Friday, April 7, 2017

April Fooled

Saturday, April the 1st was a lovely day - the first one of the year where Spring started to feel like it was almost in reach..

Sunshine and green things!
I'd gone down to Shade's Mills Conservation Area to run around in circles for awhile, since it was the first sanctioned training run for Conquer the Canuck (which I raced last year) on the new course for 2017. I might see some other people out, the course would be marked, and I could easily get in the 3 hours or so of running I wanted for the day.

With a bit of elevation to boot.
It very rapidly became apparent that it was not, however, going to be my day.

I'd taken what I thought was a pretty easy week or two since plowing through a bunch of training leading up to the end of the Slowtwitch 100 runs in 100 days challenge, but in retrospect I didn't really cut my mileage down the way I should have. My "easy week" ended up being over 65km despite the extra day I took off (during which I hiked for 3.5hrs with Tanker at Hilton Falls Conservation Area), and culminated in a 4.5 hour grind through the ice and mud of the Bruce Trail in Hockley Valley that included over 1,000m of elevation change. It was beautiful, but left me ragged - my quads were destroyed from running sharp downhills on dirt roads, and I was simply exhausted from the effort of hauling my butt up a trail that doesn't seem to believe in switchbacks (I'm looking at you, Hockley Heights Side Trail!) after all the running I'd done in the prior 8 days.

Almost 40km on the Elora-Cataract Trailway. Back-to-back double run days in the 72hrs directly afterward, without enough sleep. I knew I was heading for trouble - there aren't enough carbohydrates in the bloody world to hold me together when I'm running myself into the ground.

Even if it's lovely and sunny..

I took things a bit easy after the Hockley Valley run - just a ~6k lunch run on Monday and Tuesday (no double run Monday evening), and I didn't add any distance to my ~12k run on Wednesday, but I still wasn't sleeping enough, and because of time constraints I wasn't taking my weekday runs at an easy enough pace for my recovering legs. My poor, damaged ankle was complaining, my left hip and deep gluteal muscles were tight and sore, and on Thursday morning I felt something twang unpleasantly in my left thigh on my 8th burpee of my morning strength workout. Like a good little soldier I headed out into the massively gusting winds on Thursday evening, and (having decided not to go to the pool so I could get a bit more sleep) extended my run a bit longer than usual despite the pain in my quad.

I told myself: Friday is rest day. Friday will make everything better. I will be fine on Saturday. I got 335km of running in the bank in March, never having done more than 293km in a month before. I am strong. I will be ok.

I was not ok.


Overloaded from the downhill running at Hockley Valley and given insufficient time and resources to repair the micro-tears in my quad muscles, I started to hurt within the first few kilometers. Despite my left leg deteriorating into pain and weakness with every additional hill I climbed, I still refused to cut the run at Shade's Mills short of my originally intended 3 loops - I even added a bit at the end to go see the trails on the other side of the beach, which have been cut from the new Conquer the Canuck route but are very pretty. While over there I encountered two women walking dogs off-leash, and while watching them scramble to grab collars I stepped on a root and rolled my damaged ankle again. By the time I met Tanker back at the car I could barely even walk, let alone run. My entire left leg was nothing but pain from just behind my toes to the top of my hip.

Bu-bu-but it was sunny and warm!

I didn't even bother setting an alarm for Sunday - just slept as much as I wanted (nearly until noon), then tried to get my head straight about what I'd done to myself. Less than 5 weeks from the Pick Your Poison 50k and under 9 weeks to the Sulphur Springs 100k, and I was incapable of even walking up a set of stairs without pain.

I had originally resolved to just spend the day lazing around, but it was sunny again and even warmer than the day before - it felt like mid-May, not the beginning of April. So, I hopped on my bike trainer in the basement to see if I could cycle without causing any more problems for my sore hip, quad or ankle. Everything seemed to go smoothly, so I aired up my poor, neglected mountain bike's tires and prepared to go for my first outdoor bike ride of the year. I knew I might not make it off our street and resolved to shut it all down at the first sign of pain, but I actually ended up having a lovely hour-long ride with my sweetheart.

We went for a stroll on a nice, flat trail afterward, enjoying the sunshine and warm air even as the sun set along the river.

It's hard to complain about getting to see this..

I still haven't run since. I'm trying to be a little smarter than I was last week, and realise that pushing things now would be the worst possible thing I could do for my race season. While Pick Your Poison is just intended to be a supported training day, I need to come through it healthy enough to recover in the 4 weeks between it and Sulphur Springs if I want to have any hope of finishing the 100k without messing myself up badly.

I know I am strong enough to push through pain. Right now I have to be smart enough not to do so.

Instead, I'm taking the opportunity to make some improvements. I've finally got serious about doing some rehab for my chronically damaged ankle - that has been ongoing since at least August of last year - and giving my legs some real rest and recovery time.

I'm still clumsy, though.

The quad seems to be responding to the rest - it feels almost completely fine now - and my ankle is definitely in the best shape it's been in months. Even my terrible balance is improving! I have been on the bike trainer and to the pool a couple of times, but I've only done one walk this week. I've been trying to get some more sleep, and do the right things nutritionally to help things along: sipping bone broth and eating gelatin with vitamin C to try to encourage my ligaments and tendons to heal, plus having a bit more healthy fat to try to get my overloaded endocrine system back on track. The issues with my hip and glutes are proving a bit more difficult to resolve (and may actually span a couple of years..), but I'm recruiting the help of the best ultrarunning RMT I've ever met to help me with that.

In short, I'm trying not to be such a fool in April.

If all feels 100% tomorrow - when Spring is supposed to put in another appearance after a fairly nasty week of wintry wind and even a blanket of snow that fell last night - I'm going to try a short-ish run on a flat, non-technical trail. If anything feels off or hurts, I'll shut it down and wait for another day. I have a ton of mileage already in the bank - 885km and 4 runs of 4+ hours in duration - so the goal is just to get back to running consistently and without pain. It will do me no good to try to push mileage if I can't even make the starting line at Sulphur Springs healthy and ready to rock!

No matter how much I want to go play in the sun.

So, wish me luck at getting myself back to fighting fit, and maybe being just a little brighter with my decisions.

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