Tuesday, August 31, 2010

THIS, THAT and THE OTHER

THIS
It has now been three weeks since my last run (which sounds eerily like a Catholic confessional session. Six Hail Marys and the Rosary, coming up). I've had trouble getting into full-blown cross-training mode. Taking a page out of Dumprunner Matt's book, I planned on taking it easy the first two weeks anyway. I managed to get in one lap swim (800 yds), three bike rides (45.5 miles total) and few stretching sessions. I also got back into a strength training routine, which brings me to…

THAT
This morning when I walked into our kitchen, wearing a short and relatively tight short-sleeve shirt, my youngest daughter looked at my arms and said, "wow, Dad, you look buff!" (if only every day started the same way). I'm not sure about being "buff", but I have noticed a bit more muscle showing up, thanks to a little circuit training routine I've been doing. I have a set of eight exercises - some utilizing weights, some using just my body weight - that I run through non-stop for 20 minutes. I start by warming up on my Schwinn Airdyne for 2 miles (usually 7-8 minutes), then I run through the exercises, one after another, until my 20 minutes is up. By the end, my muscles are spent and I'm gasping for air. My intent is to make it as much a cardio workout as a strength workout. I use the same weight every week so I can compare my results, in terms of how many total reps I can complete. While I also do some miscellaneous strength work a few times a week, I only do this workout once a week. I alternate pulling exercises with pushing exercises. Today was my fourth week. In my first week, I managed 192 total reps, 200 reps in week 2, 236 reps in week 3, and 251 reps today. I'm thrilled with the progress, and with regaining some of the strength I sacrificed while running a lot of miles earlier this year. I've never been good at maintaining a strength training routine while running. And finally...

THE OTHER
At the risk of tooting my own horn (it was the dog, not me), I wanted to mention that I'm excited about a new opportunity I've been given. I'll be the new High School Cross-Country correspondent for Northwest Runner Magazine, at least for part of the state. I just finished writing my first article (XC season preview) and will be taking some photos this afternoon to accompany the article. It will appear in the October issue of the magazine. I enjoy writing and, although I'll have to behave myself and stick with a pretty dry and straightforward writing style, it might lead to other opportunities. Even if it doesn't, it'll be a fun experience. I enjoyed the heck out of track and XC when I ran in high school, so it'll be cool to be a part of that atmosphere again, even as an outsider. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Breaking Through Barriers

As is the case whenever I'm unable to run, I find myself doing more analyzing and thinking (and recording odd videos) about my relationship with running. Something that running has shown me is a clearer definition of my limits, both physical and mental. Not because I've broken through my barriers, but because I have a clearer idea of what they are. I haven't been a new runner in a very long time, but I remember the overwhelming urge to stop running when the slightest discomfort hit me back when I was first starting. After a certain amount of training, the effort becomes easier, but there is still discomfort (unless you're running at a very easy pace). The key to the improvement, I believe, is learning how to deal with and manage the discomfort. My oldest daughter is just starting to run, and I know she is able to go farther and faster than she believes she can (although I know better than to push her at this point), and that's because I have some understanding of what level of discomfort is acceptable. Now, compared to a world-class runner, I have no clue. Give me the same physical gifts that Steve Prefontaine had, put us on the starting line of a 5000 meter race, and he would still eat my lunch, get me to pay the bill and leave the tip.

But I have seen glimpses of "barrier breakthroughs" in my running. I'm sure you've had those runs and/or races when you're cruising along at a high, but sustainable, effort level. You glance at your watch and realize your pace is faster than you expected, then you push a little harder, into unknown territory. It hurts, but you tell yourself to relax and accept the pain. Like I eluded to, this doesn't happen very often for me, but when it does, it makes me wonder how much more I have in me.

There have been several instances during races when I've come to a decision point. I'm redlining and unsure if I can maintain my current pace much longer. Do I continue to try pushing and risk blowing up? Or do I back off so things feel a little more comfortable? I usually choose the latter. I wish that wasn't the case, but I know my mental strength is still lacking. Sure, maybe I would blow up at that greater effort level, but maybe I hit a breakthrough point and advance my running to a higher level, with new found confidence.

