Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Childhood Thought

I recall having a toy as a child. It was nothing special. In fact, it was fairly unsophisticated by the standards of the day. There were no bells and whistles or lights and explosions. But this is what made it so intriguing to me. I could not help but be drawn to the simplicity of its workings. The toy consisted of a metallic figurine, holding a convex dumbbell-like object across his chest (for the sake of argument, let’s assume it was indeed a male). His feet were pointed as though they were golf pegs, perched and balanced on a perfect tee. When upright, you gently swayed the object and initiated its mesmerising shift. Back and forth it went, remaining perfectly balanced and in total equilibrium. It swayed like this, almost hitting the surface at each end of its journey, under its own force and weight until eventually falling to the end of its initial momentum and coming to its standing rest. As a child it was amazing to witness this. It seemed to defy many of my intuitive (and apparently unfounded) understandings of gravity and balance.

Recently this memory came to mind when thinking about my running as of late. After an o-so-brief period of subdued running-performance and a slight lull in mileage and intensity I have been building over the past 6-weeks with my next running goal in mind. What many will refer to as a sort of condensed ‘base-phase’ the objectives were simple: reacquaint the body to the higher mileage; introduce a steady amount of interval work coupled with strength/ speed sessions; and lastly, to build up the muscular-skeletal capacity to bash pavement for a considerable period of time. At face value I must say that I believe I have approached a certain level of success on most of these points. Firstly, I have maintained at a minimum of 100km of total running a week. Secondly, I have consistently embarked on at least one form of interval session per week including a set of shorter strides or hills for strength over the same period of time. And lastly, I have run the majority of these sessions on roads or compact dirt paths. This period has felt comfortable and in many ways invigorating. The personal revitalization that a new form of challenge or goal can have is always significant. Even if the ultimate goal itself is never actualized I find the motivation that merely setting it as a purposeful target uplifting at a minimum and empowering at a maximum. But I digress.

Through this period I have had a pronounced internal dialogue with my body. Likely because I have been exposing it to things it has not had to respond to for some length of time (speed and longer intense sessions near threshold; roads; etc), this conversation is ever so marked. Over the past week I have noted some familiar yet disdained aches and pains; remnants of past injuries rearing their ugly head. But I was quick to take the appropriate steps and managed to quell any of these concerns. Like the metallic-figurine of my childhood, I swayed back to the side of safety and found my balance once again.

But inevitably, other issues have arisen. Nothing that would cause me to immediately halt my steps, but the type of pain that reminds me I am not invincible and must always be conscious and connected to my body and its desire for a state of equilibrium. That is, the balance between training at capacity to maximize improvement while warding of injury, exhaustion, and the detriments of over-training. Finding this is not easy. Indeed, it is one of the most challenging aspects of developing a training regime. How often do I run, when do I run hard, when do I run easy, what even is easy for me today… the questions are endless but critical. I envision this process as nicely represented by the toy from my childhood. We as endurance athletes are constantly flirting with the prospect of injury or over-training but at the same time, must always be approaching this point to extract the most from our training. It is a fine balance no doubt. It is about learning what we can ignore and mostly “push” through, as being distinct from what we must react to. To bring the point full circle, this Wednesday I headed out my door at 4:30am for an easy 6 miles. The previous evening’s effort was solid but nothing that left me for worse. On my morning run I did not feel superb. My left leg was having some peculiar nerve-like sensations but I was mostly able to ignore them. By the end I was just OK physiologically but perhaps more importantly, awakened and buoyed by a beautifully lonesome early morning run. After a day of work, I headed back out the door at 5pm to the track for a session of half-mile repeats. I had not done this particular workout for a few weeks and was pining to see some improvement. And indeed, the improvement was there. Without a greater perceived effort, I was knocking 10-15seconds off my previous half-mile times; more than I was expecting and vastly encouraging. But this was not without its detriments. By the end of the session my left leg was revolting and I had a few moment were it was essentially going completely “dead”. I knew it was a nerve, just unsure exactly what. As I trotted the 15+minutes back to my apartment the discomfort subsided and was essentially nonexistent but my mind again drifted to the image of the swaying metallic toy. I thought, perhaps my metaphorical figure was in full swing and tilting its way to the side of injury. Perhaps I needed to give myself a day or two to reorient. In retrospect, I have run the most miles I have ever run before this year and have not taken many days “off” this fall. The dialogue has been pronounced and I should heed the words. With that, I sit here feeling much better after a day of rest and a painful treatment of fascia release. My metaphorical toy has relaxed and is hopefully on its way back to equilibrium and findings its state of harmony.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Week in Review: December 6- December 12

