Sunday, October 12, 2014

Plantar, PRP, and Injury Doldrums

My hiatus seems to have turned into a bit of a hibernation.

I feel like I could have written an inordinate number of posts with this particular title over the last several years. Nonetheless, I'm not really planning on venting here or anything, and generally I like these things to be primarily of entertainment value, but this time around it's more for informative purposes, since plantar fascia problems seem to plague so many runners, and at the moment it's the bane of my existence as well.

Seriously, if I had a buck for everyone who came into the running shop asking for me a shoe or insole to fix their ailing plantar, I could have totally retired like 5 years ago. Funny thing is, a lot of them aren't even runners, so I've never even thought of it as a "running injury." Come to think of it, I've never even thought of it as an "injury" at all. More like one of those silly nagging little things that seems to afflict almost everyone at some point and you just kind of learn to tolerate it and manage it and eventually it goes away or whatever. Like, you know, heartburn or an ingrown toenail or something.

But I seem to have been mistaken on several counts. My bad.

Mine dates back to the day after Gate River Run back in March, when I just abruptly noticed my heel was just really sore the day after the race. But it would come and go and over the next few months in varying degrees and that's just kind of what it did, and I didn't worry much about it. The only time it was what I'd consider to be legitimately painful was the day after a race or a hard workout in flats followed by a second run, but otherwise I just blew it off aside from the usual icing, calf stretches, and golf ball massage and stuff.

One thing I have come to notice is that I am particularly horrible at figuring out how bad is "bad." Like, how bad is something supposed to hurt before you actually acknowledge that it does in fact hurt? It seems like that shouldn't be that hard to figure out. I have heard people call this a "high pain tolerance," but that makes it sound like a positive attribute or like praise, which is sort of twisted in a way, and I think it would be more accurately referred to as a "Shi*ty Sense of Self-Preservation." So shi*ty in fact, that if this were prehistoric times, I'd have been picked off by a saber-toothed tiger a long time ago after failing to hobble away quickly enough. The predators always go for the lame, gimpy, or sickly ones first you know.

But this isn't prehistoric times, good thing, so whatevs.

Not only that, but I look at my workload and compare it to that of my marathon friends' and think, "no way should I ever be banged up, I don't even run 100-140 miles per week!" But such is life, everyone's got a different threshold and you have to work with what you've got and forgive yourself for what you can't do I guess.

Anyway, I know quite a few runners afflicted with this Shi*ty Sense Of Self Preservation and I have yet to see it serve any of them, myself included, well. But it does give me company pool running at the Y though, so there's that.

So rewind back 5 weeks and 4 days ago, when I decided to go on hiatus for a couple weeks to fix my foot and just get back to overall feeling good and feisty again, where I was all eaten up in angst over fear of becoming a marshmallow (I'm getting there now.), and after some time off and after getting the opinions of a couple PT friends, we decided the best course of action would be a cortisone shot to knock out the remaining inflammation, take a couple more weeks off, and ease back into stuff. Typical plantar treatment protocol after conservative measures fail. Everyone does it and I didn't give it a second thought. Cake. Easy peezy lemon squeezy.


I had to work pretty hard to convince this particular doc to shoot a steroid into my foot (fortunately, in retrospect). I was on board, but I needed to get him on board too, and it was hard to make that happen. This was owing to the fact that cortisone, while it can benefit some things, also has the unfortunate characteristic of rupturing weak and/or degenerative soft tissue, and also of making things feel okay without actually fixing anything, which is why shooting it willy-nilly into anything and everything can be a potentially horrible idea. He very grudgingly agreed to consider it (or he was just humoring me, bless his heart) but only while viewing it via ultrasound. As it turned out, while it may have been mere "plantar fasciitis" at one time, now there was a huge tear in it. Bad news bears. No cortisone for me. Boo hiss.

Don't worry, this is not my baby. This is my mangled plantar. See that big, black gap? That shouldn't really be there.

If you study it closely and use your imagination, the actual tear looks like the pincher of the rainbow mantis shrimp:


Anyway, all this is to say a cortisone shot would have certainly ruptured it, if running didn't do it first. Good thing we dodged that little bullet. Point one for my little runner guardian angel cherub that rides around on my shoulder (and who has always been kept very busy) and mad props to that smart Dr. Mazzola.

So, we talked options. 1) I could take like forever off (F that), or 2) we could try this magical stuff called PRP (platelet rich plasma therapy) and expedite the healing process by about a million months. Needless to say I opted for door #2.

For those that are intrigued by medical sciencey things, in a nutshell, PRP involves drawing a bunch of blood, spinning it in a centrifuge to separate out the blood plasma, and then extracting it and injecting it back into the damaged tissue. It's about as delightful as it sounds, but it has a super high success rate when it's used to treat Achilles, plantar, ACL, rotator cuff, and other injuries to really avascular structures that heal poorly, if at all, on their own. It basically jump-starts the healing process and ideally reverses the damage over a period of time. I think I got most of those facts straight anyway.

I remembered Ryan Bak telling me not very long ago this was the route he took for a very long standing Achilles injury of his, where he was told they could operate, but that he'd have a 50% chance of being unable to ever run again as a result of it, or they could try PRP. It obviously worked out well for him, his comeback race was Club Cross last year in Bend, he was 7th and has been on the up-and-up ever since.

It normally costs a hefty chunk of change though, which I didn't have, but lo and behold I got one "donated" to me. Two points for my running guardian angel cherub and to the good doctor. I have all the luck.

Nevertheless, my little hobby of running through stuff till I can't anymore is getting a bit expensive, not to mention inconvenient, and it's probably not ideal for promoting running longevity, so it needs to stop like yesterday.

It is one of those things though where before it gets better, it gets worse. It swells up, gets super sore, and basically regresses. It feels right now (a week later) about how it used to feel after a hard race. In other words: like crap. They'll send you out with a boot and crutches and a lollipop and then you cross your fingers and wait and hope it works its magic.

Kidding about the lollipop, they do give you narcotics though. :)

Here's my weird-colored semi-sausage-foot the day after (the poor choice in nail polish color is unrelated to the injection and is not an unfortunate side-effect):

I've done the usual but-how-did-this-happen-and-how-can-I-keep-it-from-happening-again analysis that accompanies the aftermath of most injuries. Having never really had many foot issues, all I can think of is that maybe I compensated for so many miles on a meniscus tear all last year, then possibly even more so late last year and earlier this year coming off of surgery, and maybe just made the opposing side (the grumpy plantar side) do more than its fair share of work and it finally just gave up. Who knows.

So anyway, that's kind of where stuff's at right now. I won't lie, I was feeling pretty upbeat about it all for the last few weeks. I was all proud of myself for bypassing my usual 45 stages of grief (about 43 of which are some form of denial), going straight to accepting the situation, taking it in stride, and maybe even--what's that Coach Line? Oh yeah, "maturing as an athlete." I was excited that I was attaining (sort of) a sense of balance in life! Which I normally am not especially adept at. I mean, I've read a bunch of books, done a bunch of core, haven't cross trained overly obsessively, haven't gotten weepy or angry at the cruel world, I've made a bunch of cookies, and gotten some kittens...

