It was Indianapolis 500 race day.
For the third time in four years, while listening to the greatest production of a sporting event on radio, I sat on my deck at Stately Rueff Manor set out to devise a training plan for a fall race.
It had been three weeks since Ryan and I had run the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon. Somehow I was still on the high from Ryan cutting 18 minutes off his first half marathon time last September at the Mill Race Half Marathon in Columbus, Ind.
Ryan, on the other hand, came down that day of the race.
Once Ryan had his bigger-than-big gulp Dr. Pepper and finished his shower while singing about setting his PR and meeting Meb, he went downstairs to play Beyblades and throw darts. Just like that, the Mini had become the furthest thing from his mind.
Not for me, though. I was still amped about the results. If it hadn’t been for the restroom break inside turn 1 at IMS and starting the race too fast we probably would have nailed 1:45:00. We could have also been a lot closer to the ultimate time goal of 1:40:00.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
What to do this time as I prepared us for our return trip to Columbus and the Mill Race Half I asked myself. Last year was a “just happy to be there” run since it was the first one for Ryan. Even though it was his first race I did set two-time goals for us. The realistic one was 2:15 and the ultimate was under two hours. We finished at 2:06:06.
In our return trip to the Mill Race, I wanted us to have a “taking care of business” theme.
Our goals were A. to break our 500 Mini time of 1:48:51. B. To break 1:45:00 and C. to finish in the top 200 to earn a special medal celebrating Indiana’s Bicentennial.
The Mill Race has been declared an Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project for the Indiana Bicentennial Celebration. The top 200 runners in both the marathon and the half marathon will receive a special medal along with their finisher medals.
Having looked at the previous results from the first three Mill Race Half Marathons, finishing anywhere with a time of 1:40-1:45 should give us a solid shot at the top 200.
The only thing we did differently training for the Mini this past spring compared to the Mill Race was adding a speed workout on Tuesdays. We rotated doing either fartleks or pyramid intervals during our training – mostly done at the Mount Pleasant Community Life Center.
As I sat on the deck looking at three books, the August 2013 edition of “Runner’s World” magazine, some print outs from Hal Higdon’s and Coach Jenny Hadfield’s websites and my computer screen, I thought back to my training plan from running the 2013 Indianapolis Half Marathon at Fort Benjamin Harrison. That’s where I set my half marathon personal record of 1:35:00.
Why not, I thought. It was roughly the same mileage we had run training for the Mini. Although this time I would alternate speed workouts on Mondays along with hill repeats on Skyline Drive (for the Indianapolis Half I did speed workouts on Mondays and hill repeats or a hilly route on Wednesdays because the course at Fort Ben is mostly up and down inclines). Not mentioned as Frank Shorter has said, “Hills are speed work in disguise.”
We didn’t particularly need a lot of hill work since the course in Columbus is fairly flat. We would use Wednesdays to run a majority of the miles at “race pace.” I also decided we would run an easy 5k on Sunday mornings prior to church. It would be a shake out run to complement our long run from the day before.
I filled out the boxes on my document with either easy runs, speed workouts, tempo runs, and long runs with the appropriate mileage on the corresponding days.
Ryan had camp later that week. As a pre cursor for his return, I wanted to give him a glimpse of what our various training runs would be like. I also wanted to see how he responded to it in case I needed to make some adjustments when we really began the 14-week training on Father’s Day.
We ran to Skyline Drive on Memorial Day and did the hill repeat workout I had found in that August 2013 issue of Runner’s World.
Here’s the workout in a nutshell – Mark off a point that is one minute and then another that is two minutes from the bottom. Run to the one-minute mark three to four times, jogging down to recover. Then run to the two-minute mark three to four times, jogging down to the one-minute mark, then sprint to the bottom.
Skyline is perfect for this workout. The road has a point about midway up then levels off for a few feet before ascending again.
We ran to the short hill twice and the long hill twice that day. Ryan seemed to grasp the premise of the workout fairly quickly. I told him we weren’t going to do it every week, but it would be in our rotation of speed workouts. He got a big smile on his face.
The following day was an easy run. That Wednesday after a one-mile warm up we ran five miles at what I wanted race pace for us to be on Sept. 24 for the Mill Race Half – eight minutes. We followed that with a one-mile cool down. Before Ryan left for camp on that Friday, we ran an easy five miles.
Even though we have seen great improvement over the last year, Ryan still needs to be on somewhat of a schedule. Thankfully, the days of when something happened out of his normal routine it would throw him off for the rest of the week are gone.
After Ryan returned from camp we continued to build the base in preparation for the real training. During this time Wendy’s grandfather’s health started to decline. On June 12 at the age of 96, Ray Browning, Sr. passed away.
We began the serious part of our Mill Race Half Marathon training on Father’s Day. We had run about 10.5 miles the day before including Ryan’s favorite subdivision with the hills of Silver Springs. Throw in a stressful day at work on Saturday and recovering from both the run and that we ended up waiting until that Sunday evening to run an easy 5k.
I look back at my running log and I’m still trying to figure out why we didn’t take a rest day for an 11-day stretch from June 29 to July 9. The majority of the runs were easy runs and well off anything that would be considered our race pace for the Mill Race Half.
Instead of running a race on the Fourth of July, we ran our hill repeat workout on Skyline Drive. The next day Ryan really struggled throughout our four-mile run. I noticed a little bit of a hitch in his stride but shrugged it off. We did a tempo run on Wednesday, Ryan began complaining that he was losing his energy toward the end. The hitch from the day before wasn’t noticeable, though.
Then we went to the fun run as we always do at the Runner’s Forum. It was hot that evening as we started out and about halfway through Ben Houston mentioned, “Hey, it looks like Ryan’s got a little hitch in his giddy-up.”
