Getting Back to Running

Posted: April 21, 2017 in Bucket List, Fitness and Health, Running

Happy to see my wife and daughter in law on the Marine Corps Marathon Route
When I completed the Marine Corps Marathon in October 2013, I was very over trained and dealing with an injury that popped up 2 weeks before the Marathon. The worst over training issues affecting me were large bumps on both of my Achilles tendons. I was definitely ready for a break. At that point I figured I would need to take it easy for 3-6 months and then I would be ready to run again. I was in great shape and wanted to stay that way. I really felt like I could run for hours… in fact I had been running for hours at a time for the months leading up to the marathon. I wasn’t running fast, my training log for the Marine Corps Marathon shows that my longer runs (15-20 miles) averaging just over 10 minute mile pace and my shorter runs (5-6 miles) averaging around a 9 minute mile pace. Unfortunately the injury a couple of weeks before the Marine Corps Marathon, during a shorter run, brought my pace down to 12 minute mile pace for the marathon (very disappointing). I really felt that pace was well below my potential. In fact I did not feel stressed by the pace during the race. It was just that I started the race limping and was not able to run smoothly until about the 10 mile marker. Now that the marathon was over I was hoping that if I could heal from the injury and get rid of the nagging over training issues I would be able to quickly get back to running. My goal was to be able to run some more half marathons and maybe take another shot at a marathon if it felt right.

So I took a few months off and went back out for a shorter 5-6 mile run by the beach. It was definitely not time yet. My leg injury still nagged my if I pushed off at full strength and my Achilles tendons were also still sore and swollen. I took another shot in 3 more months. The leg was feeling much better but the tendons were still sore and swollen. I did not just want to go back to training hard again and have these persistent issues continue indefinitely, so I decided it might be a year or so before I could get back to running longer distances. I continued going out a couple of times a month during 2014 but not as regularly as I had been running.

I was training for a hike across the Grand Canyon at this point and decided the hiking was more important than the running, so I decided not to try to do too much running until after the big hike.. I intended to get back to running once the hike was finished.

The 2014 Grand Canyon hike was great, but I could tell I was not in the same shape I was in the first time I did the hike. I felt it especially on the way up Bright Angel trail. To be fair I had pretty serious cold and laryngitis, but that was not the only issue. I had let my overall conditioning go down hill significantly. I was hiking, but not in the gym and not running and I was feeling the effects of that.

I continued to run occasionally through 2015, with some occasional burst in activity to train for a 5K run I do every year in March. By September 2015, the Achilles tendons were completely better. By this time I had lost all my conditioning. I was still able to go out and run 3-6 miles with no problem, but it did not feel as good as it had. I definitely didn’t feel like I would be able to run longer without significant training. Then I started to have knee issues. I’m not sure why this started. I had knee surgery in high school, but I had never had issues with that knee since. Now it was giving my significant issues. After September, I let running go again, except for an occasional once or twice a month 3 mile run.

In 2016, I decided to set a goal to hike more often, but let running go almost completely. We hiked a lot in 2016, but almost no running. I also started to have serious issues with my right foot. I had foot surgery in 2009 and I thought the initial problem was coming back. But when I finally went to the doctor in the summer of 2016, he found that the metal plate put in for the surgery in 2009 had shifted and was now about an 1/8 of an inch above the bone. It was irritating the flesh and causing quite a bit of pain. So I decided to have a surgery to remove the metal plate. This was a very good idea and the surgery in January 2017 went well and the recovery was very quick. My foot quickly felt better than it had in years. Unfortunately the lack of exercise during 2016 had left me in pretty bad shape and the surgery kept me from doing any training before my annual 5k in March 2017. I was in such bad shape I did the family fun walk instead of running for the first time in 8 years.

I realized during my recovery from the surgery that I had let myself get in the worst shape of my life over the last couple years. I was overweight by at least 20 pounds, and had not been in the gym regularly for well over 18 months, probably longer. I decided to do something about it, starting with a 30 day diet and exercise challenge my nephew suggested. No alcohol, bread, sweets, white rice, potatoes (etc) for 30 days. Nothing from a can or package. No sugar and no artificial sweetener. Only fresh meat, fresh vegetables, and fruit. In addition, some sort of physical activity every day, a hike, walk, run, or the gym. I started the diet and exercise on 20 March and as of 21 April I’ve lost 15 pounds and I’m no longer in the worst shape of my life. I have no intention of going backward from here. I will continue the diet, with a few modifications, and I will continue to exercise at least 5 days a week.

I’m still not able to run “pain-free” after my foot surgery.  In addition to removing a plate the surgeon shaved a bump off the top of the bone my big toe moves on.  This bump was preventing full flexibility in the toe and might be to blame for some of my Achilles tendon and knee issues.  It was definitely affecting my walking and running gait.  I will have to take it easy on running until that joint is fully healed.

Running Goals:

  • Continue to let my foot heal while I diet and exercise in the gym.
  • Run no more than 3 mile distance until I’m under 200 lbs. I don’t lose weight when I run long distances I just eat more.
  • Prepare to run a local half marathon in San Diego in early 2018.
  • Run the Monterey Bay Half Marathon (formerly the Big Sur Half Marathon) in November 2018 (has been on my Bucket List for a few years).
  • Then reevaluate my goals after that.
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