But it's been six weeks now and that gloomy, mopey, cloud of doubt over whether something will ever heal and whether I will ever run again settled over me while listening to everyone recount epic races up at the Trail Running Conference in Estes yesterday. I know it will get better, stuff always does. I have a hunch this will work, and my hunches aren't usually just wishful thinking. But that stupid, mopey, cloud of doubt and funk always seems come floating along eventually, even though it could totally be worse and I'm lucky that it's not. I've sort of shelved any fall race plans, which sucks, because I love love love XC and it's also been the nicest fall ever. It's been all golden and shiny and warm outside. But then, I keep reminding myself that I got to have the best season I've ever had this summer, so to be honest, I don't really regret the aftermath all that much, even though it's super lame so far.

At the same time though, I think I'm done coming back from setbacks at some torrid rate then trying to race everything and train as much as I can year around--which is what I've always done and I like it, it's not drudgery to me--but then wondering why stuff goes wrong. Gee I dunno, because you're not invincible? Because there's this thing called recovery? There is too much stuff that I want to be able to do coming seasons; next year I want to do well at Zermatt: which will be my first marathon and my second US team and my first international race; a pretty amazing opportunity. I want to have a crack at sub 2:35 on Pikes Peak and go under 70 minutes at Mt. Washington, and I want to race my first 50k in the fall. Longer term goals make it a bit easier to see the big picture and not miss the forest for the trees I guess, and you sure miss a lot of opportunities if you're always running in the deep end of a swimming pool.

Monday, September 22, 2014

On Downtime and Marshmallows

I've spent the last three or so weeks pretty much running vicariously through everyone. For a while I ran vicariously through Sage-Hoka-Golden-Boy-Canaday when he was busy getting second at the Rut 50k, which for the record looks like an insanely awesome course that I'd love to do when I cross over to the dark side of ultras, except there are steep descents and it'd be great if they would do away with those before then. Then I ran vicariously through the whole women's USA team at the World Mountain Running Champs in Italy where they were third and Allie got M-F'in BRONZE yo!!!!! Then I ran vicariously through my friend Peter Maksimow at the Jungfrau Marathon, and then ran vicariously through Brandy Erholtz when she was runner-up champ at the World Masters Mountain Running Champs in Austria. Also, I ran vicariously through like 20 different people at Run Rabbit Run and UROC. Then this last week I wistfully ran vicariously through Brie when she won Cow Harbor like a total badass. Most recently I ran vicariously through Megan Roche when she won the USA 50k trail champs. I know there were a bunch more great races in there that I neglected to mention, but all this vicarious racing is exhausting and think I need to drink some whey protein and recover.

This is due to the fact that I'm on hiatus. I had this great plan after Pikes of taking a week or so nice and easy, since I hadn't done that since a year ago, then gearing up for the USA Trail Half Marathon Championships in Washington next month. Neither of those things came to fruition. A week easy wound up being 5 days because I was all antsy and amped up, then I started back up and had some runs where I felt all marshmallowy and elephant-like and my IT band was slightly grumpy, which I ignored, then I had this one random day when I felt good and got excited, then after that I had this one workout where I felt like I had never experienced anything resembling leg-speed in my life, then I promptly blew up my grumpy plantar that's been grumpy since early spring, then I shuffled through a couple more jogs where all that compensating just made my IT Band join the protest even louder. This was all in a span of about 10 days. So it's almost like Body was asking (impolitely) for a more legit break, and that I should quit for a little bit while I'm still ahead. At least, I think I'm ahead.

So I took a break. Well, my version of a break anyway, which has always included this game of racking up as many hours per week that I can sanely handle cross training. It goes like this: I come up with this arbitrary number of hours that isn't based on any physiologically-proven-anything-whatsoever that I absolutely HAVE to hit by the end of the week, then the next week I try to surpass that number a little, the next week surpass the week before, and so on. And it's like, if it's Sunday night and I'm like 20 or 30 minutes short of my Goal Arbitrary Number, then I will actually go out into the garage, even if it's 10 at night, and spend that additional time on our stationary bike. It's weird and makes me feel like a crazy cat lady who surely spends her spare time counting the threads of the carpet or separating enormous piles of buttons or puzzle pieces into groups with identical hues and shapes (I don't do this. Really.) or something in that range, but hey at least I hit the number! That makes my inner Type-A Monster purr like a tiny wee kitten getting its cute, fuzzy, little tummy rubbed.

Now don't mistake this for "dedication" or "work ethic." I mean, I guess that's a piece of it. Didn't someone once say, "Somewhere someone is training when you're not, and when you race him/her, he/she will win"? Thanks a lot, Jerk-Who-Said-That, way to get us all to overtrain. But mostly, I absolutely cannot stand the idea of working so hard all those months, only to lose all of that ground while being sidelined, so I like to play this game with me called How Out Of Shape Can I Not Get While Not Running?

Then, I confess, maybe it's because I am a girl or it's just because I run or because I am a girl who runs and am therefore surrounded by teensy weensy, little bitty, lithe, transparent, gazelle-like, elfin women who run, which is totally fine and I'm totally not criticizing, but none of the above attributes particularly describes me and I more closely resemble a tree trunk with a balloon for a head. I shouldn't compare though, and I am grateful for what the body can do, but that doesn't stop me from feeling like a behemoth on most starting lines at most races. So for that reason I harbor a fairly intense fear of time off resulting in me morphing into this:

Or this.

Maybe this.

Or something like this.

And everyone will be all like this.

In other words, I truly fear becoming a marshmallow whose state of marshmallowyness can never be reversed or undone.

Plus, I'm a 75-plus-or-minus-5-miles-a-week girl, that just seems to be what I can handle, and I feel like everyone else are triple-digit-a-week-types, so it never occurs to me that I deserve downtime anyway.

Nonetheless, in spite of all of these things, this time around was a little different. I had a couple weeks where I succeeded in my silly self-imposed little game, but motivation was seriously waning. If I wasn't running, I didn't really want to do anything except eat cupcakes and take naps, and I was practically searching for an excuse to not do anything except for that I feel like I CAN'T not do anything. It's complicated. It throws everything off. It makes it so that I can't even figure out when or even if I'm supposed to shower because I didn't spend half the day marinating in my own sweat. It makes me a marshmallow.

And these are just some of the useless things I fret about. Ah, runner angst.

So I kept on, but it didn't come with the same weird satisfaction that I usually obtain from completing my mission of attaining my Arbitrary Weekly Number and writing it down at the end of the week, but doing it still temporarily scratched that everlasting invisible itch of epic proportions. Still, I don't usually have any trouble dragging myself into the pool or onto the bike to sweat it out for a couple hours and I'm always glad I did it even if it is hard and extremely boring. This time I just eagerly counted down the seconds till I could be done, then when I was done I would just think about how much it sucked, and then dread the next day when I'd have to go do it again. Plus, I was more tired than I am whenever I'm running. So, this radical idea of "Just Take Some Time Off" was introduced to me by a few people. And I couldn't believe it: "time off" meant "time off." And another thing I couldn't believe was when I heard that many highly successful runners do in fact take "time off." I've heard of this, but I've always assumed it was sort of mythical or that those who partook in occasional stints of Time Off were so talented that they didn't have to worry about getting out of shape or marshmallowy anyway. And if it's ever been a coach suggesting time off I always suspected it was part of some sort of twisted plot or scheme wherein he was assessing whether or not you are a slouch, and if you'd really give into taking time off. As such, I haven't really ever given into what I see as the Siren's Song of Time Off.

