Friday, May 29, 2015

A Deal With The Devil

When I decided to run (then proceeded to dedicate my life to training for and finishing) the Ghost Train 100 late last October I didn’t realize the price I’d be paying to do so. Oh sure, I knew it would be difficult to complete and I knew it would take me some time to recover. But I never imagined I’d be sitting here (almost 7 months later) still dealing with the aftermath of that one race.

Come to find out, in order to achieve the goal of finishing my first 100 miler, I’d unknowingly made a deal with the Devil… and he's taken nearly everything!

In the weeks immediately following the race, I enjoyed my requisite rest days. Taking one whole week off, then slowly coming back. Low-mileage, low intensity. Lots of “off” days. Just basking in the glow of my accomplishment. Eventually, as the calendar turned from December to January, I started ramping up my miles with thoughts of the coming years races dancing in my head. And the result was one bad workout after another.

I struggled through long runs. I struggled through tempo runs. I struggled through snowshoe runs. And, I struggled through gym sessions. In reviewing my log book the words “slow”, “tired”, dead legs” and “blah” showed up repeatedly from January through March. But, what was more alarming, was my DESIRE to run had almost completely evaporated.  I had ZERO motivation. And it showed. Every time I tied the laces.

At the time, I passed it off as a bad case of the “winter blues”. And, with the kind of winter we had, who could blame me? I figured once the trails opened up, and I could run on something other than asphalt, the “drive” would return and I’d be as good as new. I wasn’t injured and I wasn’t sick, so I just kept plugging away. 60 miles per week. Week after week. Like everything would work itself out. It didn’t. In fact, it just got worse.

March ended with a remarkably bad run at the Eastern States 20. I started off at what I thought was a conservative pace of 7:15 per mile and by halfway I was struggling to maintain 8:00 - with some miles pushing 9:00 towards the end. My “bread and butter” of finishing strong, a tactic that had served me so well during the previous year of running ultras, had completely abandoned me. And it felt like I was passed by nearly everyone in the race!

I finished in a personal worst time of 2:32:56 (7:39 pace). More than 5 minutes slower than the first time I had run it (when I had no idea what I was doing) and more than 20 minutes slower than my best time there. Again, I passed it off as a “bad” day at the asphalt office and looked forward with great anticipation to my next race. A 50k on the trails. Finally!

I had run the TARC Spring Classic 50k for the first time last year, and had a very good day. Despite the rain, and muddy conditions, I was able to crack the 4:30 barrier and set a new 50k PR in the process. This year, I knew I wasn’t in that kind of shape, but I hoped I wouldn’t be too far off. Boy was I wrong! The first two 10k laps went just fine and then the wheels started to come off. Badly.

I struggled home in 5:26:21 (9:54 pace) almost an HOUR slower than the previous year! I was having some foot pain, the course was a bit longer than in 2014 and it was warm out. So, I had plenty of reasons not to push the panic button. But, the results of this race certainly did give me pause. Just not enough to cause me to make any changes in my training. In fact, I amplified it by adding track workouts.  That would get me into shape! Or so I thought.

Well, let me tell you, slow 800’s, 400’s that make you dizzy and mile repeats that leave you gasping for breath was certainly no way to prepare me for my next “race” - the Pineland Farms 25k. Based on the results of my previous two races on the year, I came into this one with the bar set very, VERY low. However, I still somehow managed to find a way to trip over that damned thing and land flat on my face.

I started the first 5k segment very slowly and then proceeded to run each of the next four segments even slower than the previous one - with the final 5k taking a glacial 50:00 (five oh) minutes. That’s more than 16 minutes per mile! Yes it was hot, yes I was dehydrated, but something was definitely wrong with me. I crossed the finish line on Sunday in a 37 1/2 minute personal worst time of 2:41:36 (10:24 pace) and I haven’t run a step since.

I’ve decided this week that enough is enough! No more passing things off. Bad running (and worse racing) has dealt too many blows to my psyche this year and I won’t be running again until I FEEL like running again. Who knows how long it will take. A week? A month? More? I really don’t know. All I know is I’ve never felt this way before, and I definitely don’t like it. Not one bit.

Over the winter I put on a little weight. Not a ton, but enough. I ate because it felt like I was “missing something”. I assumed it was calories and continued to eat until I felt satisfied. Only, I never did feel satisfied. Just full. It didn’t dawn on me until this week (and everything I’ve been through) that the something I was “missing” was rest.

I’ve always known that I’m a “tired” eater. Rather than rest (because with four kids I usually can’t) I choose to eat in order to get give myself the energy to get through the day. And that’s what I’ve been doing. My body was telling me (and has been telling me since December) that it’s tired and what I’ve been doing is feeding it and telling it to “Shut up and keep going!” Well, I guess it’s telling me who’s boss. And now, I'm finally listening.

So, as I sit here "resting" and pondering my next move, a larger question remains... Would I do it all over again given the chance? Would I forsake everything I had in the world of running for the opportunity to finish my first 100 mile race?

And the answer to that question is an unequivocal YES.

I just would have looked more closely at the fine print before signing on that dotted line.

The GCS Team at Pineland. At least that aspect of the race was fun!


  1. Yikes! Scary stuff! Please listen to your body and motivation levels. It sounds like you definitely have over training syndrome which can be very serious. It can throw your whole endocrine system out of whack for a long time. Rest rest rest. Good luck, Michael. Be patient!

    Sorry if I sound like a pessimistic know it all. has good info on over training syndrome.

  2. 60 mile weeks despite feeling bad? You put in a lot of miles!! I'd say you deserve a rest! Better to rest for a while until you get that fire back! Feel better!

  3. Get your iron level tested. Sounds like anemia.