March 13, 2009 - After thoughtful consideration in the closing months of 2008, the winter of '08-'09 was set aside as a period of respite. A two-year-old bone bruise (bone edema) to my left heel and undiagnosed cartilege damage on the inside of my right knee needed some time to heal. Besides, after a year of hard work around the house and long races, some time off seemed like an appropriate prescription. So, after walking off the Javelina course in the Arizona desert on November 15, until the end of February, three-and-a-half months were set aside to balance body and soul.

My doctor asked how I dealt with not running at all; how I dealt with the lack of aerobic exercise; the lack of endorphin stimulation. In the past, taking time off from running was mentally tough. You are always anxious to get back to running when interupted by an injury, and usually try to come back too soon, aggrevating the injury or extending its recovery time. But once the decision was made to take off the winter for rest, my mind accepted my choice as part of the bigger training picture. While my body healed I experienced no anxiety.

While my running shoes got a much deserved rest, my body did not take a vacation. Through the winter I worked to restore balance to a lot of muscle groups that get out of whack from using running as my exclusive exercise. I disciplined myself nearly every day to do floor exercises using videos of Gilad as my guide. Sessions were only a half hour in length, but were quite effective over the winter in building core and hamstring strength in particular. A lot of squats and crunches this winter brought me into spring with a greater strength of balance that I could not remember since my youth. One doesn't realize how out of shape you get from not using a more comprehensive exercise routine.

At the beginning of February, I ran a few times on the treadmill and entered the 4 mile race on Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney to gauge my overall condition. Despite all the rest I could still handily manage an 8-minutes-per-mile pace up the steep hill on Woodland Avenue to Gobbler's Knob and back around. I ran a couple more times in February, but bided my time until the end of the month to begin running in earnest, no holds barred, in preparation for my first competitive event - a 50-miler at the end of March in Virginia.

The winter's reprieve did me good. My heel was improved by two-thirds and the knee seemed 95% better after running a hundred miles on trails and roads to break back into a routine. Bone edema takes months to heal, so another break next winter is already in order to continue its improvement. The benefits of the floor exercises performed were evident immediately in terms of strength and balance in the early stages of training. From my early days of running I recall how quality runners in Minnesota would take off running for the entire winter, and would always be among the most competitive after accelerated training in the spring following their rest. I am hoping for the same.

At my stage of life it is not necessary to "train" all year around. I run slower than I did when younger, so it is not difficult to return to my slower pace and build endurance after a long layoff. With age it is speed that injures, so I stay away from running at quicker tempos mostly. Given the wintery conditions where I live and a weakened immune system that results from repeated mild hypothermia and breathing in cold, damp air, I'd rather take a hiatus than repeatedly fight off winter infections. Should Annie and I retreat to Florida as we did one winter a few years ago, then I would continue to run and race during the winter. As long as we live in Pennsylvania, I will probably continue to take a winter break, after the success realized this past winter.

This spring my running varies from last fall in one major regard. Last year I used a regime of running no more than seven miles two or three times a week to prepare for 100-mile events. This year I still do 7 to 10 miles two or three times per week, but I fill in the alternate days with 12 to 17 mile road or trail runs. The extra running should have a positive training effect on how I feel during the latter half of the ultras I do this spring. Hoping!!!!

The other change in my spring training from last year is a continuation of my practice this past winter of soaking in my hot tub for half an hour every day after exercising. I find the warm soak of between 98 and 102 degrees not only warms the muscles for accelerated disposal of metabolic waste products, but gives me pause after a run to review how I feel physically and set mini-goals for training. Since temperatures during some early runs are still in the teens, there is always a bit of mild hypothermia associated. Taking a few laps in the hot tub gets rid of any coldness in my bones, again enabling me to recover faster. I have always loved a good soak, and now feel its integration into my daily routine enhances my overhealth health, and hopefully performance. Once the weather heats up, I'll probably give my portable hot tub a summer break and bring it out again once it gets cold.

Larry Creveling
2003 Hops Marathon
Tampa, Florida