Sunday, August 28, 2011

On the Mend ~ strong finish to a week of healing.

Even though I felt like I was backing off on the mileage this week, I still came up with a weekly total close to what I've been doing all summer.  I took two rest days this week and had myofascial therapy and two acupuncture sessions, in an attempt to stave off the aches and pains I've been dealing with since the KPIAD run (see last week's post if you need a refresher).  I capped the week off today with an early morning long run in one of my favorite places.  My friend Sue and I got up at o'dark stupid o'clock, which I feel is in itself very good training for Wasatch 100, and although we felt like we ran the first couple of hours in a fog and would have rather been counting sheep, we counted miles instead.

We ended up doing 18 miles on the day, in 4 1/2 hours, and 3,800 ft of elevation gain.  The Wasatch Crest was busy with bikers, but we did see a few folks a-foot as well and were happy to chat on the side of the trail.  Thankfully, the majority of mountain bikers were quite courteous and did not try to kill us by running us off the trail as often happens on this trail, but we were beating the odds with our early start time.  (As an aside, for those who might want to argue:  check your trail rules:  bikes are "supposed" so yield to other trail users on foot or on horseback, but often conveniently forget this fact.  Indeed, check the IMBA website which states, "Bicyclists should yield to other non-motorized trail users, unless the trail is clearly signed for bike-only travel."  FYI-- do you know of any "bike-only" trails in Utah?  Yeah, neither do I.  FYI #2:  IMBA = International Mountain Bike Association.  You guys made the rules, so stick to them.)

Ok, I'll get off my soapbox now.  Anyhoo, it was a totally delightful run and the one photo that I took over the Park City/Snyderville Valley from the Wasatch Crest does not do justice to how beautiful it was.  My aches and pains have lessened over the last week, and I'm looking forward to this last downhill slide to my event on Sept 9th & 10th.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Skirting Injury

This whole past week I have  been dealing with the after-effects of the Kings Peak in a Day (KPIAD) run. Mostly, it has been my calves that have been screaming at me.  The last couple of miles of KPIAD I had a couple of sharp Achilles twinges on my left leg, and after I got home and rested my legs for a couple of days, I realized that it wasn't really my Achilles that was hurting, but rather the Soleus muscle that runs under the calf muscle (the Gastrocnemius).  The Soleus attaches into the Achilles (or Calcaneal tendon, as my muscle therapist likes to call it.  I respond by calling it the Achilles.  I think it kind of bugs him just a little bit that I continue to call it that.  That, and the fact that I call the lateral posterior lower leg tendon the Peroneus, and he calls it the Fibularis, but I just like to think that I'm sticking with what the Greeks named these things, and the Greeks knew their anatomy well enough to name it, so... )

Anyway, I diverge.  So, my Soleus muscle was really hurting.  I mean really.  Like, "just place your fingers on the head of the fibula and I wanted to throw up" kind of hurt.  The Soleus had become so tight, that it was increasing the tension on my Achilles and thus causing the Achilles to ache.  (FYI ~ don't even Google fibular head pain if you are a runner, because it will come up with all of these horrific syndromes that you just don't even want to know about.  Trust me on that one.)  And with about 3 weeks left 'til Wasatch, I was really starting to freak out that I wouldn't recover in time, or that I would do more damage by continuing to train on an injured limb.

So I went to see James on Tuesday (my muscle therapist) and he worked on both my fibular heads, my Soleus (Solei?) on both sides, and my Achilles.  I didn't feel a whole lot better by Tuesday afternoon, so I fired off an email to my coach, Ian, to let him know that I was feeling really reluctant to run my planned 30 miler on Saturday, followed by a 90 minute run on Sunday.  His response was nearly immediate and very serious.  He changed my whole training plan for the week, significantly reducing my mileage and asking me if there was any way I could cross-train and give myself some extra rest.  He bumped my long run to Sunday to give me an extra day of rest and reduced it to 3 hours (instead of 6).

So on Wednesday, it was off to the pool I went.  I don't even remember the last time I swam a mile.  Probably in 2006 when I did the Shermanator triathlon with my cousins.  Dude, 5 years ago? Wow.  Well, it took me 45 minutes to swim the mile, but it's always taken me about that long.  I did a couple of nearly flat jogs of about 3 miles in Park City, one of which was on the Rail Trail, which I must say is a lot nicer for skate skiing in the winter than it is for running in the summer.  Yuck.  I swam another mile on my lunch break on Friday, cruised an easy 3 miler on Saturday in Park City, and by Saturday afternoon I had the nagging thought in my head that I still was not as recovered as I wanted to be.  My calves (mostly my left one) were not screaming anymore when I touched them, but they were still super tender at the fibular heads, albeit somewhat improved as I was able to jog without having any stabbing pain in the Achilles.

Hmm.  What to do.  I had the three hour easy run on my schedule on Sunday, and I really wanted to be able to do it.  I had been talking on the phone with my friend Brian in Colorado on Friday night, as he has been having some medial knee pain (I'm thinking it's patellofemoral syndrome from increasing his mileage too quickly) and we had talked about acupuncture for over-use injuries and I started really thinking about going back to Master Lu.  I didn't want to spend the money, but hell, I wanted to be able to say that I'd done everything to get this problem licked.  So far:  reduce mileage, cross-train (swimming), muscle therapy (twice, because I went back to James on Thursday too), stretching, foam roller, stick massager, kinesiotape.  I even took some Ibuprofen for a few days.  Seriously ~ acupuncture was all I had left in my quiver of tricks.

