Monday, September 4, 2017

The Mistakes I've Made


I’ve found it’s been pretty easy to blog about running when things were going good, or even to blog about little setbacks while everything felt like it was moving forward.  However, when I’ve sat down to write this blog about my journey post Boston and what happened when things aren’t positive it’s been a pretty tough thing for me to do.  I started blogging to tell my story and I finally convinced myself recently that my story includes all the bad moments along with all the good.  All of it tells the journey of Nick Klastava and it’s by no means close to being finished.  And if I want to continue to blog and tell about my experiences, I need to be able to write about the bad too.  Because it’s in bad times that we can truly find ourselves and find out what makes us tick.  This story begins post Boston Marathon when in early May I began up my training hoping to continue to build on the fitness I had achieved.  Except as I did everything was met with resistance.  My mental state was not supporting my running, physically my body continued to break down and I was suffering from massive amounts of fatigue.  A recipe for disaster that for many weeks I tried to push through before shutting it down.  I made many mistakes and I hope in this article I can lay out them in a way to help others avoid, or at least provide an interesting read for you. 

The first and probably biggest mistake I have made is overtraining the past year and pushing too hard post Boston.  This summer went downhill way before I started feeling the ill effects.  Sure when I started my build up post Boston things just didn’t click and I felt a general sense of fatigue and in a vacuum it’s easy to look at this tiny sample and assume it just meant I didn’t take enough time off, but when you look at the big picture you can see mistakes I made long before.  My 2016, which I have written countless blogs about went exceptionally well but to say I pushed my body harder than ever before would be an understatement.  I look back and see countless times when my log screams take a rest Dummy yet I was out on Tuesday pushing through a workout or running a Marathon in back to back weekend’s.  I pushed so hard I never even made it to JFK (my peak race) injury free.  But I just kept pushing and then when Boston ended and I wanted to get back at it this summer I went right back into it.  I can’t imagine a race in my life that I pushed my body to the limit as much as I did Boston this year.  With the heat, sporadic training, and really terrible pacing I made that race as hard as I could and when I finished I was absolutely toast.  Yet a couple weeks later I am out doing workouts again, my first run back was 10 miles!  In the moment, this stuff didn’t faze me but looking back I see how dumb it was and wish I was smarter.  Even as workouts continued to tank and I received advice from fellow runners to not run races I signed up for and take a break I stubbornly pushed through thinking I could find this magic out of nowhere (Yeah, I never found it).  There were many times in 2016 and 2017 that my plan worked and I was doing the proper training, but as I’ll get into more in the next paragraph it’s the times I felt invincible that I think really cost me.

There are many times as runners we feel inferior to our old running self, or fear like we will never get back to the shape we once had.  We are knocked down, but we fight and scrap to get back and keep grinding. Myself though I always find when I am trying to get back into shape and feel my fitness is not where it is that I tend to err on the side of caution.  However, last year and into this year as races kept going my way I generally started to do foolish things, I started to feel invincible.  I mean I knew my limits, I didn’t think I could beat everyone it wasn’t about winning, I started to feel like I couldn’t miss (Kobe!).  I felt I could do a race and my fitness would be there and lead me to my goal and I could turn around on short rest and do 2 workouts the following week and race again.  It was this cockiness with my own fitness that lead to feeling like I was invincible (I of course am not invincible far from it).  It’s easy to get carried away when results keep coming your way but eventually this behavior will take its toll on you.  There is of course a huge difference between cockiness and confidence, we all need confidence to reach our goals but you need to take a step back every once in a while, and see how far you’ve come and acknowledge that.  Take a rest day or break, enjoy what you are accomplishing and realize it’s about the long game.  I’ve had many friends point out to me how far I have come when I spent a lot of this summer whining about how my running wasn’t working.  It took me some months to finally let it sync in and realize just how special it was to accomplish what I did, and how next time to not be so brash about it.

