Recoiling The Engine

AJW writes about his planned break from ultrarunning in 2015.

By on January 23, 2015 | Comments

AJWs TaproomI made a big decision this week. I will not do any ultramarathon racing in 2015.

For some people, this may not be a big deal. But, for me, it represents a step in a new and I hope more mature direction.

I ran 10 ultras in 2014. That was probably two or three too many. By the beginning of December, my body was beaten down and my will to train was low. Nonetheless, I plugged away and finished ultra number 10 in mid-December. About a week after that, once the initial pain of recovery subsided, an old injury reared its head. The same deep hamstring strain that I suffered through in the fall of 2013 had fired up again. It was time to shut things down for awhile.

Over the Christmas holiday, I began to reboot but something inside me continued to gnaw. Maybe I needed more than just the standard six-week recovery? Maybe I needed a real break?

You see, I have known something was not quite right for about a year. While I know that a runner’s deterioration into his late forties is a real thing, I feel like my deterioration has been more abrupt and more severe than most others in my age and stage of life. I began to wonder if it was something more than just the inevitable wear and tear of 3,000 miles a year for 12 years that was bringing me down. Maybe there was something deeper? Something more holistic?

I began seeing a new physical therapist in early January. He stretched me physically and mentally, and it began to sink in that I really needed to invest fully in total recovery. I needed a psychic break to refresh and renew. I needed to recoil my engine.

Of course, this is hard. Very hard. Coming to grips with aging and the inevitable slowing process messes with my mind and my body. Questions and doubts emerge. The process of acceptance takes work. Rejecting the appeal of denial is a real challenge. Perhaps more than hard training, hard recovery takes deep listening. I am committed to that now.

So, what does this all mean in real terms?

Well, first I contacted the race directors of Black Canyon 100k, Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, and Bighorn 100, and told them I would not be coming this year.

Mostly, I am swimming, cycling, and hiking. I am receiving physical therapy twice a week. I am working to increase my flexibility and develop more core strength. (I basically have none of either.) My years of running and running only are over. In order to run into my sixties, I need to take control and diversify. Like racing, that will require patience, focus, and persistence. My race for this year is a race to recover. That’s it. I’ll report here from time to time.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week is a great recovery drink. In keeping with the theme of this week’s column, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Nooner Pilsner is a great choice for folks wanting the original session beer in a crisp, hoppy, classic package. It’s the kind of beer that has me dreaming of summer!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you come to grips with a major issue affecting your running, one that mandated a very long recovery like AJW is experiencing? If so, can you describe what that was and what your recovery involved?
  • When and how did you realize that being able to do the running you love also involves cross training, strength training, sometimes physical therapy, and more?
  • Do you have any recommendations on ways that AJW can get through this time emotionally and psychologically?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.