Sunday, May 30, 2010

Adapting + Week in Review May 24-30

The last few weeks of running have been frustrating yet encouraging in many ways. It all began two weekends ago about 3:30 minutes into my Saturday long effort. After starting at Grouse Mountain and cruising my way into Lynn Headwaters, the top of Lynn peak beckoned. On what was a beautifully sunny morning, I could not help but oblige. Being a Lynn peak virgin, I became easily frustrated with the rocky step-ups and loose boulders over the initial miles as the gradient climbed. The best way to describe it is a dried out creek bed, with rounded rocks and pebbles... fun stuff on tired legs. However, as you proceed through the climb things become much more tolerable and quite runnable. The switch-backs are frequent but pleasureful as they meander up the slope. The solitude was certainly a bonus as well, I only passed two hikers, ski poles and all, making their way up to the top.

After hitting many of the false summits I eventually reached the peak and soaked in the beauty of the view to the east from the lookout rock, took a gel and worked my way down. It is in the descent where things went sour. No doubt spurred and motivated by the now plentiful equipment laden back-packers making their way to the top, I, now shirtless with my single hand-held, pushed the descent beyond what my body was willing to accept that morning and in so doing, jacked my right leg. Once hitting the bottom, I had a few miles of rejuvenated strength but after about 30 more minutes of running, my right leg started to protest. It remained tolerable but certainly not anything I was willing to push through on that day.

I ended up calling it quits after 20 miles/4hours. It never got much worse the rest of the day but when I tried to run the next morning with Meredith there was a tight knot in the back of my right knee (popliteus). I made it all of two miles before turning around and heading home; no need to cause further undue stress, although it took a bit of convincing from my girlfriend to ultimately send me back to our apartment.

In retrospect, this was likely one of the more intelligible running decisions I have made for some time. Quite honestly, I am usually inclined to push through a certain amount of discomfort; however, I have become much more adept at appreciating what is "discomfort" and what is something more significant. And this sensation was definitely the latter of the two.

With that, I took the rest of the week fairly conservatively. I only ended up having to take one day off but kept all of my runs under 1 hour with one double thrown in there. On the weekend, I kept it to safer more forgiving terrain and was able to complete two 12 mile runs (44 miles for the week; not a total utter loss) The way my body reacted to this adaptation was encouraging; I could literally perceive the strength coming back into my right leg each day, slowly but surely. With a session from Leah Startup at Moveo mid-week, I was ready to try to reinitiate the regular training come the following Monday.

With that said, here is my week of May 24-30 in brief review:

24-05-2010: 7 miles (58min) Cruised over to Loutette in the pm for some easy running on the surrounding barkmulch and dirt paths. Ended up feeling better than expected so decided to tempo a few miles. It was a beautiful afternoon with nothing but clear skies. Right leg continued to feel better.

25-05-2010: 6miles (50min) Headed out early in the AM before work with Meredith. Generally just took it easy as we were both definitely not feeling 100%. As is the usual on these shorter early runs, ran on an empty stomach (teach the body to utilize those fats...); had a headache by the end but fine energy wise.

26-05-2010: 15miles (2:33 min). Decided it was time to test the right leg. It had been just over 10 days since I had done anything over 2hours. Did what has become one of my favorite routes: grouse mtn to headwaters, gazebo, mystery creek, Baden Powell returning west, drop to intrariver park and return home. 2845' feet of climbing with just over 3000' of drop. Right leg held up surprisingly well, little twitchy in the last 15minutes. Felt good to get back out though.

27-05-2010: AM: 7 miles (58min) Uneventful run except for some unwanted GI issues throughout. Perhaps do in part to running on an empty stomach again...?? PM: 5 miles (46 min) Went out with Meredith after work before my massage I had later that night.

28-05-2010: off. Took the day off not because of any physical reason but just simply did not have the time. Let's call it a save-up for the weekend.

29-05-2010: 15 miles (2:09min) This run was definitely not what I had in mind going into the weekend. Set the alarm early hoping to hit the trails. However, the weather sucked and I lacked the motivation. Instead, I headed out with Meredith from our apartment and did a street/ path run. We went our separate ways after 11miles and I ended up putting out 7-7:30 on my last 4 miles. Felt tired but strong by the end. It rained the whole time.

