There is a lot to say and this could be a long, rambling post. Sorry, but I hope it is worth it.
The first thing to say is that my knee is a wreck. Things I used to be take for granted -- like easy hikes and long dog walks -- now cause me pain. Sometimes intense pain. It hurts more or less all the time right now, just in varying degrees. I am convinced something is structurally wrong and not just a case of ITB. The bad news is that an MRI was mostly inconclusive. The major components appear to be in good condition (all the major ligaments, cartilage, etc...) other than some significant bruising at my source of pain. Given that I have been patient with this injury since March, I have decided for a more aggressive plan and will have it scoped on August 7th. The surgeon's theory is that my lateral meniscus is partially torn, allowing my knee to move laterally and causing the bruising. If he is right and surgery goes smoothly, I will be pretty limited for the 6 weeks following surgery and won't realistically be 100% for at least 12 weeks. In other words, 2013 has been a bust other than my great run at Old Pueblo back in March.
One thing the PT pointed out is that my left calf is smaller than my right and my muscles in the front of my left leg along the shin appear to be showing signs of atrophy. The implication is that I have likely been favoring that leg for sometime. Certainly that gives me something to work on as I rehabilitate from surgery and rebuild. It seems that things likely aren't "firing" right on my left side -- quads, glutes, etc... I will certainly have to work with her on a plan to get those things back in order.
After that introduction, are wondering why I titled this "Silver Linings"? The reason is that I am seeing more clearly now than I have in some time. I can no longer just push through this injury. There is no option other than to stop and take inventory of things and where I want to go next. How motivated am I to rehab? Does running mean enough to me to have surgery? Why do I let my outlook hang on the balance on how I am running? Some hard questions to face.
The good news is that I am already looking ahead to 2014. And with all this time off and watching my friends kick butt last weekend, I am starting to get rejuvenated. There are some hard days ahead, but I can plug away. It is pretty clear now that I have let running occupy too much space in my life and, in doing so, have lost the edge I once had. Going back to training for LT100 last year, the training has really started to feel like work and like it is taking over my life. Hundred milers are brutal and I have seen quite a few runners get spit out by them. As a consequence, I started to rethink the way I train. I honestly believe I can run 20-25% fewer miles during the course of a year without dropping any performance. And I can find more balance and hopefully get re-engaged with a love of running. I enjoy weight training, bike riding, walking with my wife, and even just sleeping in once in a while! All of those things suffer when I am "training". I am tired of worrying about the weekend weather forecast starting on Wednesday.
Probably the most honest thing I can say, I sleep better right now than I have for at least a year. Some of that I attribute to no longer stressing about training. Some of that is attributable to keeping normal hours, waking up when my body is ready and not to an alarm clock. There have been signs of fatigue that I have been ignoring for several months now. Duncan Callahan writes of this topic in a recent blog, culminating in a great quote: "The ego satisfaction of going all-out, all of the time, will only last until you can’t do it anymore." His blog is great because it touches on some many of the topics I blog about and kick around in my own mind all the time -- getting enough sleep, the use of caffeine, low carb dieting, etc....
Once I am healthy enough to run some, hopefully by late-September, my first priority will be to regain some consistency to my training. If things come together quickly enough, I'd like to race a 5K and maybe a 10K over the winter to try and regain some speed and power in my running. Both of my PRs at those distances are pretty soft anyway. Training in this timeframe should be dominated by form work, hills sprints, strides, and lots of short but hard workouts.
I will save 2014 plans for a future post, particularly because it is likely to change a lot over the next 6 months. But I would say there is a strong chance I run a hundred, which one depends on lotteries (Western States mainly). I am starting to entertain a few things that I never thought I would consider (Hard Rock). At this point, I am not feeling super motivated to return to Leadville. There are too many quality ultras out there, each of them different. But, maybe? The Pacific Northwest has a strong appeal to me right now. If I don't do a hundred miler, then I will almost certainly do a destination fifty miler to some place fun. And, if I come up bankrupt in lotteries, then I might consider a shot at a BQ at Colorado Marathon. That seems like a long shot and I wouldn't know for sure until after lottery season (December). I think the only significant thing I said in that babbling above is that I am likely to do a hundred miler next year. Other than that, most everything else remains on the table.
I am in a good place. The grind of four months of fighting injury has pushed me to a point where I am at peace with things. And I genuinely think it is for the best, even if it isn't what I wanted.