Saturday, February 23, 2013

Highs and lows of 100-miles

Meandering Thoughts of a Wandering Strider

            It has been a while since I have written anything about my adventures.  It also has been a while since I have had success in running a 100-mile race.  I tried to run the Mohican 100 in Ohio last summer, but was forced to withdraw early due to a swollen right knee.  Very disappointing, but in hindsight, it was probably a good thing to do.  Attempting to continue could have put me on the shelf for a very long time.  So I was very amped to be trying to complete another 100-mile run.
            Running 100 miles, for me, has been a mostly warm weather test.  But running 100 miles in cold weather turned out to be a different animal or beast in this case, the Beast of Burden 100/50-mile races.  The race is held in Lockport, NY, which is located about 5 miles east of Buffalo.  I left on Friday morning with the ride there taking about 8 hours and I arrived early enough to be able to get plenty of rest, especially since the race did not start until 10 am on Saturday.  Since I did not really know what to expect as far as weather, I brought pretty much all of my cold weather gear and two gym bags to divide it equally into.
            The racecourse is run entirely alongside the Erie Canal, on a loop course.  There are three aid stations, one on each end of the course and another at about the halfway mark.  It is 12.5 miles out and 12.5 back, meaning that as a 100-mile runner, I had to do the loop 4 times.   I would be leaving one of the gym bags at the start/finish and sending the other bag out to the turn around site.  The forecast called for temperatures in the low 20’s during the day and single digits overnight.  So each bag had multiple winter shirts, running jackets, clean socks, shorts and even wind-briefs.  Piling everything up on the couch in my hotel room Friday night, I wondered if I would even need most of the gear that was in each bag.
            Sleeping the night before one of these races has always been a trial for me, with my mind going over everything that might happen once the race starts.  This time was different; possibly because of the starting time being later in the morning.  I slept pretty good, sleeping until about 7 am, leaving me plenty of time to get dressed and put everything into the car for the short trip to the starting line.  I have been trying a new way of consuming my daily food, eating only for 8-hours during the day and fasting for 16-hours.  In order to eat with my wife in the evenings, I do not eat until 10 am most everyday and have my last caloric intake sometime around 6 pm.  This is supposed to help train the body to process fat better and prevent getting things such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.  I am not sure about the prevention part and I do know that it can be a trial sometimes, mostly in the morning, but one thing I have noticed is that I have been losing weight at a greater rate than I normally do while training for something like this.  So one of the things on Saturday morning that I had to do was make two peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches that I could take with me so that I could eat one when we started. 
            Pulling into a parking space just before 9 am, I took in the misleading bright sunshine and hoping that it planned on sticking around for the better part of the day.  Temperatures were about 10°F with a light wind out of the north.  People were milling around the tent that was set up next to the restrooms, with volunteers waiting for runners to sign in, get their numbers and receive the swag that they get just for signing up.  Once most runners got their numbers, they disappeared back into their vehicles to absorb the warmth provided by their car heaters in anticipation of the cold times ahead.  Of course, this is also what I did.  I had my last minute gear to put on and then I took my bags from the truck, depositing one in the tent and the other one into the open trunk of a car for transport to the far aid station.  Then it was back into my truck for about 15 minutes of warmth.
            The 50-miler and the 100-miler both start at the same time.  I was told that that approximately 130 people were at the start for both races.  We started on the south side of the canal, headed west for about 1 mile, crossed a bridge over the canal and headed east along side the canal on the tow path.  Description of the course: FLAT!  There is some very gentle undulations along the course, but it does not make any difference in the altitude gain or loss.  There was about 3” of snow on the path, most of which was smoothed out by snowmobilers who were illegally driving their machines on the path.  For us runners, it help out quite a bit, smoothing out the irregular surface left by cross-country skis and footprints left by people walking themselves or their dogs on the path. 