30-05-2010: 30miles (5:10) Finally got some tolerable weather. The Iron Knee 25km race was going on; I knew many of the racers (including my Mom!!). With that , I headed out from my apartment just after 7am and planned to loop my way around the course hopefully catching up and cheering some of the folks on. After being out for a couple hours I hooked up with my good friend Nicola who was out "running" the race. We completed the rest of the course from Mystery Creek to Deep Cove together. Once in the cove I downed a few bottles of water, refilled, grabbed a banana and retraced my steps back up the Baden Powell. Cheered all the folks finishing the race including my Mom who met her goal and finished sub-3hours!! For myself, I hit a low-point about halfway up the climb out of the cove; just could not keep the running legs up, there were way too many excuses to powerhike. However, a gel seemed to assist with this along with the mini-Mars Bars I nabbed from the aid station earlier in the day. Finished home my usual route. This was definitely an encouraging run for me. My right leg held up for the entirety of the effort and I was able to sustain my energy for most of the day. I also hit solid vertical for the day. My feet were a little sore by the end, however this was definitely a by-product of me still getting use to the inov8 x-talon 212's. This was my longest run in them by far and I was impressed with their responsiveness to muddy and wet conditions. Lower back was a little tender by the end as well... have not experienced this for a long time...

Weekly Miles: 85 miles
Hours Running: 11 hours 10min

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Body Awareness

For a long time now I have known the inherent ingenuity of our bodies. In the context at hand, I use this term to express a pure ability to adapt, inform, and just simply ‘know’ in the most all-encompassing way possible. As much as we try to manipulate this truth through personal forms of cognitive deception, they are inevitably futile in their thrust. We must submit; the body truly knows best.

The reality of this has become ever apparent to me over the past five months. Since returning from a forced five month running hiatus at the end of last year due to a stress fracture in my right tibia, I have had to be constantly in-tune with my body; assessing, gauging, and calculating. As I have progressed, this has moderately diminished, the comfort level has reappeared but the questions and assessment never ends. Tightness in my right soleus, what does it signal? A pinch in my left hamstring, what does it mean? A psychological battle indeed.

It is not that I am pondering the worst case scenario, far from it. I simply find myself with a heightened conscious appreciation of each twinge or tweak in my body. It is as though the mind has forgotten the ordinariness of these bodily reactions that are an inevitable aspect of racking up the miles. This has been one of the most challenging aspects of reacquainting with the running routine and the increase in mileage I have endeavoured over the past months. January and February was when this was most obvious, as I cautiously and systematically worked my way up from zero running miles a week. Even with a solid base now established and the commonality of running 70+ mile weeks, I still find I have not fully escaped this particular head-space.

Perhaps I never will, or on second thought never should. It seems to me as soon as we lose touch, become complacent, or even worse, unaware (ignoring) of what our bodies are telling us, we are walking down a path of inescapable injury. Indeed, one aspect of running for hours and hours on end that I value so much is the way in which it allows me to become more in-tune with my body.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Brief: A week in review May 03- May 09

(The Chief, the venue for Saturday's finishing effort)

Monday, 2010-05-03: 4miles + 1 barefoot (40min) Headed out in the evening while I waited for my girlfriend to finish up her physio appointment in West Van. It was unbelievable windy along the water which made this jaunt both pleasurable and painful depending on which way I was running. I finished up with a mile of barefoot on the grass and a basic core workout on what was a beautifully sunny evening.

Tuesday, 2010-05-04: 8.10 (1:02) PR’d my customary pre-work ‘Lonsdale Loop’. Felt great throughout the run and especially climbing the hills. My right calf stiffened up slightly during the day but nothing unexpected. Frantically rushed around after the run and barely made the bus to work.

