A Grand Day at the Grand Rapids Half Marathon - KickRunners.com
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#1 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 12:34 PM - Thead Starter
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Or what I learned from a year in rehab…

Short version: First road race after a year on the DL and the comeback trail. 1:27:32, 23/1358 OA, 1 AG.

Long version (best consumed at bedtime after a heavy meal):

At last year’s edition of the Grand Rapids half-marathon, I capped off a great year of running with a big masters PR. I was psyched and looking forward to an even better year in 2009. But within just a few weeks, things started going wrong. My left Achilles, which had been tender right after the race, flared up more as I blithely continued to train hard. Instead of calling it a season right there, I thought I’d squeeze in “just one more race”, an inconsequential Thanksgiving-day Turkey Trot. Dumb, dumb. After that one I was limping painfully and knew I was in for a long time off.

But it took even longer than I expected. I couldn’t run at all again until March. When I was finally pain-free, I made the further mistake of thinking I could now run as much as I wanted. By June I had re-aggravated the same injury and was back on the DL. Gloom and despair. Finally I called up my massage therapist and asked, “When the pros you work with get injured, who do they go see?” He referred me to a PT who listened to my story, shook his head, and said, “You’re trying to come back way too fast. Here dummy, do this.” And he handed me a run-walk program that looked like something you would give to an overweight chain-smoker. “If Olympians can come back this slowly, so can YOU.” The first workout consisted of running for 30 seconds and walking four and a half minutes, for half an hour. Then resting the next day. It took more than a month to build from there to a full 30-minute continuous run. Then the runs could not increase by more than 5 minutes per session. Speedwork was banned until the AT was completely pain-free. By the end of August, I was finally able to run about 30 miles per week, nothing faster than GA pace.

Of course during all this time I was cross-training vigorously to maintain fitness. Over 100 miles of swimming for the year, plus a lot of biking in July and August. I was in good enough shape to pull off a couple of successful late-summer Olympic-distance triathlons. But I still didn’t have the training or confidence to attempt a road race.

In September I started adding a weekend long run longer than 10 miles. To my surprise, the pace wasn’t far off where it had been last year. By late last month, I felt it was safe to incorporate a weekly tempo run. They too were faster and better than expected. My weekly mileage remained around 30, with a high of 38. I was continuing to swim and bike. How would this translate into a half-marathon? Only one way to find out.

So MarkGuy and I drove over to Grand Rapids on Saturday afternoon. Brief moment of concern when we saw a license plate that read “BLINGER”. Was Byll lost on his way to Columbus? Phew, false alarm. Went to the expo, got our stuff, had dinner at the same Italian place where we’d met rosie and the Rocket Scientist last year. Ate our pizza through a veil of tears at their absence. Drove to MarkBro’s place and retired early.

The morning broke clear, crisp (29F), and still – perfect conditions for a long race. Lacking any race results to help predict my pace, I’d estimated from the tempo runs that 6:40 pace would be reasonable, though I secretly hoped to do a little better. I jogged two easy miles through dark side streets, then made my way to the start. No aggressive, lightweight racing flats like last year, just brick-house trainers and orthotics to keep the AT safe. Shortly after sunrise, the horn sounded and we were off!

It’s very easy to run the first mile too fast, so to keep myself honest I tuck in behind the 2:59:36 marathon pace group, “The sub-3:00 Lancers”. (Pace groups at Grand Rapids don’t come in the usual boring increments but instead are named after times of celebrity marathoners, e.g. “Al Gore’s Inconvenient Pace Team” (4:59:25), named after the inventor of pace teams.)

Mile Split Cum AHR

1 6:45 6:45 162 Perfect! Thanks Lancers, see ya!

The middle part of a half-marathon is all about settling in and finding your groove. We crossed the river and looped through Grand Rapids, past the signature Amway Grand Hotel and the Gerald Ford museum. Then we headed out of town. The miles seemed to click by and I was happy with the pacing:

2 6:38 13:23 165
3 6:39 20:03 164
4 6:38 26:41 165
5 6:39 33:20 165
6 6:40 40:00 164 Best guess first half: 43:40
7 6:34 46:34 166
8 6:41 53:15 165

Shortly after the 8-mile mark, the full marathoners continued on, while the wuss half-marathoners made the turn for home, following a bike path through the woods. Unfortunately, nearly everyone around me turned out to be running the full. The only half-marathoner in sight was maybe 50m ahead. I reeled him in over the next mile and listened to his loud slap-slap footfalls fade behind me. Now I had the wonderful feeling of running alone through the fall colors, like on my river paths back home. These two miles were my favorite of the course.

