Friday, April 20, 2018

Damnit

Welp, I may be buggered.

Thanks to this crap.


I was hopeful last week that I could get through this build in training without messing myself up. It was all going pretty well, really...up until the stupid ice storm that set in on Saturday.

I wanted to get in 10 miles, and so I picked a bit of rail trail very close to home that I could just go out and back. Two problems: first of all, the ice pellets were forming horrible slush puddles and snow that meant there was no such thing as a groomed, stable surface for me to run on anywhere.

All of the footprints are mine, though I did see one other fellow out running on my first lap.

Then there was the brutal, gusting wind driving ice pellets into my face across the open fields beside the main trail. So, in order to hide from it, I hit the side trails..


Very pretty and much more sheltered, but not exactly easy on the stabilizer muscles.

I made it through the 10 miles I wanted without messing myself up, then we braved the weather (probably stupidly) to go to show in Toronto. Having survived the round trip on icy roads, it was with no joy whatsoever that we surveyed the freezing rain falling the next day. We nearly drowned between the car and the grocery store, while almost being tossed off our feet by gusts of wind. Nevertheless, I wanted to do my final long-ish back-to-back runs before a stupid 18k road race next week, so I managed to convince myself to get out for a run around our block.

I was just about to step out the door when we heard a bang that seemed to shake the whole universe.

Umm, that doesn't look right.


Nope - definitely not performance.

A huge chunk of our Manitoba maple tree had broken off and fallen on our shed, with the tops of the branches resting on the roof of the house. Fortunately, nothing seemed to be damaged apart from the shed, and since I was already dressed to go...I went.

In spite of a distinct lack of sidewalk anywhere.


It was kind of pretty..

I ran around our block 10 times, wearing trail shoes and actually managing not to slip very much despite not having bothered with spikes. I even felt ok when I was finished, and was quite pleased with myself for getting it done in the face of truly terrible conditions.

Including a jacket that I'm not sure can even be legitimately called "water resistant" anymore..

Where it all seemed to go wrong was Monday - a fairly awful day. We awoke to the same awful road conditions of the night before, with added freezing time. We clearly weren't going to work as our street was unplowed, and we needed to get a tree service to come as soon as possible to get the huge limb off the shed and roof before it snapped and took out the rear windows of the house.

By late afternoon we'd finally been plowed, and even did a little shopping for a new shed. I also decided that, since I was feeling ok and the roads were now fairly open, I'd go for one more short, easy run to try to clear my head a bit.

Sweet, merciful PAVEMENT!

..and apparently that was the last straw, because since then I've been having real trouble with my right peroneals. I tried taking Tuesday and Wednesday off, which wasn't too much of a challenge since the weather continues to be cold and crappy, but it's supposed to be a wonderful spring weekend and I'm not sure I'll be able to run at all...let alone go frolic in the woods.

So, everyone else get out there and enjoy the lovely weather. I've got a bit of advice on how I might be able to address this awful pain and weakness in the outside of my lower leg, so with any luck, maybe I'll be able to join you..

Please..?

I've got every available appendage crossed that I haven't messed myself up too severely - it will be absolutely crushing to go from my return from a torn up ankle to sidelined again by a stupid bit of tendinopathy, especially after all the work I've put in to try to make my stabilizer muscles stronger. I'm hoping this is just a momentary setback, as race season is fast approaching..



Friday, April 13, 2018

Balancing act


No, not me playing with my wobble board again (though I do a lot of that these days) - I'm actually in a bit of a perilous place right now.



Though this guy isn't a threat.

As I mentioned last week, I'm actually getting out for some trail runs again. It's glorious to be back in the woods, chasing a thin ribbon of worn pathway over the hills and through the forest. The problem is that spring still hasn't really arrived and winter did a lot of damage, so as I prance along I sometimes encounter something that looks like this:

Frozen, deeply footprinted mud is my damaged ankle's worst nightmare.

Or like this:

Soft crushed gravel isn't super great either, but that's how they're trying to repair flood-damaged areas.

Or even like this:

It's friggin' April - this is supposed to be gone by now!

I got out Saturday to investigate the Health Valley Trail for the first time, after having heard about it through local running friends. Arriving at the laneway on University Avenue, I started to have my doubts. It was a fairly lousy day - being chilly, grey and windy - and I hadn't really known what to expect for a surface. The field of deeply footprinted mud shown earlier in this post came within the first kilometer or so, and I thought about pulling the plug...but it was close enough to sunset that I didn't really have time to go anywhere else, so I pressed onward.

Along the Conestogo River, into the wind.