I can count on one had the number of times I've legitimately and intentionally done nothing for longer than a couple of days at a time and it was always because I actually couldn't do anything (like after knee surgery and a couple times over the years when I caught the Plague and was basically dying or whatever). In college, after the season was done, time off usually just meant several days of easy runs and no workouts. I've usually just kind of kept everything going in a continuum of races and seasons interspersed with occasional injuries or other bumps in the road, which I would then consider to be my "off season," when I would resume my little game of trying to not get out of shape while not running until I could run again. So needless to say, the sincere suggestion of actually not doing anything for a short time really boggled my mind.

So right now I'm on day four (it would be six but two of those days I couldn't stop myself) of I'm not sure how many more I can manage, and I won't lie, however marshmallowy and lumpy and somewhat useless I feel, my foot and the rest of my most of me actually like, feels waaaaay better. So, I don't know, maybe there is something to this. I really feel like I'm living life on the edge right now. Taking risks. Thinking outside the box. Growing as a person. Yadda yadda yadda.

Anyway, now that I've made myself sound sufficiently nuts for today, I'm going to wrap this up. I'm kinda itching to start training for XC and actually get a tad bit of speed back, but for now I'm not sure what race is next. But, I do get to go up to the Estes Park Trail Ascent Conference in mid-October, and I get to be on a panel about Effective Training, which I find somewhat comically ironic, but it'll be fun regardless. Who doesn't want to be in Estes in October?!

So...till next time: stay puft.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Post-Pike's Peak Post

I'd say august 16th and 17th are arguably two of the most highly anticipated pair of days for the MUT runners of our state. You've got the famous Leadville 100, TransRockies, and our own local yet internationally renowned Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent.

I've run a bunch of races and I've had a lot of super cool and memorable experiences throughout high school, in college, and now post-collegiately, and this one undoubtedly makes my top 3. First and foremost, it was my first race in as a member of a U.S. Team, and earning a spot on one of those has been a goal since college. As such, for the last 6 weeks an awful lot of mental, emotional, and let's not forget physical energy went into gearing up to run up that mountain as quickly as possible last Saturday. If you're in a USA jersey, half-assery on any level is just not acceptable in my opinion. Not only that, but on a more personal level, after an epic blow-up of my own making at the Loon Mountain Race (the USA Mountain Running Champs) where I'd hoped to earn a place on the U.S. Team headed to Italy next month, I kinda felt like I needed to prove to myself that I still had "it" and that I hadn't just abruptly become a total weenie. And finally, I got to thinking a couple of days pre-race that exactly 1 year ago from last Saturday, I was up in Vail getting meniscus surgery, which sort of sucked, and what better way to celebrate 1 year post-op than by crushing up a mountain? Yeah I know, I couldn't think of a better way either.

So the race. Like I said before, this year's Ascent doubled as the World Mountain Running Association Long Distance Championships, so for anyone wondering about the legions of foreign teams toeing the line, that was why. I'd met some of the Brits and Germans and Northern Ireland teams in previous days up on the mountain, and I think the Aussies were my favorite. At the press conference they informed the crowd that their team's strategy for dealing with the impending altitude featured within the race was just to "ignore it and pretend like it's not there." Hey, sounds like as good a strategy as any I guess.

Speaking of the aforementioned legions of foreigners, it was super cool to meet all of the Italians and and Irish and Germans and Brits and Aussies and Canadians and Slovenians and all of the many other abundantly wonderful humans and who can forget BART YASSO?! Yes, among other things Bart has written a kickass book (My Life On The Run, check it out) and has also run a race naked, which you will have to read his book to learn about, so I thought meeting him was a bit like meeting the President or something, only way cooler.

Okay I'm digressing. Back to the actual race. I wouldn't say that the better part of the 2 weeks leading up to it were perfectly ideal with a hamstring and foot niggle, but you can only control so much and by that point you're not going to gain or lose much regardless, so training went reasonably well all things considered and by race day I felt fantastic thanks to the efforts of Kelly and Kelli at Synergy PT (shameless plug) and Simon Gutierrez.

I was crazy nervous (as usual) for basically like 3 weeks leading up to the race, but on actual race day I was more excited than anything, I never even morphed into my normal insomniac self for the whole week of the race, which never happens so that was cool. I think it was maybe a realization that I had after Loon where I realized that you're only going to run as best as you're capable of running. This sounds totally dumb and obvious, but it's not like you're going to go out there and suddenly have to magically muster up something that doesn't exist, all that you can do is the best you can do and that's all that's there, and you've done the work, and what's there is there, so what's the point in worrying about it? I'm not sure if I explained that well, but all this is to say that for some reason that realization took a substantial amount of anxiety out of the whole thing where usually there would be a lot.

Anyhow, it spread out really quickly at the top of Ruxton and I felt really awesome all the way up the W's, where I ran a lot of it with Allie, who was employing her unorthodox but obviously super effective sprint-then-hike-then-sprint-then-hike tactic of handily beating everyone up the mountain. I watched her do it at Loon too and it's hilarious. She might be one of my favorite people to watch in a race. She took off at the top of the W's where it levels out somewhat for a while, and that was the last I saw of her, and then it was me and a couple of guys all the way up to Barr Camp. I still felt really, really good going into what I consider to be a very hard stretch which is the 3 mile climb from Barr up to A-frame. It never seems all that far, maybe because you're concentrating on picking your way over rocks and roots and steeper sections, but even when I was just running Pike's on training runs I always felt like I would start to struggle in the same place every time, which is about a mile beneath A-frame, and race-day was no different. Right around there I went from feeling really strong to knowing I was going to have to bite the bullet pretty hard for the remaining 4 miles, and that all happened in a span of about 10 feet, my hip flexors and quads started to get pretty crampy and right around there was when Morgan climbed past me, so I'm not sure if she sped up or I slowed down. But either way, I still really wanted us to win and thought it'd be really cool to go 1-2-3 so I just told myself that there was "only" a little over 5k left so get moving. The last 3 miles is pretty tough and seems to go on for a long way, and I don't remember a lot of it other than wondering who gave 16 Golden Stairs such a magical, enchanting sounding name, because there is nothing magical or enchanting about them, and I can definitely think of plenty of other names for them and I would be happy to replace the sign up there to label them more appropriately.

So we did win and we did go 1-2-3 so I was pumped as soon as I could get up the energy and brain function to be pumped, and Stevie was 5th after racing (and winning) the Sierre Zinal marathon in Italy last week, so no small feat.

So far, this was honestly the hardest race I've ever done, and while I was hanging around at the summit watching others stagger through the finish in various states of hypoxia, I thought to myself that I probably wouldn't do it again, but that's a load of crap because on the ride back down from the summit I was already trying to think up different ways to do it better next year, so....yeah.

