Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Heads or Tails?

Which way are things going go? Heads or tails? Is my season fundamentally over now or am I going to pull my arse out of this fire like I have so many other times in the past? Will the structure around my knee or whatever is bugging me heal itself while I continue training or will I have to stop altogether, rest, and re-plan the next year or two of running? I just can't tell at this point. Seems to be fifty/fifty and it could easily go either way.

This past weekend was jacked up and really there isn't a better way to describe it. I walked for over two hours in the screeching wind Saturday afternoon then on Sunday I walked three hours all around the neighborhood all afternoon. Work effectively tethered me to the house on Sunday so I could never be more than five minutes so from my desk really. The weather was nice on Sunday and Roxy walked with me some... Annie and Roxy walked with me part of it, and even Melissa did a couple of loops with me. The company and the weather on Sunday made it an easier three hours than if I was just walking around by myself and I was grateful for both.

It wasn't the worst way to spend the Sunday afternoon but I would have much rather been doing a long run, actually running.

At this point I am starting to feel some stress about the injury and if it will get better and rehab itself in a timely manner. Seriously, it feels as if I am on the razors edge here. One to two more weeks like this and I can pretty much kiss Leadville good bye for this year. Or, or, it could go the other way... one to two more slower weeks and I am back on the program.

The best scenario is (and has been for the past two weeks) that I wake up tomorrow morning and I am as good as new, start training again in earnest and run my scheduled races leading up to Leadville and finish it.

A more realistic but yet optimistic option is that I continue to slowly get better, train through this, still hit my major races but don't plan on doing so well, and push it all the way until August 22.

The other options, I'd really rather not think about at this point.

My coach and I had a long talk on Monday. I think we both decided to try to treat this as transitional week and see what my knee/leg can do. Don't get crazy, and DON'T over do it. Personally I am of the mind that now is the time to try to work the leg and work through the injury, train with it and move forward. It is a binary question... am I ready or not, yes or no? The option of another 100 miler next February was thrown into the equation and I have to be honest, it didn't gather any traction as a positive motivator at all, quite the contrary. Let me put it this way... I do not want to run this other race, EVER. That fact alone has served as a bonfire under my butt to make me sorta force it this week. I don't want to push out to next February what I really want to get done this August.

So I've been working out this week in earnest. Monday I ran/walked for 35 minutes or so... two minutes running, one minute walking and that went okay. Tuesday I rode to the incline, ran 1/2 the way up then ran down the trail with minimal knee issues, then rode back home. Today I did a convoluted four mile run which I broke up into three different parts. The overall story is this, my leg hurts when I run but not too bad. If I stop running and start waking there is no pain at all. The discomfort does not linger but of course I don't know how far I could really push it if I had to but I don't think it is time for that test yet. Also this week I am reincorporating my normal lifting routine along with the commitment to focus on it as well as the running. I don't want to lose any strength but really at this point I need to lift more I think for my head more so than anything. Do some extra so I don't feel like such a Schmoe, especially if I have to back of on the running some more.

That about covers it. Tomorrow, Thursday another light run and I have another appointment on Friday with the Sports Massage Therapist, aka "The Queen of Pain," and that I am thinking will help things move forward some.

Right now I will say that I am glad that I didn't give up my slot in the San Juan Solstice in June when we figured out my new race schedule. No matter what happens, I know that if worse comes to worse, I can run that one. :)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Making the Big Turn

This has been a good week I think in terms of my injury healing but not only from a physical standpoint but also from a mental one as well. Monday I rode and had a nice hike that evening that strained my leg a little bit. Tuesday I took off because of my trip to Denver and the weather. Wednesday, my leg felt great with a little bit of walking. But yesterday...

Yesterday which was Thursday, my leg felt great. The night before I was able to do a one legged squat with each leg without any pain. Mentally yesterday I just had a stronger sense of well being and even a greater sense of optimism that I will be back to running and training very soon.

Since there was still too much snow and mud left over from Tuesday's storm I didn't even think about riding yesterday so that left me with only the walking option. I ran. Not far or not too fast but but mixed it in with the walk yesterday and it felt great! It was so nice to be able to run just a little bit again and be pain free. I didn't go too far and I stopped before I started to feel any strain in my left leg but wow. It sure did leave me feeling optimistic about the future.

This was not a fast run at all and I really took it easy. I am not sure if I will try to run some more today. I think I will dial it back in and just walk and ride. I have my appointment this afternoon with the sports massage therapist and I am hoping that maybe she will have the same conclusions that I have about this injury, both the cause and an optimistic prognosis.

Sunday's incline club run is up to Barr Camp and back. My coach told me that if I can make it to BC and back down (hiking) without any issue that I would be ready to run again. That is my goal for the weekend. It would be great to be running again next week. So nice.

One thing about the past 12 days and being injured is that I am reminded to just freaking be careful, be smart, and don't take any unnecessary risks that could cause me to get hurt or injured. A line from my favorite running book by Hal Higdon, Run Fast, quotes Dr. Kenneth Sparks. That line has been going through my head 100 times a day these past couple of weeks... "As you age, you need to train smarter and be more in tune with your body. Every time you go out to run, it could be your last workout, because of an injury."

That "last workout" line provides much food for thought and I have to say that I am FAR from ready for my last training run and the way things have gone this week, I believe that I am a ways from that point. Thankfully.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Status of Things

It has been ten days since the Salida Marathon and I still can not quite run yet. It think that I am close though and that makes me feel better and I am confident that I will be running again very soon.