Wednesday, 2010-05-05: 19 miles (3:15) This was an encouraging run for me both from a physiological and psychological perspective. I had the day off work and as such, I headed to the mountains for some intimate one-on-one time. Without much preparation or thought, I jammed 4 gels in my pocket and filled my handheld and caught the bus to the base of Grouse Mountain. From there, I hit Skyline and worked my way descending to Lynn Headwaters. I then decided to head up small Lynn-Loop and initiate the climb up Lynn Peak. Surprisingly, this was my first time up Lynn Peak (ever!!) and I am most certain I failed to reach the top after conversing with a friend later. Perhaps for the best... the descent was rocky and technical and my right calf was just not into it. Nonetheless, I progressed forward seeking the satisfaction of a more familiar summit. With that in mind, I went up Powerline via Mystery Creek. Much better, I reached 1200 foot peak in a fairly casual 21 minutes flat. By this time things had warmed up considerably as it was near mid-day and the shirt came off rather quickly. I then just relished the varying descent down Baden Powell and Old Buck, eventually making my way home. Total vertical gain for the run: 4421 feet; total descent: 5039.

Thursday, 2010-05-06: Off. After a massage from Leah at Moveo last night, my legs were slightly tender. I decided to take the day and hopefully conserve a bit for the weekend.

Friday, 2010-05-07: 8miles (1:04) Went out in the AM before work and basically just shook out the legs on a fairly flat run. I threw in a bit of speed work at Loutette about half-way through the run. Much to my delight, the legs reacted well. With the now early rising sun, it is light enough to run through the trails at Loutette on these early mornings. I am sure I will be frequenting this location a lot more in the early mornings; it is perfectly abandoned, I have it all to myself.

(a view from the top)

Saturday, 2010-05-08: 19miles (3:30) (3346 vertical) + 6 miles (1:00) (2000 feet vertical) This was a fantastic day of running and one that I am sure spurs envy in a lot of other runners. I headed up to Squamish with Nicola at 6:00am. The plan was to meet up with Jen Segger, accomplished endurance athlete, and to have her take us through some of the local trails in Squamish. This was a real treat as I had not run in the area for about a year. We ended up running what were approximately legs 2 and 3 of the STORMY course, with some minor detours of course. It was a beautiful day in what I can only describe as a picturesque setting. The views at the top of ‘nine-mile hill’ were spectacular with snow-covered peaks engulfing us 360 degrees around as the rising sun crested the mountains. The descents were forgiving in their terrain and seemingly endless in their length. But not in that, will you finish already, kind of way. On the contrary, I was dreading their conclusion as we peek-a-booed in and out of the sun through some amazing singletrack. We finished up the run with Jen Segger (19miles (3:30)) as she had to be on her way. Nicola and I decided to cap the morning off with a summit up the renowned Chief via the Stawamus trail. It was a little populated for my liking as we side-stepped and scrambled our way to the peak. The trail consists of massive step-ups and intermittent stairs as you cover the 2000 feet of vertical. We stopped at the top o-so-momentarily to take in the view and then jumbled our way down, brushing past many individuals working their way up and down. A quick stop at Zephyrs for some wicked grub, and we were back in Vancouver by 1:00.

Sunday, 2010-05-09: 6+ miles (1:00) + 16miles (2:48) Legs felt surprisingly peppy after yesterdays solid effort. I headed out in the morning with Meredith for an easy 6 plus miles. We cruised around simply enjoying the absolutely spectacular morning; we also managed to fit in some errands while out and about. Bonus! I then hit the trails on my own for an extra outing. I wore the INOV8 X-Talon 212’s for the first time (just received them on order from the US). Weighing in at a feathery 212 grams, I felt alert and stable as I worked my way along some fairly technical terrain. They also felt surprisingly responsive on the more subdued fire-roads despite their large lugs. All in all, a great shoe that I look forward to putting in some serious mileage on to see how they respond. Again, running shirtless in the forest for the entire effort (quick digress: as I ran by a family out for a walk, a little girl asked her mom “why I was naked?"... I could not help but crack a smile). Indeed, a perfect way to complete a solid and especially enjoyable week of running.