9 6:37 59:52 164
10 6:37 1:06:29 167

I try to treat the last 5k of a half-marathon like its own separate race, and reach down for whatever’s left. So I reached down and found… er, not much. Here’s where my poor distance base and lack of speedwork made itself apparent:

11 6:52 1:13:21 166

UGH… slight uphill; rejoining the main course and encountering a hoard of outbound runners coming at me.

12 6:44 1:20:05 167

My legs can’t seem to get moving, but I give it what I can.

13 6:42 1:26:49 169
13.1 0:41 1:27:30 170 Best guess second half: 43:52

Official results:
1:27:32, 23/1358 overall, 19/550 men, 2/64 AG (but the top finisher took first overall master, so I got the 1 AG medal)

I know of no race that takes better care of the runners from beginning to end than Grand Rapids. The race director personally greets every runner as they cross the finish line. The post-race spread includes hot chili and FREE BEER. I stopped in the med tent to get some (purely precautionary) ice for my AT, and was treated with great kindness and concern. After MarkGuy finished his PR performance, we made our way to the brand-new, 5-star YMCA for hot showers and a soak in the hot tub. Fantastic! But the day got even better when word started coming in about the day’s other races, especially Bylghl’s thrilling Byll-Q.

If you’d told me back in July, after that first run-walk session, that I’d win my age group at Grand Rapids, I would have laughed. Careful rehab really does pay off. And the cross-training! I’ve run 1000 fewer miles this year than last, but was only about two minutes slower. It makes me rethink the value of many of the miles we run, relative to the wear and tear we endure.

I’m deeply grateful for all the friendship, support, and silliness on this board. It’s great when things are going well, but even more essential when they’re not. Thanks everyone. This time around, I will recover sensibly, stick with the cross-training, and try not to repeat last year’s mistakes in 2010.

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must persevere and above all have confidence in our selves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained. --Marie Curie
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#2 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 01:41 PM
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Fantastic report, Dave, and good insights into your successful comeback, the value of XT, and the extreme grooviness of this forum. Well-deserved congratulations on the strong race and the AG win.
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#3 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 02:01 PM
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I echo Millbot's reply. Excellent racing !!
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#4 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 02:02 PM
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Congratulations dAAve. What a great come back!
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#5 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 02:06 PM
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Loved the report Dave. The value of cross-training is something we should all think about.

High-fives on the AG win!
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#6 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 02:10 PM
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This is a great report Dave. You comment about thinking about the value of the miles versus the number of miles really gives me something to think about. Quality vs. Quantity. . . . With my schedule, I have such a difficult time getting in the numbers I "think" I should be doing, but perhaps I just need to focus on making the miles that I DO get in, a better quality of a run . . . anyways, I really enjoyed your report, not only because you did so well and I'm happy for you, but because you did a great job of sharing what lessons you've learned during your rehab and re-entry into running. Thanks.



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#7 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 02:18 PM
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Splendid report, dAAve. It's so good to see you up and running fast again. While searching for results yesterday, I stumbled across the race's FAQ. I dig the Grand Rapids race director's sense of humour. It sounds like he did everything just right so you could do it just right. Congratulations.

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#8 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 02:26 PM
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So great to read the success in this report! I have admired your patience through your rehab and am so glad it all paid off for you! Can't wait to see what's ahead for you! Congratulations!
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#9 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 02:46 PM
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Your focus toward both recovery and running are inspiring.

"not yet, I have some unfinished business with the course!" Dove
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#10 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 02:57 PM
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You did indeed execute a very patient recovery (the second one, that is). Congratulations on a well deserved AG win. Certainly your take on the cross training and difference in mileage gives us plenty to think about, ponder and discuss. I think one thing to point out is that you are rarely in the pool just putting in mindless laps. You swim at least as hard as you run. Maybe even harder since there's less wear and tear in the pool.

