Sun, Nov 15/98
Marathon # 132 – Country # 9
A few weeks after the completion of the tests at the Baylor Sports Clinic in Dallas I met with my team of doctors to learn the results of their analysis and recommendations.
First the good news. The tests indicated that my health and fitness were in the top 0.1% of athletes in my age group! My fitness and body age were equivalent to that of a male athlete aged 35 years old! (I was approaching my 55th birthday!)
Then the bad news. I was “burned out”!
What the Hell does that mean? Am I a piece of toast? Am I a piece of ‘burnt’ toast? They explained that because I was truly a ‘Maddog’ I had been overtraining and over-racing my body for the past few years and probably longer. I had been pushing my body beyond its limits too long and it was fighting for survival! The only way it could do this was to ‘shut down’ whenever I continued to ignore its cries and push it beyond its limits. It did this by literally shutting down – refusing to run or move. They described the symptoms and resulting actions that I had been suffering for the past year. In the early stages of the problem and symptoms whenever I suffered fatigue Maddog would blame it on lack of training and hard work and train harder. This became a vicious and predictable cycle. When my body started complaining I refused to listen to it and instead pushed it harder. After all exercise and more running will make my body stronger? Eventually something had to give or break. Usually these foolish actions resulted in an injury that would cause me to rest for months during which time the body could recover. But with no major injuries during the past few years I had essentially caused my body to break down!
What was the solution?
COMPLETE rest – NO running and NO exercise for one month! The team explained that if I were a normal person – a mere mortal – they would have allowed light exercise such as swimming and biking. However it was obvious that I was a ‘Maddog’ and if permitted to do those exercises I would probably swim 5 miles and bike 50 miles each day. Thus – NO exercise for one month! At the end of the month I MUST hire a professional coach to develop and supervise a ‘sensible’ training program that would slowly build up mileage and speed and include lots of ‘mandatory’ rest!
I understood what the team was telling me – but I did not believe it! I could not accept it! I had been training and racing like this for years. I had friends/competitors who trained and raced harder than me and they weren’t ‘burned out’. I could not accept these results and recommendations!
Instead I registered for another marathon. The marathon would be in a few weeks in Cozumel, Mexico.
So I booked a one-week vacation/marathon in Cozumel. Cozumel is an island in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, opposite Playa del Carmen. That means that it is HOT and humid.
The Sports Manager and I arrived a few days before the race to acclimate. My good friend Edson, from NYC, joined us for the race. Sun was ‘M’-day. It was HOT and humid as expected and the course was flat and fast. But not Maddog! The race and my performance were a disaster. I passed mile 5 in 47:47 and a split of 9:26/mile. I reached the Half in 2:01:48 and a split of 9:24. I knew that the 2nd Half would be much slower and I also knew that the Baylor medical team were right! I was ‘burned out’!
By the time I struggled across the finish line I had accepted the truth as told by my medical team and vowed that I would follow their advice and recommendations. I started my 30 days of REST the second I crossed the finish line.
I finished the remainder of our vacation and the year on ‘Rest’ sabbatical and contemplating what impact this terrible and significant prognosis and event would have on Maddog’s running life and indeed on the rest of my life. Little did I realize that there would be two even-more significant and important life-changing events arise early in the coming New Year?
What were those events? They were significant enough to warrant their own report – and probably a chapter in Maddog’s book.