Setback and Recovery

Cooper River Bridge Run start. Over 40,000 runners and walkers!

Cooper River Bridge Run start. Over 40,000 runners and walkers!

Coming off of a subpar race last week, my eyes were firmly set on the upcoming Saturday and the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC. My easy runs leading into the race felt better than the week prior but on Wednesday I did a very light fartlek workout within an easy run and it wore me out. I did 5×3 minutes within a 12 mile run and then finished with 8×200 ranging from 32 seconds to 28 seconds. That afternoon I was feeling more tired than a light session would have normally caused me to be but I did not worry too much about it. Perhaps my body was just surprised at having to run faster for the first time in a few days but regardless of the reason, I was intent on showing well at Cooper River.

To make a long story short, I ran possibly the worst race of my ZAP career on Saturday. I was 14th in a very, very, rough time of 31:25. I went out with the two other leading Americans, Ricky Flynn and Michael Banks, but had nothing after a mile and a half. It was another trudge to the finish line. After finishing the race, I knew that I needed to quickly figure out what was going on. I have run that fast as a part of training runs before and now it was a struggle to race at that pace. Five minute pace felt like 4:30 pace and I found it increasingly difficult to push the way I am normally able to. I felt like I was stuck in mud, quicksand, or the shallow end of a pool…you get the idea.

I went to an urgent care doctor’s office in Boone the following afternoon and got my blood drawn. I had the sinking feeling that my iron was low and had this confirmed the following morning when the results came in that my Ferritin was 22. I have been as low as 13 in the Spring of 2011, but 22 is still unacceptable when trying to train at a high level,. I usually hover around 50-55 (still not outstanding) so this result certainly explains how I’ve been feeling. Interestingly, it is said that Alberto Salazar will not even let his male runners race if they are under 70!

Now, the “normal” range for Ferritin is 19 to 323, absurdly large gap and generally anything under 40 is not ideal for a male distance runner. Interestingly, my Hemoglobin levels were good as were my Hematocrit but without the proper Ferritin stores I was becoming fatigued prematurely. I do not fully understand all of the numbers, but when I text Pete my results his only response was “shit, that explains it.” So I will now back off of the intensity for a few weeks and really up my iron intake. It is odd that it dipped so low when I was still taking iron supplements 4-5x per week but I will double up now in an attempt to get back to where I need to be to race. The US 25k is in just over 5 weeks so hopefully I come back around before then.

For now, I am pretty down about running and extremely frustrated that even though I was supplementing my iron intake properly, I find myself in this position. Everyone at ZAP is training well right now and it is always difficult to be the odd man out feeling crappy everyday as everyone around you seems to be thriving. I am glad I know why I have been feeling the way I have, and I want to be training at a high level again ASAP!

This sport is extremely tough with lots of ups and downs and I will now get myself back up off the mat and fight some more; there is no other choice in my mind.

Here is my last week of training (3/30-4/5):

Sunday: AM: 17 miles

Monday: AM: 6 miles

Tuesday: AM: 13 miles (6×30 seconds post run)

Wednesday: AM: 14 miles (5x3min, 8×200)

Thursday: AM: 10 miles    PM: 5 miles

Friday: AM: 9 miles (5×30 seconds post run)

Saturday: AM: 12 miles (Cooper River Bridge Run)

Total: 86 miles, 8 runs