Monthly Archives: December 2013

Dealing with Stabbing Heel Pain

These are the dog days of Winter and when you’re a triathlete with an injury, that can be treacherous territory.  I’ll be the first to admit, I have been bummin.

This year has been amazing in so many ways.  I have done things I never dreamed of, like completing an Ironman, of course, but it’s so much more.  I was waking up early and seizing the day at a lake 3 mornings a week.  I was working out before and after work.  I had lots of energy and was full of optimism more often than not.  But lately, I have been limping around and muddling in doubt.

Then, a few days ago, I went back to the basics.  Stretching, leg exercises, and the foam roller.  I really dove in and worked on loosening up my calf muscles, hamstrings, quads, and glutes.  I mean, I was makin’ love to foam.  The next day brought a pleasant surprise.

For the first time in months, I stepped out of bed without any heel pain.  It was like a damn miracle.

I thought it was plantar fasciitis, then a physical therapist diagnosed it as “fat pad syndrome,” but over time realized it wasn’t really the pounding that hurt, it was the push off.  So, once again, I trusted my first opinion, and decided it was plantar fasciitis.

Since then, I would like to say it is “healed” but it’s not quite 100%.  Another big issue is all the time I spend at a desk.  Either at work or editing/writing at night.  The minute I stand up, it feels like someone is stabbing me in the heel, then I think to myself, why would someone do such a silly thing?  That would be kind of a weird place to stab someone, I think, but after feeling that pain, it may not be such a bad idea.

So, the next time you feel like stabbing someone, give the heel some thought.  It could really screw up their training.


What Makes Me Sick

It’s a glorious day in Nashville and I am finally starting to feel better after being laid out with some stupid illness.  I have never been one to reach for drugs (well, other than my well documented periodic affairs with booze) so I found myself in search mode again.  I have pinned down my sickness to three possible reasons:

1.  General dehydration.  I’m a big believer that hydration is the key to good health but as I moved toward the holidays (and wasn’t doing much exercise) I wasn’t drinking the things I should.  Without swim, bike, and run, energy needs to come from somewhere else and I found a lot in coffee.  It’s only a matter of time before a sludgy backlog builds in your body and constricts proper organ function.  I have been slamming fresh juice and water again and look forward to the benefits.  We are nothing without water.  Maybe that’s why I love swimming so much.

2.  Lazy Days and Nights.  Speaking of sludge, nothing works it out like good, hard workouts.  I’m not saying I don’t believe in viruses or that things often get the best of us, but I think a healthy body disposes of these things naturally long before they can take over.  I mean, if you just step back and think about what being sick is, it makes sense.  If you’re tuned up, you work a lot better in the heat or cold.  I was worn out a lot while training this year, but only remember being sick once.  Coincidentally, it was when winter changed to spring, and I think if I added a #4 to this list it might be nature’s seasonal cleansing pattern.

3.  Bad State of Mind.  To say I have a lot going on is both an under and overstatement.  When you go up, you must come down, and that’s where I’m at.  A year of incredible highs and lows has concluded with the highest peak and lowest valley.  It’s hard to explain the rush you get as you close in and finish an Ironman, and it’s equally difficult to convey what it’s like when you start sliding down that mountain.  I’m not talking about depression as much as I am confusion.  After you set and attain such a lofty goal, you’re forced to ask the question, “Now what?”  Yeah, that question.  Then you realize the goal can never be the end.  That’s when you have to dig deep and ask why you set the goal in the first place.  It’s never enough to hang a medal on the wall.  It only represents a chapter.  You still have to write the book.

New Years Resolutions Start Now

New Year’s Day sounds logical for a new beginning, but that’s always seemed like a cop out.  I mean, what’s the wait?  Today is here, why not today?

It’s easy for me to say.

The truth is, many of us spend our lives talking about “when” we’re gonna change or start a new project, eat better, etc.  Then it becomes tomorrow, next week or never.  I’ve been a little sick the last few days and as I start feeling better it reminds me that it’s time to begin again.

I’m doing Ironman Louisville in August and this is probably the worst shape I’ve been in all year.  I haven’t run in December and plan to run a 1/2 marathon on trails in February.  Sooner sounds better than later for getting my shit together.  But it goes so much deeper.

One of my biggest fears about doing Ironman was the post-script.  What would I do after climbing the mountain?  The logical thing to do is look around for a while.  And that’s what I did.

The high of reaching such a pinnacle is undeniable.  I floated on a cloud for weeks.  I even did a 1/2 triathlon six weeks later without training a lick.  I was “An Ironman” nothing could stop me.

But as Winter approached that magical day in Madison faded into the cold.  I struggled with motivation and nagging injuries.  I neglected workouts with the same logic people use to cheat on their diets.  But deep down I have been afraid.  Afraid of losing what I built.

When you scale the mountain, you have to come down.  It can be a dangerous and rocky descent, but you don’t have a choice.  The bottom is the trickiest part because you can go anywhere you want, and usually that’s what we do.  But that mountain doesn’t move and those who are driven eventually turn around and scale it again.  Not because it is there, because that’s what we do.