So, Master Lu it was.  When I explained to him what was going on, he smiled at me and told me (for about the millionth time) to do Tai Chi instead of running.  Yes, yes, Master Lu, I know...  Running *bad*, Tai Chi *good*.  But I want to be in the mountains, Master Lu.  So he took me back to the acupuncture room and stuck a bunch of needles in my calves and Achilles and I got the standard, "Now.  You relax."  Right.  And actually, I did.  I nearly fell asleep face down on the table.  I moved my legs a couple of times just to change position and also to stimulate the needles a little more (I always do that, to get a little better activation of the dry needling process) and I swear, the one in my popliteal space of my left lower leg was a cold type of pain that I thought would make me throw up.  I dared not move my leg again.

After 30 minutes, Master Lu returned, woke me up, and took out the needles.  I thanked him for the nice nap.  He asked me to return next week, and I rescheduled for Wednesday, after my muscle therapy appointment with James on Tuesday.  Should work out nicely.

Of note ~ as I walked to the car, I bent down to touch the area on my fibular head on my left leg where the nauseating pain had been, and (not surprisingly) it was nearly gone.  Gone!  I ran my 3 hour route on the Shoreline today (Sunday), expecting to have some sort of lower leg shut-down accompanied by excruciating pain, and it never happened.

I am in awe of how fortunate I am to have a coach who listens, a muscle therapist who is truly a genius, and Master Lu whose magic needles and acupuncture skill are not of this world.  Thanks be to all who keep me running.

(Post script:  Photos today are from the Shoreline Trail above Salt Lake, but on an adventure with the dogs in the Spring of 2010.  No photos were taken on the run today, but I didn't want to post without photos today.  The view from up there never gets old... )

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Check-mark on the Bucket List

Many years ago, my brother told a tale of when he and our dad drove up to the Uintas in his old VW bus, and they went backpacking in to Utah's highest peak ~ King's.  That was way back when, when I was still in high school and dreamed of exploring the mountains of Utah.  My brother bagged the peak, as my dad suffered from the effects of the altitude and waited down at Anderson Pass.  I believe my brother's old golden retriever, Copper, was along for the adventure as well (he may have hung out with our dad at the pass while my brother bagged the peak).

I've always wanted to get that peak, to check it off of my bucket list of "things to do before I can't do them anymore".

In recent years, as I've seen trail running grow and become popular (and myself being an enthusiast), I've heard more and more stories about people bagging the peak in one day.  It's about a 30 mile route if you take the "traditional route" from the Henry's Fork trailhead up to Gunsight Pass, drop into Painter Basin, and then proceed up to Anderson Pass and continue up to the peak.  The elevation gain for the trip is about 5,000 feet, which doesn't seem to be all that bad, but when you factor in that the majority of the route is above 11,000 feet, where the air is "thin", you start to realize just how big the undertaking is to get the route done in a day.

The fastest known time (FKT) was logged yesterday, on the same day that I got my first and possibly only day trip to King's Peak ~ the route was done in about 5 hours.  Also, the first "double" King's was completed, to the top of King's Peak and back to Henry's trailhead then turn around and do it all over again, in 19 hours 44 minutes and change.  My total time fell somewhere in between those two ~ total running time about 10 hours and factoring in time to chill out at the peak, at Gunsight Pass, and to talk with folks along the way it came to just under 11 hours.

I definitely felt the altitude, and suffered from a pounding headache for most of the day.  I was pleased that my left hip, which has been off-and-on bothering me for almost a year now, did not seize up, and that my stomach tolerated solid food and fluids well the entire time (after pre-medicating with anti-nausea medication) and I didn't throw up. 

Indeed throughout the day, I let my little aches and pains be known to my running partner, Sue.  She countered my whining with the response, "Whose idea was this, anyway?"  To which I had no choice but to reply that the idea was my own.  Towards the end of the day, with about two miles left, I felt a sharp twinge through one Achilles tendon and knew that although I would finish the adventure today, I wondered how my Achilles would hold up over the next few weeks leading up to the Wasatch 100 and at the big dance on September 9th and 10th.  About a mile after I felt my Achilles give me a little grief, Sue twisted her ankle hard but toughed it out and walked her injury off as well, finishing strong.

The views from atop the peak were fabulous.  Let me reiterate:  the views the entire day were  incredible.  The wildflowers were magnificent and we must have seen at least five varieties of Columbine alone along with the seldom-seen Sky Pilot.  Rosey finches hopped along beside us on the snowfields at 13,000 feet, looking for bugs to eat.  The people we met along the way and at the top were some of the nicest I've had the pleasure to meet in a very long time.

Would I do it again?  28.5 miles, 5,280 feet of elevation gain, and 10 hours of continuous forward motion on foot... I'm not sure.  Let's give it a while for the memories of discomfort to fade and the positive memories to come to the forefront.  For now, I'm happy with making a check-mark on my bucket list.
at the trailhead at o'dark-stupid o'clock. can you tell i'm excited for this next adventure?  yeah, just a little

sunrise hits the peaks in upper Henry's Fork basin

Sue negotiates the footbridge at Elkhorn crossing

another early morning view of upper Henry's Fork basin

view of Painter Basin from Gunsight Pass
seldom-seen Sky Pilot
me, approaching on of the false-summits of King's Peak.  it felt like a never-ending rock pile

Sue approaching the peak
Sue and me on the peak ~ elevation 13,528
view of Painter Basin and Lake Atwood in the distance
view of the High Uinta mountains to the west
Sneezeweed on the east slope
Me and Sue at the finish.  one more adventure is in the books.  were we tired?  yes, we were very tired.
You can view the "movie trailer" that Sue made of our journey here.  Cheers!