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Why do I run?

August 18, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m going to jump into the blogosphere feet first!  I’m pretty active on Twitter and Facebook, but they are not the forums to get deep into any kind of discussions or stories.  I will be using this blog partly as a running/life diary for myself but also for people who would like to follow along on my quest to be the best runner I can.

The saying is “walk before you run”, but I actually did the opposite, my first steps were running across the living room from one couch to the other (probably just to keep my balance and not fall on my face), but it set the stage for the rest of my years.  My dad was a runner in high school and college, coached track and cross country when I was little, and continued to run and compete regularly until the mid 90’s when he tore his ACL.  So needless to say running was always present growing up.  I ran local road races from the time I was 7 years old.  I was a top runner for my team at Ann Arbor Huron High School with PRs of 4:28 mile, 9:44 2 mile, 16:04 5k.  I then went on to run for the University of Michigan Cross Country team and was part of the 1993 Big Ten Championship team.  Unfortunately annual stress fractures prevented me from running track there and were a major factor in my decision to not compete during my senior year.

High School, 1992

High School, 1992

I graduated from Michigan Business School in 1996 and continued to c0mpete in local road races to stay in shape.  In 1998 I ruptured my left achilles tendon playing basketball, walked around on it for 4 weeks after a misdiagnosis (the doctor said it was a muscle contusion and reccomended ice and compression, nice).  After no improvement I went back and saw another doctor who couldn’t believe I’d been walking around for so long with a torn achilles.  So, that week I had surgery and the rehab began.  Thankfully I had great (although expensive) insurance through the University and was able to get extensive rehab on it.  Ultrasound, massage, ice bath, exercises etc.  Almost as good as new.

UM Cross Country 1993

UM Cross Country 1993

I got back into pretty good shape after the rehab and started racing again, but got injured yet again with another stress fracture in my shin.  Frustrated I quit running altogether in the year 2000.  Since I didn’t replace running with anything active my weight balooned up to about 220 lbs!  Now, in high school I weighed between 165-175, college I added some muscle but was still around 180 max, so 220 was crazy.  I was not happy, so, in 2002 I started lifting weights 3 times a week and I bought a bike to go to and from work.  I was living on Hilton Head Island at the time and the weather made it easy to keep this up year round, I even started getting some runs in, but only about 2-3 miles and it hurt.  In Oct ’02 a friend and I decided it was time to move on from HHI, so we ventured to Philly.

I continued lifting but also felt the urge to keep running, I love running and missed it.  There is nothing harder then getting BACK into shape.  I was struggling to run 3 miles, but I knew it was a necessary evil to get back to where I could compete again, so I set my sights on a race.  I love to compete so setting that goal made it much easier to get out there and put in the work.  The race was the 2002 Rothman 8k.  It is the ‘side race’ to the Philly Marathon in late November.  I got my running form back and was able to muscle thru to a 32:36 time.  Not bad, I felt.

I was re-hooked.  I love the race day atmosphere and the feeling of satisfaction after completing a race.  A race is a concrete snapshot of what you could do on that given day.  I am extremely competitive and often hardheaded, which is probably the reason for repeated injuries, not knowing when to listen to my body.  I was back into running and I needed to get better.  I wanted that taste of victory again.  I had a streak in high school of winning 6  cross country races in a row.  That is a great feeling, to know, on that given day, no one was better.  I thirsted for that feeling again and needed to find a way to get it back.  That thirst led me to the Philadelphia Track Club.

They were serious runners and on the first long run I did with them in Manyunk I got dropped like a bad habit.  It was a 13 mile loop and by 8 miles I was sucking wind, they just kept getting faster and faster!  We started out at a leisurely 8 min pace but by the end the leaders were sub 6.  Four of the guys were training to qualify for the 2004 Olympic trials in the marathon.  I kept with it, running every Tuesday with them on the U Penn track and again with them on the weekend.  I got better and faster and lighter, now down to about 190lbs.

In the Nov, 2003 Rothman 8k, I took a full 5 minutes off my time from the year before, clocking a 27:36 which is 5:33/mile pace, race day weight was 180.

2004 brought good and bad.  I won my first race in the comeback.  On Oct 2nd, 2004 I led a local 8k wire to wire and won it! With a time of 27:57, it felt amazing.  I was running 30-35 miles a week but I was also battling nagging injuries.  Knee pain and hip soreness kept me from getting consistent with speed work or long runs.  I didn’t know why they were hurting on such low mileage but looking back, my IT bands were very tight and were pulling my legs out of normal alignment.

I won another race later in October, a local 5k in 16:59, I huge accomplishment and a goal I had set to break 17 minutes again but hadn’t (although my 3 mile split in Rothman was 16:17)  It felt great, I want to make an attempt to lower my all-time PR’s and not have high school be the fastest I ever was, so breaking 17 was a start toward 16:04.

