Mike Davi, 37, is a management consultant in Richmond, VA, married to Julie Davi. They have two daughters, Ainslee (10) and Lauren (7). Mike has run 40 marathons. He eagerly anticipates his 4th summer at Craftsbury in 2011. The following recounts his journey from summer injuries to a marathon PR at the 2010 California International Marathon.
After I broke 3 hours at the 2009 Chicago Marathon, I had a bit of a mental let down. I had been reaching for that goal for a long time and once I had cracked the 3 hour barrier, it was like I had nothing else to really drive me. Add in bad weather in Richmond during the winter of '09-10, and my training was not what it should have been.
My results reflected the poor training. I didn't have a great race at Boston this past spring, and I knew I wouldn't going in. But the bad Boston race motivated me. I didn't like that I performed so poorly. So in May, I started to rally friends around running the California International Marathon (CIM) in December. It's a point to point course and one of the fastest races in the country. With eight of us planning to run, including Holly Baker (a fellow Craftsbury runner whom I also coach) plus Craftsbury coaches Brett Ely and Eric Blake, I knew I had a good goal race planned for 2010.
In early June, I experienced my first-ever real running injury. I ran a 4-mile race, which went pretty well. Two days later I was out on an easy 12 mile run and my left hamstring was tight. By mile 6, it completely grabbed and I was done. I took some time to let it heal but apparently not enough. Worse still, I started to experience a groin issue.
I came to Craftsbury in early July unable to run at all. That was depressing. Coach Brett was also injured and she kept me motivated by getting my butt in the lake and doing aqua running workouts. I biked a lot and ended up doing several 30+ mile rides on a mountain bike. I hardly ran for the rest of the summer. I tried several times but my groin was really giving me fits. I aqua jogged, I used the elliptical, but from early June until the first week in September I may have logged 60 miles, tops. It was a lost summer for running.
In early September, I went to my sports doctor, but she didn't have a clear diagnosis for me. She ordered a pelvic MRI, thinking I could either have a stress fracture, torn labrum, hernia, avascular necrosis of the hip (very unlikely) or some other issue. In about a week from the doctor's visit, I was scheduled to go to New Hampshire for the Reach the Beach Relay. I decided that I might as well try to run a bit. My rationale was that if I was seriously injured, I would have to stop running for several months anyway, so I had little to lose. I went out for an 8-mile run, and while I still felt my groin, I was able to get through the run.
Given the tentatively positive results of the run, I ended up canceling the MRI and went to see a hernia specialist. He immediately told me that no hernia was present. What he did next is what really saved me: he suggested that I adhere to a regimen of 2 naproxen tablets twice a day for two weeks and then 1 tablet twice a day for a week. He thought that there was probably some inflamed tissue and that the naproxen should help. Also, he was surprised that my sports doctor hadn't suggested this earlier. Within a day of starting the naproxen, I was markedly improving. I could not believe it.
I headed to New Hampshire with my team for the relay. I wasn't in peak shape (the elliptical, while a good cardio workout, does not translate directly to running on the roads!). I did, however, run to my ability. Even though I was slow as molasses, my team ended up 15th overall and 3rd in the coed category. This gave me some confidence.
Now it was decision time: I was 11 weeks out from running CIM. I was coming off of an injury and I didn't have a large training base under me. I had two trains of thought: I was pretty convinced I wouldn't be able to run very fast, but there was a part of me that thought maybe I could. In the end, I decided that if I pushed hard in my training, and my body responded negatively, I would back off immediately. At that point, I could re-evaluate and decide whether I needed to bail on the race entirely or if I could go and run it for fun.
So I took a big risk and decided to aggressively attack my training. I was confident I wouldn't over do it. I modified Coach Greg Wenneborg's 12-week schedule that we had worked on during the summer to put me in the best position to succeed. Within two weeks, I had ramped my mileage up to 65 miles/week from 25 miles/week!
While I would not recommend this approach for most runners (and I'm sure Coach Wenneborg wouldn't either), it was pointed out to me by some of my experienced runner friends and my wife Julie that I have a base of miles under me that goes back 15 years. I've run about 40 marathons, and the body doesn't forget that. In addition, the forced time off this summer must have really agreed with my body, giving it time to heal up and rest. I also trimmed down a bit to a more desirable racing weight.
