Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Arkansas and Rest

I got out early on Thanksgiving for a 10-mile run on the Ouachita Trail, a 223-mile trail that runs from Pinnacle Mountain in west Little Rock to Oklahoma (FKT - 76 hours, 34 minutes, according to an article in Trail Runner Magazine).  I was in Little Rock with the family to visit my brother, his wife and their brand new baby boy, Zack.

I lately have been cutting back on the running to try and deal with a flare-up in my left plantar. My last run was on Saturday, November 20th, which was a swell jog on the upper loop at Bergen Peak. The problem was that after that run, I paid for it and was hobbling for a couple of days.  Fast forward to Thanksgiving and the foot was feeling better, so off I went, bright and early for a really nice (and warm) run on the leaf-covered trails the wound from the base of Pinnacle Mountain along the hillsides on the north side of Lake Maumelle.

The run was great. Had the trails to myself and even had a wildlife encounter I'd never had before. About midway through the run, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and stopped to watch a juvenile raccoon scurry up a tree, pausing to peek around the tree at me from time to time.  Seeing a raccoon, of course, is no big deal. However, this was actually the first time I've seen a raccoon not in a city, not in my yard, not in a campground and not trying to gnaw its way into the hold of my kayak on a remote key in the 10,000 Islands Wilderness on Florida's Gulf Coast.  This was just a raccoon in the woods. Hard to believe it was a first for me, but there you go.

That afternoon, the foot pain was back...and back with a vengeance.  I was hobbling the rest of the day/night. It still hurt the next day, but was easing just enough to hike up to the summit of Pinnacle Mountain with JP, jP, CP, by brother and stepbrother.  Beautiful day. Would have loved running up the mountain.  It's short, steep and rocky. Made me wonder what the FKT for an ascent is.  My guess is something like seven minutes.

Anyway, I've decided I need to take this foot thing more seriously, as well as a lingering bit of pain in the groin/lower abdomen (sports hernia?) that has been persisting since pre-Run Rabbit Run 50 in September. So, I'm laying low for a bit.

Right now, for the foot, I'm exploring options. I did a visit to a PT before Thanksgiving, which provided some easing of pain, but not nearly as much as it did last year when I was dealing with this.  That says to me that the foot now need more focused attention than it did last year.  The regimen now includes much stretching, rest, ice and some regular rolling of the heel on a golf ball and small hand weight.  I figure I'll try a short run this weekend, to see if there's any improvement.  Right now, just walking around, it feels fine, with just some mild tenderness in the heel.

For the lower ab thing, I'm trying some stretches and core exercises. I probably will make an appointment this week to see a doc for a diagnosis, then figure things out from there.

Made a trip to the gym yesterday to get the heart rate up.  I walked a whole half-mile on the treadmill, did a round of lower body weight work, including some really fun dumbell squats on one of those Bosu ball things (half fitness ball/half balance board).  I followed that work up with 12 laps in the pool, which wore me out and reminded me yet again that I really don't much enjoy lap swimming (swimming is hard!).  But, it was damn good exercise and I know I can only get better.

Forgive the injury whining. This stretch has been a first for me. I've run pretty much injury free for years. In fact, the only other injuries I recall beyond last year's plantar problems are a partial ACL tear and a groin tear, both from playing competitive club ultimate in my late 20s/early 30s.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bergen Peak - Upper Loop

Perfect running temps and solid legs made for a great run.  If only the niggling injuries would cease!

Time:  1:31
Distance: 9.02 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Good
Weather: Sunny and cool

Ran the Bergen Peak upper loop from the house via the neighborhood connector trail.  Steady cruise across Meadow View and up Too Long. Hit the Summit Trail intersection in an easy 57:49. Kept a focus on keeping the HR in the low range. Felt really good.

Jogged down Bergen Peak Trail back to Meadow View and took the backyard route home.  Nice mental zone the whole way. Just felt good to be out.  

I had a few twinges in the left foot and Achilles on the run, but nothing significant.  I stopped to stretch a few times on the ups and downs. Soaked both feet in a tub of ice water once home as a precaution. Still, after an hour or so, the left Achilles (a new sore spot) was complaining...loudly. Had to bag the early Sunday a.m. run so as not to aggravate it further.  Quite a string of fun this last month.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Green Mountain - Ups

Late afternoon dash up Boulder's Green Mountain. Up in the twilight, down in the near-full-moon darkness.