Miles: 87.1 miles
Time: 14 hours

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Morning Rise

In an incoherent daze, I reach across my bedside table to halt the incessant noise blaring from my iPhone. My alarm has sounded and I can’t help but chuckle in the irony as the familiar tune by Wintersleep greets me for my 3:45am wakeup. A cold breeze chases me across the room as I pull the covers close, seeking comfort and shelter. Then I listen… no rain… just the soothing sounds triggered by a gentle wind. This realization prompts my immediate reaction and spurs me forward; no procrastination this morning. I soon find myself going through the usual routine, like clockwork, as I prepare for my morning run: coffee, orange, kamut toast with banana, and some dates, just enough to satiate the system without causing undue digestive effects.

Dawning shorts and a long-sleeve top, I am moderately surprised at the brisk temperature engulfing the morning air as I make my first steps from my apartment outside. The sky is absolutely clear, the moon and surrounding stars in full apparent view. It is intolerably fresh.

With a few high-knees and but-kicks I am off, heading out for my familiar “Lonsdale Loop”.

I am always taken aback by the stillness that surrounds me on these early mornings. As I make my way through the first few miles, the sounds of waking robins and sparrows are there to greet me. Like a New York quartet, the sounds of these birds are perfectly harmonious, replicating and exchanging calls, the resulting sound is melodious.

My legs are feeling fresh this morning no doubt in part due to last evenings easy 4 miles. Much to my delight, I am finding my stride much earlier than anticipated as I shake the sleep out of my legs with relative ease. Consequently, I hit the end of the first segment of my run on a PB pace (3.30 miles/ 25:48). I make no real note of this as it merely signals that I have reached the crux of the run: the 600 foot climb up the 1.80 mile Lonsdale stretch. The hill starts off steep and continues to be for the next four or five blocks. I try to ease into the effort, keeping the heart rate under control. Things feel more difficult than they should but eventually I find my stride. I do my best to keep the cadence up and the steps measured. Relief hits part way up as the hill flattens out considerably. Here I pick up the stride and cant help but notice the amount of people on the streets. It seems the brightening mornings has encouraged much action. Mirroring the first part, the final segment of the climb once again becomes steep. I watch as my breath exits my mouth and reflects in the cold air as I pump the last few blocks. Hitting my split at the top I have PB’d once again, completing the climb in (15:39).

Pleased, and relishing the moment in the glimmers of morning light, I make my way along the final segment of the loop. I am offered a magnificent view to the east this morning: unthreatening clouds topping the mountain peaks and a subtle morning dew stretching and hovering up Indian Arm. I simply cruise the last miles of the run, enjoying rolling through the cherry blossom lined streets. Eventually I stride home, passing the same Asian man doing Tai Chi as I do most mornings (I most often pass him doing the same movement as well each morning I am out… we are most certainly a species of routine and habit). I stop the watch and slouch over for a brief second before seeing that I have PB’d the entire effort by a full 2 minutes (1:02:50/ 8 miles). Not tired but definitely not fresh, I am back in my apartment by 6:00am preparing for the day ahead. Inside, thinking to myself that there is no better way for me to start the day.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Week in Review: April 26- May 02

(Norvan Falls, part of the scenery on Saturday's run)

Monday, 2010-04-26:
Off. Did a basic core workout but not much else. No apparent issue from the previous weekend mileage.

Tuesday, 2010-04-27: 8.10 miles (1:10) This was an unusual/ unsettling run for me. I woke up with a noticeable soreness in my right leg; along the right gastrocnemius. It was approximately the same area where I felt the ‘twinge’ after last Friday’s run. This prompted my immediate attention and after some diligent self myofascial release, it dissipated rather quickly and I was able to get through the run pain free; despite thinking about it… and waiting for it the entire time.

Wednesday, 2010-04-28: 11.5 miles (1:30) Attempting to replicate last weeks successful longer fartlek workout, I headed out in the evening with the goal of running approximately 13 miles, 8 of which within the 7-7:30 range. Unfortunately, the stomach was an issue the entire time which precluded me from finding any sort of rhythm. Stomach issues (especially in the evening) are something that I am constantly battling with (and have been losing for some time). On the positive side, the right gastrocnemius was of not concern. In fact, it tends to feel better as the miles build and my body warms up.