But now I actually had to train. While my race was in December, most of the folks I generally train locally with were racing in early October. That was tough mentally because they were finishing their season and I was just starting. On the flip side, there was a pretty large group of us headed out to Sacramento for the race, so I had a strong and motivating contingent of people who needed to stay focused too. Plus, this autumn's weather in Richmond was fantastic for training.
My workouts went surprisingly well. In fact, during an early fartlek run on a hilly course, I discovered that after my 7th repeat at my normal fartlek pace, I wasn't very winded and my legs felt strong. So I pushed the pace and ended up finishing much faster than when I began. This experience repeated time and again throughout my fall training sessions and especially on my long runs. For example, on a 20 miler, I ran the first 13 at easy pace and the last 7 at race pace. I was easily able to run my race pace without killing myself.
I worked with Coach Brett to incorporate some workouts that we had discussed over the summer. She recommended that I focus more on tempo-type runs than pure track intervals. These were pretty challenging but well worth the effort. My favorite session was an 8k run where I would alternate every 800m between tempo pace (3:20) and race pace (3:00). I was really nervous going in to the workout, not knowing if I would be able to handle it. When I finished, I had enough left to do two more sets! It was after this workout, about 4 weeks from the race date, that my thoughts shifted from questions about if I could handle the training and racing to the possibility of working on a new PR.
By the time I had worked through my regimen to the taper phase, I had no doubt that I would PR - but the question was, by how much? I went into the race feeling more confident than I ever had before. Holly had been a rock throughout my training. Standing with her at the start on race morning, I just knew that I would own the day. The frustrating July days of aqua running with Brett seemed long ago. I stood on that starting line with a fresh appreciation for the chance to run strong with a healthy and prepared body.
Thankfully, the stars aligned on the day and I was able to exceed my even my highest expectations, turning in a solid performance of 2:53:43 - a 5-minute PR! To make it even sweeter, I know that I can still go faster - and I have not felt a letdown after this PR as I did after Chicago 2009. In fact, I feel more motivated than ever in terms of trying to run faster. As Coach Wenneborg and I discussed last summer, I want to find my limits. After that Chicago race, I felt I had accomplished all that I could, in part because it was a goal that I pushed toward for so long. At that moment, I was content.
When I completed this year's CIM, I knew I couldn't have run faster that day, but I was equally aware that I have more left in me for the future. The question is: how much more? In the four weeks or so since CIM, I've given my body a rest from running but I've been in the gym 6 days a week; water running, using the elliptical and I am a new convert to the erg. I've kept some semblance of fitness in my recovery which is something I typically don't do. Between my motivation and this additional training, I hope to be very well prepared for Boston 2011, aiming for 2:58 or better. Then my goal will shift to running another PR this autumn at a race still to be determined. I can't wait!
So what are the take home lessons from Mike's experience?
Athlete, Know Thyself.
Mike's years of training and racing experience allowed him to assess his body and gave him the confidence to trust his body's sensations post-injury. This confidence kept him from rigidly clinging to his previous plan (potentially triggering a re-injury) and he was creative with the training time he had available before CIM. Mike also was aware enough to realize when he needed a coach's input and he sought training advice from coach Brett Ely.
Shrewd Risk Taking.
Mike showed an admirable balance of toughness and gentleness, patience and perseverance as he tried to figure out his injury and his path after the diagnosis. His realistic but aggressive approach just barely straddled the red-line of potentially incurring a relapse. The key was that he was ready to pull back at any time. He unequivocally knew he would stop if anything started hurting again. This attitude protected him against the mistake many runners make: running anyway even when in pain.
Optimism, Confidence and Belief.
Mike came to running camp even though he was injured. To be surrounded by healthy runners and only be able to water run and bike could have been a real downer. Instead, he followed coach Brett's lead and stayed optimistic and open to cross-training. Once Mike started training again, he let his small training successes build his confidence to new heights - which in turn fueled his training and additional successes. Successes built one on the other and created a deep belief for Mike in his abilities. Mike rode this optimism and confidence all the way to a big PR.