Monday, December 24, 2012

One Last Reminder

One last reminder for anyone interested in contributing to the Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp Scholarship Fund - the deadline for contributing to the 2013 fund is coming up (Dec. 31st). Certainly we will very much appreciate any contributions made after the end of the year, but those donations would be applied to the 2014 scholarships and not the 2013 scholarships.

The response to these scholarships has been very positive. Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed already. I will be tallying up the total funding available next week, and announcing the number and dollar amounts of scholarships that will be available for 2013. For those of you interested in applying for one of these scholarships please check out the camp website sometime after the first of the year where you will be able to print off the application and send it to me by the end of January.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Serious Stuff

As the year winds down my health continues to improve ever so slowly. I'm still needing to take things really easy, but I have been able to get out and live a mostly normal life much more consistently than I was able to for most of the Autumn. Even skied for almost 90 minutes yesterday. By far the most ambitious physical thing I've done in months. 

I'm back in Juneau for a couple weeks for the holidays and the timing couldn't be better. For the first time in months I'm able to get out and be a little bit active pretty much everyday. There's so much that I always want to get out and do when I'm here in Juneau, and it's really nice to actually have the physical health to do some of these things. Had I been here a couple months ago I think I would have driven myself nuts not being able to get outside in the mountains each day. In Boulder I'm right in the fast pace of the city and it's much easier to detach oneself from the surrounding nature. In most cases this is a drawback, but it's been one thing that has certainly made it easier for me to be more at peace with how easy I've needed to take things these past 4 months. Now though, I am emotionally craving more nature. Being here in Juneau with perfect sunny and cold weather couldn't have occurred at a better time.

With each passing week in which more and more tests come back "normal", and as I continue to feel slowly better and better with more rest, I come closer to definitively settling on a diagnosis of overtraining syndrome. At this point I feel almost certain that my health issues these past 4 months have been a result of pushing my body too hard for too long. It's only the more acute symptoms that go back 4 months, in reality this is something that has been affecting me for at least 20 months. For most of this time I have felt a little "off", but I kept fooling myself into thinking that I could just take a couple weeks off here and there and things would improve. Typically they would improve for a few weeks, but then I was back to feeling the same sluggishness once again. My recovery was taking twice or three times as long as usual, and my ability to perform at a high level was steadily dropping. It's so easy now to look back on all of this and realize how much I was over doing it. At the time though, I was able to find just enough energy to get out and do what I love to do: run for a really long time in the mountains. In the end my intense enjoyment of running in the mountains was so high that I just kept pushing through so that I could be out doing what I love.

I'm excited now to move forward with the knowledge and experience that I have now. I have no way of knowing how effectively I'll be able to recover from this, and if I'll ever be able to run anywhere near the level that I once did. I do however know that I'll always run a lot smarter than I ever did before. This alone will likely be enough to make me even faster than ever before. It's just going to take a lot of patience for the next several months and beyond.

I hate to preach to anyone, and certainly everyone's experiences are very unique from mine, but if you are like I once was and you feel like overtraining syndrome is somewhat of a myth and only something that happens to people who run 150+ miles a week or race 20+ times a year, I encourage you to take this as a serious possibility for anyone. Especially if you feel like your performance and recovery ability seems to be inexplicably diminishing. It's a tough thing because it's quite hard to definitively diagnosis, but there are some pretty serious markers which should be setting off alarms in your mind. Had I known everything I know now I feel entirely certain that this is something I could have nipped in the bud a year or two ago.

I guess we all live and learn, and come out the back end a lot wiser than we went in the front end. I know I've learned more from this than anything else in running.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Things have continued to improve ever so slowly for me. This illness/condition has certainly required more patience than anything I've ever gone through. Sometimes I feel like I can't even measure the difference in how I feel from one month to the next, but when I think back to how I felt in August and the first part of September the difference is huge.

At this point though, I've essentially forgotten what "normal" feels like. I do however have some very distinct markers that show me that things are slowly getting better. I have only even tried to run 5 or 6 times in the past 4 months, and each time this has made me feel quite a bit worse for a few days. This week though I decided I was feeling good enough on Monday to go out for a short run. 20 minutes at a snails pace, keeping my heart rate below 120. A month ago this run would have wiped me out for the rest of the day, but this time it actually made me feel better. So I tried the same thing again the next day, and then again yesterday. All three times I felt better after running than before (maybe that's been the problem all along, maybe I just don't run enough :). I'm very aware at this point that this is only 3 days, and it's very likely (based on my patterns the past few months) that I've still got some days ahead of me in which I feel like I can't do a 20 minute run, but this is certainly the most cause for optimism I've felt in a few months.