Thursday, 2010-04-29: 8 miles (1:05) Headed out on the roads with Meredith for a pre-work Lonsdale loop. This run offered the usual 7000 foot climb (over a 2.25 miles stretch) up the entirety of Lonsdale. I was basically dead on my splits the entire run and felt comfortable the entire way. It was a beautiful morning with much more light that we have been use to. Spring is finally here perhaps. Once again, the right calf was not an issue and seems to be improving on a daily basis…

Friday, 2010-04-30:: Gym/ Core/ Strengthening; ran there/ home (2 miles). The usual gym session; nothing too fascinating about it. However, when running to catch a bus in the afternoon, I felt that same reoccurring twinge in my right calf. At this point I am not too concerned as stretching and release seem to be doing the trick. Nonetheless, it is something that I must be conscious of.

Saturday, 2010-05-01: 17 miles (3:00) Ran with my good running friend Nicola this morning. She was planning on a slightly longer effort than I had intended because of some commitments I had in the afternoon. Nonetheless, we started together running from Lynn Headwaters up to Norvan falls. It was muddy and slick from some over night rain; this also made it all the more enjoyable as we splashed our way through the seemingly endless puddles and mud. The rain threatened all day but never materialized (for once) and it turned out to be a pretty nice day. We eventually parted ways and I finished the run off by returning up my usual route down to Indian River and then up the gravel path to Loutette. Overall, this was an encouraging run for me. I felt like I had energy the entire time, comfortable without much of a second thought. I took in a little more fuel than I had been (4 for the entire run) as of late which perhaps contributed to this difference and also pre-emptively stopped any subsequent bonking.

(A snapshot of the skies that dominated most of the weekend)

Sunday, 2010-05-02: 18 miles (3:05) I can’t say that I was too thrilled about this run. The forecast called for showers and they did not disappoint. I left my apartment unsure of exactly how long I was going to run. I knew I wanted to fit in some vertical and that’s about it. I packed enough gels for 4-5 hours but as the first hour of running rolled by I knew that I was unlikely to be out for that long. Its not that I was sore, I just seriously lacked motivation today for whatever reason…. But so it goes sometimes. I finally found what I will constitute a groove after about 7 miles; however, this was quickly usurped by the surprising cold breeze and heavy rain that bombarded me as I slogged my way up the 2 miles 1300 foot Powerline. I took in a gel at the top which certainly helped, and pressed forward, rolling down Baden Powerll, Old Buck and returning via the Bridle Path trail. I thought about adding in another climb up Lynn Peak, but ultimately decided against it. My girlfriend was home sick and to be honest, I preferred to be with her. Just didn’t feel like a day to be spending entirely in the mountains. As an aside, after uploading my data from my Garmin, it seems that both of my weekend runs included over 3000 feet of climbing (3100 and 3600 respectively). This is definitely applicable training for my later race plans for this summer and something I look forward to contining every time I head out.

Weekly Miles: 62.6 (zero barefoot)
Time: 9:15 hours

Overall this was a fairly modest and up/down week of running for me. Early in the week my right gastrocnemius still seemed to be an issue which discouraged me from doing any morning and evening double run sessions early in the week. In my mind, it is just too early in the season to be attempting to push through minor aches and pains; the body is still adapting and finding its form. I must continue to remind myself of this as I often tend to relegate these thoughts and strive for those extra few miles. As many will likely agree, when you are out there, in the moment, the ‘pull’ is a commanding force and often coerces us into making decisions that we later regret (usually while on the table of a massage therapist).

On the positive side, I was able to maintain an acceptable overall weekly mileage (especially given I ran only 5 days) and most importantly, I did not bonk after any of my runs (unlike last week). Although I have not completely decided what the ultimate bearer of such results is, I suspect greater caloric intake during my longer efforts was a contributing factor (thanks Nicola for drilling this into me). Another positive was the way my right calf seemed to improve throughout the week. As it stands, it seems like one of those issues that I can quite easily run through and remedy with some vigilant rolling/ release.