            I started out toward the back of the pack, figuring that the 50-mile people would be running at a quicker pace than what I would be.  Turns out that I was wrong, as I ran with a couple of 50-milers for quite a bit of the first loop.  My pace actually quickened, which was commented on by one of the guys, Ed, who was running the 50 as a way of getting in a marathon in New York (this was to be his 31st state to run a marathon in).  He was wondering if I planned on running the whole 100 miles at the pace we were going.  My reply was that it was a beautiful day, I love to run and I was just enjoying the opportunity to do so, but that I would most likely be slowing down later on. 
            The aid stations and the volunteers that were working them were fantastic.  Although in hindsight I spent way too much time in each one, the helpfulness of the volunteers, the food that was available and, dare I say it, the warmth that washed over us once inside, made for good reasons to tarry a bit each time.  I probably could have cut off well over an hour from my time if I had shortened my stays to five minutes instead of the 15 or so at each turnaround and the 10 minutes or so at the middle station.  But the race volunteers and all those people who work very hard to put this race on did a fantastic job to ensure that the runners would safely be able to circumvent the distance.  Entering each aid station, the first thing I reached for was a cup of Mountain Dew.  I do not normally drink soda (at all), but during a race like this, the caffeine and the sugar work in tandem with the solid foods that I also ingested to allow me to continue to run.  Next, it was one half of a PB&J, a cup or two of chicken broth, chicken noodle soup or lentil soup, water and a cup of HEED (replacement drink).  At the far turn around, they were also able to provide dill pickles!  Love it!  Later on, they all provided hot grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza.  I decided not to attempt the pizza, but everything else worked out great.  All the while I was absorbing the warmth provided by the heavy-duty heaters and the volunteers concern for my and every other runner’s well being. 
            The first loop was my best and worst of the four.  I ran the whole thing, stopping only at the aid stations.  I had worn two polypropylene shirts, with a Camel Back designed to sit next to the skin outside the first shirt (can’t have the water freeze up-it worked great), a light wind jacket, a dickie, hat, shorts, wind briefs, tights, light pair of gloves and a pair of Gore-Tex mittens with hand warmers stuffed into them.  The major problem that I had on the first loop was that the tights were not heavy enough to prevent the muscles in my legs from getting tight and sore.  I also realized that I would not be able to sustain running the entire loop each time, so I had to consider working in walk breaks.  I completed the first loop of 25-miles in about 4 ½ hours, which if I could have sustained that would give me a PR for the distance.  I did not even contemplate that at the time, knowing how I was feeling after the first 25 miles. 
            The race officials insist that each runner take his or her headlamp with them when they start their second loop and that they have a full-face ski mask to lessen the chance of getting frostbite in the cold.  I wore a different Camel Back pack without the bladder on the outside of my coat, which held my headlamps, Gu packets, extra batteries for the headlamps, cell phone and my camera (only for a little while).  I changed my shirts at the start/finish turnaround, but kept the same jacket since it was still daylight (we lost the bright sunshine early in the day, with it making brief appearances over the course of the day) and I was comfortable.  I also put on a pair of wind pants over the tights (what an incredible difference, making the difference between finishing comfortably and finishing in pain).  Off I went on the second loop, running between bridges or running between mile markers and then walking for two minutes.  The 50-milers that I had been running with fell back (very surprised about that) and from this point until the end, I ran pretty much by myself.  I wore sunglasses during the day with no problems and by the time I reached the turnaround, the darkness was beginning to creep in, necessitating a change to clear-lens glasses.  I also exchanged the light jacket for a jacket with a liner and put on the full-faced mask as the temperature was dropping and my face felt uncomfortable at times.  The best part of this turnaround was the full moon that was rising with the coming night.  If you have never had the pleasure of running trails during a full moon, try it someday.  There is something so primal and enchanting about running in the full moon light, even on a groomed trail such as the towpath, away from the lights of the cities and towns.