Monday December 6, 2010: AM: Gym- lifted for about 30min then did some weighted rowing reps at near max capacity (weight such that I could only pull 6 times before losing form)followed with some balancing and a medicine-ball core routine. Felt OK this morning. Mind was into it.

Tuesday December 7, 2010: PM: 10miles (1:25) Ran with Meredith on the roads over to Pemberton Heights. We did 8.2miles in 1:08 including a climb up Keith Road and some initial shorter climbs. Stomach was jostling on me so I unloaded in the bushes and then continued on. Lost about 5 pounds. Legs felt decent but nothing spectacular. I finished up the session with 10times 30seconds of uphill strides at about 95% effort. It was absolutely pouring rain by this point in the run and I was soaked and cold but just wanted to get these in. Should have probably done 15 but I could not feel my feet and was hungry.

Wednesday December 8, 2010: AM: 7miles (1:00sh) Tempo session on the rat-wheel at 5:30am. Did 1.5miles of W/U then 4miles all at 6:58min/mile pace followed by another 1.5 C/D all at 1%. This was the first time that I have done all 4 miles of tempo at sub-7minute pace for this workout which I was happy about. They felt pretty comfortable which was encouraging. Heart rate was in the range of 162-166 for the 4miles of tempo and actually dropped down progressively for each mile. I finished the workout off with a quick medicine ball routine and easy squats. Quickly showered and off to work. My right leg was a little sore throughout the day however- started to get some weird twitching through my right tibia that had me quickly reminiscent of my stress fracture in the identical area last year. Iced it when I got home. It did not get any worse and seemed to feel better as I rolled out my right calf.

Thursday December 9, 2010: Noon: 5miles (45sh) Ran during my lunch break at work. I was eager to see how my right leg was going to feel after yesterday's scare. It seemed fine, not 100% but nothing to freak out about yet. I ran along the water front which was nice. Miraculously it wasn't raining. I then casually ate my lunch over the rest of my day at work.
PM: 7miles (58min) It progressively cleared up throughout the day which made this run really enjoyable. The moon was out and it was warm. Rocked the short-shorts and simple long sleeve top. Meredith and I headed from our apartment up to the entrance to Lynn Headwaters in a fairly tempoed sub30min then just kinda cruised our way back down the hill but managed a few sections of fartlek's in there as well. Great run despite my right leg still not feeling great. It twitched on me a couple more times near the start of the run then faded only to do it again near the end. Not sure what to make of it.

Friday December 10, 2010: Noon: 6.5miles (55min). Ran during my lunch break again. Had planned to head out early in the am but it was raining and my legs were not feeling great when I woke up. This was a really easy run that felt OK. However, once again, after the run as I had to run around the rest of the day for work, my leg felt worse. Not sure it is enjoying these mid-day runs but had to fit something in today and had no time post-work. Probably will avoid them for next week. Further, I was pretty sweaty at the end of this run and simply just put my work-clothes back on. But I am rustic and grungy like that.

