Sunday, August 25, 2013

Back in action

It’s been a while since I’ve posted to this blog.  I’ve missed communicating little bits and pieces of running adventures, thoughts and news with readers.  Now that I’ve been running consistently again for a while and feeling like my old self it’s time to bang on the keyboard and open my mind to this blog once more.

Regarding my objectionable experience with CMV, for which I take full responsibility in bringing down upon myself by not getting enough rest, I would like to say how awful, awkward and confusing it was being a victim of this virus.  The mysterious, inconsistent symptoms including fatigue, brain fog, apathy, anxiety, fluctuations in motivation, etc., shook my confidence and made me wonder if I might ever again return to a high level of fitness or even if I wanted to put in the work once I was healthy to get back to such a level.   It was as if the loss of motivation somehow converted to apathy and the apathy made me question future desire.  Mostly I attempted to tune the whole thing out and instead focus on my family, work and sleeping more each night.  Even though deep down I was anxious to get back into the swing of things running wise.

A CMV diagnosis can only be confirmed with blood results.  Once diagnosed complete rest is the only prescription for healthy adults.  Cross training or much physical activity of any sort is a definite no-no.  Nor with having CMV are there any follow-the-pain guidelines back to health once the symptoms begin to dissipate.  Follow up blood work is the only way for one to know if they are cleared from the virus manifestation.

Fortunately in my case I decided to seek a diagnosis in the first place, to find out what on earth was going on with me (before I ever knew that CMV existed) and not train through the symptoms so I could toe the line at Western States, Hardrock and UTMB.  Who knows how deep that rabbit hole would have lead had I continued training?  If I didn’t eventually begin to suffer from additional symptoms or cause potential harm to myself then certainly in the very least my head game for competition and possibly running in general might have all but vanished.  I would like to think not but I suppose it could have happened.
It was a happy day in late May when I found out from Dr. Wilder in Charlottesville that my liver functions and white blood cell count were back to normal (a sign of a healthy immune system) and I had no more signs of CMV infection.  In June I began running but more or less sputtered along slowly and inconsistently and at times worried that I might be relapsing with CMV, which turned out to be nothing more than an anxiety hangover about getting back to running in the first place.  Towards the end of June I tripped on a road run and banged my knee; causing a (self-diagnosed) contusion.  The pain was a bit too much to run on so I took even more time off.  In the end I decided the additional time off was probably a good thing.  The big three races were out anyway at that point and figured I may as return to running when I felt good and I knew my health was 100%.  So instead of focusing on running I spent several weeks gardening and planting trees in our yard.   It was good cross training anyway and the results (I hope) will satisfy my family and neighbors for years to come.
It wasn’t until the second week of July when I truly felt ready to come back and began running every day.  Day by day my runs grew longer and my body began to feel stronger.  Since then I’ve been feeling like my old self: motivated, energetic, optimistic, hungry.  Two-a-days a few times per week became my staple, including a few barefoot runs per week on the track under a vanishing sun in the warm evening hours.  I began nailing a few fast-paced workouts as well.  Eventually I found my down hills legs during a few VHTRC fast ass runs in the mountains in Virginia.  And now, now that we’re in Vail, Colorado enjoying the remaining blissful, cool-temperature, sunshine-filled weeks of summer high in the Rockies, I’m finding my climbing legs (and lungs).  Things are coming together.  I couldn’t be happier.
As bizarre as it was coming down with CMV and dealing with all of that it is just as interesting coming back into fitness and relocating and recalibrating my identity as a runner.  As I regain form and confidence I try not to compare my current self to how I was, in terms of fitness, last year or years prior.  The first half of last year I was in good form- probably the best ever for me in general terms.  Currently, I’m still getting there.  It’s not fair or wise to expect that fitness will simply come back quickly now that I’m healthy.  I realize even with a good base, the years of miles my legs have under them, I still must put in the work.  Fortunately, training and working is something I enjoy; for being able to work is a privilege.
The fact is I’m not the same runner as last year.  I’m not a slower or weaker or more cautious runner.  I’d like to think I’m a smarter, more proud runner, and I believe my best running days have yet to come.  Bouncing back from CMV feeling motivated, hungry and as strong and light as I do has taught me many things.  So has being a Dad.  My little boy, Trail, turns one year old in a few weeks and in addition to my renewed status as a happy-go-lucky, carefree runner I’m a proud papa.
My racing calendar for the remainder of 2013 will basically be a replay of last fall and include running Grindstone and Pinhoti.  I would like to run Hellgate as well in December.  Sure, it stinks to have missed out on Western and UTMB but deep down low-key, mom-and-pop races like these, where I know people who I look up to, are truly what inspire me.  Hopefully in November at Pinhoti I’ll punch another ticket back to Western in 2014.  That's the plan.
At the Leadville finish.  BIG M, little m, what begins with M?  Mountain Man in the Making.  M...m...M.


  1. Hey, good to hear you're back in the saddle, Neal.

    I know what children's book you've been reading. "Big Z little z..."

    Looks like I'll see you at Pinhoti. Bad news, though. Craig Thornley tweeted that MUC is changing this year with all races post-lottery, so it looks like Pinhoti won't get you in anymore.

  2. Geez, Jon... way to bring me down. Crap, you're right. I didn't realize Pinhoti was out as an MUC race. Only one year?? Oh well. Still, look forward to seeing you there!

  3. Yeah, stinks. Just call me Debbie downer. but better you hear now than at the finish line...

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