“All I know is that right now, I’m excited by the openness of opportunity that I’ve afforded myself by not knowing what path I’m going down, and that’s a pretty big change for someone like me who usually thrives off of knowing every step of a plan”
-Me, about 7 months ago, in the blog post previous to this one.
Reflecting upon this quote now, I can confirm that I truly had no idea about the road I was about to embark down. The executive summary of my past 210 days include me running some personal bests, messing up my back again, cross training a lot, getting back in shape, trying steeple, getting a fracture doing steeple, and learning to surf. And now we’re here.
Reflecting upon this quote now, I can also confirm that looking back on the path I went down was awesome and brought me more happiness, curiosity and strength from my running than what I’d had for a long time prior to this year. Let’s rewind:
Shortly after my last post, I went to Seattle to run an indoor 3k and won my section in a personal best time of 7:57. The last time I’d won my section of a race was in 2016, so it was a real good way to kick off my 2019 racing season. We headed back down to Phoenix at the end of February for another training stint in the heat, and not long after that it was time to kick off the outdoor season at the Stanford Invitational. Unfortunately the day after my last big tune up workout before Stanford, my upper back locked up which led to some nagging lower back pain that I couldn’t shake. I was able to get onto the line at Stanford thanks to Felicity, our physio on the trip, and notched an 8 second PB of 13:49.
Unfortunately, 2 days after the race, my back pain turned to the point where I was unable to run without a crippling amount of pain. This was right before our Flagstaff camp, and we made the decision to still go up and try to get me back onto my feet at the camp and still gain the altitude benefit. After about 2.5 weeks of just cross training, I was able to run again and get back to some workouts in Flagstaff, but it was evident that I’d lost some rhythm which delayed any sort of racing until late May.
Which brings me to the steeplechase. After my 5k at Stanford, Heather and I sat down and made a decision on what I wanted to focus on for the summer: 5ks or steeples, or back to 1500s. I’d been having a lot of fun hurdling and was still curious as to what I could possibly do in a steeple if I made it my main focus, and knew it was now or never if I was going to find out. Once I was healthy and back to running workouts mid-way through April, we incorporated hurdle work again and started throwing them into workouts. After a solid 3 week block in Victoria of steeple specific training and getting some practice in the water pit, we targeted an all-comers meet in Nanaimo at the end of May to give it a try. I was pretty nervous, since I’d never tried steeple at all in high school but knew that I had to start somewhere and that it would only get better from that race forward. On the first or second water pit, I remember coming down and landing pretty hard, and thinking “yeah I’ll feel that one later”, which I inevitably did the next day. And the day after that. And the one after that too. I was able to get through 8 by 1k at threshold with my foot taped up a few days later, but ended with me hobbling to a stationary bike to cool down instead of jogging. This led us booking an MRI. I’ve never had a stress fracture, so I really didn’t know if I had one or not prior to the scan. All I knew that I had pain in one part of my heel that I couldn’t get rid of. Sure enough, the MRI confirmed the pain was from a fracture in my calcaneus, and shortly after we decided it best to pull the plug on the entire season, instead of trying to get back on my feet for a short end of August racing stint.
Yeah, not gonna lie I didn’t draw up my 2019 season like this in my head. The part that matters for me though is that I wouldn’t have changed the path I went on.
The curiosity of opportunity that this year provided me filled me with excitement and a drive that I’m still carrying forward to today. The one main thing that has changed for me in these past few months is that I’ve got a bit more direction now. When I look at my fractured heel in a glass half full kinda way, I realized I’d gained some key insights:
- When I committed to learning to hurdle and then racing steeples this year, I was hoping to find out if I could get technically proficient enough in the event to actually take a crack at running in the 8:40s range. I was hoping to get around 5 races in, and then make a decision from there if it was something I was going to keep focusing on for 2020. I could try again, but the risks of doing so and having this happen again next year would be a lot more catastrophic. Having a clear perspective on this is a benefit to fully focusing on one thing for next year, which brings us to point number two:
- After I ran 13:49 in March, I was tempted to ditch the hurdling and focus on 5ks for the season, but my curiosity for steeple trumped that thought. Tackling some steeple workouts and pushing to improve my technique was something that I was having a lot of fun with, even though some of the workouts were pretty grueling. However, after my fracture, I shifted my focus on whether or not I wanted to go back to the 5k, and it was pretty apparent that I wanted to reopen that door. My race in March was the first track 5k I felt that I was actually racing and competing in, as opposed to just flat out surviving.
- My last day of running pre-diagnosed stress fracture was May 31st. I cross trained until my MRI results came in on June 11th, and then took 3.5 weeks completely off as my offseason rest-break. I started cross training and doing strength work again in the middle of July, which is the earliest I’ve ever begun a fall build in the 11 years I’ve been consistently running. Probably the biggest a glass half full mentality that came from my fracture was the fact that I was determined to not waste this extra time I was presented with. I was able to get into the weight room and see our practitioners in Victoria to build a program that I can’t usually juggle with higher volume running. Big shout outs to Sandeep, Felicity and Brad who have been around Victoria this summer to help me take these steps.
- Being injured and not training a whole lot in June and July allowed me to take advantage of some summer activities I wouldn’t usually be able to do if I was racing. I got to enjoy Dan Block’s wedding in Saskatoon, made two trips back to Ontario to be with family in cottage country, visited with two of my college roommates I hadn’t seen in two years, and checked out Port Moody, Tofino and Comox.
This finally brings me up to speed to today. I’m back in Victoria, currently in doing a strength routine that’s designed to make my back bombproof for next year. I’m building mileage slowly, and having fun looking forward and starting to think about putting some races on my fall calendar. This was the first summer that I didn’t sit back and contemplate what I was doing and if I wanted to keep going. Instead, I’m already fired up to get back to work, brick by brick.