Thursday, July 2, 2009

Anger Pointed Inward

Sorry for the blog-slacking this week. I've fell into bit of a recession this week, crawling into my own personal little shell and keeping it all in. Anger. That's what I've had...pointed inward. Let me explain:

First off, the Commandments say "Thou shalt not hate." They don't say not to be angry. I don't hate...that's for sure. But to say I don't get angry or for anyone to say that would be far from the truth. I have been for all my life a couple of things for sure. For one, I'm a bit of a loner. I've never been a member of the popular "groups" in grade-school nor in any other "circles" over the years. I tend to keep to myself and prefer being alone most of the time vs. being in a group. To that end, I've never really had "best" friends...outside of Marjie, my wife. She was my best friend pre-marriage and continues to be my one-and-only best friend. The other thing I am is a bit of a perfectionist. This marries up well with my Type A personality. (a typical trait of an ultrarunner, by the far, the majority) Being a perfectionist, Type A, a planner, get the idea, I like to have a plan or goal, execute it to the best of my ability, achieve it, then move on to another goal but higher the next time. These are great attributes to have in the workplace. They are also great traits to have as a leader and an officer in the Navy. They are also great to have as an ultrarunner when most sedentary folk look at me and think "You ran how far?! Why on earth did you do that?!" Take my running history, for example: I ran my first marathon in 1997 at Steamtown in Pennsylvania. Through last year, I logged 23 of these marathons. Up until my introduction to trail running and the 50K ultramarathon (a short up-tick of 5 miles over the marathon), I didn't even know there was a race distance exceeding the marathon distance. I had no idea. I never ran with anyone who mentioned them, didn't see mention of them in Runner's World, nor did I stumble on them via any other source. Finding out about the ultras broke open a whole new world for me in regards to my passion for running and again, marrying up this with my Type A, perfectionist type, the game was essentially ON.

Fast forward a bit to finally achieving my overall, singular goal: crossing the finish line of a hundred mile race. I did it. Not to be arrogant, but not achieving goals has not been part of my life much through 2008. It was dropping out of the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run last year that dealt a huge blow to my God-given wiring. Still, my 5-year-old's words "Daddy, did you quit?" immediately after getting in the car at Mile 55 continue to burn in my brain. For me, that is such a powerful, nasty word. I thought about that moment many times while running through the Kettle Moraine State Forest back on June 6th and 7th and I believe it was one kernel of memory that helped keep me going.

I've also had to grow in a whole different direction professionally. Up until April of 2008, that Type A personality worked well in my career choices and made perfect sense in pursuing and getting my MBA. However, entering a job with Uncle Sam last April that is so overwhelmingly heavy in workload forced me to realize that never again (in this occupation) will my work be complete, my desk be cleared off, or will loose ends be tied up when I go home for the evening. Learning how to exist in that without losing my mind and all self-confidence has certainly been a mountain of a challenge. Today, I feel confident that I've learned how to cope with it and manage it well. I will say, though, that my Kettle Moraine race number bib hanging at my desk does offer a bit of motivation! It also helps that I have a job where I can directly impact the down-trodden on a daily basis and serve them with the excellence that I have always strived to achieve in everything I have done and continue to do. That is the intangible part of the job that is the most rewarding.

So here I sit on a Thursday morning, looking forward to a federal holiday tomorrow on July 3rd in observation of the July 4th holiday on Saturday, and I have a whoppin' 5 miles on my running log since last Saturday's 31 miles on the Burning River course. Yea, you read that right...5 miles. Now that you "get" me a little better, are you figuring out where that anger-turned-inward might be coming from? Jump inside my head for a second...scary, I know! I finished the Kettle on June 7th understandably sore and in need of recovery, that's for sure, but withOUT injury. I knew for sure that the recovery from such a feat would be more lengthy than running 30 miles or 50 miles on a weekend. I took time off...well, some time off. By week 2, I was back at it already and by the end of week 3, 55 miles were logged for the week including that 31 miles. I have preached endlessly to many, many runners that "Your body will put you in check if you don't treat it right." I didn't have an injury I was running through, but I DID do too much, too soon. I KNEW my recovery was ongoing but I was "unable" to move away from the allure of getting back on the trails and coming alive again out there. I just wanted to get back in the saddle again. Well, my body has let me know just how unhappy it is with me and for that, I am downright angry at myself. No one forced those early miles on me...I did it myself. Now, I am hyper-sensitive 24hrs a day to how my right knee is feeling. I have a soreness that comes and goes just below the kneecap and moves to the outside of it but does not travel all the way up my leg...only a few inches. It feels best while walking and moving around and feels the worst while sitting at my desk at work. I don't call it an injury, more of a nagging irritation that needs to be dealt with. I feel that if I had recovered more smartly, it wouldn't be an issue at all. I think that early 20-miler did it 13 days ago, in fact. Ever since that morning, I've felt "something."

