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.


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

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 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. 

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