Aside from the awesome fact that USA's men and women got the win on "America's Mountain," and the awesome fact that Allie and Sage both won individually--and I can't really think of two more deserving people--there is another equally awesome fact in that the top 3 overall finishers from this race are qualified now represent the U.S. again at next year's WMRA Long Distance Championship. It'll be the Zermatt Marathon in Switzerland, so I've never trained for or done a marathon, but it sure looks like it's on the docket now.

It was a good day on Pikes Peak.

The "Go Team WORLD!" Post-Race Pool Party.

So for now I am taking a short hiatus, it's only my second day off but I'm already sort of bored and antsy to start running again since it's about time now for my other favorite season--cross country--to get going.

So thanks to all who made this race (and this season for that matter) a good one; all the volunteers and folks who worked the Ascent and Marathon (I vaguely recall an aid station with beer, but we were pretty far into the race at that point so I'm not sure if that really was beer or if I just thought it was) because that's a huge job, Nancy Hobbs for getting the U.S. Team all set, and Taskmaster Cody for all of the great workouts.

So anyway, unrelated to the race but still deserving of a mention, on the way back from awards I found this small dinosaur:

Monday, August 4, 2014

Pikes Peak: Still Running Up Things

The last four-ish weeks have been largely comprised of adventures on Pikes Peak, prepping for the WMRA Long Distance Challenge, which this year will coincide with the Pikes Peak Ascent, so it'll be cool to have an international race in there too, I'm guessing this will be a pretty deep year.

In previous years, the Long Distance Challenge has been featured in other way cool places like Switzerland and Italy, so it's pretty rad that it's in our backyard this go-around. There are five people on both the men's and women's side to represent Team USA. The winners of the Mt. Evans Ascent, the Vail Half Marathon and Mt. Washington all got automatic qualifiers, and two additional runners were taken by resume' (three in the case of the men, since Joe Gray captured the Vail Half and Mt. Washington titles, oh yeah and the USA Mountain Running Champs. Dude's on fire.). So for the men, it ended up being Joe, Sage Canaday, Eric Blake, Zach Miller and Andy Wacker. For the women it will be Morgan Arritola, Allie McGlaughlin, Nuta Olaru, Stevie Kraemer and myself.

Anyway, that's some background for folks that are nearly as clueless as myself as to how the mountain running scene operates.

As a result, I've been running around on Pikes a lot lately to make sure that I know what I'm getting myself into, it's been quite fun although some things about it have taken some getting used to. Like actually having to plan--like really plan--workouts up there, and factor in things that you don't usually have to. For instance, if you're going to be running around up there for like 3 hours and it's 90 degrees outside and you're going to be between 9,000 and 13,000 feet, it would be wise to bring more than say, 20 ounces of water. The good news though is that you can always hit up Anthony, the Keeper of Barr Camp (not sure what his actual job title is) for some form of hydration, in desperate times. Barr Camp, which is about 6 miles up the mountain, has kind of got a monopoly on the beverage industry up there and let's just say one day I dropped about $20 on Gatorade. Ah, rookie mistakes.

Then there is the fact that you can only go up or down. This seems quite obvious given that you are on a mountain after all, but say for example you are catastrophically clumsy and tentative running downhill and just the very thought of pounding out 3 or 4--let alone 13--miles downhill makes your quads simultaneously explode, then you'll have to work out a way to avoid that. Unless you're training for the Pikes Peak Marathon and it's necessary to get in loads of downhill, in which case I feel sorry for you. But in the case that you want to avoid those unsavory downhills, you have the option of going all the way to the summit, but if you do, then you have to make sure you've already considered how you're getting back down (be it hitch hiking or taking the Cog), or you can take the Cog down from Mountain View, which is a super secret little train stop that is basically parallel to Barr Camp, just about a mile and a half into the woods. Be warned though that if you take the Cog from Mountain View, you will likely be the only person getting on there, and they just stopped the whole train for you, and the one behind it too if there happens to be one, and that tends to induce a lot of staring from Cog occupants at the curious new oddity among them that just materialized out of the woods. It's fine, just super awkward (well, I mean if you're me, because somehow I make most things awkward) and you may be asked how your "Nature Jog" went or "did you hike ALL the way here?!" No, but seriously it's cool.

Anyway. So I've kind of unconsciously divvied the course up in my head into quarters over the last few weeks. There is the start at Memorial Park in Manitou (the part where it'll be oh so tempting to take off like it's a road race...) up to the 3.5 mile sign, in my opinion the first 5k is a bit of a doozie, lots of climbing!

Then there is my favorite stretch, from 3.5 up to Barr Camp, which is a lot of climbing but a lot of undulating terrain where you can actually get into a rhythm, and it takes you through a lot of aspen stands and lots of wildflowers and right by the turn for Experimental Forest. I'll tell you all about Experimental Forest in a minute because I find it quite fascinating, I know you're super excited so stay tuned!

From Barr Camp you make a bit of a gnarly climb up to A-Frame, which is a shelter built at timberline and it's about 5k from A-Frame to the finish, easy peezy right? Well, no. If I had to guess, and I am guessing, this is probably the part where everyone's race will either be made or broken depending upon how smart they were in the earliest stages. It's a good last 5k in that it isn't on any washed out or technical stretches of trail, but it's tough because it's all above treeline and there's not a lot of, you know, air in the air. This was where I first learned that 15-plus minute mile pace can in fact feel extremely challenging even on your best day, and that has been hard to get used to. But if you went too hard to early on, it'll probably be the most difficult 5k of your life. One thing that I did learn up there though was that if I was having a particularly rough time, just don't look up. That was kinda my mantra at Mt. Washington because if I looked up it looked so much steeper and further than what I thought I could keep doing. So really, not looking up is super helpful. It's kinda like life: concentrate on what's in front of you and what you're doing about it, not what's to come way up ahead and how're you going to do it, because that can make it seem somewhat overwhelming.
You're welcome for that analogy.

Last Sunday was the first time I ran from the base to the summit non-stop, before I had only done segments of it repeatedly, and I was amazed at how fast it seemed to go by. There is a lot to concentrate on but also a lot to look around and take in, so it really didn't feel like all that long of a distance and it doesn't feel quite so intimidating anymore.

I've run into loads of pretty cool people up there, here we have Brandy Erholtz and Sage "The GOAT" Canaday:

And a bighorn sheep:

I wish that I had more photos but carrying a phone on runs basically is against my religion.

As a special bonus for actually reading this far, I'm going to give you:

(Most of these were learned on my many Cog trips)So GET PUMPED!!!

-Pikes peak is composed of Pikes Peak Granite, which is found in only 2 places in the entire world: Pikes Peak (!) and Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri.

-Pikes peak granite, due to its brittle nature, is not used in construction.

-Ponderosa pines do not attain cinnamon colored bark until they are at least 80 years old!

-Ponderosa pines are a scratch and sniff tree: if you scratch the underside of the bark you will smell chocolate, cinnamon, or butterscotch depending upon your genetic makeup.

-Aspen groves stem from a single root system, making them 1 big organism instead of simply single trees. As such, they are one of the biggest organisms on earth.

-If you boil or chew on aspen bark, it has pain killing properties.

