2011 kicked off in style with a 50k on New Year's Morning. I kept the pedal to the floor from there and racked up a bunch of two-a-days with a 4,000 ft climb making its way onto my schedule 19 times. Those runs alone added up to 76,000ft. of vertical, and considering I had about 30 other runs as well, I think it's safe to say I had a solid first 450+ mile month of training to kick off the year. Well, it was "solid" on paper anyway. Here's the rest of the long-winded story:
Without conducting an official poll or anything, I feel somewhat confident in saying that most ultra-runners would love to run more than they do if they didn't have real jobs...or bad weather...or other life obligations to deal with every day. This fact holds especially true for those of us trying to get into particularly good shape for a big race or two in the near future. When I rounded the corner of the New Year with my focus on ramping things up for a successful 2011, I thought I had a pretty solid plan to up my training efforts while maintaining a balance in my regular life "stuff".
During this past month I've been handling my office workload well, I've adjusted to the crappy weather as needed, and I haven't had to wear running clothes under a suit in order to sneak in a few miles during any wedding receptions or Christenings. I've even noticed (very quietly, so as to not wake up the Injury Gods) that my legs felt fantastic despite the increase in mileage and effort every day. So everything has been going perfectly to plan, right?
Of course not!
See, in my grand scheme of "training on paper", I forgot to factor in that I'm human, and as each of us is reminded in our own special ways as we get older, humans have limitations. For me, I occasionally forget that I'm working with a body that, internally speaking, wasn't built exactly at "thoroughbred" level. Aside from the whole cancer thing, I'm one of the lucky folks under the age of 100 who gets to enjoy all the pains and aches from Shingles. As Betty White, or anyone born during the Taft administration can tell you, shingles is like the adult form of chicken pox, only it keeps coming back whenever your immune system is particularly low. In my case, the math adds up like this:
Lack of necessary sleep from 5:00 a.m. workout
Increase on daily mileage from two-a-days
Extended runs in sub-freezing temps
Dan's immune system revolts like the people of Egypt
I'm lucky in that the visible effects of shingles (nasty poison-ivy-looking rashes) have only shown up on me once (after a particularly rough winter hiking trip 10 years ago), but the nerve pain that spreads across my head and tailbone (of all places) is other-worldly. I haven't seen the movie "Grumpy Old Men", but I'm assuming they just threw a camera in front of two old guys with shingles and let the script write itself. This stuff hurts like hell!
The good news in terms of pain management is, if I back off my stress-inducing activities and give my immune system a chance to reload, the pain goes away after a week or so. Of course, the downside to this necessary course of action is I have to back off my training until things rebound internally and my fried circuit board repairs itself.
Don't get me wrong, I can't complain one bit about my situation of being able to run 80 miles, but not 125, every week. Having typed that sentence at all makes me feel like an ungrateful jerk...but still, it's always a bit frustrating when your brain and heart come up with a plan to achieve bigger and better goals, but your body lets you down. Weren't we promised cyborg parts by Hollywood by 2011? I'll take a new Terminator-level immune system for sure...and one of those cool glowing red eyes as well. I figure that would eliminate the need for a headlamp on the trails at night. C'mon James Cameron, get to work!