Time:  1:10 
Distance: 5.75 miles
Effort: Moderate
Body: Good
Weather: Getting dark and cool

Nice run up the backside of Green Mountain. Started the run about 4:10 p.m., with the sun fading behind the mountains to the west. Felt pretty good the whole way up. Hit the ranger cabin in an easy 16:37.  Chugged steady up the trail from there, hitting the four-way in 36:30. Made my way up the steps to the summit and tagged the summit marker in 39:02, about 15 seconds off a PR.  

I have got to get my splits and PRs memorized. Would have worked it harder if I knew I was that close.

Body felt solid again. Ran in the Crosslites for the first time in a couple weeks. Felt faster in 'em...just like when you're a kid.  "Will these shoes make me run faster?"

Jogged down in just over 30 minutes in the dark. Thankfully, a near-full-moon was rising in the east casting a nice, warm glow on the trail.  Great night in the Boulder hills.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Test Drive

Easy five miles at Elk Meadow testing out the post-PT left plantar.

Time:  47 minutes
Distance: 5.14 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Fair
Weather: Warm and mostly sunny

Spent an hour Tuesday with Mark Plaatjes at InMotion Rehabilitation in Boulder working on getting me back in the groove.  The man can be merciless.  But, then again, that's what I signed up for.  Much work on the left foot to break up the scar tissue around the plantar.  Had a few many moments of fist-clenching pain where I couldn't help but let out a groan or two.  He also did a bunch of work on my left calf to try and get things loosened up, and on my right hip flexor, which may be the source of the groin(ish) pain/tightness I've been having.  I have a theory that all the aches/pains I've suddenly had over the last month stem from the resurgence of plantar problems and the resulting change in gait.

Took one more day off after the session to let things settle in.  

Finally got out today for an easy five on the Meadow View loop.  Foot definitely felt better. I really had to focus on not focusing on running form. Just tried to free the mind and run. Caught myself many times thinking about the foot/calf.  Reminds me of how difficult it must be to meditate and think of nothing.

Will know in an hour or two how the foot is holding up.  Once again...fingers crossed

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Flat-n-Long Run

With yesterday indicating most systems were go, I decided to give the Achilles a longer break and get out for something long and flat.

Time: 2:35
Distance: 20 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Fair
Weather: Chilly and sunny

Starting from the Goodson Rec Center at 7 a.m., ran the mostly-flat, crushed-gravel surfaced Highline Canal with Patrick G., Steve G., Lori, Kelly and one other woman whose name I forgot.  We all ran together for the first few miles, then broke up into distance/pace groups with Patrick, Steve and I cruising on ahead.

Patrick turned back at about 8.5 miles since he had a 30 mile run planned for way-dark o'clock tonight. Steve and I toiled on to the 10-mile mark and turned around. I soon was dashing into the shrubs for a bio break and Steve, who's training for the Las Vegas Marathon, motored on. Once back on the path, I ran a few miles at around 6:20, but just didn't have it in me to run him down.

Finished about three minutes behind.

Achilles felt fine. Feeling the fatigue now, though.

Perfect running weather.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Easing Back Into It

Way easy jog from the office on a collection of Boulder streets, sidewalks and bike paths. So far, so good...

Time: 40 minutes
Distance: 5.3 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Good
Weather: Chilly and sunny

Four days off. Time to see how the healing is progressing. 

Jogged easy on mostly flat, paved terrain to see if the right Achilles had any complaints. Still too early to tell, but everything on the run felt OK. 

If all signals remain "go," I may join a few folks for an easy, early jaunt on the Highline Canal in Denver tomorrow morning.

Fingers crossed...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Healing...and Pondering

Forced time off is never easy, but at least this stretch has been made easier by the sudden change in weather. This is my third day off from any running, following Sunday's 23-mile sufferfest.

The Achilles today feels good. No soreness when just walking around. So, that's coming along. Same with the left plantar.