Not to get too philosophical, but there are life lessons I've taken from this, too. We all go through trials - work, family, relationship and health related - that test our limits. I think running has helped me to realize that a lot of the barriers we face are not only self-imposed, but they're movable. They can be pushed through, if one is willing to endure just a little more pain and discomfort than they believed they could. We can reach new levels that seemed unatainable before.

Now, if I can only put this into practice myself!

(not sure why I'm so "deep" today…)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Belated Thanks

Eight days ago I posted a confirmation that, due to my injured foot, I intend to finally give in and take at least eight weeks off from running (so far, not bad...but I do miss it). Several of you posted some very encouraging and inspirational comments. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you: Matt, Greg, Chris, Mark, Ari, Andrew, Evolving (if that is your REAL name...), Bruce, Johann, Adam and Julie. I apologize for taking so long to acknowledge you all. Your words mean a lot to me. As many of you said, I know the downtime will fly by and I'll be back out there, stronger & healthier, ready to build back up (sloooowwwly) and RACE once again!

Until then...I have a few goodies (in addition to the Ragnar video) that I'll be posting soon. Stay tuned!

Thanks again!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ragnar NW Passage 2010 Team Video

Here is the video presentation I just completed to document my team's experience at Ragnar - NW Passage (July 23 & 24). Editing and original backing soundtrack by yours truly. A big thank-you to my teammates for providing great photos & videos.

[Video embedded below, but it can also be seen, in better quality, here]

Thursday, August 12, 2010

ANNOUNCEMENT

This is going to be difficult to type (no, not because of carpal tunnel syndrome). I've been fighting both a heel injury AND how to deal with it for quite awhile now. Since it first appeared on May 31st, I've gone through periods when the heel pain has been pretty intense, and periods when it seemed like the injury was a thing of the past. After no running for the first 3 weeks of June, along with four weeks of physical therapy, I felt like I was ready to ease back into running, which I did. I was part of a Ragnar team, and felt obligated to not only run it, but to try to be somewhat prepared for it. I had days where I felt a bit of heel pain, but nothing I considered a "shut it down" kind of pain. I ran a 5k. The heel felt fine. I ran Ragnar. The heel felt fine...until my third and final leg, which was quite hilly. That's when the heel spoke to me (and it wasn't using its Sunday School words). Shortly after that, I ran 2 hours on very hilly trails (in preparation for my first 50k on Oct. 2nd). That caused INTENSE pain in my heel. I keep saying "heel", but the pain has since grown. I now feel it in my ankle (still mostly on the inside, right above the ankle bone), as well as under my foot, at the back of my arch. It's more of a "rear right foot" issue now.

After the hilly trail run, I backed off for a few days, then ran a flat half marathon. Yes, some pain, but not horrible. I thought, "maybe I can keep training if I'm running on relatively flat ground". Two days after the half, I ran a very slow (and flat) 12 miles. Not much pain. The next day (two days ago), I repeated this very same run. The pain during the last mile was pretty severe. As usual, you can question my line of thinking, but I wanted to do back-to-back long runs to see if my foot might be able to handle the training necessary for my 50k (since it's only 7 weeks away), as well as the 50k itself. The answer, unfortunately, is a resounding "NO". Even staying off the hills, it's just not going to happen.

I'll say it here and now - Chris (fellow running blogger, and fellow heel injury sufferer), you were right. I wasn't ready. I had to find out for myself, though.

Due to my current financial situation, I'm unable to get an MRI. I don't know if there's a fracture involved or not, but I'm going to treat it as if it might be.

Which brings me to my plan of action. No running...PERIOD...for at least two months. Yes, that means I'll be volunteering at Baker Lake rather than running it. In place of running, I'll be cycling - mostly outdoors, hopefully - and swimming. I have a prepaid swim pass I bought about three years ago and have yet to use. I'm not sure if they allow aqua jogging. If not, I'll swim laps. I'll also work on strength exercises. I'll basically train like a triathlete, minus the run leg.