            I never removed my headlamp from my backpack, preferring to run just by the moonlight.  Clouds moved in during the night, but there was so much light provided by the moon that the clouds did not diminish it much.  It got irritating meeting other runners coming from the other direction who did not share my enjoyment of the night and were using their sometimes (painfully) bright lights to see the trail.  But the number of runners was not that great and was diminishing as the night wore on.  As I worked my way toward the end of the second loop, I passed a lady who was running the 50-miler and in turn, the lead runner in the 100-miler, who was completing his third loop, passed me!  He looked like it was a run around the block, not showing any kind of strain from maintaining his pace.  I let the lady whom I had passed go in front of me and hung back to allow her to get due recognition for completing the fifty.  Once I got in, I changed shirts again, dawdled over the food and drink, got warm and then headed back out.  About halfway down to the bridge, I was once again passed by the lead runner, who commented that he was stiff from sitting.  He took the time to sit, spending more time in the tent than I did and even with that, he still ended up finishing in record time! 
            My third and fourth loops were much the same as the second loop.  It became easier to walk and to extend the walks, so on the fourth loop, I concentrated on keeping the walking period to two minutes or less, especially on the return.  I was looking forward to finishing.  Going into the turnaround, there was a noticeable light on the horizon and starting back to the finish from the turnaround, the sky was beginning to lighten all over.  By now I was wearing my heaviest jacket and had changed into the last two dry shirts that I had left.  Surprisingly, I had had no desire nor any need to change my shoes or socks.  The trail through the snow was very well marked, with everyone pretty much staying to the same path through the snow.  Even though I was anxious to be done, that still did not force me to move any quicker through the middle aid station when I came to it.  Everything had worked so well up to this point that I did not want to vary the routine, afraid that I would bonk trying to finish well.  Completing each loop was difficult as you could see the tent on the other side of the canal, but you still had to run approximately one mile to the bridge to cross to that side and then run back to the tent.  The last time was especially difficult, with me looking at the ice covering the canal and wondering if I could scramble down the side, if the ice would hold me and if I would be able to make my way to the top of the embankment to cut off the final 2 miles.  But I kept on chugging, finishing my run in 23 hours, 24 minutes, and completing my goal of finishing in less than 24 hours. 
            Normally the story would end here, after receiving my well-earned belt buckle from the race director.  But unfortunately, this one does not.  I returned to my hotel after stopping off to get some well-deserved beer and picking up a pizza that I was longing for, hopped into (okay, I gingerly stepped into) the tub to wash off the accumulated salt from my body so that I could take a shower without screaming in pain (chaffing is such a nasty thing).  Before I could take that shower, my body decided that enough was enough and I barely made it to the bed, where I slept for 3 ½ hours, tried to get up and fell back into bed for another hour, at which time I was able to start moving around, eat some pizza, sip some beer and climb into the shower.  I stayed the night and left about 7 am on Monday morning.  About 2” of snow fell overnight and the roads were slushy, but not bad.  I felt good, stopping about every hour and a half to two hours to move around, but the weather continued to be crappy.  I entered Massachusetts on the Mass Pike, still traveling well, but I made one mistake: I had shut off the 4-wheel drive to save money on gas.  On an uphill in the Berkshires, the truck hit a slick spot (probably ice, not sure), fishtailed a bit and headed straight for a bridge abutment, hitting it head on, catching a dry spot and flipping the truck on its’ side, sliding to a stop facing traffic.  No injury for me, but the truck was totaled.  Beating myself up has been my favorite pastime this week, but there is no changing what happened. 
            So an awesome high in finishing the 100-miler within my goal (I do not believe that I will be doing anything in the cold like that again) and a below the belt low in losing my truck.  My wife has told me that there will be no more adventures for me, although she needs to realize that the accident with the truck could have happened at anytime.  I guess I will have to work on her, although I probably will not be doing anything for a bit anyway. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