I still have not come to any specific diagnosis. I have found some things in various tests that are out of whack, but nothing that has likely been the cause of everything, more likely just some things that have been a result of some unidentified underlying cause(s). I did find (and treat with antibiotics) a parasite in my system, but my doctors thought it was most likely benign, and unlikely the root cause of all of this, but since I've had such widespread symptoms, with nothing else to point at as the cause, it is it least possible that this was the root of everything (keeping fingers crossed for that).

At this point I have begun to move forward beyond putting a whole lot more energy into finding a diagnosis, and have begun to try to treat symptoms and correct things that are out of whack. This currently consists of acupuncture, dry needling, deep tissue massage, various supplementation, and a hugely modified diet. I did an extensive food sensitivities test a few weeks ago and am now only eating the dozen or so foods that I am the least sensitive too. After a week of this I will begin adding foods back in (one each day) more or less in order of sensitivity. In this regard it will be a few months before I attempt to add back in (if ever) any of the foods that showed up as moderate or high sensitivity. It's only been a week, so it's hard to make too definitive of a statement about this, but certainly my GI symptoms have been pretty much non-existent this week.

At any rate, my slightly improved health, and especially my ability to go for a few short runs this week, has boosted my spirit a lot. For the first time in a couple months I've paid some closer attention to what's going on in the world of trail running, and have thought a bit about running in 2013, and what that might look like for me, as well as for the trail running community as a whole.

I really enjoyed following The North Face Endurance Challenge this past weekend. It's never been my favorite course, but certainly the competition at this event is super exciting, and has drawn me to it more than any other ultra. It would have been great to be there mixing it up with everyone, but with how the weather turned out (and the subsequent course modifications/difficulties) I guess it was a pretty good year to miss out. Congrats to everyone who finished that mud fest.

Looking forward to trail running in 2013 the thing I'm personally the most excited about is the third season of Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp. I still have no way of knowing what my health will be come next summer (not that we ever really do), but my slow improvement over the past several weeks has me more and more confident about being able to do these camps once again. The good thing is I have so many great, and knowledgeable running companions in Juneau (as those of you have attended camp have seen), that I could essentially pull these camps off next week if I needed to, even if I was only able to do a few of the shorter runs. This said, next June is still a long way away, and I intend to be running strong by then, but I do intend to put on the camps even if I'm still less than 100%.

It's becoming less and less likely that I'll race at all in 2013. Even if I feel fully recovered fairly soon I intend to ease back into running VERY SLOWLY, especially racing. There's a really good chance that the past 7 years of racing virtually every month is what got me into this hole, so I'm certainly going to give my body a huge amount of time to get out of it. That patience game will probably be even harder than the one I'm playing now, but it's one I'll be happy to "deal with". It's also entirely possible that I'll never really develop the desire to race at a high level again, even if I do regain full health, but that's not something I need (or care) to decide now. That's something that will have to come about organically as I ease back in. I'm excited to see where that goes.

This said, there is a time of year in 2013 that I think is going to be more exciting from a racing standpoint than any other time: September. The Run Rabbit Run 100 is going to be back in Steamboat for it's 2nd running, and my guess is it's going to be even a lot more exciting this year. There's a really good group of folks involved in this event, who are determined to make it better and better each year. The large prize purse will be back, the course will almost certainly be improved (from the sounds of things it was already a pretty awesome course this year), and based on how much of a well oiled machine their 50 miler has become, you can guarantee that the aid stations, course markings, etc (i.e. race day logistics) will be totally dialed in. All these things combined make this what I think will quite likely be the most exciting 100 miler in North America in 2013.

Two weeks after RRR will be the 3rd running of UROC 100k, this time in central Colorado, from Breckenridge to Vail. If you haven't heard the news, UROC will also be the Skyrunning Ultra series finale this year! The move to Colorado combined with Skyrunning is going to elevate this already exciting race to a whole new level. Again, I highly doubt I'll be running either of these races (much more likely in 2014), but I most definitely intend to be there, following the excitement. It'll be interesting to see how many folks decide to run both. I know I would if I were healthy, but then again maybe it's that mentality that got me in this mess in the first place :)

I guess that's all for now. Time to go out and stretch the legs on a short bike ride. Hope you all enjoy your weekend.