-Pikes peak is referred to as America's Mountain not because it is the tallest mountain in America (not even close. Not even in Colorado actually. But I'll get to that), but because it appears so dramatic surrounded by flat plains.

-At an elevation of 14,104 feet, it is the 31st highest peak of 53 in Colorado.

-Experimental Forest was originally planted in the early 1900's so that we could figure out how to regrow the rapidly disappearing forests most quickly So they brought in a bunch of different tree species to see what others would flourish, lo and behold, all of them died except for the native species.

So, I'm pretty excited for next week, albeit pretty nervous, but what else is new.

That's all folks. Hopefully next I'll have a Successful Ascent Race Report

Monday, July 7, 2014

What goes up...

...must come down. And man does it come down.

I debated over posting anything at all regarding the race yesterday, because the side of me that thinks way too highly of myself doesn't want to look bad. But I feel like if you're going to talk about your experiences when everything is all rah-rah-go-me-my-phone-and-Facebook-and-other-social-media-sources-are-exploding-with-congratulatory-messages-yay-everyone-thinks-I'm-cool-all-of-a-sudden, it's only fair to talk about your complete and utter shit shows and screw ups and embarrassments too. Yes, I know I just said a naughty word, but honestly there might be a lot of those today. PG-13 for this one, so leave the kids at home. But it seems like people only hear about and see other peoples' successes, and you get to thinking it should only be that way, which is a bunch of bull crap. On top of that, I only get 24 hours to "grieve" over a bad day, and I am 23 hours in, so whatever I've got to say, I will say it now and move on.

So on that upbeat note....Loon Mountain, this year the USA Mountain Running Championships: where some runners go to win and do rad fist-pumps across the line, and other runners go to die slow and painful deaths. To date, the most nightmarish and embarrassing race of my life, because what went wrong was within my control, and I have to own that.

Sometimes I think you learn more about yourself from the epic, miserable failures than the glowing, shiny successes that seemed to come so easy (even though when you think about it, they never did come easy) and I learned a lot on that mountain.

Although much of it is one if those "well I know what happened but I don't really know what happened" type things, all feelings and emotions aside, tactically it all started with a key failure on my part: a failure to know the course when I thought I knew the course, which culminated in a mental and physical and emotional blow up of such stunning and stellar proportions that I don't actually recognize myself in whoever that girl was who all of a sudden just said to herself, "I CAN'T." Like that. In all caps. Then stopped. I have never told that to myself and believed it, and it kind of surprised me when I did, and that's what sparked the emotional side of said meltdown, which effectively undid the whole race.

So the race...I was jittery for about 2 weeks leading up to it, but I woke up excited and it started pretty much like thought it would. I told myself not to just assume you're going to go out there and blow everyone's doors off because there are plenty of veterans and you will have to compete HARD to earn a spot on this team, but at the same time to be confident and believe in yourself enough to not be surprised by anything good that happens. And I ran well and even handled the downhills better than I thought I would for the better part of the race, and those were initially my only hesitation in coming here. It ended up being Allie--who went on to a huge and much deserved upset victory--out in front, myself, Megan D., Kasie, and Morgan in somewhat of a pack for much of the race, from what I remember. I had checked out roughly half the course the day before, and had studied the course profile, so I was confident that I knew what I was getting into. I didn't check out the uppermost part of the course though, and that's where the shit really hit the fan on so many levels. To be honest though, I was not at all worried that I didn't know the details of it all going in, because hardly anyone seemed to and they were not concerned, but I guess everyone's different. I need details.

The long in the short: there was a false summit. Simply, I ran absolutely as hard as I could up a 500ish meter long hill thinking it was Upper Walking Boss and I just knew everyone had been exaggerating it all along, because I could see the gondola at the top with a tent next to it and a ton of people cheering, and I didn't know there were two of those so I thought, "GO NOW." So, being in 3rd place at the time and hell bent on making a team, I kicked as hard as I could up that mofo. Legs and lungs screaming like they always do in the final stage of a race, I crested the summit expecting a finish line but was instead greeted with a 1 Mile Left sign. And it is the absolute hardest mile of the whole damn race, and I knew that. Mentally I deflated. Completely. I didn't even fight it. I heard this voice in my head that said, loud and clear, "I CAN'T." I can't because how could I ever make a world's team? I can't because it's not like I'm special or something. I can't because I'm just normal and and slightly socially awkward and I have a normal job and a normal life and I'm normal. I can't because I'm from Franktown and what cool thing has ever come out of Franktown besides cement. I can't and I am going to disappoint everyone and myself worst of all. I can't because I had this perfect race plan that just went way out the window and I'm not really sure how to handle that. Not, I CAN because I trained my ass off and don't deserve to shortchange myself. Not I can because I'm tough enough to still salvage something from this race. Not I can because someone has to, so it may as well be me. Not I can because I AM good enough. Just I can't. And I truly believed that just long enough and in precisely the worst moment to totally give into it. And the next thing I knew I stopped. And worse, I was sitting, yes, SITTING (how the hell did I end up sitting?! It really was that bad.) on the course apologizing OUT LOUD Yes, I guess to me because I let me down, and even to God because I felt like maybe I wasn't doing the best I could with what I had and was taking it all for granted, and that's just not what you're supposed to do in life, I don't care what you believe in. But it was totally f***ing weird and awful and embarrassing and I probably looked like a raving, sweaty, strung out, crack addict on the side of a random mountain, which is about what I felt like. On a scale of One to Psychosis I would solidly put myself on the furthest end of that spectrum. I lost all dignity then and there--actually no, I think I saw a tiny shred of it poking out from beneath a rock but it blew away shortly thereafter--and I joined the ranks of the most colossal head cases to ever grace the sport, or maybe I've been there for a while, but this was a whole new level. Regardless, I would rather crap myself in a race on camera wearing bun huggers on national television than repeat that feat. I hope onlookers appreciated that they were witnessing an unprecedented meltdown that may (hopefully) never be seen again, but unfortunately no one asks for autographs for these things.

But, since I just couldn't bear to not finish, after what felt like eternity I mustered up what pathetic amount of stamina remained and tried to rally, while feeling like there was a 20 ton elephant sitting on my chest and a 200 pound monkey on my back, to shuffle downhill and then crawl up Upper Walking Boss. I don't remember much of that other than than realizing it's not exaggerated. It was like one of those bad dreams where you're running as hard as you can and everyone is just flying by you. I don't know what place I was. I don't want to know. Anyway, hopefully they got a photo of my pitiful teary finish so that it can be put on the Loon Mountain Facebook page next year to show just what you can be reduced to in this race if all physical, mental and emotional elements combine to create the perfect storm. It's really something to behold. Hey, laugh and the world laughs with you...I guess.

