Psalm 34:17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
After a rough end of the triathlon season last year with a DNF at Ironman Vichy and a less than ideal race at Ironman Chattanooga 4 weeks later I was ready for a break from Triathlon. I thought I had done the right things, dotted the "i's" and crossed the "t's" However, when looking back on the training and the racing, I wasn't enjoying it, I was just going through the steps - I was doing the 6 hour bricks, I was doing the 20-22 mile long runs and I was getting the proper sleep - all with a very understanding wife, friends and work family. With three Ironman starts over a 13 month period I can strongly say that I truly enjoy the 70.3 distance more- hence why 2016 includes no full distance races.
After the triathlon season ended in 2015 I went back to my roots as a runner- I ran a quick 4 miler and even competed in my first open Marathon. I surprised even myself by running 20:52 for the 4 miles. It was very exciting running that fast again - it brought me back to my college days at Lehigh University where I ran both Cross Country and Track. After that, I decided to sign up for the Philly Marathon in the goal of trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2017.
My friend Scott Bradley (also a pro triathlete) and I were going to run it together and just try to run 2:55 -3:00. The cut off for our age group is 3:05 with typically a 3:02 getting you into the race based on seed times. I was actually very excited for the marathon as I felt no pressure and just wanted to enjoy myself. As the race begin I really was enjoying myself - cheering to the crowd, talking to Scott and just trying to be in the moment.
When we hit the half marathon at 1:25 I was still feeling good and knew we had a mostly flat out and back left ahead of us. I still had to think to myself - this is still a marathon and a lot can happen really quickly. Scott and I were still running together when 18 miles hit - at that point I reassessed how I was feeling and decided that if I started working I could run a decent time here. I started to take off - going from running 625 pace to 5:55 pace. The surge came with surprising ease and I kept reeling in those in front of me in. I can say, the way I was running seemed a lot more fun than the people that went out quickly and were coming back to me! After passing through Manayunk and hitting our turn around point I was starting to get excited about how low I could take my time. As I was nearing the finish, I could hear the screaming crowd, the Eye of The Tiger - Rocky theme song and feel myself gleam with excitement. Right before passing the finish line I saw Chelsea (who was ALL over the course) and I told her I loved her- she knows when I am able to say that at the end of the race that I am happy and feeling good! After crossing the finish line, a wave of excitement went over me and a feeling of euphoria. I had just completed my first marathon in a time of 2:46:11. I was very happy with that considering I went in with no long runs in over 3 months, no pressure on myself and a goal of just getting the Boston qualifier.
Shortly after my marathon came the holidays. I wanted to enjoy the down time, do some things I normally would not do during the race season and really appreciate forming memories with my friends and family. I told myself 2016 was going to be a year of fun triathlons and I was going to really try to enjoy the training and racing that I fear I lost at the end of 2015. I actually was very excited for one last "push" before life changed forever.
The reason life will change forever is that my wife - Chelsea and I are expecting our first child - a little boy named Asher George come September! Because of this momentous life change Chelsea gave me the go ahead to travel more to races than I normally would! How exciting! The real question now for me was - which cool races do I go to now???
Fast forward a little further and I was fortunate enough to join a new running team and family through the Ragged Mountain Running Shop here in Charlottesville, VA. This collection of some of the fastest runners in the country is name RMR or Ragged Mountain Racing. With joining this elite group of runners I believe I can take my running to a whole new level. I think about where I was mentally, physically and emotionally as solely a runner back in college to where I am now - I am much stronger in all aspects. Running taught me to be fast but triathlons taught me the mental fortitude to keep pushing for hours, the physical maturing of my body and the emotional investment it takes to get to the next level. Now, with the help of the team and coach Mark Lorenzoni I believe I have some of the best running ahead of me! With the excitement of the 2016 triathlon season, joining RMR and the news of my first child - I was on cloud nine!
A little while later, after coming back from an easy run I felt a twinge in my lower calf/upper achilles. I felt nothing of it and went out for my long run 2 days later. I remember it vividly - it was a beautiful day here in Virginia with temperatures soaring into the 70s! I was in Richmond, VA coming back from an Optometry conference and went out for my long run. 7 miles away- aka the furthest point from my car- the slight twinge I felt turned into a debilitating pain in my left achilles. This I knew was nothing good. At the end of the 14 miles of intermittent severe pain and then dull throbbing I put on an icepack and remember saying this will heal up quickly and no need to worry.
Fast forward 4 months with basically no running: 1 week of steroids, 2 weeks of being in a walking boot, 2 PT visits, 2 doctors visits, multiple deep tissue massages, countless eccentric exercises, long weeks of doing nothing but swimming and many hours of complaining to anyone around me - especially my wife and work family - I am finally able to start running again. This severe case of achilles tendinitis led to thickening of my tendon to more than double the size of normal and a crepitus/creaking that could compete with the squeakiest of old rocking chairs. I would like to thank Dr. Robert Wilder, Eric Magrum at UVA Health south and Anne Pike with her Magical Fingers at DNA Movement(that hurts so good!) for getting me through the toughest sections and finally getting me out there running again! I still have some days better than others but I know that is part of the process when I have done that much damage to a tendon that is so integral in our everyday lives. With the injury, I missed out on a number of triathlon races that I had planned on doing the first half of the season but just because it is my plan doesn't meant it is THE plan.
I put that bible verse in the top of this blog to remind myself and others that God does have a plan and even through the tough times he is there for us. Through all of the no running or biking or let alone walking I was able to spend more time with my wife and friends and was able to really focus on swimming for truly the first time in my life. With the help of friend and UVA swim coach Cory Chitwood, my swim is better than it has ever been and I have a new found confidence in my ability to swim faster with less effort.
Now that I am almost back to 100% I can say that I am more hungry than ever and truly enjoying the journey. I will follow this post with a few of the races I have done this year but I wanted to share the reason the 2016 season is really just getting started! Thanks again for all the support from so many people in my lives! I feel very fortunate to have such a great network of family, friends and sponsors!