I ran the whole length, including the out-and-back section that parallels Arthur Street toward St. Jacobs (with its sizeable hill to climb off the main trail), for a total of 12-odd kilometers. My osteopath's words from the night before echoed through my mind as I ran: 

"Now don't go running any crazy trails tomorrow, un-doing all the good work we've done here today"

I don't think he'd have been very pleased to see me out picking my clumsy way through the icy mud out there. I had fortunately taped my ankle and worn calf sleeves to try to offer some support - it felt ok, but some dorky photography would later show that maybe I wasn't doing as well as I'd hoped.

That's not a great angle for a damaged ankle at full weight bearing.

It didn't feel like I'd done any damage, but I gave my poor long-suffering peg some love in the form of a contrast bath (well, shower anyway) and sleeping in some compression socks. 

Feeling good on Sunday - and with much improved weather - I resolved to find myself some non-technical terrain for another trail run.

A chilly but otherwise gorgeous day at Kolb Park.

I had run this trail many times before and it was always the same - a nice, groomed, crushed limestone surface. Unfortunately the ice jams and flooding this winter (almost) past had taken a brickbat to the lower sections, which were now littered with ankle-threatening riverstones.


Carefully now..

Where the Western section of the trail wasn't stony, it was soft poured crushed gravel as pictured earlier. I hoped things would improve as I traveled East, and they did - for a bit. Approaching Bingemans, where the trail is bordered by pine forest, it became quite clear that winter was not done with this trail yet.

YIKES

Now that I was aware of my ankle's tendency to overpronate, though, I was able to work to correct it.

With decent results.

I was able to get a lunch run in on a lovely, sunny day on Monday as well, but only went for a walk on Tuesday on my lunch break in order to rest my ankle and my rather beat-up calf and shin muscles - they've been grouchy at me since I walked 3km on my lunch break in my clogs last week.

To be honest, a lot of other things needed a bit of a rest, too. This is where the balancing act comes in - I'm desperately trying to ramp up mileage in order to get myself ready for all the racing I have coming, but I need to temper that with enough rest and recovery to ensure I'm not doing myself harm. My training logs tell me I'm doing ok at the former, but maybe not so well at the latter..


"Red bars indicate weeks where you have broken the 10% rule. This rule states that you should only increase your weekly mileage by 10% per week - or you risk injury."
The blue is this week so far.

My last 7 days as of today.


It's tough knowing that I have a 50k in just shy of 1 month and a 100k five weeks after that, and not knowing if I'll be ready for either of them. I live in fear of repeating the horribly under-trained experience I had at Vulture Bait in 2015 - my right IT band getting so tight by the 37.5k mark that I was barely able to limp my way in to the finish.

On the other hand, if I try to keep pouring on the mileage to get myself into ultra shape, I run the risk of permanent ankle dysfunction...along with a host of other over-use injuries that any runner might face when ramping up too quickly.


This is what trying to figure out how to train feels like right now - a tightrope over a chasm full of pain and frustration.

So I'm trying to be a bit sensible (and yes, I know how unlikely that sounds). Instead of my usual "day off" that includes at least a half hour decently brisk walk, I'm actually doing NOTHING today. Not even ankle rehab exercises. I'm just taking a day to try to let everything heal and absorb the work I've put in lately. I need to ignore the empty square in my training logs and just...rest.

My mind hates it - how can I be getting stronger unless I'm out there laying down miles, or at least lifting something heavy? - but I know my body needs it. It's not just my ankle that gets grouchy; my other leg is whining about tight calves and hamstrings as well, in spite of a solid post-run foam roller session last night, and even my shoulders are a bit upset with me after getting back in the pool this week...plus finally managing to do pull ups for the only the second time in my life on Sunday evening.


This was the third one, where I was tired enough I couldn't get my chin fully up.


I just hope that a little kindness to myself today will have me ready for a decently long run tomorrow, as I'm really running out of time to get my weekly mileage up before race season starts. I'm hoping that the long runs I put in earlier this year - at Stride Inside in January and the Valentine's Fatazz - will help carry me through, as the adaptations from long endurance runs do take awhile to fade...but I also know that there's no substitute for having the miles in your legs when you're past the 4th hour.


Not to mention that I just really love being able to get lost in the woods for hours - it's not all about the racing!

So I'll keep walking that tightrope, and trying not to fall off. 



Friday, April 6, 2018

I've got more spring in my step..

..than the weather does. It's bloody well snowing again!

But, it was a glorious (if chilly) week, starting all the way back on Good Friday.



Tanker and I had a bit of brunch, then headed out for a hike on the Grand Valley Trail through Dryden Tract. It was muddy and messy and icy in places, but also sunny with a few green hints of what is to come.

Behold the majestic Tanker, still sporting his winter plumage.

We got home from our wander with enough time to hit up Core for some evening bouldering - the first time we'd been back (or done a dedicated bouldering session) since early February. I was pleased that some of the skills I'd been building on the high ropes had me climbing more aggressively even without a harness, managing to pull off some moves I'd read about and seen in videos but never before achieved.