Each evening, Marjie asks "You running in the morning?" so that she can plan her run/walk schedule in the morning before I head off to work. I know she's been surprised to hear "No," "No," "No" so many times this week. One flippin' day of running this week and it was a garbage run in which I was confronted by 2 dogs in the street on Mr. Moon's rolling route where I run all of the time...where I was shouting at the top of my lungs for them to back off and go home. Talk about anger and frustration pouring out at 5am on a quiet country hill...

Today is another day off to rest. Tomorrow, I am going to run the trails for an easy, therapeutic 10 miles of softness. I am praying for nothing but goodness to come out of that run. The way I see it is this: I have 4 weeks until Burning River. I trained for months for the Kettle and running 100 miles three weeks ago was one heck of a "training run" for Burning River so I feel that I am trained well. However, I must get to the starting line at Squire's Castle on August 1st feeling healthy and injury-free if I am to cover the 100 miles of my only did-not-finish event of my life. That goal-setting-nature of mine has to conquer this event so that I can move the next goal. The bar is not set higher right now...more at a stand-still until business is taken care of with the task at hand. I do fear losing fitness right now. I read an article in Trail Runner yesterday about losing fitness in down-times so that is a fear of mine. 4 weeks is still a long time so I don't want to lose so much of what I've worked so hard for.

For now, I am going to work on turning that anger into something positive and keep my head up. I really need a good trail run tomorrow.

Happy Trails, everyone!


Michael Patton said...

Stick with it man. I had the EXACT same thing going on with my knees 6 months ago. Your explanation was spot on with the pain I had. I did some PT to get it straightened out, I'd be happy to share some exercises with you that should help. Feel free to email me at and I'll send them over and explain what caused my "injury"...could help you out in the long run.

Carol Z said...

Kicking yourself in the hind end will only aggravate your knee. Be careful of 'need' and 'want' there in the last sentence Mr Type A.

Melis said...

Chill out! You know that you are physically trained for that. The most important thing you need to work on is psychological. Stay positive. It's just a run :)

Dale L said...


I'm right there with you. 2 weeks ago I started some speed work and was doing some 800m repeats when my left hamstring seized and knottted up. Almost like a bad cramp. Took a couple days off and then eased back into it. Last Sat I went 22 mi and felt pretty good so Tuesday I tried to do some hill repeats and guess what - TWANG again!! Stupid!! Kicking myself too.

Anonymous said...

Nick, I hate to say it, but you haven't done anything stupid. You need to work out the soreness that is there from Kettle. You can't do that unless you find out where it is. I am fairly certain based on what you describe that you need to stretch your piriformis on your right side -- a lot! Tennis ball massaging is also a good idea. Every day, as often as you can, stretch that piriformis. It is natural for you to get soreness there with lots of miles, and you'll need to get used to always paying attention. This is NOT a bad thing to be uncomfortable right now, you've got time to work it out. Better now than partway into BR. I think Michael said he has exercises for you. You can also find piriformis stretches online.


kron said...


One other commandment says "do not have false gods." Do not let running be your god. We (I) sometimes get wrapped up in this ruinning thing to the point I am cranky and irritated, I have had a stress fracture and a torn abdominal because of "Type A-itis". Run because it's fun! And for goodness sake keep blogging- it goes well with my morning cup of coffee

runningtherace fan said...

I hate to hear that you are feeling like this. You will feel better and it will all work out just fine! I know it will because YOU will make sure of it. Keep taking care of yourself!

Nick Billock said...

Mike: thanks! I e-mailed you.
My "mentor" Carol from work: I NEED and WANT to run!! Plus, I "knee"d a good kick in the rear every now and then!
Melis: can't I get upset? Aren't I human? But yea, I know I'm trained well and I know about the head-game. I'd say my biggest fear is losing too much fitness between now and August 1st.
Dale: you've done so much lately and have made huge leaps and bounds in your physical self and endurance are doing awesome! I'm excited to see what you do at Akron this year.
Jenny: as always, I'm grateful for your comments. I started using "The Stick" last night and into today and it seems to really be working. I'm going to try and find a small ball around the house tonight. I think my daughter has a "soft" baseball that we play catch with that I could use. Thanks! See you in 4 weeks! (FYI: I heard that the Kettle men's winner is coming to BR)
kron: I'm sure you know since you've been reading for awhile that running is no god to me. It IS important and is ranked in my 'priority' list (somewhere around #5 or 6 on the list) but it does not rule my life. However, even though I'm not injured like some fellow runners who are down for the count right now, it has grated on me...I'm just being honest. As for blogging, I've considered many, many times to shut this blog down but then another post just "pops" in my head!
RTRSBM fan: thanks so much for your encouragement! I do appreciate it!