100-mile return

Last year, I turned fifty in May and started fretting about the fact that I had not done a hundred mile run in 8 years. Injuries played a major role in that. I was able to run some sort of ultra every year (except for last year), but every time I started looking into the possibility of a hundred, inevitably, I got injured. So last year, I decided to forgo an ultra and allow my body ample time to heal.

I had heard about an ultra festival in New Jersey through a friend, who had indicated that they were going to run in it. Actually, there were a few people who said they wanted to use the New Jersey Ultra Festival as their first ultra. By December, I was feeling pretty good and decided to sign up to run the 100-mile race. Training was on, with my goal for the race to be able to complete 100 miles in under 24-hours.

This winter was tough for long distance training. I like to be able to get out on the trails for my long runs, as the roads tend to beat me up. But with all the snow (and eventually ice), getting out on the trails was not something that I could do. I did get in some long runs on the roads (thanks to Katie and also to the Saturday Slugs), but not the ultra type of run that I like to have when doing a race like this. My feeling going into this race was that I was undertrained, but since I have done this before, I figured that I could use that to get myself through it.

Friday, March 18th, I took the day off, ensured that I had everything packed that I might need and drove to Long Valley, New Jersey. My son, James, the weekend before, decided that he wanted to help me out as my crew. I picked him up from a train station in Netcong and proceeded to check in at a hotel. Originally, my intention was to camp at the start/finish area of the race. Looking at the long-range weather forecast, which called for rain on Saturday, helped me decide on warmth and comfort over saving a bit of money.

New Jersey Ultra Festival consists of five races, 100-mile, 100K, 50-miler, 50K and a marathon. The 100-miler start time was 4 am; the remaining races each started an hour apart with the longer races first. So, with some of the 80 other people who may need their heads examined, I was on the informal start line just before 4 am. The course is a twenty-five mile loop, basically shaped like a tee. The problem was, due to the permits required to run on the course, the race had to finish with the west part of the course first. So we had to run four loops of the 16-mile west loop, leaving the start/finish area and returning to the area at the end of each loop.

The temperature was comfortable, with the temps coming down from the beautiful seventy’s on Friday, to a sane 52 or so at 4 am. It was forecasted to stay in the 50’s all day Saturday and drop into the 40’s and high 30’s early Sunday morning, great weather for running distance. Leaving the starting area, we ran on a trail through a farm next door to the church that hosted the run. But then, we turned left onto the road and ran for approximately ½ mile plus before we turned right to get back on the trail. All I could think about was that I would have to run on that road each time I returned and each time I went back out. Yuck!

Leaving the road, we turned into a trail through a parking area. The trail is a part of the local park system and is an access point to the groomed trail system that we would be running most of the miles on. The access trail was probably the most technical part of our run, with water runoff creating gullies and a crappy area of sharp, pointed shale rock that was difficult to run over. The first loop, I wore my Vibrams and it was difficult navigating that rocky area in them. Once past the rocks, the course went over a falling apart concrete bridge, over some more rocks and up a hill where the runners turned left onto the west section of the racecourse.

My plan had morphed into possibly completing the 100-miler in less than 20 hours, as the course was relatively easy and even though I did not get the training in that I wanted to, I thought that I could do it. To finish in less than 20 hours, I needed to do 5 miles per hour or better. After the first loop, I was an hour and a half ahead of that goal. I hoped that I would be able to maintain this pace over the course of the entire run. I felt good at the turn around, although I had to wake James up, who was sleeping in the truck (3 am is very early for him). I needed to change out of the Vibrams and I had left the shoes I wanted to wear in a bag in the truck and not in my drop bag. I think I startled him a little, but not enough that he was not able to go back to sleep after I left.

The thing about the first loop was that it was dark the entire time. Once I got through the access trail and onto the main trail, the full moon lit up the trail. I turned off my headlamp and ran the trail using the moonlight. I loved it!! Unfortunately, a lot of other people that were running had to have their headlamps on and I got blinded when they were going in the opposite direction as myself. But that did not detract too much from my enjoyment of running a trail in the moonlight. I don’t get to do that too often and it helped make the run, especially as I did it again on the opposite end of the run.

