Master P

Gabe powering away for the regional title.

On Monday I received a call from a friend that one of my friends and teammates from college, Gabe Proctor, committed suicide. Initially I was in shock. It was so hard to fully comprehend the magnitude of such an event, to wholly understand that I will never be able to see his cheeky grin again. Most likely I will never completely grasp that realization, but I have come to better terms with that fact. Other than a deep sadness, I have found it hard to express myself. There have been tears shed, but I over the last few days I have been drawn to the good times I had with Gabe. Death is sad, especially one that is taken much too soon, but I believe it is better to celebrate the life of ones who have passed.

I first met Gabe on a trip to the OSU Jamboree. We stopped in Garden City, Kansas to run with the Garden City Community College team. It was a good place to break up the 12 hour drive to Stillwater, and besides there was a good recruit that Jen was interested in. I do not remember much of the run that day besides that Gabe ran with us and it was ungodly windy, being Kansas and all. Gabe was quiet, but the coach had nothing but good things to say about him. He worked hard and was a team leader. I think later Gabe told me that it was that run which confirmed his decision to come to Western.

Winning Nationals with the Mountaineers. 2011

That next summer he came to Gunnison and had a great cross country season, cumulating with a top ten finish at nationals. He was quiet, and it took a while for him to open up to the team, but he always brought a positive energy to practice. Unfortunately I was hurt for most of that fall, so I did not get to know him too well until the spring. We started running nearly ever day together, as we both focused on similar events in track. Most of my running log days have something along the lines of, “with Gabe” in them.

It was the next year that holds some of the best memories I have with Gabe. I was student teaching, so I was not running everyday with the team, but I remember Gabe telling me he purposely took a class on Tuesdays and Thursdays during practice, so he would have an excuse to workout with me. I remember at regionals, not feeling great, I told Gabe to go for the win. We were clear of the pack, but there was an Adams State guy still with us and I knew he cared more about us crossing the line together than winning.

The Western Crew at RRCA Conference.

That spring we set our sights on running well in the 10,000m at Nationals. Once again he scheduled classes on Tuesday and Thursday during practice. One workout that I remember is right before I went out to Stanford for my debut 10,000m, Gabe and I did a 400m workout on the track. We ended up running around 10,000m pace, and after I remember Gabe saying, “You’re going to kill it dude.” He always had so much faith in everyone. He always saw the positive and wanted the best for others. At nationals that year, we ended up going 1st and 3rd. I crossed the line and gave him a big hug. I know he wanted 2nd, but it was a big step forward for him. A year later, he gave me a call right after he was outkicked for the indoor 5,000m title. He was upset and I tried to convince him that outdoor would be different; Western always runs better outdoors. He told me his was going to win the 5 and 10. He not only did that, but also went undefeated for the season, including a win at the Mt. SAC Relays. Gabe was determined when he set his mind on a goal.

Over the past few years I have less of Gabe, as we were living on opposite sides of the country, but I was always excited when we were going to race together. Usually we would try to find time to go for a run, either before or after the race. Looking back now, I had some great memories with Gabe, but the best were just the everyday runs on the trails and roads of Gunnison. There is not a specific day that stands out, but the hours and miles we spent together both doing something that we truly enjoyed. Those will be the ones that I will be most fond of when remembering Gabe.

This weekend the running community has lost a fantastic athlete and person for the sport. My fellow Mountaineers and Broncobusters lost a friend and teammate. My condolences go out to Gabe’s family, both in the US and Ethiopia. I cannot imagine the sorrow of loosing a family member to suicide.

RIP Gabe “Master P”

– – –

Before signing off, here is the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, even if it is not for yourself:

1-800-273-8255

It is always better to get help; it is always better to reach out. There is always something to find worth living for.

Also I would encourage anyone to donate to Hope for Youth Ethiopia in Gabe’s name. I know that Gabe was very concerned about the situation in Ethiopia and wanted the best for his home country.

Hope for Youth Ethiopia
PO Box 7306
Longview, Texas, 75607-7306

– – –

And when you wake up
Everything is gonna be fine
Guarantee that you wake in a better place, in a better time
So you’re tired of living feel like you might give in
Well don’t
It’s not your time

Streetlight Manifesto
A Better Place, A Better Time

Breaking the Cycle

“Shit, I know that pain.”

That is all what was going through my head 15 minutes after finishing a long run at Watauga River Road. We had not run super fast, as I have a propensity to do, but it was just a solid run to end a week where I finally felt good in training.

12 x Canova Ks out at Todd with the crew
Picture Credit: J.C.Rain

After the NYC Marathon, I took a nice break from running. I ran seven times total in the next three weeks, and most of them were short. This was all part of the plan. Rather than rush back like I did from my previous two marathons, only to get injured within eight weeks, Pete and I decided to take a much more leisurely approach. The only hitch with this was ZAP only had four guys ready to run USATF Club Cross Country, and I was needed to be the fifth man for a complete team score. I was perfectly fine with this as long as we still stuck to a moderate build up and my expectations were not set very high.

