Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Long (Long) (Recovery) Road

For the past months, I've been posting my runs on Strava with the acronym of LR, which stands for the Long (long) (recovery) Road. I started this road in earnest in late December 2016 with an ironclad commitment to avoid running too many miles or hills too soon. My propensity for over training had gotten me into trouble repeatedly in the past, and I knew that only an extremely judicious ramp up in my training intensity would be likely to get me back into ultra-marathons.

I have to admit that I started with some pretty grave doubts that I would ever be capable of putting down significant mileage over tough terrain again. Despite these doubts, I kept running and hoping that I could somehow make it. There were times when I was sure my shin splints were ready to roar back into a prohibitively painful inflammatory blaze. Just when the shin splints would seem to recede, something else would start nagging--IT band pain, or plantar fasciitis.

The worst thing about these nagging pains and fears was that I was being so careful. I was running just a handful of miles per week. I was religiously stretching, doing self massage, and strengthening targeted muscle groups. I felt pretty sure that if my body couldn't handle such a slow and gentle build up, my running would be over. As I pondered this possibility, a disturbing question came to mind: what does a distance runner do when he cannot run long distances?

I'm not sure of the answer, but I do happen to feel a strong connection between my spiritual and physical life and thus am open to the possibility of God caring one way or the other about how and why I run. Perhaps God intends me to run better and stronger than ever or maybe he doesn't. I'll admit I pray it's the former, that my running is an acceptable offering, so to speak, and not an idol.

One thing is certain, however, my running since starting my recovery road has been more spiritually focused and rewarding. And at least for now, I have a mustard seed of evidence that the running road hasn't ended quite yet: my symptoms are improving and I'm running longer and harder than I have in over a year, still a long ways to go for sure, but progress!

I'm even planning to sign up for the Vermont 50k this coming September. I dream of running that race hard and fast, maybe even doing unexpectedly well, and then unashamedly giving God the glory. For now though, I'll just run and pray one day at a time.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


I have trouble with rest when it comes to running. I would much rather just go out for a long run than sit at home resting. Furthermore, when I do go out for a run, the concept of a "recovery run"--i.e. a run completed at an easy pace as a follow up to a previous, much more difficult run--feels foreign to me. I would rather just go out and hammer every single time. My experience with multiple running overuse injuries should have knocked sense into me a long time ago, but until recently I have always come back from an injury with an ever greater desire to run hard and long on as many days as possible.

Rest is definitely part of my training schedule this time around and maybe that's the key--this idea that rest is actually an integral part of training rather than the absence of training.. Rest allows my body time to make adaptations in response to a training stimulus. One might even argue that rest is actually the part of the training cycle where I actually make meaningful progress towards greater fitness. For too long I've been unable to see rest as an active regenerative process that is integral to my overall growth as a runner. I think I've learned my lesson though--finally.

What I'm learning about rest as a runner brings up an interesting connection to my Seventh-day Adventist heritage. As implied by the name, Seventh-day Adventists worship on Saturday--the 7th day of the week rather than Sunday like most other Christian denominations. The difference doesn't stop there, however, as Seventh-day Adventists tend to place greater emphasis on Saturday as not only a day for worship but also a day of rest.

While growing up, I encountered this concept of Seventh-day rest, or Sabbath, in terms of things I could and couldn't do. My parents emphasized time together as a family in nature for instance but discouraged time with non-spiritual discussion topics, reading material, etc. Looking back, these parental guidelines actually created some amazingly special Saturday moments and memories, but in my kid brain, Sabbath was initially still about a special day when I couldn't do certain things.

Some time during my college years, however, I started choosing Sabbath observance for my own well-being. I began to recognize rest from studying, for instance, as an opportunity to recharge my brain and body so that I could come back and hit the books harder than I possibly could have by studying right through the weekend. The lessons I learned in college and the lessons I am learning now are thus really the same in the end: rest is a vitally active regenerative process that is integral to growth mentally, physically, or spiritually.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Starting out

Details are hazy but I expect the upcoming run of blog posts will have something to do with running and philosophy. As for the running part, I have hatched the idea of chronicling my recovery from running injury back to successfully completing ultra marathons again. Hopefully my recovery goes well and I can be an inspiration to fellow down-and-outs trying to recover from their own running injuries. If I don't recover well, then I'll just have to rest on the philosophy part of this blog, where I will explore running as a metaphor for life. As I said, the details are hazy: I don't know how long this project will run or exactly what terrain it will cover. I hope only to look back at the end on some honest, well-written posts and a few humdinger, long wilderness runs.