that's all that anyone can do.
    I hate to think of it, but if I feel the same on Saturday as I do now, I might drop down to doing the 50-k instead. I don't like these colds but getting myself a pneumonia would be worse. This is only one race. It would be dumb to make myself sicker because I tried to be tougher than I am.
    It would be great to see you at Strolling Jim (and meet any of your friends). Even if you can't run, if you get a chance to make it, it would be good to meet you in person. Hopefully I will be done with all of these colds at least until next winter.
    Run on (and in my case: cough, hack, sneeze, drip, gag, blow my nose and wheeze…)

    March 26, 2009 at 9:54 pm

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