To make a long story short, we finished that week out. When I made the training schedule out Memorial Day weekend I purposely put in two “cut back” weeks during weeks four and eight. We ran the CG Hill Route – which includes Skyline Drive – and our regular tempo run for the week. I added an extra rest day on Tuesday.
Ryan’s hitch again became noticeable during our long run that Saturday of the light week. We ran the Indy Mini’s fun run at Fireside Brewhouse on July 18 and he still didn’t look right.
That’s when I became concerned.
I contacted a friend, who is a doctor, and they made some suggestions. Before anything else though I decided to shut Ryan down for a few days and see how he responded.
It was also at this point “Me the Dad” versus “Me the Competitor” had it out for a few runs. It was a head game of mammoth proportions for me.
I didn’t know if this was a serious injury Ryan was dealing with or had I burned him out. “Me the Dad” was furious with “Me the Competitor.” I recalled back to March when I messaged my Uncle Bill about Ryan winning his age group in the Indy Miler Series six miler and moving up a seed level for the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon and him replying, “Remember why you began doing this.”
For those few runs I went solo I ran them as if I was in race conditions. “Me the Dad” was telling myself to get the “Me the Competitor” out of my system before Ryan rejoined me.
After running 13.1 miles in the heat under my race-set-up conditions with a time of 1:45:01, I readjusted our training plan. I went back and made Sundays a rest day again. I took out the tempo runs on Wednesdays and moved the Monday speed workouts to that day. Monday, Tuesday, and Fridays would be easy run days with Wednesdays as the hard day and Saturday’s our long run.
Ryan rejoined me July 25. There was no longer the hitch in his stride and things looked to be back to normal with him. My concerns, I thought, were gone.
Then on August 6 we had our worst long run ever. Neither one of us felt up to it that day. We had 12 on the schedule. About a mile, after we had grabbed Powerade bottles at my parents’ house I stopped. I told Ryan we just needed to go home. We jogged and walked most of the two miles back to our house.
The following week we had to adjust our schedule somewhat and made our long run on Friday instead of Saturday. We had crossed Fairview Road and were into Pebble Run when Ryan began to slow down. We got to the corner of David Drive and Lacy Way and stopped.
“I just don’t have it, Dad. My energy is zapped.”
“Alright, I said. Let’s go home.”
Another long run interrupted and this time at five miles of what was supposed to be 14. Since the hitch had become noticeable, Wendy and I both were constantly asking Ryan if he was sore or in any pain. He always told us no.
We took that Saturday off. On Sunday afternoon Ryan was running and spinning around the house. Luke was begging to go on a bike ride. I said, “Ryan, go get your running clothes on. Luke get your shoes on. You’re riding your bike while we run. Let’s go.”
We both went upstairs and got dressed. When we walked out of the house I looked at Ryan and I said, “We are just going to run. Don’t worry about form. Don’t worry about time. Don’t worry about the mileage. We are just going to go out and run.”
That’s what we did.
Ryan and I ran our regular 5k route while Luke led riding his bike. It wasn’t our fastest 5k time, but it was good just to let loose and run.
The next day, August 15, we ran 4.2 miles in the rain. It would be the last time Ryan ran with me.
I got home from work Tuesday afternoon. As I walked in the door Wendy had a concerned look on her face. We had some other issues going on at the time and I thought it had to deal with that.
Nope. It was Ryan. Ryan’s left big toe to be exact.
“I went to trim his toenails. His big toe – it’s purple! It’s grown under and it’s thick. He won’t let me touch it.”
I went over to the couch and he lifted his leg up. I pressed on the top of his toe and he winced and grimaced in pain.
I looked at Ryan and asked, “How long has it been like that?”
Ryan replied, “A few weeks.”
I wanted to be mad.
You see because of Ryan’s autism he doesn’t feel pain like he should. He also wants to please everyone he’s in contact with especially Wendy and me. Even if Ryan felt pain or how many times Wendy and I asked him, he wasn’t going tell us. He was afraid I would be upset that we’d have to set aside our goals for the Mill Race Half Marathon.
I took him to the Medcheck and the doctor there prescribed Ryan an antibiotic and told us to soak it in Epsom Salts.
Of course, the doctor also said, “ABSOLUTELY NO RUNNING!”
After a few days, it wasn’t as purple, but you could tell it was bothering Ryan.
Finally, on Friday, we called his primary care physician and they referred us to Dr. Steve Tentler and scheduled an appointment for the following Tuesday.
At the appointment, Ryan had a part of his toenail cut out along with the root and the nerves. Dr. Tentler also looked at Ryan’s gait and analyzed his shoes and told Wendy we had Ryan in the best shoe possible for his feet.
Dr. Tentler also said he didn’t think it was from overuse that Ryan’s toenail had grown as it had. OK, I admit it I Dr. Googled for about 15 minutes one night and told Wendy I wanted her to ask him that question. Tentler though said an ingrown toenail like the one Ryan had is actually genetic.
Once his toe heals I’m going to take a picture of our both our big left toes because they’re going to look exactly alike. I had the same thing done back in 1998 and my Dad also had his left toe done the same way when he was about Ryan’s age. I know because I looked it up in his journal and I remember his toe looking like mine as well.
We are 27 days from the Mill Race Half Marathon. Yes, the goals have changed. I’m no longer concerned about setting a new PR or earning the special Indiana Bicentennial Medal.
Like Meb Keflezighi did when he ran the marathon in the recent Olympics, all I want is for Ryan and me to get to the starting line as injury free as possible and finish strong with our arms held up in victory.