The third major mistake I have made is literally ignoring my body and every sign it’s given me.  I have looked back at my logs and I have basically been in pain some way or another since before JFK (around early Nov 2016).  As I’ve written about I got hurt a few weeks before JFK but figured I could get it worked out, and suffered through 26 painful miles (but the first 24 miles were solid!).  I then took some time off, started up again immediately to a new pain in my left hip area which I managed to overcome through some physical therapy this winter and put together two good races in March.  Leading up to Boston my hamstring pain returned but I wasn’t going to let that hold me back, which of course acted up mid-race and held me back (The house always wins).  And then post Boston when I returned to running not only was my body fatigued beyond belief but I was and am still fighting piriformis (just about one of the most painful feelings I have experienced, I literally never want to sit or drive in a car).  And all this time while I list out these symptoms and injuries never once did I take time completely off, or skip a race because of an injury.  I kept grinding, maybe being “smart” and lowering mileage but still training.  And while I was doing it, it seemed to make sense to me.  I thought I was being smart lowering mileage and taking care of my body but when I write it out it sounds like ravings of a lunatic(#RunnerProbs).  I was constantly in pain one way or another but since I could squeeze in a couple good days or a good race I just kept going.  These are the signs that as a runner you need to acknowledge and address.  Running through injury after injury is eventually going to get you and it finally did this summer as piriformis has shut me down hard since early June.

At some point this summer I reached a point where I started whining and feeling sorry for myself. Feeling sorry for my running, feeling like people owed me something, whining to people who had it much worse how my problems mattered. It was unhealthy and bad behavior and took me months to get out of.  It really felt uncharacteristic of me and how I have been, running to me has always been joyful and special.  To find myself whining because a race went poorly or because I was fatigued and couldn’t complete a workout is small in the list of why I run, and ended up costing me as I kept grinding through it.   But then I realized I wasn't going to let this define me or ruin running for me. I do this for me, for my chance to be great at something.  Running has always been a special part of my life. It's one of the things that helped me deal with my ADHD as a teenager. It's how a socially awkward person like myself made friends in high school, college and now as an adult and it's how I met the love of my life and married her. Except for a brief period, post college, most of my entire life running has been with me through the good and bad.  I honestly know deep down my life would be very different if not for running.   It's not always about running a PR, running is what helps me deal with life but this summer I let the negativity that sometimes surrounds it get to me and my running suffered.  

Injuries, over training, a fatigued body, a crushed running mental state all these among others are the factors I attributed to my running summer. I had been pushing my body basically redlining it for a really long time and I think Boston was the breaking point. And when my body broke I let it take down everything else with it. I'd be remiss if I didn't mentioned the many amazing friends who reached out, offered advice and just encouragement. It's refreshing to know you have people that care.  It’s what makes the running community and running friends such a special part of our lives.  While we are out there all on our own racing ourselves, the friends you meet and make along the way become a part of your life and we all root for each other’s successes.  I am grateful for the many people I have met along the way and for the people who kept reaching out to me throughout this summer.

All those mistakes aside this summer I finally broke from my usual “Feel sorry for myself because things go wrong" mantra.  The people who know me in life can almost pinpoint the second when something goes wrong with me because my mannerisms change and I get quiet.  It’s something I have acknowledged and tried very hard to fix, to not even let myself get to that point.  So, when things went wrong with running and other aspects of my life this summer, after a brief period of “old nick” I broke the cycle and took care of myself.  While I basically ran my running into the ground, I managed to have a pretty remarkable summer nonetheless.  I took a step back from ultra-competitive Nick and met some amazing new running friends (and shared many great runs together), I spent so many amazing days with my daughter, wife and family, participated in some really fun friend events, and just stopped taking running so seriously.  When I could fit in a run I did, but with all this negativity that was surrounding my running I needed to do something to help me deal with it.  I needed to do this for me, and I believe that it’s helped me generally feel excited about the idea of training again. 

As we get out of the summer and enter the fall I have a new hope that I will eventually get myself to running pain-free again.  I’ll be excited to get back on the trails that I love so much, get in more runs with my running friends, and strike this balance again that I will need to continue this sport for many years to come.  I continue to express in words and in my thoughts just how important running is to me from so many different aspects of my life and how to make sure I can incorporate it into my life with a better balance.  Also I’ll make sure my daughter is included and understands all the joy and why I run in the years to come.  I have since finally signed up for a fall race, The California International Marathon in December in Sacramento.  I am much excited for a fall challenge and hopefully I can get to the line mentally and physically ready to run but if not, I damn well will enjoy every second of the journey to the starting line and appreciate everything much more after the summer I have experienced. 





Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Recovery post race and starting a new training cycle

My Winter Season commenced on Boylston Street in Boston over 2 weeks ago and ended a pretty successful season.  After any season I think it’s really important to not only look back and figure out what worked and didn't but also take some downtime for various reasons before getting back into running.  For most of us running is just a hobby we do, some more competitively than other, but we all have real jobs and real adult responsibilities we must do in between our runs and strength sessions.  But none the less our goals are as important to us to achieve as any professional athlete because they are things we set to accomplish that have meaning to us (if your goals don’t get new goals).  For that reason I’ll stress the importance of a good break and I’ll kind of walk through what I like to do when I start up a new training cycle.

