Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Long-Awaited Return To Running

Yesterday I signed up for the XTERRA Moab Sport Triathlon!  (My favorite part of the signup was the waiver you have to sign that included the following warning: "...BEWARE THAT DESPITE PRECAUTIONS THE RISKS RANGE FROM MINOR INJURY TO CATASTROPHIC INJURY OR DEATH... "  Thanks for the vote of confidence, race officials.)  It's an off-road, sprint-distance race through the desert and mountains of central Utah.  I wanted to do a race in the spring or early summer so I started shopping around for the local triathlons, and the more I read about this one the more I fell in love.  It is 750 meters around a small lake, 8 miles of biking on the world famous Steelbender trail weaving through narrow canyons, and 5k of trail running through red-rock desert (think '127 Hours' scenery.)

I considered just picking a local 5k for my first post-surgery race, but ironically a triathlon will actually be easier on my back: the cross training will be good on my weak disc, and even serious triathlon training wouldn't require me to run more often then every other day.  The challenge of my first full triathlon will also add a lot of excitement to my training, whereas if I was only doing a 5k I would get discouraged thinking "I did this when I was 14, why is this so hard now?"  Training for my swim leg of a relay triathlon helped me recover from surgery in 2010, and training for a full tri this spring should help me make the final step in returning to competitive running.

I've been swimming almost non-stop since my surgery two years ago, so I'm in good shape for the swim leg.  I've been biking about once a week for the last couple of months to develop some leg strength, but I need to do much more volume to be ready for the race.  The race website described the bike leg as "very technically challenging", so as the weather warms I need to get up into the mountains to get practice maneuvering through rough terrain.  Lucky for me BYU is literally in the shadows of the Wasatch mountains, so I won't have to go too far.

The biggest change to my training will definitely be running.  I've been doing my back exercises religiously since my last relapse, and I feel really strong these days.  My volleyball class upset my back a little at the beginning of the semester, but it doesn't hurt it anymore, which means it is getting stronger.  Volleyball includes a lot of running and jumping, albeit in short bursts, so in a lot of ways I think it was a good precursor to running proper.  I've gained some weight over the last few months, so to motivate myself to slim down I decided to start running as soon as I get below 130 lbs (I was 133.9 this morning.)  I'm on pretty strict rations right now, so that should only take a couple weeks.  The increased training volume from biking will also help.  Part of my weight gain has been muscle, because I've been doing a lot of strength training and swimming.  But right now that is partially hiding under a thin layer of fat, so I'm excited to see what is really under there once I burn off the extra.  I ran a little yesterday during my Nike Training Club workout, actually, and my form felt great, so I think I will be starting from a good place.

June 9th, here I come!

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