Saturday, January 30, 2016

One final attempt - Rio 2016

The year 2016 is finally here, the year that so many athletes have been patiently training for. It has been no different for me. Since the 2012 Olympics, I have set my eyes on returning to the Olympics and racing the marathon there. However, the "Road to Rio" hasn't been an easy road. The marathon not only requires a tremendous amount of work, but also a lot of planning, preparation, execution and a little luck. My campaign to getting back to the Olympics started in May of 2013 at thr Mass General Hospital when I went into surgery to remove a mass in my knee that had been bothering me since my first marathon in 2011. The surgery went well, but the recovery from it took many twists and turns along the way. There were some good days but some very bad days that made me question if I'd ever return to running a marathon again. I remember doing a long run with occasional training friends Eric Ashe and Brian Harvey and mentioning that I was at ease with never running a marathon again - the scar tissue in my knee still bothered me. Every run felt as if I was carrying a brick in my knee. It got to the point when I simply stopped running and only ran 5 miles here and there to maintain fitness. I almost convinced myself that my career as a marathoner was over.

Then came the 2014 Lusophone Games. I was invited to represent Cape Verde at the Lusophone Games in India. The Luso Games were scheduled for November of 2013, and I had barely done any workouts. I almost called the team manager to tell him that I didn't feel comfortable going. In addition, I was in the process of buying a home and running just wasn't a priority for me at the time. Then all of the sudden something happened that would change my outlook for the Luso Games. Due to construction of the facilities, the Luso Games were postponed to January 2014. I remember reading it in the news and then confirming with the team managers. I thought to myself that this was a sign from God and that I'd been given a second chance to get back in shape. I started plugging in the miles, doing strengthening for my legs and attempting a few low key workouts. I got on the plane to India and didn't feel nearly fit but ready enough to "fake" myself in the 5000m race with other contenders. Knowing that this could be my last competitive race, I told myself that I would give it all I had. In the end, to make a long story short, I ended up winning a Gold medal for Cape Verde in India after being dropped in the race multiple times to come back in the home stretch. As cliche as it may sound, the race transformed my running up to today. I was ready to give up running and now I'd become the first Cape Verdean to ever win a golf medal in Athletics at the Luso Games. it was a historic day for Cape Verde!

Winning GOLD in the 5000m at 2014 Lusophone Games

After the Luso Games, reality struck again as I was physically  back to square one in Lowell with tightness around the knee area that would not allow me to have full range of motion in my right leg. During that same period, the Cape Verdean  running community was extremely proud of my accomplishment in India. Some started to ask questions whether or not I would try to make it to Rio. During this time, I asked for advice from so many people on how to try to fix some of the the scar tissue that I was surrounding my knee. After each hard race, the scar tissue felt worse to the point when  I couldn't even jog. Coach Gardner recommended me to see one of the top chiropractors in the area, Dr. Donovan, who has treated and fixed injuries of so many other athletes on the UMass Lowell team.I started to work with Dr."John"  Donovan and the next thing I knew, I was on the starting line of the 2014 Boston Marathon. With limited training done, I would go on to finish in 21st place wit ha time of 2:19:05. I was pretty happy as I had run a very smart race.

                 Taking the final turn onto Boylston Street in the 2014 Boston Marathon

After surprising myself in Boston, I turned my attention to qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. My first big test came at the 2014 Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis, MN. I had done a lot of HARD training, miles upon miles, workouts after workouts, late nights and early mornings. I put myself through so many mental and physical tests. The result: every workout I had done had gone significantly better than Boston 2014. I was so excited and felt ready. Unfortunately, disaster however struct again. This time on the 17th mile when all of the sudden my left hamstring ripped apart. I was on pace for 2:16, which would've been a big improvement for me. To say that I was disappointing was an understatement.