After Boston I took off 13 days with one short fun run to support my favorite store the Falls Road Running Story sandwiched in there, and this was the longest break I ever took post a marathon.  For me a break is important not just for the physical benefits but also the mental benefits.  I know a lot of people start running 3-4 days post race as soon as their body feels physically ready.  Sure for me four days after Boston all my soreness went away and I could have run but to me the mental break is just as important if not more important.  A break for me means completely shutting down everything to do with running physically and completely mentally.  I don’t force cross training, I don’t force core work, I just lounge around and relax and do things I wish I could do the rest of the year when instead I am deep in training.  This is important for me as it allows me to recharge the battery mentally.  Sure if I want to go to the gym and go on the Elliptical I would do that (Editor Note: I never felt like doing that) but instead I just wanted to go out with friends and spend extra time with my wife and daughter.  The key reason I stress focusing on mental recovery is because when I start training again I do not want to get 6 weeks in and wake up not wanting to train or feeling burned out.  Many times do I see people come back and just flame out mentally weeks before their race, wasting all their specific hard training.   There is nothing you can do to trick your body to recover from a mental breakdown.  Physically when you burn out, you can sometimes come out alive if you focus on recovery but mentally your body will shut down when you need it the most.  Next time you roll through a training cycle and get through your peak race, whether you hit your goal or not remember to focus on your mental recovery too on your break.  Just because you didn’t hit your goal and feel as though you didn’t “really race” your body still needs some downtime before you ramp up again.  Trust me it’ll do wonders for your longevity with running.

So once my break is over and I am ready to start training again here’s what I do to get myself started on the right foot and lead to success months down the road.  Well aside from setting a goal (so you have something to work towards when training gets tough) I do a couple things to make sure my body is starting off on the right foot.  First thing I love to try and do is getting blood work done when I start up a new cycle (I usually only do it once a year but I try and coincide it with when I start training).  This allows me to get a picture of where body is at across all levels heading into training.  One reason this matters to me is a couple years ago I was told I had a very huge vitamin D deficiency, which I thought was crazy I am out in the sun all the time.  Well turns out lots of people are Vitamin D deficient because some people’s bodies just can’t absorb Vitamin D from the sun like others.  Whaaaaa, Science?  This also was around a time when I felt really sluggish for all my workouts on the track, tired all the time and felt worn down.  I started supplementing Vitamin D and it definitely felt like it had a positive influence on my life.  Aside from blood work I think it’s important to assess everything that went wrong with your body leading up to your last race and during it.  Don’t ignore any of the pains you had before, keep a mental note so you can see if they still exist post break.  If two weeks of break didn’t make some of these issues go away, it’s time to focus on fixing them.  Either going to see a Physical Therapist or doing it on your own (You know my choice!) but ignoring it after a break is recipe for a disaster.  You don’t want to start off your new cycle dealing with issues from the previous cycle. It's also important to assess your last training cycle for what went right/wrong.  A training log is key for this, at a minimum it should include daily mileage, workouts specifics and how you felt, so you can go back to it later and remember.  Additionally I like to focus on lifting and general strength training at the beginning of the cycle.  When my mileage is at its lowest point and I am coming back it’s easiest for me to work this in and begin to get consistent with it as I ramp up.  Just like we know all the work you do in running is cumulative  year to year, all the work you do early on in a training cycle paves the way for success as you get to your peak race.  When you are smart about recovery and have a solid plan for when you start up again you set up a foundation that allows your body to handle the workload you need when you training starts to intensify.  Lastly slowly work back your intensity, no need to rush back.

What are your thoughts?  Anything you do to help you with your breaks post running or anything you like to focus on when you start up training again?  I hope you enjoyed my blog as much I enjoyed writing it.

For my summer it’s going to be a focus back on speed and shorter distance races and probably a 50k somewhere because why not.