I finished the second 16-mile loop and I was two plus hours ahead of the twenty hour pace, increasing my hope that I would be building enough of a buffer for later on if I hit the wall and slowed down considerably. By this time all of the other races had started and the trail was full of runners running to accomplish their goals. It was amusing trying to figure out if the runner who just blew by me was running one of the shorter distances (most likely) or one of the runners who I was competing against in the 100-mile race. The day was comfortable, with it being partly to mostly sunny, breezy and in the 50’s. Finishing up third 16-mile loop, still holding onto the two-hour cushion (see, I was already slowing down), I felt and looked pretty good. Yeah, I am critiquing myself with a positive spin.

This picture shows the access trail with me running in the return direction (going back to the start/finish is where most of the uphill is on the course).

Part of my goal starting the day was to finish the 4 16-mile loops while there was still daylight. I accomplished this with plenty of time to spare. One of the fun things about running distance races like this is that you meet up with runners from other areas of the country and get to spend some time (minutes normally) chatting with them. I hardly ever learn anyone’s name, but it is nice to talk with someone after running solo for a period of time. One lady was running in the dark with both a headlight and a hand-held flashlight. I had to ask her why she felt like she had to have both, especially since my light was off. She had never run a trail at night and had been unsure what she would need, so she decided to make sure she would not need anything (as far as lighting). There was a guy that was running the loops at the same time as myself and he was running faster than me, but when he reached the start/finish, he would spend 10-15 minutes there, stretching and relaxing. This would allow me to hit the start/finish, get what I needed and get out while he was still there. He would pass me each time. We did not talk much during the race, but afterwards, he was still at the finish line and he said that taking a break helped him in the long run, but he had to bust his ass on the last loop to meet his goal.

There was also a woman who I saw throughout the day who was ahead of me. She looked amazing, very strong and always with a smile on her face. Every time I saw her, I commented on how she looked. She was running like I wanted to be running, smooth and looking oh so effortless (I know that this is not true, but she made it look that way). I also saw her after I finished and I found out that she won the race overall! I had thought there was a guy who was in the lead, a very serious runner who did not respond to any of my chatter, but I was mistaken. The lady finished in 16 hours and 49 minutes and the first man finished in 17 hours and 5 minutes. An awesome run by both of them, but I always love it when a woman beats all the guys. It shows that running is a sport that men and women can and are equals, especially in the longer distances!

I finished the fourth 16-mile loop with plenty of daylight remaining, allowing me to forgo carrying the headlamp on my first 9-mile loop.

I was looking a bit more worn, but still running into the start/finish area. During this last 16-mile loop, the wind picked up and it got considerably cooler. By the time I finished my first 9-mile loop, I had put my jacket back on to keep myself comfortable. During that loop, the winner went past me on her third loop. I asked her if she thought that the 9-mile loop was long, as I had a hard time believing that it was only 4.5 miles to the turn around. She was not sure, but that since Rick, the co-race director, said it was 9 miles for the loop, it must be. I have to tell you, it sure did not seem that way to me. There is a parking area about ¼ mile before the turn around and as I came through it, I saw that James had brought the truck there, which was good, as I wanted to have some Gatorade that I had in a cooler. Unfortunately James was in the truck and did not see me run through. There was a group of guys who were waiting at their vehicle for their runner. They offered to knock on the window of the truck so James was waiting for me when I returned and I was able to get that drink I wanted.