I considered NOT posting this, so I could back out of my decision a couple of weeks down the road to test my heel again. I chose to go through with this, though, for accountability purposes. I want to be running 20, 30 or more years from now. Being the "running wounded" isn't the way to accomplish that.

Thanks for your kind comments & words of advice during this process. I'll continue posting here. This will give me an opportunity to be a more well-rounded person (hopefully not around the midsection).

Monday, August 9, 2010

1000

Today, I FINALLY hit 1000 miles running this year. I say finally for two reasons:
  1. Because of my heel injury, I arrived at this mark about a month later than expected.
  2. The closest I ever came to this mark was in 1984, when I logged 983 running miles.
Even though it's just a number, I've been itching to surpass it for 26 years. Injuries notwithstanding, I should finish the year somewhere between 1600 and 1800 miles. For someone who thought he'd never run again before last year, I'm thrilled to have that opportunity.

To reach this mark today, I ran 12 miles at a very slow pace (9:37/mi), keeping my heart rate under 135 bpm. I'm now in full-blown ultra mode (without the hills...see previous posts re: how the hills KILL my heel), and am trying to re-build my aerobic base and teach my body to burn more fat than glycogen. That will involve lots of long, slow running. That's not always an easy task, and after today's run, I was pretty tired and sore (partially from the race I ran on Saturday). I'm taking my training one day at a time right now, due to how my heel feels. Ironically, yesterday and today, the heel felt better than it has in a long time - even after a half marathon!

So I suppose I should celebrate the 1000 mark in some small way tonight. I'm thinking a cold Widmer Hefeweisen. Mmmm....

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Well, What the Heck Did You Go And Do That For?!

What's the definition of insanity? Yeah, that's what I thought. What's the definition of insanity? Yeah, that's what I thought.

I ran a low-key, donation-only half marathon this morning (First Call, put on by Adrian Call, who does a very nice job). There was also a full marathon and a 50k, along with three different start times. The race started at Bothell Landing and was an out-and-back course, mostly flat. After destroying my heel on a 2-hour hilly trail run on Monday, I decided to be smart and skip this event, opting to volunteer instead tough it out, heel be damned, and run the stupid race. Ah, I can hear a couple of you booking flights to Seattle right now so you can show up at my doorstep and knock some sense into me when I answer (which is why I don't answer the door, most of the time).

I went out at a 7:44 first mile, backed off the pace a bit, then picked it up a little on the return trip, for a finish of 1:41:44...which is only :22 off my (rather soft) half PR...on low training and a bum wheel. It was the longest run I've done since my marathon on May 15th, and even though the last couple of miles were tough, I managed to run negative splits, which is rare for me. The only downside to this race (aside from my injury) was that I ended up running all but the first 2 miles alone, so it felt very much like a training run...which is how I was going to treat it, anyway.

So why did I do this when my heel has been so agitated this week? Um...how 'bout them Cubbies!

Honestly, I wrestled with the decision. I knew the course was flat (the hills have really been killing my heel), and I figured I'd start with the idea of DNF'ing if the pain was too much. Well, there was pain, but I guess I didn't consider it "too much". Plus, I'm not always the brightest bulb in the pantry (we keep our spare bulbs in our pantry. So there.) Now, maybe due to overcompensation, my lower right calf has been hurting & getting tight during my runs, and I've felt hints of Plantar Fasciitis underneath the heel. My whole right foot is going on strike.  I figure that if I'm going down, I might as well go down with a big THUD, instead of during a routine neighborhood run. The deck chairs on the Titanic look better rearranged, anyway.

I've got an ice pack on the heel as I'm sitting here. I'll alternate ice with a tub of warm water for the next hour or so. Here's where I feel like Fonzy, from Happy Days: I plan on bbbbb....bbbbbb......bbacking off for awhile. How long? Oh, what time is it now? Kidding. I don't know yet whether I'll do an official "shut down" for the long term, or just play it by ear. I still hold out hopes of running the Baker Lake 50k on October 2nd. The reality is that I probably won't be able to put in 1) enough long runs, and 2) enough trail time to feel comfortable running it. But there's still a glimmer of hope. We'll see. Other than that, I have no other races on the schedule, and that's kind of a relief right now. I'm hoping to reconcile with my heel and tear up these divorce papers.