Due to nagging ailments my mileage began slipping into the high 20’s per week and the weight began to creep up to the high 180’s, 187, 188.  Rothman 8k in ’04 was disappointing, I ran decent, 28:19, but had higher expectations.  I expected to improve every year and it didn’t happen.  The week following Rothman I took off, no running.

2005

2006–moved to NYC

2007–Pulled my hamstring 😦   A new injury!  And just as un-fun as the usual. took even longer to recover from.  It happened just a couple weeks after I ran my best Half Marathon of my young long distance career.  I ran 1:23 at the NYC Half at the end of July, tough course, very pleased with it.  The problem ensued after that.  For some reason, I wanted to race every weekend!  I love racing, and the races are so frequent and accessible in NY, so I did them all.  I justified it by telling myself they were my speed workouts.  But, after the Half, I ran the NY Mets 5k, did well, no problems.  Two day later on an easy training run as I was going down a hill, PING, my hamstring tightened up like a cramp, and I pulled up.  After walking 2 miles back to my apartment, it felt OK, but if I took a full stride I felt it pulling.  It took forever to heal, I even tried to race on it in mid August in the NYRR Club Championships, but only made it about 400 meters and dropped out.  The first race I have ever dropped out of.  Very discouraging situation to go through.

One positive that came out of this injury was my discovery of the magic of deep tissue massage.  I started getting weekly massage concentrating mainly in legs, specifically hamstrings and calves, with a little IT band and back.  Kind of pricey though, about $80 per session.  I really had ALOT of trigger points and scar tissue from years of training and no maintenance and minimal stretching.  Granted, distance runners are usually not the most flexible individuals.

I took the winter easy and started to ease back into it when the Early spring came.

2008–ran my 1st marathon at NYC 3:25…it wasn’t pretty.  My Dad came out from California to watch, so that was really cool.  The training leading up to the marathon was going OK, I didn’t build up enough mileage to justify my long runs.  My longest run of 18 really took a lot out of me and caused some damage to my usual stress fracture spot on my tibia.  I’m realizing now that stress fractures don’t just come from over training on a weekly basis, but also by running when muscles are fatigued.  Extremely fatigued muscles can no longer absorb the shock of each step, thus the bone and joints absorb the shock directly.  So, when I felt this pain coming on after the 18 miler in late Sept, I pulled back my training to avoid a full blown stress fracture.  Very little running over the next 4.5 weeks, granted the last 2 were meant to be a taper anyway, but my confidence level and fitness level was not where I would have liked it.  My weaknesses were exposed on race day AND to compound my lack of fitness I made the rookie mistake of going out too fast.  I was so excited to be running at all, I went out at 6:40 pace for the first 10k and hit the wall hard around 18 (my longest run, coincidence, I think not), started to cramp everywhere in my legs, and really had to shorten my stride.  Had to stop every mile from there on in to stretch out.  So I ended up running 9 minute miles for the last 6 miles, but I finished and learned a lot.

To recover from my almost stress fracture, I took about 6 weeks off, but was still doing some workouts at the gym, started back into training around Christmas time.

2009–Made a goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon in 2010, which requires me to run 3:15 or faster at another marathon, so I will do that at NYC marathon in November.  My training is going much better than in 08 and I have been able to get more long runs in already and as I write this it is Aug. 18th.  Just completed my first 40 mile week in a long time.  I have long runs of 13, 14, 16, 14, and 13 already.  I have implemented several in my daily routine that are helping me;  I have a Exogen Bone Healer machine which is an ultrasound machine that heals bones that have broken or been stress fractured about 25% faster than without, so I used that in 08, now I use it for prevention.  It basically promotes blood flow to “hot spots”.  I have a variety of muscle manipulators like The Stick (rolling stick for muscles), foam roller, and tp therepy massage balls and roller (very effective).  I am also closely following the Jack Daniels book to marathon training.

Running is often times a spiritual thing for me.  I think that “runner’s high” and “in the zone” is actually a spiritual experience.  I don’t want to get religious here, but this is an important aspect to why I run and continue to seek running as an outlet.  There is something about running fast on a beautiful fall day with leaves turning, crisp air, in nature.  And to run almost unconscious like you will never tire, just floating, almost surreal.  It is a beautiful, true and good thing.  A feeling that really can’t be explained, only experienced and it is this feeling that keeps me running, searching for it again.

The only thing holding me back now is my weight had gotten up to 208 over the winter, I have it down to 194 and have a goal weight of 180 by marathon on November 1st….(as of 10/21, down to 189)

So, that’s a little intro to me, and my running thus far.  This blog will be about a variety of topic mostly centered around running and training and stories from my experience throughout my running career.  I hope you enjoy it and all comments are appreciated.

Chad Tibbetts

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