But this was one of those "cry and you cry alone" things. And I did. A lot. Alone. Not because I felt sorry for myself, because it WAS my fault, and not over a bad race, but mostly because I told me "I can't" and it was like I REALLY hurt my own damn feelings or something, if that's possible. Also mostly because even if I would have gutted out a proper finish, which would have been ugly, it still would have trumped giving up on myself. And also because this is not a real problem and so I feel bad for feeling so bad. And because I've spent enough time injured that how could I let myself do this to myself? And because this has never happened before. And because what if because you give up on yourself once it gets easy to do it again and again? And because I want to make people proud of me but I didn't. And because there will always be someone who's glad you failed. And because it reminded me of Kathy Ormsby who totally lost it in the 10k at NCAA's in 1985 and ran off the track and off a bridge and wound up paralyzed, and because if there was a bridge around at the time I'd have done the same thing. And because I'm reading The Fault In Our Stars which is this brutally sad book where all these kids have cancer. And because on Letsrun everyone is so mean to each other. And all this other really weird random shit and I don't really know how else to articulate it other than that I think my brain exploded at approximately the same time my legs did.

For the record having a Psychology degree is absolutely worthless.

I would like to think that maybe that was the best I could do and I just screwed up plain and simple. But I would only agree with the latter half of that statement. Because in the back of my head I know that was not the best I could do, it was up until a point then wasn't anymore, and no one could say anything that would make it excusable. I totally panicked and I overreacted because I put so much stock into this race and executing it perfectly that I let myself get totally thrown when perfect didn't happen. But if that broke me then I had no business on a Worlds team anyway, and the group that's going absolutely earned it, and I absolutely did not, and I'm proud of them. I don't believe there is a valid excuse. It was embarrassing, and I regret it. But anyway, that's how it went.

Post race, the elite coordinator Paul sent me an email and this was part of it:

"Hopefully today you can walk away with something of value in much the same way your Mt. Washington of 2 weeks ago was walking away with awesomeness."

So I started wondering to myself what thing of value could I possibly have just taken away from the most embarrassingly low race of my life. And it didn't take much thought. I thought about other races I've had where in spite of my best effort, they were horrible. But the thing that was missing from the aftermath of them was regret. I learned that no matter how brutal and ugly and painful a real finish would have been, it would have far surpassed giving into physical and mental pain and essentially giving up because of it, and that no matter how cheap talk is, I will never, ever let that happen again.

So that's kind of all I have to say about that, there is great and good and bad and ugly and downright pathetic and that's just how it is. I just had to put it out there though. I don't believe in carefully curating and promoting some best-case scenario version of myself. Shit happens and it hurts really bad when it does.

On the upside, I met a bunch more awesome mountain running peeps and I seriously love the mountain/ultra/trail running community the more races I run, totally different vibe and I am so glad I stumbled on it. And Nuta taught me how to make Turkish style coffee, so there's that.

It was no Mt. Washington and there was no glory in it, but at least I get to try again. There's still another mountain that needs to be run up next month.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Running Up More Things

We've all had those races or seasons where, after they're said and done, you KNOW that you're gonna remember them for a loooong time. Maybe even not necessarily PR's, but breakthroughs or milestones or whatnot that make your mindset kind of shift and it's like, "Oh, I didn't know I could actually do that." I think racing Mt. Washington last weekend was one of mine.

Mountain races aren't really your traditional, balls-to-the-wall-from-the-gun type races, and the race doesn't seem to always end up going to the fleet-footed little gazelles with the flawless running form. Heck, some people probably look at the times from some of those races and write them off as not even being real "races" (however, I would encourage said people to actually try one before making that call). They present a lot more unique challenges and a hugely different atmosphere than what I'm used to, and I can see why people who give the MUT scene a try don't always go back to the roads and track. It's just so different, not only do you have the excitement of the race, but you also get to see things you would never see on the roads, and you meet a whole lot more quirky people who love the same things about it. I have had more fun training in the last couple of months than I have in the last few years. Don't get me wrong, I love training and competing and running in general, but if I was really honest with myself--and I would not admit to myself till recently--I didn't really realize that I was actually kind of mentally fried doing the same types of workouts in the same places and running the same sorts of races, and getting basically the same results season after season. But I get so freaking excited now over all the different workouts and training routes and trails in Colorado Springs that I never even knew existed till fairly recently, and in a way I feel like someone hit the "reset" button on running, in a REALLY good way. Rather than getting nervous and jittery over the fact that I'm pretty sure the earth will spontaneously burst into flame and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth if I don't hit my 800 meter splits on the track, instead I'm like a fat kid in a candy shop wanting to see how fast I can fartleck my way up Columbine Trail without rupturing my aorta. Or whatever else Taskmaster Cody comes up with. It's pretty rad.

But anyway, I haven't talked about Mt. Washington yet.

First, I have to start with my long and obligatory list of Thank You's, leading the list should be the elite coordinator Paul Kirsch, who even let me into the race late. I should start by saying that the hardest part about the race (aside from the race itself) is getting to it. It's out in the boondocks (spectacularly beautiful boondocks I might add), so it took some serious organization to get all of the elite field out there. Transportation to and from Boston, which was no joke, was all set up for us (thanks John), as was housing. And somehow Paul miraculously accomplishes all of this via 8 million emails. On top of that, housing is all squared away too. Sage Canaday and myself stayed with Sharon Morrison, who kindly adopted us for a couple of nights in her awesome house in the middle of the woods. I crashed at Beth Merica's house en route back to Boston the day following the race, and I guarantee that Beth is cooler than the coolest grandma EVER.

Okay now on to Mt. Washington.

<"Only one hill".... Let's just say when Sage (a previous Mt. Washington victor) took Ryan Bak and myself on a course tour (as in, he drove us up the mountain) the day before, I had a bit of an "Oh S**t" Moment. I mean, crap, this thing is steep. And it just keeps going. And treeline is at like, 3,000 feet and it looks like you're on top of a 14-er at that point. I thought maybe I was seriously about to embarrass myself tomorrow, because who RUNS UP THIS?! I was thinking at that moment that should have stuck with the Portland Track Festival.

The view from about mile 4, the white tents down below that you can barely see is the starting area.

But somehow I made it to the start line the next day. After Simon taped up my plantar and I warmed up, I mentally went through all the zillion of tips that people had given me who had run the race before. Scott Elliott, who ran the race a few times not to mention won Pikes Peak half a dozen more times, had given me some advice a few weeks prior. Don't start out too fast. Got it. Don't bother with a watch. Check. When you see the dirt parking lot on your right up near the summit, start going for it. Cool, sounds great, hope I get that far. Heading to the start, I reassured myself with the comforting statistic that in 120 years, Mt. Washington has only seen 120 deaths, and none have been in this race. Hooray.

Sounds about right.

After the gun went off, we ran the only flat section in the entire race for a whole 200 meters before the road abruptly changes to a 15-ish percent grade, which will be unrelenting for the next almost-8 miles. I don't actually remember a whole lot save for wondering how and when I got ahead of Brandy and Valentina, because they're no joke on ascents. It made me awfully nervous, but after a while I just thought what the heck, just give it a try and see what happens. The rest of the race passed in a haze of just grinding up to the summit, which you actually run into the clouds to get to, and to be honest I don't even remember the "Wall," which is the 23% grade of a hill that marks the final push of the race, maybe 100 meters out from the finish. I had heard horror stories of The Wall. All I could think of was, "Sweet! I get to break tape!" I've won some races, but there's never been tape to break. Not even like a strip of toilet paper strung out across the finish line. So I was really excited to break tape. The time was 70:12, which was apparently a solid time but knowing what constituted a good Mt. Washington time was another thing I was blissfully ignorant of going into the race.