The plantar has been episodic. Last year around this time, at the advice of a podiatrist I took about three weeks off to see if it would heal. I spent that time lazing around, icing the foot, doing exercises...the works (and driving those around me nuts). I eased carefully back into running and ended up right back where I started. Lots of discomfort, all the time. Next up was a visit to a well-known PT in Boulder. One extremely painful session later, I was 80 percent better. After one more session, I was up to a 90 percent improvement...pretty much good to go. Through the spring/winter/summer, I was largely pain-free. The foot would hurt a fair bit after a long, hard run, but would be fine the next day. Late this fall, though, the plantar was hurting again throughout the day. I wasn't getting the overnight healing done anymore.

Three days off, though, does wonders. I presume, however, that the days off-induced improvement will be temporary, so I scheduled a return visit to the Boulder PT's House of Pain for late next week. Hopefully, I won't have to ask about the Achilles. I'm hoping I have nipped that one in the bud.

So, since I haven't been running, I have been relegated to thinking (some) about running. In particular, I've been thinking about the 100-mile distance, and whether it's something I want to tackle. I must admit, there's a pull there. Something about the grandiosity...the absurdity....the challenge of the distance.

I have a desire to feel the satisfaction of having pushed myself that far...that hard. I don't, for a moment, underestimate the size of the challenge and its difficulty. Nor am I oblivious to the ego-centric drive that lurks beneath the "I'm in it for the challenge...the pushing myself to the limits" public rationale.

So, I'm left to ponder the distance, the races that could be run and the time commitment required to pull it off and be reasonably competitive. Thankfully, I have the benefit of having folks around to probe for insight and from whom to learn. Figuring out the balance, though, is all me. And, that's the first big hurdle to overcome.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Willow Springs - Ken Caryl Ranch Open Space - Hurtin'

Explored a wealth of close-in, beautiful singletrack in the foothills south of Highway 285. Great trails, but a tough day.

Distance: 23.48 miles
Time: 4:21
Pace: Easy/long
Body: Poor
Weather: Sunny & Warm

There's nothing better than exploring new trails right from one's door, but that's a rare thing. So, the second-best thing is exploring new trails right from a friend's door.  Those were my thoughts as Todd G. and I started running up the road from his house to the trails of the Willow Springs neighborhood open space.

Willow Springs Open Space Trail Map - Credit: Bill Highland
Heading up the paved road to the trails, I was feeling a bit creaky. Despite several weeks of moderation in running, I've got more aches and pains now than I've had all year. Between a flared-up left plantar, a worsening groin pull of some sort and a newly sore right Achilles, I was walking wounded. Still I was optimistic that things would chill out once we hit the dirt.

And, for the most part, things were fine through the early climbs through the 800-acre Willow Springs mountain park. The trails in here were awesome...well built, narrow, little-used singletrack. The trails, loaded with tight switchbacks, climb the hillsides behind the subdivision. After one minor summit and lots of up and down across grassy hillsides and through forested drainages, we made our way into the privately-owned Ken Caryl Ranch Open Space.

The Ken Caryl Ranch subdivision includes 5,000 acres of open space with over 25 miles trails, much of it great singletrack. In this area, we ran along more of the great, narrow foothills singletrack before dropping down into the subdivision itself for a number of miles on the red dirt around the hogback and red rocks.

It was in here when the Achilles started really aching. We were about 10 miles in at this point and I was not eager to call it a day, so we marched on.  Soon, the trail turned up and we headed back up toward the foothills. Just before ascending a really steep, rocky canyon, we came across a bunch of West Metro Fire and Rescue trucks parked at a trail junction. Apparently, a kid fell 60 feet down a rocky cliff here yesterday. (Denver Post story here.)

We had better luck and made our way up out of the canyon and onto a hillside covered by gambel oak and aspen. Beautiful spot. I hit a rough patch through here and was just trying to hold it together. Everything seemed to be aching. Still, we motored on, passed a few mountain bikers and made our way back onto Willow Springs land.

We wound our way back to Todd's 'hood via a different route. Thanks to Todd's route-finding, we did the 23-mile loop with only one mile of overlapping trail. Other than that way-short section, it was all new trail. And, all the trail was great. And, unfortunately, it's all private land...owned by the subdivisions below.

Once back at the truck, I assessed the damage. Left foot...trashed.  Right Achilles...aching.  Groin...shot.  I haven't felt this fragile in years. Time for some prescribed time off for a bit of PT and healing. Ugh.