I’ve been swimming a little and doing leg exercises, so I’m nowhere near square one, but to hit my goals for next year the race starts now.  Not tomorrow, next week or January 1st, but today. NEWYEARSDAY3

A big part of that for me is keeping my head straight with writing.  Not writing because I want other people to be interested, but writing so I understand this process.  I really believe this blog was at least 25% of the reason I did so well at Wisconsin.  Sorting through my thoughts was cathartic for my training.  It helped me step back and ask what was working and where I was missing out.  It helped me visualize the race on paper and, for me, that’s the best way to learn.

This will be my second post of the day and I can already feel the crust is falling off my bad attitude.  It’s 11:36 on December 23rd and I have the distinct feeling that New Years Day is already here.

Never Give Up

It’s obvious to say my proudest moment of the year was running through the finisher’s arch at Ironman Wisconsin.  But, in reality, it was a moment within the race that trumps the medal by a long shot.

I wrote about it in my IMWI Race Report, but that heart wrenching moment deserves another visit because I think it was the most important lesson of the entire year.  THAT moment was everything to me around Mile 25 of the Ironman marathon, it was staring me in the eyes.

I trained for that moment a hundred times.  Night after night I fought through the pain along the dark paths of the Shelby Bottoms Greenway or torturous neighbor hood hills in the rain.  Every time I’d reach one or ten sticking points that begged me to stop, but I wouldn’t give in.

Eleven hours into Ironman Wisconsin, I had exactly 10k left on my run.  All I had to do was keep the pace just under 10 minute miles and I would finish sub-12 — which would be a major feat for a first time Ironman.  The catch was, my watch didn’t tell me pace.

I chose to go by feel, and up until Mile 20 it worked perfectly.  At that point I was 6 miles further than I had ever run in my life and fighting thoughts of “the wall.”  So many people told me, “You always hit the wall.”  “Beware of the wall.”

Everything hurt.  My legs, ankles, knees, and head.  I could taste the finish line, but a 10k was a major accomplishment only a year earlier, and I was getting delirious.

The amount of focus you need in an Ironman is almost laughable.  The parties, the park benches, the curbs, the shore along the lake . . . they all invite you to relax.  I can honestly say I was tempted to stop after every single step in that marathon.

But after my buddy, Wasky looked at me and said, “All you got is a 10k brotha, bring it home,” I knew stopping wasn’t an option.  I was on my pace.  A sub-12 Ironman was in my grasp and there was no way I was going to let go.

I was timing my pace by hitting restart on my watch at each mile marker.  When I hit mile 24 I had exactly 20 minutes left to finish under 12 hours.  I hit restart and ate everything I could grab at the aid station.  I was lumbering and in more pain than I had ever felt during exercise.  I had long forgotten I was racing an Ironman, now I was simply running, or jogging, or limping depending how you viewed it.

The course was a blur.  I knew I was in Madison, but had only vague recollection of the course even though it was my second loop.  I stared at my feet, into the trees, and tried not to veer off the road.  Nothing was in focus and I even forgot to check my watch for a while.  When I looked down, the counter read 10:48!  What?!?  Had I slowed that much?  Anything was possible and I still hadn’t seen mile marker 25.  I picked up the pace and scoured the landscape for the sign.  It had to be close.  It HAD to be.

All day I was calm and cool, now I was in a panic.  Time kept ticking and there was no mile marker in sight.  My panic turned into extreme disappointment.  I had come this far and was this close.  Now, my sub-12 dream was gone.

Even if I did see the marker now, I would have to run a sub-8 mile-point-2 to hit my goal, and I just knew my body didn’t have it.  That’s when . . . I stopped.

I put my head down and started walking all while justifying “just over 12” was good enough.  I was talking to myself.  “You gave it everything you had, Mike, keep your head up.”  “What an accomplishment either way.”  “Your friends and family will be proud of you either way.”  That was likely true, but it was that last line that snapped me out of it.

Everyone was waiting at the finish line and I’m pretty damn sure they were off the charts excited to see me finish under 12 minutes.  That “walking sequence” might have lasted 8 or 10 steps, and that’s when it dawned on me that I may have missed the 25 mile marker.

I looked at my watch and it told me I had 8 minutes.  That’s when I started saying it out loud, “I missed the marker . . . did I miss it?  I think I missed it.”

Out of nowhere, I was a man possessed.  I was running for the people waiting and all of a sudden it hurt less to run faster.  I wish I had worn a Garmin because I’m sure that final stretch was my fastest of the day.  The State Street crowds screamed as we ran by and I was passing everyone.  I MUST have missed that marker.

I got to the Capitol and turned it up a notch.  Let me tell you, there is nothing quite as stressful as watching your watch tick away when you don’t know how far you have left.  It was now under 3 and barring a complete collapse I knew I had it.  When I finally got to the finisher’s chute, I had 1:30 in the bank.  I hit that carpet and the pain left my body as I scanned the crowd for family and friends.  They were about halfway down on the left and I heard them screaming my name.  I was floating now.  I was a scared child moments earlier and now I was home.