I actually did a Gaston! And kept myself in place hanging from a pair of roof jugs when my feet slipped off the holds!

I also engaged in some shenanigans for Good Friday that were far more difficult to achieve than I'd expected when I had the bad idea..

It's ok - if I fall I'll rise again in 3 days.

Climbing is hard enough as it is - doing so backwards is almost impossible. It's also incredibly tough to make yourself let go of a hold in order to turn around while on the wall. This was the best I could do out of a few tries in a couple of different places. 

If you're angry about my cheeky poke at Catholicism, don't worry - I was repaid for my heathenism by tearing my hands to shreds.

Flappers everywhere..

Saturday morning dawned cold but beautifully sunny again, and I looked forward to trying something I hadn't done in a very long time. Unfortunately, by the time I was able to get out (after a rather-too-heavy brunch of eggs benedict, plus getting our grocery shopping out of the way) I ended up racing the sunset and trying not to blow away or become mired in mud on my first real trail run since I jiggered my ankle almost 7 weeks prior. 

There was singletrack, and climbing, and mud.

Fortunately it went pretty well - I was able to get a little more than 10km in, and even got to check out the new boardwalk!

Yes, I brought a pole along. I didn't know if I might end up needing a cane..

I was feeling so good the next day I even got to go for an Easter trot along the Applewood Trail in Mississauga before spending the afternoon with my Mum. It was chilly once again, but the wind (while still over 30kph) was much less intimidating and the sunshine was glorious.

It's only a paved pathway, but it does run through the lovely Applewood Hills Greenbelt

Lovely Etobicoke Creek was running high - it actually washed over the path in one spot!

I went appropriately dressed for the occasion.

"You're the weirdest looking bunny I've ever seen"

My ankle even let me take advantage of a really beautiful afternoon - the nicest I think it's been since that incredible 16c day at the end of February - on Monday for a lunch run, but was feeling rather tired and sore so I gave it Tuesday off.

Apparently the weather has decided it will try to thwart my attempts at running real trails, as Wednesday brought a whole new meaning to the word "windy".

A HUNDRED AND FOUR KILOMETERS PER HOUR

I was lucky to have a point-to-point as it was mostly a cross- or tailwind - the couple of blocks I had to run into the gale nearly stopped me dead in my tracks! But I finally made it down into the shelter of the Cooksville Creek valley, and back to my Wednesday happy place.


Heavy flow from the rain the night before.

Happy girl!

I got another run in last night, too, which actually brings me to a respectable distance for the past week, having run 5 out of the last 7 days.

Long way from the top of the leaderboard, but not bad for a semi-cripple!

It seems like I may actually get to enjoy the best of the spring season on the trails, assuming it ever arrives - the snow today is certainly most unwelcome, and the weather isn't really supposed to improve in the next week. I'm clinging to this image of my Mum's lovely crocuses as a sign that new life really is happening around me.

Even with the skiff of snow around them..

Hopefully the weather is just holding out until I'm strong enough to put in back-to-back trail runs on the weekends - I can't wait to frolic through the green woods again!






Friday, March 23, 2018

Running in Prison



Orange is the new...spandex?

No, I haven't done something stupid(er than usual) and got myself incarcerated - it just feels like it.

I have actually been getting out for some semi-regular runs, and even managed to go long enough to make the last few count for the 100 runs in 100 days challenge. Last night's 30min trot 'round the neighborhood was my final one for the challenge, which ends today - it both started and finished on a Friday, which is always a rest day for me. With the 3 runs I've been able to add in the last 7 days, my ending total is 67 - good enough for the top 100, but still a far cry from the top-10 placing I was holding down before I got hurt.

Also: not even good enough for the bronze medal (which requires 70+)

A friend of mine commented on an instagram post I made after Tuesday's lunch run - my first lunch run in 6 weeks - saying "She's back!". I know it was well-meant, but honestly I just found it a bit depressing.

You see, running right now really does feel like I'm imprisoned. I don't feel the ankle is ready to run every day yet; I've only just come to a point that every second day feels ok. I can't choose my distance and routing according to my fancy: I'm limited to what I think my ankle can stand, which so far is only the least interesting terrain I can find. I haven't even tested out a rail trail yet (let alone the technical trails that really make my heart sing), as I know that there is still ice and mud out there that could cause real problems. I can't dress the way I want to, as I have to make sure I won't go hypothermic if it turns out I need to stop and walk the rest of the way back to my home or office. Even if I ignore all that as necessary precautions, my lost fitness over the past weeks means I no longer have an "easy" pace - even very slow running leaves me gasping and wheezing, a prisoner of my severely reduced athletic capabilities.