Man, this ice is cold.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Goals

We've often heard that it's more valuable to look ahead rather than dwell on the past. That's a very valid sentiment, but looking back - for the right reasons - can be helpful.

With my continuing struggle with this heel injury (which has made a roaring comeback after my 2-hour hilly trail run last Monday, after seeming to be on the mend), I decided to venture back into my training logs, specifically to a period when I was training and running more effectively. That period was basically November of 2009 through about April of this year. It's funny that at the time, I didn't really think I was running and racing all that well. I definitely wasn't disappointed with how things were going, but hindsight will often shed new light on things.

What did I learn? What was working? I don't know if there are any specifics I could list, but it seems that running frequency wasn't a problem…and by that, I mean running TOO frequently wasn't an issue. Last December, I had a modest streak of 19 days in a row of running. While the idea of a streak just for the sake of statistics doesn't interest me much now, some of the notes I had written next to some of the entries late in the streak do interest me. More than once I noted that my legs were actually feeling stronger. And the few times I pushed the pace, I wasn't disappointed. I think one of the keys was keeping the effort during the majority of the runs very easy.

This "hindsight insight" got me thinking about giving this a try again…maybe when the heel quiets down. I'd like to see if I can slowly condition my body better to react to running as more of a normal function (the old "the body becomes its function"...I may sound pretty wacky here, I know). As a "masters runner", I've read about cutting back on volume, and I understand the reasons…but given my experience last December (and even into early spring), I just wonder if I can do it. I would like to incorporate more heart-rate training; both teaching my body to run faster at a lower heart rate (while burning more fat than glycogen), and teaching it to race more effectively while maintaining a higher heart rate. I know that lately, ANY running has felt difficult…and not necessarily due to the heel injury. I just don't feel like my fitness is anywhere near where it was a few months ago.

So, given the assumption that I can run basically daily and gradually re-condition my body to it, how does that mesh with my running goals? Well…I'm not entirely sure of my goals at this point, which is one reason I'd like to try the above. Why? Since I have a desire to run a wide variety of distances, I'd like to have a very solid, ongoing base. At any given moment, in a perfect world, I'd like to be about a month away from a fast 5k, 10k or half marathon, and no more than 3 months from a full marathon (and possibly longer?) To me, this would mean a maintenance level that includes a bit of fast running and a relatively long run (10-15 mi) each week. I don't know yet if this is practical, and if my body could continue with a high-frequency base level without going stale or getting injured.

If this heel ever heals, I might be just the fool to give it a try*.


* then again, these may just be the musings of a frustrated, hobbled mad man.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Running Across Deception Pass (Ragnar video)

video
This was a really cool experience for a few of us. At about 6:50am on Friday, July 24th, Garrett was running leg 24 (of 36) of the Ragnar Relay. At this point, he ran over the Deception Pass bridge, which connects the mainland to Whidbey Island. The bridge is over a quarter mile long, and roughly 180' above water (it looks higher when you're on it). Three out of the six men in our van decided to run over the bridge with him. Garrett ended up running this leg at 6:37 pace (he was close to the end of this one), so I assume were were running roughly that pace. Fun times.
Below is a photo of the bridge:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ragnar Photos

Starting area, Blaine, WA

"Extreme Cow Tippers of Mill Creek" Top (L to R): Cris Cable, Mike Turk, Kris Amato, Garrett Klovdahl, Dave Cowan. Bottom (L to R): Colin Hayes, Josh Narode, Lars Larson, Gus Anaya, Brian Brandser, Mike Minea, Tony Byrd

Yours truly, handing off to Kris @ exchange 34
Waiting for Kris to hand off to Garrett
Final handoff to Garrett, who will bring us home.
The finish line, where we all crossed together.