I have been a runner for quite some time. I’ve run and finished a number of marathons and ultras when I lived in California. I did triathlon for a year also. Then I moved to Colorado – new town, new job, higher altitude and I stopped running for over a year. As I grew closer to my 40th birthday, I decided I wanted to use that milestone as motivation to get back in shape and start running again. My goal was to run 40 miles on my 40th birthday.
While I’ve had a history of successfully completing races, I’ve also had a history of injury. Even though I have had several coaches and done extensive strength training and my running have taken their toll throughout the years.
I found Dr. Grove Higgins and Pat Marques at Human Performance and Rehabilitation through a referral from a friend. Immediately, I could tell something was different. Both of them quickly embraced my goal, but instead of immediately starting running and strength workouts, we first worked at overhauling my running form and rehabbing a neck and an Achilles tendon issue. Perhaps the rehab was the most unexpected. Where in the past, most of my injury recovery was based on the RICE protocol, Grove and Pat were using improved movement to heal my injury and prevent recurrences. I was able to make progress while injured!
When we moved to strength training, it was also different than anything else I’d ever experienced. I learned that I had vision and balance deficits that were not only affecting my running but were limiting my training capacity. After intense portions of a workout, we did vision/balance drills that dropped my heart and breathing rate and let me do more work. The same drills became part of my running warmup. I even did them mid-run to restore energy and form. We also spend less time on traditional weight room exercises and more on training loaded movements that were specific to my running goal. And while we did those workouts, we spent a lot of time focused on posture, form and integrated breathing, so that it would carry over to my running.
I have to take a brief aside here. Some months after my 40th, I went back to California and worked out with my old strength coach. We were doing back squats with 135lbs. He commented that my breathing was “weird” because I wasn’t bracing with my breath as he’d taught me, but was instead breathing in sync with my movement, exhaling on the way down as my lungs compressed and inhaling as I returned upright. Despite his concerns and to his amazement, I knocked out 65 reps. His only comment then was that I wouldn’t be able to move the next day. Actually, I felt fine. He was a little upset that the student now knew more than the teacher.
Back to my goal. Leading up to the run I was able to be conservative in my mileage. We were trying to balance injury risk with appropriate preparation. One mental asset I was able to leverage was that I had done the distance before, not recently, but I had the experience. So I never did a training run over 20 miles and many were considerably shorter. This is much less mileage then I had done in training for my ultras. However, I felt well prepared and confident.
On my birthday, the plan was to run 16, two-and-a-half mile laps around Washington Park in Denver. I had a number of friends there to run with me and support me and plenty of hydration and nutrition available. I’d also made the commitment to myself to fix issues as they popped up during the run and not let them turn into something more serious. I would stop, walk, do mobility or sensory drills as needed so that I could get back to enjoying my run. This proved to be a lifesaver a couple of times. At mile 25 I started to have sciatic nerve pain. I stopped, did some mobility work and nerve mobilizations and was able to continue without issue. At mile 30, I really felt like I wanted to quit. I made an adjustment to my nutrition and sent some of the people who were running with me ahead. By changing my body chemistry and reducing some of the well-meaning sensory input from my friends, I was actually able to cruise the last 10 miles with some of my best splits of the day, even though I really felt spend just before that.
Afterward, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and had enormous gratitude to Pat and Grove. Pat participated in the run and was a huge source of knowledge and accountability throughout my training. The next day I felt surprisingly good and shared a video of me doing “ass to ankles” air squats with Pat.
- I was an experienced athlete with good coaching, and, yet, I’d never experienced training and results like those made available to me by Pat and Grove.
- I was amazed at how much of a difference improving my senses, movement, posture and breathing made to my ability to train and perform
- I loved being able to fix problems as they came up. I lost no training days because we were able to work through and around any issues I had. And, on the run, being able to correct problems as they came up made a strong finish possible.
- I suffered less and enjoyed the run more than similar runs in the past. I felt great in the days afterward and had less joint pain and muscle soreness than I would have imagined.
Jerry McCauley II