Three days before the race, just like two years ago, my Achilles began acting up. But like two years ago, I figured I could still have a good race (I finished 8th). So this was no big deal. The only thing that made me worried was that it took a month of sporadic running to finally get rid of it, but I would deal with that after the race. The race ended up being an unmitigated disaster. Afterwards I was considering it my worst race ever, mostly because I could not think of a race where I performed worse. Five weeks earlier I ran nearly the same pace, but for four times the length. The only conciliation was that as a team we were able to secure 4th place, only three points out of 3rd, But I was disappointed to say the least.

In the weeks after the race, I turned my focus to getting my Achilles 100 percent before resuming training. That took an agonizing seven weeks of cycling and core work before I was running anything of substantial volume. And even after that, it took another five weeks to begin to feel like my old self. In every workout that five weeks, I was getting dropped, but knew that if I put the work in I would round into form. Even my teammates knew it too. Johnny kept joking that it was only another week before I would be “crushing it.”

Finally that switch flipped and I felt fantastic. On March 4 we all headed to Brevard, NC for a little four mile race hosted by The Oskar Blues Brewing Company (A quality Colorado company). Our instructions were to run the race like a progression run, as we then had some intervals after. I felt alright during the race, but on the intervals I was floating along while running faster than the race. I was stoked! In the upcoming weeks I was going to be able to get some quality training in before taking a shot at a fast 10,000m at Payton Jordan in May.

A few days later I had another good interval workout. Which leads us to the long run at the end of the week. Like I stated above, the run was not anything stellar, just a continuation of the first good week of training since my build up to NYCM. Heading into the run the last thing on my mind was any injury, let alone a stress fracture. My last sacral stress fracture had a quick on set of 24 hours, so I was not too worried to be nearing the end of my run and feeling a slight tightness in my lower back. Most likely it was just my back getting a bit tight in the last few miles of a long run. Fifteen minutes after I finished my run and I was in shock. In the matter of 30 minutes I went from running carefree to knowing that I was not going to run for 2 months.

Since I have been off over seven weeks, I have had lots of time to digest it. Mostly I was just disappointed that I was not going to get a track season again. Last year’s stress fracture was tough because I did not get a second chance to make the Olympic Team after coming close in LA. This time it was tough pill to swallow because I felt like this was going to be my season to focus solely on the track. I know that I most likely have not run my last track race, but the future of my career is on the roads and specifically the marathon, and to reach my full potential in the marathon I have to turn my entire focus in that direction.

For the last seven weeks I followed a similar protocol to last time. Around four weeks off limiting my movement, before I stared walking, gradually increasing the distance. Then around the sixth week I began some light Elipigo, and again gradually increasing the time spent on it. Even though this stress fracture was a level 3 (the lowest level, I think my other one was between 2-2.5), Pete and I are taking our time coming back. With nothing set on the schedule until the fall, there is plenty of time to return to training.

This spring we have been fortunate enough to get two Elliptigos for ZAP. They are great for cross training and since they have a longer stride than traditional elliptical machines, they are much better at mimicking running form.

Besides walking and Elipigoing (if that is even a verb) Pete and I have been trying to figure out what has caused this second stress fracture. The diagnosis of the first one was that my Vitamin D was low from being covered up all winter while heat training and came back too fast from the Trials, being among the most obvious. Once again this one came in the waning months of winter, but my Vitamin D was much higher as I have been consistently taking it along with calcium. Along with a DEXA scan, the numbers on every indicator of bone fragility are not there. While I was months removed from NYCM, I had been dealing with a temperamental Achilles, and after getting healthy I might have started training hard too soon. Some other ideas that Pete have thrown around is that even though my Achilles was feeling fine, it had altered my form slightly. And over the course of tens of thousands of steps, a slight change can add up if the body is not able to adapt fast enough.

Articles

Here is an article from Brian Fullem, whom is basically the closest we have to a team doctor at ZAP.

A good overview of sacral stress fractures in elite runners from Runner’s World

One guy’s story about coming back from a sacral stress fracture. From reading it, I feel like it made the mistake of coming back too soon and too much.

The last two articles are studies (1,2), so their language is more technical, but have some good info and ideas on why sacral fractures occur. Basically they say that load bearing activities are more prone to stress fractures (which is not new) and the fix is to take time off (once again not newsworthy). The biggest thing they say is that most likely sacral fractures are under reported because they are diagnosed as other, usually soft tissue, injuries.

Figuring out why this cycle of injuries is important, as I know the best way to improve is to stay healthy. Constantly increasing your fitness is much better than training hard and getting hurt only to repeat the same cycle again. While in college I was constantly hampered by injuries, every 18 months it was a given that I would be sidelined. Even through that cycle, I was able to advance my fitness and make big jumps. But it was not until I had a few years of uninterrupted training I really began to see how much fitness I lost while being hurt. I had over 5 years of constant training leading up to the Trials and I think that it showed me I am nowhere near my ceiling. I have come a long way from placing a high of 5th at the state meet my senior year of high school to 10 years later being 5th at the Olympic Trials. Had you told high school Tyler that in ten years time, he would have almost made an Olympic Team, I do not think he would have believed you. The belief I could make an Olympic team has developed over the years, but I would argue that the unbroken years of training are the core of that belief. Even with the last year of injuries, that idea has not left my head. There are still three more years until the next Trials! But the smoothest path is through an unbroken three years of training. So it is baby steps towards getting healthy and to eventually racing in the fall.