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.