Saturday December 11, 2010: AM: 9.5miles (1:15) Ran with Meredith in the am. This was bizarre run for me and started that way from the get-go. My right calf/tibia felt tight and awkward. I tried to roll with it and it did progressively fade but it was noticeably there for the first half. The route was an out-and-back and for whatever reason on the return things seemed to improve quite dramatically to the point that my right leg was of little concern. Managed a few quicker miles- overall 8:00min/mile pace with decent hills throughout. Iced my leg multiple times the rest of the day- it did not feel any worse. GS routine in the afternoon.

Sunday December 12, 2010: AM: 15miles (2:07) Getting up this morning I was completely unsure as to how I was going to feel and hence what I was going to be able to run. I surely had no expectations and was psychologically prepared to take the day off completely if that is what my right leg was telling me to do. I often fumble with this commitment but today I was ready to listen to my body. With that said, I decided to avoid pavement and stick to mainly trail/groomed gravel path. I also pulled out my old Brooks Launch that must have close to 800miles on them oppose to my racing flats. I also put on my calf-compression for my right calf only. Whatever it was my right leg felt fine from the start and was not a bother for the entirety of the run. There were a few moment were I certainly felt something but nothing that would indicate that I was doing any serious damage. Just the usual aches that come along with this type of run. I ended up running from my apartment up Grand Boulevard to Loutete Park- down to Bridgeman park, looped around there- then headed up to Gazebo via the trail that parallels Lillouette road- Richard Jurgyn- then just basically followed my footsteps home. Because I was completely unsure of how long I was going to run for I had no water or fuel with me and the taps were turned off at Gazebo. Because of this I ended up bumming some off a guy who was just finishing up his run. Needed it badly by this point. But notwithstanding, I was pretty bonky by the end and was relegated to a fairly pathetic grunt up the 500foot climb back up to Loutete park. Despite this I was really pleased with this run given how the last few days had gone. At this point, after chatting with my physio/fascia system guru Leah Davis, we are pretty sure that it is just a case of shin splints coupled with a tight soleus. Lets hope so.

Weekly Mileage: 60miles (9hrs) + 1gym session

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Week in Review: November 29- December 5

Monday November 29, 2010: AM: Felt pretty good this morning and decided to put in a bit of extra time at the gym. Solid session of squats and medicine ball routine. Lots of one-legged stuff, etc. The usual. Added on a quick 20min on the bike to finish out and get some blood flowing through the legs. No running. But as I said my legs felt decent given the 20miler on the roads Sunday.

Tuesday November 30, 2010: PM: 8.5 miles (1:10) + 100m strides * 10: Headed out with Meredith in the PM and did one of our customary loops from our apartment up over to Lynn Valley. One big climb that took a lot out of me. From there, I was simply playing catch-up. It was pouring rain for the first 30minutes; the kind where your shirt is absolutely stuck to your chest at the end. It finally stopped though and coincidentally I started to feel better. I finished off the run with 10times 100meter strides at 95% effort. Felt OK on these. However, I don't like doing them on the pavement but had no choice on this night.

Wednesday December 1, 2010: AM: 7.5miles (1:00) Rat-wheel session. 1.5miles w/u then 4miles of tempo (7:30, 7:30, 6:58, 6:58), 1mile c/d then few squats and basic GS routine post-run. I should have dropped down the first two miles of tempo but my heart-rate was too high this morning and the objective here is not to force things. I know the pace will come if I just stay slightly below the LT point without trying to make it happen. Rushed off to work after this.

Thursday December 2, 2010: PM1: 4miles (33min) Felt like crap. Legs were tight, calfs were sore to the touch and just drained. Naturally then, I followed up this jaunt with another. PM2: 7miles (1:02) Ran with Meredith when she got home from work. Felt much better than two hours earlier and was able to get through the run pain-free. My stomach did turn on me however which put a bit of a damper on things but I suppose this is how it goes sometimes. I did not stay on top of my calories all day.

Friday December 3, 2010: AM: 14miles (2:50). Front steps to Lynn Peak. The Lure.