After the first 9-mile loop, I started feeling out of sorts. I had drunk well during the day, drinking enough so that I was peeing at least once during my loops. But I also needed to continually eat and there really were not a lot at the aid stations that I was all that interested in eating. My appetite for food was disappearing and in an ultra race, that is not a good thing. I started slowing down considerably on the second 9-mile loop. By the time I finished that loop, I knew that the wheels were wobbling, getting to the point of falling off. Rick, the race director, told me that I was still on pace to finish in under 20-hours, but I knew that that was not going to happen. I was feeling lousy and needed to find something to refuel myself. They had finally made some soup, which I had before leaving the start/finish to head out on my third 9-mile loop. In hindsight, I should have been using my GU’s to keep me on an even keel, but I had been relying on what I found on the aid station tables. During the third 9-mile loop, I started having a GU every 30 minutes. I also walked a lot, running about 10 minutes and walking for 1-2 minutes. I lost all of the time I had built up as a cushion and then some. I started worrying that I would not make the 24-hour overall goal.

I have noticed that when I do the ultras, I seem to lose any ability to compute time based upon distance remaining. It has happened in my other 100-milers and when I ran a 70-mile trail race. I cannot seem to comprehend the calculations required to figure out how much more time it will take me to finish. The 24-hour time was never in danger, especially since the fourth and final 9-mile loop took me considerably less time to run than the third. Eating the GU allowed me to recover and I actually ran very well. Even though the wind was blowing at the start/finish area, on the trail, it was calm and with the full moon shining brightly on the trail, I ran comfortably that final loop to finish in 20 hours, 52 minutes (and 38 seconds, but the seconds really don’t matter).

While it would have been nice to finish in less than 20 hours, I am very happy with my finishing time. Being away from the 100-mile distance for nine years gave me a sense of trepidation, that I would not be able to duplicate my past accomplishments. I found out that I still could do what I love to do, which is to run distance. It is not always pretty and I seem to have issues with injury, but just getting out there seems to help. I am very glad that James came along!! I brought along my mountain bike, so that he could use it to meet up with me on the trail. It was much cooler than he expected so he only used it once, but it was critical to me as I had run short on ibuprofen and, although I do not use it exceedingly, it is very nice to have. It was good later on in the race, when I met up with a gentleman who was running the fifty-mile race and he was in considerable pain. I gave him a couple of the Advil that James had given me and tried to talk him into continuing (he still had one more 9-mile loop to do to get to fifty miles), but I believe he dropped out when he completed the lap he was on. But I would not have been able to help him if James had not helped me. He was cold and spent a lot of time in the truck to stay warm, but I was glad to have him with me. Plus and most important, he drove us back to the hotel and helped me hobble back to our room. It would have been fantastic if some of the people who had expressed an interest in running had been able to do so, but maybe next time.

The aftermath has been a bit painful. Normally, my legs are trashed after an ultra, but this course was pretty tame, so I had less muscle soreness than normal. But my feet are another story. They were swollen and it was painful to walk on them thru the following Wednesday. The major difference between this hundred-miler and the other ones that I have done is that this one is very runnable. There are very few spots where I would consider it acceptable to walk, especially late in the race. I felt guilty about thinking about walking, so I ran and ran and ran (slowly). I guess my feet did not have enough training on them to toughen them up for that and they have been slow to recover. That is okay; I wear that pain as a badge of pride for I accomplished my goal of completing another 100-miler. So, what should I do next?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Beginnings

Time to train again, something to push me out the door. I signed up to run another 100 miler and I am getting excited about it. Of course, I am also excited about the fact that I am taking next semester off from school. Do I have any idea of which one I am more excited about? Not really.

Pam Dolan inquired about whether anyone was interested in running at the New Jersey Ultras in March. I have been pining to do another 100 miler and although this is not one that was high on my list (it actually did not even make my list), it is flat, on a loop course and looks easy; maybe not exactly bragging rights, but 100 miles is 100 miles. I have already started increasing my mileage and since it is on a dirt road, I am not too, too worried about running trails to get back into shape. I am looking forward to doing the training and to doing the run. In addition to Pam, Rosemary O. has decided that she is going to go down and run the 50-miler along with two of her friends. That will be cool to have some other people I know down there.