My goals remain the same:
PR in the 5k 15:52 – been waiting since 2002 for this one to go down
PR in the 10k 33:13 – also 2002 PR
Run a Steeplechase race again – also haven’t done that since 2002






Friday, April 21, 2017

2017 Boston Marathon Recap - No Excuses



The 2017 Boston Marathon weekend was full of fun, excitement, and so much pain but ended up in great joy and this will recap my exciting weekend adventure.  Before I get into that I am beyond blessed for all the support I received from so many people before and after this race.  Running for most of my life was always this solitude thing I did trying to continually hit splits and end up disappointed if I didn’t run to my potential.  To finish my race and have so many people reach out to me I can’t express in words how it made me feel.  I am so lucky to have such an amazing support crew for my running career and I will continue to give back to all of you in any way I can to thank you.

Kelly and I decided many months ago it would be a great idea to bring my daughter Chloe on this adventure to the Boston Marathon so she can meet family along the way!  Welp bringing a 3 month with you on an 8 hour car ride to Boston and all the stuff you need to bring for her is quite overwhelming (Duh!).  Our car was literally packed with stuff, we made many sketchy stops along the way for diaper and outfit changes but we made it!  I arrived in Boston around 2pm on Sunday and it was a million degrees out and I was already stressing a bit.  Still hadn’t gotten my packet, wanted to get in a shake-out run, and still hadn’t checked into hotel.  Ugh, not how I wanted to feel 20 hours out from my race.  Finally got my packet and went for a shakeout run around 4pm(Why?), it was about 85 degrees out and I felt absolutely terrible the entire time.  Awesome, grabbed dinner at an authentic Boston Restaurant, Cheesecake Factory and then got to bed earlyish.

My 2017 Boston at least had me less stressed in the morning since I had done it before, and I had a bunch of teammates all running too which helped so much race morning.  Thom, Chris and I grabbed a Falls Road bus together and off we went.  We got to the village and had a meetup spot which was so helpful for my usual pre-race anxiety.  Having 10 of us hanging around together just talking and joking around kept my mind off the race and kept me focused to the fun of why I do this(Running is fun).  We also got a pretty awesome team photo that I know I’ll love for many years to come.  Finally off we went, Conrad and I linked up and headed to Wave 1 Corral 1.  Which has it perks because the bathroom line was so short, and then we saw some people warming up in a circle and said “Hey let’s do that”.  Jogged around for a bit and then followed Graham’s advice and got in the back of Corral 1 with Conrad and let everyone else cram to the front to get as close to the line as they could.  I finally started feeling relaxed about 5 minutes out and thought maybe this could be my day and then the gun went off.

I’ll start by saying, Yes it was a warm day but you will find no excuses for my performance from the heat in here.  I could have PR’ed today and will not use 74 degrees and no shade as an excuse for blowing up in Newton, there are plenty of reasons I can point to.  As we started off Conrad, Jason and I grouped up and started passing people by the dozens.  I very much forgot how downhill the first couple of miles are, and the pace just felt easy, we settled into 5:45 for the first mile alright cool.  A couple more 5:45’s and Conrad and I were through the 5k in 17:52(same as Chicago in 2015!), I felt much better though.  Our 4th mile ended up dropping to 5:31 and I bid Conrad adieu and started dropping back a bit.  It was warmer out and I was taking in so much fluid, so I tried to focus on that.  Four cups about each aid station, 1 Gatorade, 1 water to drink and 2 to pour on me.  Around 5 miles Wayne Blas my old co-worker pulls up alongside me.  I was like what are you doing back here and he informed me that he was perfectly on pace and what was I doing?  To be quite honest I had no clue, I didn’t have a Marathon Pace anymore I was just running.  So I hopped on with him and we ran 5-10 together coming through 10 in 57:47 or so.  Until I let him go and went back to running my race.

I took my first GU and had about 4 chewable salt tablets by mile 10(so clutch I had these, definitely helped me with cramping), at this point I was just finding packs of runners and leeching on to them which is something I rarely do.  Hopped onto a pack around mile 10 and just stuck to the back of them from 10-12 until we hit the Co-ed’s at Wellesley.  I decided it was time to ditch my hat, I hate wearing a hat, and so I tossed it up to the young co-eds and let them fight for the honor of catching it.  (Editor’s note: No one caught it and they were most likely completely grossed out by it).  So much energy here and I rolled through the half in 1:16 (which if you asked me before the race that would have been perfect, but why did it feel terrible.  Oh because I ran a bunch of 5:45’s for the first 5 miles then a bunch of 6’s for the next 8 and still haven’t settled into a pace.  I was quite woke, but alas onward I went knowing the last of my downhill miles were in front of me.