The Wall that I don't remember.

So anyway, that was that. I got my first big girl mountain win and even better, I qualified for my first USA Team for the WMRA Long Distance Challenge on Pikes Peak this year! It was a great day.

Speaking of Team USA, next up is another trip back to New Hampshire, which is seriously growing on me, for the Loon Mountain Race, aka the USA Mountain Running Champs! I'm pumped.
Winning our fancy salad bowls, Brandy's came with a baby!

How I trained for my 26.2 Grandma's Marathon

I have not started a blog ever because I thought why, I don't have anything interesting to say or I'm not really funny.... But, the other day someone said to me “your one determined mom”, how do you stay so fit with 2 kids, I don't have the time. I thought in my head, yeah I have some big goals, and I don't have a ton of time but, I do get it in!

So for all you busy moms out there let me give you my best running mom tips. I hope they help!

1.Get out the door/treadmill before everyone is up and moving! Because, when mom is up everyone needs you and the feeding frenzy begins. I want milk, I want cereal, and can I have a strawberry.....which leads to a Mount Everest pile of dishes. Then you have to perfect the perfect pony, can't find my shoes, I did not wash the favorite outfit.... Love them but, mornings can be rough at times and when my run is done I am ready and on point!

2. Prepare as much as possible! I chop everything up and put into containers for the week. Wash strawberries and cut them up, make 2 dozen pancakes one day and reheat. Sweet potatoes in the Crockpot wrapped in foil so they r ready to go. Whole chickens that I can use for sandwich meat for the next couple of days, hard boil eggs. Big dishes and quiches. To eat healthy use your precious time, prepare as much as you can and become a planner, There is no other way.

3. This summer kids have swimming and I use that hour to do core work and hip strengthening exercises, along with some yoga and stretching. Yes, I did look a little silly and got the, “what a great idea, you should lead us all in your routine”. Use every min for all the small stuff! They add up!

4. Don't think you have to get massages and take naps to succeed. I think they help a ton if you can find time and afford them but, I have never received them in my trainings and have tallied maybe 6 naps in my running career. Do it if you have the time but, don't dwell on it! If you’re at home like me you never sit so you are constantly flushing the legs! By walking around :) that is what I tell myself.

5. Sometimes I run laps around the cul de sac, push kids to park and run around the park in circles. Boring yes! A couple weeks ago a group of moms were at a table drinking wine and watching there kids play, they said great idea but, obviously not that great of an idea they kept drinking wine :), that is a good idea! Goals and sacrifices. Getting in my second runs mandatory!

6. Be ready in workout clothing at all times and seize it when it happens! Yes people think I am dresses up when I wear a nice shirt and jeans. I get in push ups and lunges and any of the little things while the kids are riding bikes, drawing with chalk. Or I play red light green light, Mr. Fox and I do lunges to them:) athletic wear is the new style really!

I wrote this on my spin bike at 5 am so don't judge my writing or grammar! A happy mom means good things. Get crafty! Take the tips or don’t! Just an insight into my routine.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

#allin or nothing

When adidas first came out with the #allin, admittedly I was a bit confused.  The first thing that came to mind was, "oh, it's a new word for ballin" and I couldn't come up with a better explanation.  I thought maybe it had been shortened like Puff Daddy-P Ditty-Ditty...I don't know, I purposely don't pay attention to pop culture.  When I heard it was "all in" I was pretty excited, as this pretty much sums up my view on athletics.  My philosophy in running is simple; make yourself tired, keep running, then run faster.  I view every time I put my adidas kicks on and step out the door as an opportunity to improve.  It's also why I became a runner.  I viewed running as a sport in which hard work pays off more so than other sports.  This is mostly true, until you get to the elite level where you basically red line your body about three times a week.  The danger becomes 'overtraining,' a word I have always hated and basically didn't believe in.  Why? Because overtraining is also how you improve, and fear of overtraining leads to under training and under performing. #allin or nothing

2013 was a huge breakthrough for me because I has spent the last three years with no real improvement in running.  I accomplished my long time goal in running, a qualifying mark for the USA Track & Field Championships.  The road there wasn't easy.  For almost three months I was afraid that a worsening breathing problem would end my running career.  I could barely run a track workout without couching to death afterward, making it almost impossible to run a mile specific workout.  Warmer weather helped get this under control leading up to my June races.  I had also been banished from my previous college team, something that weighted heavily on my mind.  When I got to Des Moines for the championships, I was confident and felt great….except for my breathing.  Allergies destroyed my chances at making the final.  On the cool down I could hear a whistling sound when I attempted to inhale.  I was later diagnosed with vocal chord dysfunction (a camera was shoved up my nose while riding to exhaustion on an exercise bike...that was fun).  This led to the decision to have my deviated septum fixed in hopes it would help, as I couldn't breathe through the right side of my nose.  I had the surgery in September 2013.  It helped my breathing but has basically destroyed my ability to race a mile.

The 2014 racing season has unarguably been the worst track season of my life.  Despite my hardest training, work ethic, and giving up alcohol entirely, my body didn't have it.  Maybe it was my reaction to the surgery and anesthesia, maybe I overtrained, maybe I just need a month off of running.  Ever since the surgery I have not had a single good middle distance track workout.  Long runs and tempos were better than ever, as well as distance races at altitude which was a huge breakthrough.  So what happened? Probably the most damming thing was an internal sore that refused to heal post surgery.  That made for a nice seven months of nearly constant pain and hopelessness.  Maybe putting in the nastiest training Ive ever attempted with that going on was just too much.  During this battle, the last thing on my mind was giving up at running.  I needed it to take my mind off the sore, and the doctors told me training didn't effect it.  Maybe I should have run easily for a month.  It also didn't help that it wasn't accurately diagnosed until I had been in pain for six months.  Two months of treatment and its better.

It appears I have lost something fundamental to running.  What it is I can't exactly say, I can only try to explain.  My aerobic capacity has stayed the same if not improved.  Sprinting was nearly impossible, though I regained that ability in March.  What never came back was my ability to run 1500 race pace at a relaxed effort.  I ran three 3:50 1500s this year, all in great weather with great competition.  I spent the last two months running on legs that barely worked.  I tried everything to get them back, but every workout involved calf pain that got so bad I dnf'd my last race.  So now I begin the task of regrouping and analyzing what happened.  I have exhausted every option in running besides one; rest.  It is the only option I see for the next few weeks, followed by a relearning of how to run.  Back to working on the fundamentals….maybe that's why Renato Canova calls the initial phase of training 'fundamental training.'  So its June, the US Championships are next week and I'm not even on the list.  I just had the most disappointing track season ever.