Ah, school. This semester is coming to a close, with the last week ending on 17 Dec. I do not have a lot of good things to say about the e-commerce class (very information intensive, but we are not supposed to delve too much into all that information for our papers), but I have enjoyed the Globalization course. But I am going to enjoy finishing up both the classes. I really hit a rough patch about three week back and fired off an email to the class advisers that I needed to take the next semester off to recharge my learning batteries. I have been so frustrated with the format of the school and how we have to complete our courses. I just completed a survey that the school sent out that inquires as to how satisfied I am with the school and the last question was, "Would I recommend the school to someone?" and I said maybe not. That may change after I come back in April, but I have to become satisfied with my learning. Right now, in the e-commerce course, I really do not think that I am learning anything, just going through the motions. I have lost the motivation to get excited about the content of the course.

Here's to taking some time off and getting some things done around my home, spending a bit more time with Carol and getting 6-7 days/week of running in for my training. It should be fun.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I am almost content right now. This could change very quickly, but right now, I am happy. My running is going well and all my parts are feeling good, with no pain in any of the areas that have been bothering me in the recent past. I have a day and a half before I begin my next two classes, so I want to enjoy this feeling while I have it. I was feeling so good these past three weeks with no classes and with my running that I decided to sign up for a race. It is a half-marathon trail race up near Albany NY that will be run on Halloween this year. From what I understand, the race staff go out of their way to make the race very enjoyable (scary?). I plan on running the race in my Vibrams. I just read in the Ultrarunning magazine about a runner who won a ultra trail race in Vibrams. As far as myself, I have no plans on winning the race, just a plan to finish with no major problems. Should be fun. Hopefully school will not stress me out this semester like the last one did, although have you seen the price of school books? The book for my e-commerce course is out of this world at $140.00. For one book!! Anyway, I will be working hard to keep my personal stress levels down this semester, making sure to get out at least three times a week for a run, at least once on the trails. Maybe I should write that down on the calendar.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It is fall, probably my favorite time of the year, especially for running. I like the cooler and colder weather for running, as I find it easier to warm up than to cool down. But that is not what this post is about. I have been absent from this forum and from most everything else except for work. My running has suffered, although it has helped me to recover from the various injuries that seem to haunt me. I started going to an on-line college in January of this year, working to attain a degree in Business Management. After the first two semesters of one class per, I started taking two classes this past semester over the summer. It pretty much limits how much extra time that I have. When I am not working, I am doing school work. I was able to carve out time to run maybe twice a week over the summer (and that was not guaranteed). I am currently enjoying four weeks between the summer semester and the beginning of the fall semester. This coming weekend is the last full weekend before classes begin anew. I find that, while I am looking forward to completing this journey, I am dreading the time that I will lose with my wife and the time that I will not have to find a trail to run on. After the fall semester, I have two complete years before I am done (as long as I continue to take two classes per). At my age, is it worth it? Time will tell.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Another new beginning

So again, I have been sidelined by an injury. This time I strained my right Achilles while running in the Ragnar Relay in May. I thought at the time that things were going well with rehabbing my left hamstring and that running Ragnar would be okay. Unfortunately the Achilles did not like the first leg that I had to run and running the second and third legs that I had to do did not make it any better. Actually, doing the two other legs made it worse, as anyone would expect and when I was finished, I was finished. Now it is almost two months later and I am very tentatively running again. The doctor gave me the green light four weeks ago. I ran a mile and a half, felt a twinge and shut it down. I walked back to where I started and did not try again for two weeks. So last Tuesday, June 28th, I ran four easy miles and everything felt pretty good. The heel was a little tight after the run so I did not run again until this past Monday. I ran for about 45-50 minutes while in Freeport, Maine and really enjoyed the run. Again, it was real easy and I did not push it at all. The real test was last night when I ran again. This time it was easy due to the excessive heat and humidity. I went six plus miles but I walked up the big hill just before the three-mile mark. Being as I have not been running in the heat, I think that I depleted everything in my body, but the Achilles felt good. I have been stretching it today and it still feels good. A good sign, but I will take off until Sunday when I will go for a run at the Bluff to see how it feels running on trails. I am heartened by how everything is going right now, but I am continually reminding myself that I need to pull back on my impulse to go crazy. For right now, I will keep on biking as much as possible and look for positive things each time I go for a run.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