Good luck laying back in the near future, it is SO tough after a great race like this!
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#11 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 03:11 PM
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Excellence in all corners, DaaVE.
You're a true role model for all of us, whether we are on the track, trail, road, bike, swimming, or DL.
Congrats on the laurels,

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#12 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 04:26 PM
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dAAve - fascinating report! It gives me a lot to think about. Congrats on your AG. You are obviously a talented runner and an inspiration for injured athletes everywhere.
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#13 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 04:42 PM
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You are so right on that quantity vs. quality thing. I learned long ago I can't run the monster weeks that some others seem to crank out effortlessly. Sure fire trip to the DL with that plan! You've had an excellent comeback and ran an excellent race. So happy with your upbeat attitude! Good luck on the recovery and I look forward to seeing what other cool things you do next.
(Is the marathon at Grand Rapids as fun as the half?)
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#14 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 05:01 PM
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Dear Dave,

You are one smart and talented runner.
There are good lessons here for all of us.
Smoking hot racing and AG win!

Your Fan,
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#15 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 06:43 PM
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What a great story, Dave. I've been following your progress ever since being there when you had your first AT event on the track a while back, and am glad to see that you are finally, really back for good! The AG award is just icing on the cake.

I also remember the same feeling of solitude along that leaf-strewn stretch of bike path from when I ran there in '07. Now maybe you'll even be able to do Dexter-AA again next June.

-- Runnin' in Rochester, Mich
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#16 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 06:50 PM
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dAAve, part of me wants to say "I told you so", although that would assume I did tell you so, which of course I didn't. But honestly, I've been thinking all summer, with the awesome aerobic base you have from x-training (man, I wish I could swim like you!) you really don't need to run too many miles to be in terrific race shape. And you just went out there and proved that. Well done! I am really happy for you.

I have limited my mileage this year to 25 mpw, and I am probably in the best race shape of my brief long-distance running career. So you don't need to convince me that quality is much more important than quantity. And the statement "There is no such thing as junk miles" is probably a lie.

"There's no such thing as bad weather, just soft people."  Bill Bowerman
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#17 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 07:17 PM
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Nice report, with plenty to chew on. You are one fAAst dude.
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#18 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 09:15 PM
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Truly grand! I agree with Labduck about your swimming.
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#19 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 09:42 PM
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Wishinng you a big congrats... I followed your pool reports with awe.... Do you still feel tenderness when you touch your achilles? Peg
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#20 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 10:47 PM
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What a great comeback...you rehabed right and reaped the benefits and learned a few lessons along the way! Fantastic
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#21 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 11:01 PM
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Nice comeback from the injury, nice job of x-training to fitness, and terrific race. *golf clap* *beer* YOU DA MAN!!
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#22 of 36 Old 10-19-2009, 11:37 PM
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Great race and an informative report, hopefully you will never have cause to reuse the rehab lesson, except to inform others.
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#23 of 36 Old 10-20-2009, 01:07 AM
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What a great RR. So happy to see you return to fine form after a long year of patiently clawing your way back.

dAAve, I admire you more than I can express, for all the reasons the gang has stated -- yes, even with the constant harangue about bacon -- but where do you think the midsole meets the road insofar as mileage base is concerned? Yes, it's probably an individual thing and then there's age -- I'm having enough trouble wondering how much my old carcass can take, never mind how much longer I have to be patient to find out -- but what is your opinion on how to approach this? For you, at what distance do you feel you need to be for whatever your next goal race is (um, which is ...)

And what role did the competitive yoga play in your speedy result?

Awaiting the comeback of velour jumpsuit couture.
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#24 of 36 Old 10-20-2009, 01:20 AM
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Dude. This seriously rocks. A strong comeback is great, but 1st in AG? Holy Moly! As the Guangzhou hashers would say, "You're True Blue!"

Also...(((Ace Grand Rapids Marathon Race Director)))...he clearly loves his runners.
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#25 of 36 Old 10-20-2009, 02:38 AM
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Nice race Daave. You will be back to 1:25 and faster in no time!!!

As for quality versus quantity, I have found that most runners don't run enough when building base and they run too much when racing. The summer before my accident when I was running great, I was averaging about 28 miles a week (3 days)along with another 6 hours of cross training. The winter before though, I had been running a lot of 70 and 80 mile weeks at a lot slower pace.
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