I crossed the line in 11:58:58 and nearly started crying because I knew I’d almost given up.  One tiny moment in life that nearly changed everything and I based my decision on nothing other than faith.

Well, We Made It To Chattanooga, But . . .

. . . we didn’t make it to the 50 Miler.  We were late getting out of bed and how do you find runners in the forest?

The good news is . . . this town ROCKS!  I’ve never been to Chattanooga and I am seriously thinking about moving here.  photoThose of you lucky enough to get into Ironman Chattanooga will be swimming under this bridge with a sweet-ass current as your guide.  I think, however, you will also be running over that bridge a couple times later in the day.  But the scenery is spectacular.

It took me about 5 minutes to realize the city planners just nailed this place.  Instead of building a wall of crappy chain restaurants, they have elegantly sprinkled them into the existing landscape.

So, Jim and I are hanging out in a coffee shop and I am eyeing a new condo development out the window.  The layout and architecture are definitely inviting, but Chatt is also a training Mecca.   Gaze out this window with me and imagine the possibilities lurking in the mountains peaking up in the background of this picture.  photo (1)So, this is just the beginning of my love affair.  There will be plenty more evidence as this weekend, and 2014 unfold.

Heading to Chattanooga

I have been writing a lot, but nothing seems relevant lately.  My heel still hurts a little and I haven’t been running, but as I have mentioned in the past, this is a big problem because running is my catalyst.  So, if I can’t run, I’ll do the next best thing . . . go watch people run.

Yep, fellow Fab Fiver, Jim is joining me for a weekend in Chattanooga to watch some people we know (and many more we don’t) run the Lookout Mountain 50 Miler.  For those of you that don’t understand, that means they will be running 50 miles tomorrow.  Ha!  I know you know, but I think sometimes it’s funny to revisit just how crazy endurance athletes get sometimes.

To make it more interesting, the weather seems like it will be a muddy pile of crap.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not so sorry I didn’t sign up for this one.  Fifty miles in the mountains while it’s cold and rainy?  Probably not.

But, obviously I think it’s pretty damn awesome or I wouldn’t be standing in the cold rain watching them.  AND, I have never been to Chattanooga before and hear it is just amazing.  I’ll make sure to get some pictures for everyone who’s signed up for Ironman Chattanooga.  I’ll also make sure to throw in a few course breakdowns to get you jacked.

Until Chatt . . .


How Chris McCormack Woke My Ass Up

It’s crazy how narrow minded we can get.  Twenty two months ago (when I started running for the first time in my life) I thought the St. Patrick’s Day 5K was the biggest thing since Minnesota Fats.  A month later, the Country Music Half Marathon seduced me for all she was worth.

Then, I did my first triathlon.

The Music City Triathlon felt bigger than life (especially since I was a grown man sporting head to toe lycra for the first time).  I felt completely out of place and shook like a beauty contestant answering world history questions.  But I was off-the-charts excited for my first sprint.

A few weeks later, I went to watch Ironman Louisville, and they had me at hello.

Holy shit.  This was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.  I was re-born.  Everything was new and smelled like flowers.  Nearly 3,000 maniacs busting their ass for up to 17 hours?  You gotta be kidding me.  These are my people!

About 3 weeks later I signed up for Ironman Wisconsin and haven’t looked back . . . much.

It’s been a wild ride and for much of the time I have been obsessed with the Ironman brand.  It’s easy to do.  She is rightly known as the Queen.

And twelve months later, I was king.

Six weeks after that, I took my new Ironman backpack down the road for a small town 1/2 triathlon called Goosepond.  I was so jaded I didn’t even train.  A little 1/2 in Alabama?  Ha… no big deal.

But it was a big deal and Goosepond kicked my ass.2013 Goosepond Tri (355 of 585)-X3

I was not only taking it lightly, I was looking down at it.  What the fuck?  Who was I to be disrespecting a 1/2 triathlon a year after I started in the sport?  I have done a total of 6 triathlons in my life with zero notable awards.  But one was an Ironman, and that gave me false importance.

I even wrote a somewhat snarky report about that race and I’m glad I didn’t go further with my childish humor.  The bottom line is, Goosepond was a good race, a tough race, and one that ate me alive.  I wasn’t ready and it punched me in the mouth.

A few days later I stumbled onto this article by Chris McCormack.  His focus is valuing the sport ahead of the brand.  He recounts a pre-race discussion he had with some novice triathletes who really believed that if it wasn’t an “Ironman” it didn’t really count.

Chris went on to list a bunch of non-Ironman races that he absolutely loved like The Challenge Roth, The Norseman, and Escape from Alcatraz.  The novices looked at him dumbfounded.  Chris dug for ways to plead his case, but it was hopeless.  They were Ironman’s bitch.

And I was Ironman’s bitch, too.

I was “this” close to stamping their logo on my body, but for some reason decided not to.* Probably because it’s turned into far more than a “one and done.”  It’s an ongoing competition with other athletes, myself, and the terrain — no matter whose logo is on my bib.

*  I have nothing against this and still may do it someday, but it doesn’t feel right at the moment.