Other than the aches, this was a great (and much slowed) run. Eager to do it again...in due time.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Alderfer-Three Sisters - Easy

Snuck in a quick six miles while jP was doing a basketball skills clinic at the local rec center, which just happens to be within half-mile of a JeffCo Open Space park.

Time: 55 minutes
Distance:  6 miles
Effort: Easy
Body:  Average
Weather: Sunny & Warm

Congrats to Scott Jaime, 2010 Mountain Masochist 50 winner!  Finishing time:  7:23!  Nice job, Scott!

Easy run from the Wulf Rec Center up to Alderfer-Three Sisters Open Space park. Looped through the park via multiple trails. Paused at one point to watch a very non-plussed fox meandering through the woods just 10 meters from the trail (and me). No watch.

At 9:30 a.m. it already was t-shirt temps. It's going to be a beautiful weekend.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Apex Open Space - Here & There

A post-early morning flight run in a local gem of an open space park. Explored some of the new trails built there this summer.

Time:  1:27
Distance: 9 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Fair
Weather: Sunny and warming

Got up at 3:30 a.m. in Washington, D.C. to catch a 6 a.m. flight home from Dulles. Got a solid couple hours of sleep on the plane. When I landed in Colorado at about 8:30 a.m., the sun was out and things were warming up nicely.

Since it was so early and I had my running gear packed in my suitcase, everything lined up nicely for a quick morning run. En route home, I stopped off at Apex Open Space, which is located just above Heritage Square in Golden. I head heard from Todd G. that the county put in some new trails at the park this summer, so I was eager to see what was new.

The first thing I noticed at the park was all the new signs put up to instruct bikers about new rules governing which direction on which days they could ride certain trails. There have been some significant hiker/biker conflicts at this small, close-in park. The directional days and new trails are the county's solution to the identified problems.

The first new trail, is the .7-mile Argos Trail, which switchbacks up the east-side face park's foothills mountains.  The trail is well built...I'd say over-built. It's a good 3-4 feet wide. This seems to be JeffCo's modus operandi these days...widening trails, removing rocks, etc...  I'm sure the trails will feel more narrow once the vegetation has regrown and preferred lines get worn into the wide tread. Will be interesting to watch how the trail matures. Still, my critiques aside, Open Space should be thanked and commended for investing in new trails, particularly in these challenging budget times!

From the top of the new Argos Trail, I cruised along Pick-n-Sledge and made a small loop out of Grubstake and Bonanza before dropping down Sluicebox to the Apex Trail. From this junction, I headed up Apex to its upper reaches and then ran down Enchanted Forest back to Apex (the upper part of Apex also has been re-routed), which I followed back to my truck.

Good stuff.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

HQ - Hotel - Commuting & Running

The Tuesday tempo run today took me from the Ballston 'hood in Arlington, VA to the Woodley Park neighborhood in D.C. All on bike paths, no less.

Time: 1:09
Distance: 10 miles
Effort: Sorta Hard
Body: Good
Weather: Clear and cool

Second day in D.C. on a biz trip. Decided the best way to ensure I got in a solid run was to bring my shoes-n-shorts to work from the hotel and do the evening commute via foot.

Surprisingly, I was in the mood for a track work-out, which is a rare feeling. So, from the HQ, I warmed up via a half-mile run to the Washington & Lee High School, where they have a fine, new track. I didn't have much time due to impending darkness (left the headlamp in the hotel), so I hopped on the track and did a whopping 1x1 mile in 5:40. Those four loops sated my immediate desire to run in circles, so off I went to pick up the Curtiss Trail, which is a paved bike path that runs along I-66 through this part of Arlington.

Running a steady pace around 6:20, I ran over Key Bridge into Georgetown, hung a right in Francis Scott Key Park and jumped on the towpath along the last bit of the C&O Canal. This path took me to the mouth of Rock Creek Park.

With darkness settling in, I started the very gentle climb up through the park to the Woodley Park area, where my hotel was located. I tried to hold the pace up the last steep climb up from the creek to the bluff above where the hotel is perched, but ran out of gas about 20 meters from the top and jogged the rest of the way up. Average pace for the 7.69 run, including the warm-up and track mile was 6:45.  Finished things up with a two-mile+ cool down through the Embassy Row 'hood gawking at the huge houses tucked away in this quiet, wooded corner of the city.

Really enjoyed this run.