(Along one of the trails surrounding Buntzen Lake- beautiful morning sun)

Saturday December 4, 2010: AM: 8miles (1:17) Trails at Buntzen Lake with Meredith. Just an easy pleasurable run with Meredith out at the trails around Buntzen Lake in Port Moody. They had some flooding during the summer because of a dam that was out of commission so a lot of the trails were detoured but we still managed a nice out-and-back. Great morning to be on the trails. Sunny but cold. PM: We decided to take advantage of the picturesque day and headed up to Mt Seymour for a little snowshoe-running. It was a perfect afternoon and we were able to take a lot of great photos. Tired and hungry by the end. Not sure how far we went but we were out for 1:45'sh. Perhaps 3-4miles with tons of up hill. I forgot how much I love snowshoe-running. Perhaps I will jump in a local race this year for kicks. It's on the list.

A series of shots from snowshoeing up Mt Seymour:

Sunday December 5, 2010: AM: 14miles (2:02) New Brighton park and trails with Meredith. We got a late start to the morning because of some personal stuff that we were attending to. My legs definitely felt heavy this morning; not sore; but just like there were 5pound weight on each leg. As such, we took it pretty easy and just rolled with it. These trails are nice but surprisingly draining. There is lots of rolling parts and no real section that is "flat". I picked it up a little at the end but other than that decided to take the day easy. I am hoping to get in a couple good workouts this week so decided to just sort of save-up. No food for the run but did take some water this time which was a good idea.

Weekly Miles: 63 (9.5hours) + 1gym session+ 1:45min of snowshoeing

This was a decent week for me but probably not ideal. Mileage was fine but I missed a second tempo/repeat workout on the week and did not manage what I consider to be a long-run. Instead I enjoyed a bit more time on the trails and up high in the mountains. For the psyche this is perfect, but I need to getting back to those types of sessions that are going to be more beneficial for me with my current goal in mind (see link for a good discussion on this and the cost/benefits of ultra-training and marathon training). Anyways, I have remained consistent for the past 5-weeks with all 60+ mile weeks. In November I managed to run 255miles on 38.5hours (this put me over 2500miles on the year) plus continue with the 2times weekly gym sessions. I am certainly seeing the repercussions of these and glad that I have made them part of the routine. However, in saying that, I will likely drop down to one session a week and just do more GS work at home over the next month plus. This is for two reasons: 1. So I have more time to run 2. So I have more energy to run. Simple premise.

Here's to hoping that decent winter weather continues.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Lure

Having the day off work, I was left with the opportunity to engage in a more adventurous and spontaneous run today. From a purely specific-training perspective with my upcoming road-marathon in mind, this should have inevitably lead to a longer tempo run of sorts, perhaps a hard set of 800's or the like. But, as I looked out my window, seeing the sun breaking through the clouds and the fresh dosage of snow on the mountains from the previous evenings precipitation I felt that lure. That inevitable pull that the mountains can have over the mind and body of those who have experienced their ways. With that, I headed out my apartment door with today's project visibly in sights: Lynn Peak- glistening in the early morning sun with a low snow-line no more than 1000feet up.

There is something inherently appealing about starting a run from your front doorsteps and seeing your ultimate objective in mind. Knowing that it is just your feet that will power you to that point. In the end, I arrived back at my steps satiated after a solid 14miles/2:50minutes/3000+feet of vertical gain on a beautiful morning.

The run in picture:

Some of the initial trail leading to the base of Lynn Peak- no snow yet

A little icy and frozen through the early sections made the climb a little more challenging

Some accumulation of fresh snow about 1500 feet up the climb

Eventually hit fresh snow- thigh deep at points-made for a brutal climb but great descent

Sun breaking through

Goofing around with the timer feature on the camera- the traction was pretty good for the most part, tactile

I was the only person on the mountain this morning- the only other tracks I saw were bunny- thankfully nothing bigger

The tunnel of snow-laden trees leading me back down the mountain- the snowy descent made things a lot easier as I simply just bounced and slid my way down- much easier than the usual rocky and technical descent Lynn Peak normally presents