New day, same result

I did it again. I cannot seem to stop the avalanche of problems that seems to grow and grow each time I try to do something.
I ran in the Ragnar Relays this past weekend, starting the run at 11 am Friday morning at the library in Branford and running with my teammates to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA. I ran three legs of the race, starting with the third leg Friday afternoon. I ran in my Vibram 5-fingers, thinking that this should be a good time to run easy in them. It was pretty warm by the time that I started but not so bad that it was oppressive. I actually enjoyed the temperature while I was running. Unfortunately my Achilles did not think it was so enjoyable. The leg was 6.8 miles long and by the time I got through 2.5 miles of that, I had a dull ache in the heel of my foot. It got worse. By the time I had finished, the pain was radiating up the back of my leg in my calf.
I strapped a cold pack on the foot and swallowed a couple of ibuprofen tablets and hoped for the best. My teammates were concerned whether I would be able to run again, but I told them not to worry, I would keep up my end of the bargain and still run my legs. I was also supposed to run another leg due to another runner having to drop out beforehand due to injury. I was not so sure about that one. I did not have to worry, since the team captain made an executive decision and took that leg away from me. It was a good thing that happened.
The second leg that I was running was 7.6 miles long. I did not wear the Vibram's, but instead wore a pair of shoes without the insoles. My leg started around 11 pm which was nice with a half-moon in the sky, mostly clear skies and comfortable temperatures. My heel hurt from the start, very painful in the heel and up into the calf. It took about half the run until I could figure out how to reduce the pain. I shortened my stride (about half of my normal stride) and it helped immensely! I was able to run the rest of the run pretty well, with the only problem being on the downhills, where my stride wanted to lengthen naturally. I just had to concentrate on keeping it short.
The third leg occurred at 6 am Saturday morning. What a beautiful morning for a run! It would have been that much better if I could have actually run normally. Nothing I did produced any relief from the pain. I had put some Sports Cream with heating on the heel before the run, I started running with a shorted stride right away and I had taken another couple of ibuprofen before the run. Nothing helped. The van with my teammates had parked at the half-way mark of the run (6.4 miles total) but just before I saw them, I had been telling myself that I was going to give it up when I did meet them and let someone else run for me, because the pain was that great. But when I crested the small hill and saw them parked there, the only thing that came out of my mouth was, "Nope, I am doing fine. See you at the end". Just like me, stubborn jackass! I could not let someone else finish something that I had started.
So I finished. I was cooked. The heel felt like it was on fire and the calf felt like someone had shoved a knife in it and was continually moving it around. I have not gotten much better since then. I am right now wearing an ice pack wrapped around the heel/calf. When I got up this morning, the heel was quite swollen and very, very tender and tight. My plans to run this coming weekend at Nipmuck are shot. I am pissed off about that as I was really looking forward to a good trail run. I am not going to schedule any races for the rest of the year. I have to get healed, healed to the point where I do not get injured running in a race. The one thing that I already have scheduled is the Lake Winni relay, which I will use as a goal and when I run it, a barometer for how I am doing. As much as I do not want to, I will probably forgo doing any ultras this year (unless late in the year when hopefully everything is going well). I have my annual physical (once every five years or so) scheduled for tomorrow and I will see if the doctor will send me for some physical therapy. I have to get back to what I love, the woods either by myself or with some fellow trail runners. I have to renew my efforts to stay off the roads. I have to stay sane.