So why am I smiling? Because I went #allin or nothing.  There was no other option.  I left left no stone unturned as far as running goes this season.  I gave it everything.  After showing poor fitness in January I spent about six weeks (Feb-March) with basically no easy days and 100 miles per week with killer workouts.  Some may say this was dumb but I couldn't have lived with my self had I not gone #allin.  I don't know what my future in the sport holds, but I will give it my all till all options are exhausted once again.  However, I will purposely put in a few rest periods in my training next time, cause I did learn something.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cross Training Adventures

I am entering week five of cross training, and hopefully I will be able to start running again next week. I am recovering from my second stress fracture in about a year. This one is also in my second metatarsal, but in the other foot. Last time, I spent a lot of time in the gym, which is incredibly boring in my opinion. This time around, I wanted to get outside and cross train. It's been an adventure to say the least. My training has been mostly biking, walking, yoga, core and gardening. I am going to try out an EllipitGo soon, which I am really excited about. I think the elliptical is really the best form of cross training for running . I'm sure it will be awesome to be able to get outside on the EllipitGo. I'll report back after my first ride.

I was ok with cross training at the gym on the first day because it was snowing outside. I got on the spin bike and started pedaling as fast as I could, which lasted approximately 55 seconds, until I decided that the seat needed to be readjusted. After the seat was set to the correct height, I started pedaling again with my heel to protect my injury and promptly lost my footing and fell off the spin bike. I was slightly embarrassed, but otherwise fine. Having made it through the next 59 minutes without incident, clearly I was ready for a new challenge. Mountain biking.

Day one of mountain biking started out on a chilly morning. I set out with my husband who has a lot more experience on the bike than me. I did a little bit of mountain biking last year when I was hurt, but nothing very technical. The trails by our house are quite a bit more technical than what I did last year, but I was up for the challenge. We rode up the most forgiving route on single track then up a dirt road to the top of Cheyenne Canyon. I kept up with Scott fairly well, but I had to walk a couple of times on the technical parts of the single track. No big deal.

Getin' rad on the mountain bike. Our attempt at selfies. I think we are naturals .

Then we started back down the hill. 57 degrees is freezing going downhill on the bike. By the time we got down the road, teeth chattering, we decided to go the direct shorter (steeper) single track route home because it was so cold.

To say that I am bad at riding single track downhill on the bike would be an understatement. I think I used half of the life of my brakes in that one mile stretch. Another woman came flying past me. While walking her two poodles. There was one point where I was full on white knuckled squeezing the breaks, but still moving forward. How is that even possible? The trail was steep and full of loose gravel, so I was sliding down the hill at a terrifying crawl, pretty sure that I was going to go over the handle bars. Concerned that this was sacrilegious to the trail, sort of the equivalent to shaving moguls in skiing, I got off and walked the remainder.

My mountain biking coach

When we got home I commented on how awful I was at the downhill. My incredibly patient husband said that I was probably just worried about hurting my foot so I held back. It was then that I realized, if one is a runner/novice biker who would like to completely forget about the stress fracture in you foot for a bit, ride down the Chutes on a mountain bike.

Helen Hunt Falls halfway up the canyon
I've gotten a lot better since then on the trails and also ride on the roads quite a bit. I've become a tourist in my neighborhood and pretty much ride up any big hill I can find (no shortage here), which usually ends with the paved side of Cheyenne Canyon. It's 5k from the base to the top with 1250 feet of climbing. It's a pretty good workout.

The Artist's house along my road ride
I usually do yoga or take my dog for a walk in the evenings. I've also added in more core work. My core has always been pretty weak and now is a great time to focus on adding strength. Jay Johnson has posted some great videos of core workouts on his website

The best guide for me through this injury and cross training has been pain. My doctor wants me to cross train and stay active because he believes this will help the bone heal faster. I agree, especially based on my experiences from last year. However, if an activity causes pain then I have to stop and do something else. It's hard at times to be honest with myself about whether or not I feel pain. As a runner I have taught myself to push through pain and even crave that challenge of pushing through
pain. For now, I am focused on recovery and still tapping into that challenge in cross training.

Running will always be my first choice of exercise. But after two stress fractures in one year, I've realized I am going to have to change things up a bit and add in more cross training and running breaks. I'm excited about adding in these of forms of exercise (biking, EllipitiGo) and interested to see how I respond to this new form of training. Barring another running injury, I plan to do some fall road races so that will be the first test. Since I am now a blogger, I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Running Up Things

I would say that the last few weeks have brought about a fun little change in direction to shake things up a little. Following a couple of road races last month with the Cherry Creek Sneak and the Colorado USATF 5 Mile Championships (insert admiring praises here to the two 40 to 50 year old women--Nuta and Colleen--who went 1-2 and kicked my @$$ all around the Boulder Reservoir that day. Humbling, and encouraging at the same time, because apparently you don't get really fast till you're like 35.) I went to the more western side of the state to the lovely town of Montrose to race the Black Canyon Ascent. Admittedly I'd never done any kind of ascent type race in my life, but I heard about it, and seriously who would not want to take part in a race that sounds more like the fourth installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy? I expected it to be sort of like this:
The Black Canyon! Just kiddin' guys, this is actually Mordor and those are hobbits.

But instead, it was more like this:

And thus far, even though I entered it more or less on a whim, it is my absolute favorite race to date. And that's a lot of races. Sure, a 6-plus mile climb is a bit of a ball-buster, but it's hard to feel like you're truly suffering when you're surrounded by such ridiculous views. After I had my initial "Um, WHAT did I sign up for this for?" moment on the start-line, with good reason since there weren't many climbing type workouts--well no actually there were no climbing type workouts--under the belt at that time, the gun went off and aside from wanting to stop a few times to sort of just sort of look around and be really impressed, it made me wonder why the heck I'd ever want to go back to the track and roads (I mean, I will, just not today). It was so tranquil and peaceful up there and you just sort of settle in and grind away, and no one is spiking your calf or screaming at you to get-out-of-lane-two-but-don't-get-boxed-in-lane-one-and-oh-by-the-way-your-last-400-split-was-a-second-too-slow. The mile markers just kinda clicked by. I won, and apparently missed the course record by a just a little bit, set by none other than Colorado's own queen mountain goat Kim Dobson and closely rivaled (by one second before Kim broke it last year) by Brandy Erholtz. Both have been qualifiers for the World Mountain Running Champs, so to be close time-wise to two mountain running studs on the first go-around was encouraging.

Aside from being a ton of fun though, I think this uphill/mountain type stuff attracts a different sort of crowd. It's sort of like, "Okay let's all go run up real steep sh*t as hard as we can, then let's go run around some more and look at pretty things that you will only see if you ran up a mountain to see it." Or something like that. Very competitive, yet without the uber-tense atmosphere that permeates track. At least, that's how I feel about it. So I've retired from track. In all likelihood I'll retract that statement next season when I feel compelled to try just one more time. Maybe.

Anyway, since I don't have a ghetto flip-phone anymore (that is a phrase likely to only be uttered in First World countries), I was able to take some nice touristy photos on my self-guided pre-race tour:
Happily waving bear around mile two. He is not to be fed.

Maybe somewhere around half-way.

Trotting up the road.

I heart.

So coming up, I was initially set on doing the Portland Track Festival in a couple of weeks to have another go at the 5k. But that's not on the docket anymore as it got replaced with Mt. Washington, a 7-point-something mile long ascent which sounds like quite the grind to which Black Canyon was just a warm-up for. So that will be another adventure and will lead up to the USA Mountain Running Champs, not too far away from Mt. Washington on Loon Mountain, so the next few weeks will see lots of up and lots of New Hampshire. Onward and upward (ha?)! Okay bad pun.