This isn't what I'd call "back"


I know I sound like a petulant child - really, I'm grateful to be able to run again at all, even if it's not totally comfortable and severely limited for now. I know that five weeks off is fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and that I'm lucky I'm not still in a walking boot or relying on a cane to get around at all. Still, one of the things I treasured about the hard-won fitness I'd been able to build over the last few years was the freedom to go run whatever I pleased, whether that was a tough hill workout, an epic multi-hour trail adventure, or just an hour of exploring the streets of a town I was visiting.

It's easy to say that things will improve and I will (hopefully) once more regain my freedom; the ankle will get stronger, my aerobic capacity will return, and I should simply focus on what I'm able to do right now instead of comparing to the past. The reality, though, is that I'm slapped in the face every day with reminders of things I want so badly but simply cannot do: passing a trailhead or driving along a route I used to run, or even seeing friends' photos and stories of amazing runs and trails they've enjoyed. I try to be happy for them, but I won't lie and say that I don't struggle a lot to stay positive.


"No, no - you guys go ahead. I'll be fine...really.."


I may not be in solitary confinement anymore, but I'm still wishing I could at least get a day pass...if not full parole.

Friday, March 16, 2018

400

Like a few runners I know, I'm a little...specific...when it comes to mileage. By that, I mean it gets my hackles up when I fall just short of a nice, round number.

Yes, even when it's completely meaningless.
I could have run another 2sec and 0.01km..

So it was mildly frustrating when I realised I'd run 394.3km for the year after logging my outing at the Valentine's Fatazz. Still, I thought, I'd just make it up the next day after we went snowboarding.

We all know how that worked out.

I did manage one tiny little run back on February 27th, which was just barely enough to relieve my angst at having clocked 99.7km for February up to that point. I finished the month with 100.3km and slightly less idiotic anxiety, but was still staring at an annual total of 394.8km and didn't really feel any closer to being ready to run. 

Things were still very swollen and unpleasant.

I had mentioned last week that I'd hoped to get out for another attempt, as things had been going quite well with the rehab exercises. Come Saturday afternoon I decided I was more or less ready - how bad could it be?

It started off quite well - I'd done my rehab work and my usual run warmup, and there was almost no discomfort when I set off for an optimistic 2km, mildly downhill trot on a smooth multi-use paved pathway. Unfortunately, things deteriorated rather quickly. 

It had begun so well..

By the end of the 2km, my calves were complaining and my ankle didn't really want to speak to me for the rest of the day. I knew when I got out of bed the next day I most likely wouldn't be trying again on Monday, and maybe not even Tuesday.

I tweaked the poor thing a little riding the trainer on Monday evening, and by Wednesday it was still sore. I finally decided enough was enough and gave it a really easy day: just a leisurely lunch walk (rather than the powerwalking I have mostly been doing), and I only did the mobility and balance portions of my rehab work. No hopping or anything even remotely plyometric.

It felt like defeat. I hadn't seen any improvement in my ankle all week, now 4.5 weeks past the date of injury and more than a month since my last run that felt...well...REAL.

The easy day must have paid off, though. I woke up yesterday with no soreness and renewed hope. Getting home from work and errands with just a smidge of daylight remaining, I decided to go for it.


"Please let this work out..|

Tanker was sweet enough to bundle up against the chill and follow me on his mountain bike as I trotted along the 2km route around our neighborhood, feeling my way along as I watched for any sign of weakness or instability from the damaged ankle. While it wasn't perfectly comfortable, things didn't seem to be getting any worse...so I actually pushed on to 2.25km, then 2.5, then thought maybe I'd just go for 20mins and then call it.


This? This felt REAL.

There was a bit of a nasty twinge from the achilles just as I finished, but overall it seems to have been fairly successful. There was a bit of swelling last night even after a soak in cold water immediately after I got home plus some hot/cold contrast in the shower later, but not too much. I made sure to warm the ankle up with some circles and flexion/extension before getting out of bed this morning, and while it's been a little bit tired and achy feeling today, I had no problems doing the full series of rehab exercises and a brisk walk this afternoon.


This ALSO feels like success.

If it feels good when I get up tomorrow, I may even give running another whack - I won't try on back-to-back days for awhile yet, but I really hope it won't take another 4 days off until I'm able to lace up again. It was so nice to get out long enough to really fall into a stride; to be aware of lungs and legs working in harmony to propel me along through the growing dark of evening, letting the muscle memory of a million strides take over to guide me. Uphills didn't feel great, and turning right definitely takes some careful attention, but the experience as a whole was like an inmate's first taste of freedom after long confinement.


Grinning like a fool!

I'm deeply screwed for the 100 runs in 100 days challenge, with just 9 days left and still sitting at 64 qualifying runs (they must be at least 30mins in order to count)...but that 20mins yesterday gives me hope that all may not be lost for my race season, and that's much more important than chasing spreadsheets.

Still, I hope the next hundred kilometers come a little more quickly..