Around 14 my usual left hamstring tendonitis started acting up and I started cramping up.  No big deal I have these salt tablets for the cramping, oops dropped those on the ground, and I have this Advil I brought with me on the run for my hamstring.  Oh wait that was in the pocket in my hat I threw to the girls.  FML.  I had one burst of energy as we rolled downhill around 15 but for the most part miles 14-20 I was in the darkest of places.  The first Newton hill decimated me and I reacted with nothing as runners gearing up for this part of the race just destroyed me.  My splits kept creeping higher and higher, my hamstring was torn up.  It was Chicago all over again.  As I reached 20 I had mentally thrown in the towel, I came across at 2:00:02, 2 seconds slower than Chicago and I still had to crest Heartbreak Hill.  I was done, 2:45 would be a miracle at this point I thought.  My 21st mile was 6:48 and as I hit Brookline I thought of what I would tell people and what excuses I would use.  Hamstring was hurt, it was hot, and training went poorly.  Then all of a sudden the narrative changed.

We have all been there staring at a friend’s Marathon splits seeing them consistently stay even paced or even get faster dreading the moment that they hit the wall and their splits go up 20-30 seconds for the next 5k.  We know that usually at that point there is no coming back from that.  Rarely does someone have a bad 1-2 5k’s in a row and turn it around and with the mental state I was in on Monday I doubted I would buck the trend.  But in Brookline it all changed, I saw this pretty hilarious sign and got a pretty loud cheer as I passed through a group of Boston College kids and then in that moment I took my hands and tried to get the crowd to make some noise.  “Are you not entertained?”, I wish I shouted.  And instantly they all reacted to me and I felt a surge of energy.  I started dropping my pace from 6:40 down to 6:20, and then to sub 6:00.  Every time I felt down or about to let up I either did the Hulk Hogan hand to the ear or raised the roof and got tons of energy back.  I was doing what you were always told, use the crowd’s energy to get you to the finish line and it was working. Miles 16-21 were all 6:20 and above while miles 22-26 were all 6:20 and under with a sub 6 in there.  I had changed the Chicago narrative, instead of giving up and quitting and throwing in the towel I turned it around.  My second ever sub 2:40 marathon was within grasp, maybe even a sub 2:39.  I was passing people left and right from mile 21 on, no one passed me (first time ever) and I must have caught 50-70 people.  As I turned onto Boylston I was tired but I was so proud of myself.  I kept raising the roof and getting people to cheer.  I had entered the darkest of places, had given up but then I didn’t quit.  I think a lot of that toughness came from JFK and HAT.  Two days when I have suffered like never before but never quit once.  I crossed the line in 2:39:18 and watched as several runners who I have never beaten before come in after me.  I missed my pre-race goal Sub 2:37:53 and Top 150 but when I found out I was 171st place overall I knew that I had run tough on a day when lots of people suffered.  2:39 normally barely cracks top 500.

Splits (pace per mile) for the day
5k – 5:46
10k – 5:45
15k – 5:53
20k – 6:02
25k – 6:05
30k – 6:21
35k – 6:32
40k – 6:10

It’s a very different post-race recap I am writing today if I continued to let my pace climb upwards after 35k.

As I said earlier, I don’t blame the heat or my hamstring or any of that for not running a PR in Boston.  I wrote that I felt a little unprepared and I meant it and the reason I said it was because I did no Marathon Specific pace work. 


That Strava link is the perfect example of someone who never was able to get comfortable into a pace.  The entire day I just ran what I thought was comfortable at the time having no idea how long I could hold it, I didn’t care I was just running.  Specificity is preached as key for Marathons and looking back I know I could have used some on this day.  That said I am proud of myself and more than that I am proud of my Falls Road Teammates.  We had good and bad days all over the place but every single person was a champion and crossed the Boston Marathon finish line.  Some people suffered a lot, but so many teammates were out there looking out for each other.  Offering words of encouragement, and trying to get others to run with them or just making sure they were ok.  That is why in the end Falls Road Racing Team is more than a team but a family.  And while we were all running in Boston hundreds of our friends/family were home giving us time out of their lives to support us by watching our dots go across a map or writing encouraging messages to us on social media or via text.  I no longer ever feel like I am doing this running thing alone, and on top of that I had my sister, wife, mom and my baby girl all greet me at the finish line.  Despite not being able to really stand, there was no better feeling then holding my daughter after finishing the Boston Marathon.  She will remember none of this but I will never forget. 

Below as always are some fun pictures of my journey, I hope you enjoyed.