2014 Twin Cities - Bib # 13 is not always a Lucky number

Fast forwarding to Spring of 2015 - after recovering from the hamstring injury, I again made another big jump in fitness - I felt even in better shape than I was at the 2014 Twin Cities Marathon. I completed workouts such as this one here and felt like I was far in the best shape of my entire running career. Again, unfortunately things fell apart again right before the 2015 Boston Marathon. On a cold March morning ,I re-injured my left hamstring at the Foxboro 10 Mile Road Race. This was about 5 weeks out from the 2015 Boston Marathon. Miraculously, through the use of graston and ART, Dr. "John" Donovan, helped me get back to running. I was OK to head to the start line of 2015 Boston Marathon but had lost significant fitness that I had build over the past months. I went into Boston not feeling right. I was upset due to the loss of so much (new) fitness but also felt somehow happy to be there because I didn't think I deserved to be there with all the injury I had. I had gone to see Dr. Donovan so he could confirm my withdrawal from Boston. Instead, he fixed me up and sent me back to racing. I ran Boston and finished in 2:21 for 24th place in what was not very ideal weather (rain, head wind)..

 2015 Boston Marathon - Finishing in 24th place in the wind/rain 

After the 2015 Boston Marathon, it was a very long road back to running. The race was physically very challenging on my body on top of the monster training cycle I had completed to get there. I suffered additional setbacks that prolonged my recovery and return to running: excruciating shin pain, torn quad, torn calf on top of the re-occurring hamstring injury. I took time off, made many visits to see Dr. Donovan and my massage therapist, Larry " the Butcher" Medolo. I had planned to run the 2015 Cal Intl Marathon in December but ran out of time because I was constantly fighting and/or coming back from injuries. I simply didn't have enough training time under my belt. At last, I hired a nutritionist, Steve Diorio. With the help of Steve, I made a few adjustments in my diet to see if it'd would reduce my injuries. On Thanksgiving Day, results started to show as I tied my own 5 mile PR, running 23:52 at the Slattery Turkey Trot in Fitchburg. During this time I was 100% healthy for the first time in almost 2 years! I started doing a lot of workouts: fartleks, tempos, hills, fast finished - anything that I could challenge myself into. I targeted the 2016 Jacksonville Half Marathon where I wanted to run well. However, luck again wasn't on my side. In the rain and cold, I developed a very stiff shin muscle pain that caused me to alter my stride at mile 1. Then at mile 2, my hamstring flared up as I felt it ripping apart. I was mentally done. I wanted to drop out at the 5k mark but kept telling myself that I had traveled too far to do so. Cardiovascular fitness felt great but my mechanics were off. I couldn't extend my stride, which was very frustrating! I finished in 1:06:27, which was about 2 minutes away from my goal (on a healthy leg). I took a few days off to let the injury heal and then started training again. This now leads me to the following blog again - week 1 as I make my final attempt to qualifying for the Rio Olympics. 

Due to popular demand from some of the readers of this blog (now at 96,097 views since 2005), I plan to bring back detailed marathon day-to-day training, the struggles and any small triumphs I might have along the way to training to qualify for the Olympics. By July 11, 2016, I must run a time of 2:19:00 in order to get the B Standard for the Olympics. This is it! You can also follow my training on strava .  

Week 1  (Jan 11- Jan 17, 2016)

Mon Jan 11
AM 10 miles (60)
PM 6 miles (44)

Tue Jan 12
AM 10 miles w/ 5 x Christian Hills (1:06)
PM 5 miles (36)

Wed Jan 13
AM 8 miles (54) in packed snow
PM 7 miles (49)

Thu Jan 14
AM 10 miles (60)
PM 5 miles (36)

Fri Jan 15
AM 5 miles (29)
PM 12 miles (1:23)

Sat Jan 16
AM 13 miles (1:24)
PM 5 miles (36)

Sun Jan 17
AM 21 miles (2:18)
PM 5 miles (36)

Summary: 122 miles, 1 hill workout, 1 good long run

Week 2 (Jan 18-Jan 24, 2016)

Mon Jan 18
AM 13 miles (1:25)
PM 5 miles (36)

Tue Jan 19
AM 11 miles w/ 5x Christian Hill (1:15)
PM 5 miles (36)

Wed Jan 20
AM 12 miles (1:11)
PM 5 miles (36)

Thu Jan 21
AM 12 miles (1:13)
PM 6 miles (43)

Fri Jan 22AM 10 miles
PM off

Sat Jan 23
AM 13 miles (1:22)
PM 6 miles (43)

Sun Jan 24
AM 22 miles (2:20)
PM 5 miles (36)

Summary: 125 miles, 1 hill workout, good long run.