I still can't run but yesterday I had a great (great for me) ride on the bike and a nice hike in Palmer Park later that evening with Melissa and Roxy. During my ride I did not feel any discomfort in my leg at all but about 30 minutes into the hike I started feeling it. At this point I am suspecting what I thought all along. Yes I am experiencing pain, discomfort and stiffness in my left knee but I am fairly sure that it not in the knee itself. The knee does not hurt when I am sitting, or just doing normal walking or riding even. It is when I start to really crank it walking or hiking that I begin to feel the back of my knee tighten, followed by the outer side of my knee.

The original injury I believe now is in my hamstring and that is what is causing my issues. I say this because for the entire past week, from the beginning to now, I have always felt "something" in the back of my leg. Today it is constant... not pain per se, but for lack of a better way to describe it, I can feel a "knot" in the back of my leg a few inches above my left knee. That knot has been persistent and hamstring injuries can present themselves as knee pain.

A hamstring injury I can deal with, especially one such as this. Muscle heals quicker than tendons and the days where I have not had any pain or discomfort are encouraging to me as that may mean this "down time" will not be that long.

So... Damage control... I am going do Denver today to see a specialist about some inserts for my running shoes that may prevent further injuries in the future. Annie is going with me so we should have a fun time on the ride. Weather is supposed to move in tonight but hopefully it will not get bad until after we get home.

Did some research and talked to some people here in the Springs and found a good sports massage therapist and I have an appointment for that on Friday afternoon. This will hopefully promote the healing process by increasing the blood flow to the injury and by doing some other nifty little things.

I'm still hurt and I still can not run. Things are in the works to remedy this issue and hopefully prevent any further ones. On a good note I am confident still that this will pass quickly and training will resume before long. It is hard to stay optimistic at times as I do miss getting out and being able to run. I promised myself yesterday when I was riding that no matter what the conditions are, rain, wind, heat, etc, that once I am able to run I will not complain about any run and I will be just super grateful to be out there again.

Friday, March 19, 2010

What a Week!

No two ways about it, this has been a long week. I haven't ran since trying to run last Sunday, well excluding that little 50 yard jog in the park Wednesday evening. I've been really good but honestly it isn't like I've had a choice, my knee wouldn't have let me run even if I wanted to.

Riding the bike... Geesh... Ick... ARGH!!!!! Let's just say it is not my favorite activity. It is like watching paint dry to me. I don't get it either because really I ride the same places that I run for the most part and I see all of the same things. So why does my mind resist riding a bike so much? Maybe it is because deep down at the core I am a runner and not a cyclist. Sure I've ridden a lot in the past, both road bikes and mountain bikes but even back then when I took those rides seriously I still considered myself a runner more so than a rider.

I have to give credit where credit is due though, I did get three really good workouts in this week, over three hours total riding the bike. It didn't bother my knee and it did get me out of the house and riding enabled me to keep moving. I'll just look at it as a bitter pill to be swallowed, or like I told the boys years ago, "you don't necessarily have to like it, you just have to do it." Regardless of my feeling about riding, I can see now where it will be so important in the pursuit of my goal which is to finish Leadville this year. Not only is it important now as a training tool to allow me to work around my injury, it will also be important for me to incorporate it into my weekly regime once I am running again for cross training benefits on the days that I do not run.

So, like it, love it, hate it, whatever, I'm making the commitment to do the saddle time this year in order to achieve my goals.

Now a neat thing about riding this week is that I have been riding my road bike past a BMX track everyday. Those who knew me as a kid might remember my PASSION for BMX, my bikes, racing, and jumping anything I could. Well guess what? Apparently all of that has not been lost so I am putting it out there that once Leadville is done this year, Andy is gonna get a new BMX bike and start riding and maybe even racing again. 42 is probably the perfect age to start a racing career in BMX I bet.

Today's walk went well. My first walk this week where I have not felt any twinges, or pain in my knee or lower leg at all. This is a great sign. I am so glad this situation is moving in the direction that it is. I don't think it will be long and I will be running again.

Speaking of running again... no more stupid races on risky courses or any runs on risky routes in general. I can not afford to get hurt again. If I am running on anything sketchy, terrain wise I will be ultra careful.

I don't remember the last time I went this long without running but I am guessing it was last August. Things are getting better and I can see this week fading into my memories as my training commences again here in the not so distant future. This has been a week. Next week will be better.

Next week will be better.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I don't like RICE!

This does not refer to the steamed or fried variety from the local Chinese take-out joint. No, in this case RICE is an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Of course the only reason one would need to rest or elevate or compress and ice something is because of an injury and that is the case here. I'm banged up. Again.

My left knee which has practically zero history in the injury department now has me on the bench. It happened Saturday while running the Salida Marathon around mile 12. In a nasty muddy patch I slipped sorta, my left leg turning strangely and "ping!" I felt that twinge in my knee. It sucks to feel something like that 12 miles into a 26 mile race. You just know you are going to have a long day ahead of you then.

But it isn't just the knee. It seems like the past two to three weeks I've been dealing with one nasty thing or another... injury or illness... take your choice. First there was the deep fissure or crack in the skin on my left heel. Nothing to sinister but it required attention and a lot of Neosporin.

After that I banged up my right ankle (good ankle) two weeks ago. That one could have put me down but it didn't. I iced it and wrapped it and starting running on it immediately. It wasn't ideal but by the end of that week the ankle was doing okay.

Of course the ankle was fine but for a 20 and 10 mile run that following weekend I was deep in the symptoms of both a nasty allergy attack and dealing with a cold at the same time. The cold went away and the pollen count dropped last week and I started feeling better.

So bring on the Salida Marathon. You know... I should have known better. I should have thought this one through a little bit better. This is not a good course for me and with the conditions of the course this year, even more so. I can sum up the course this way... eight miles uphill followed by four miles downhill which was mostly mud. Another four miles uphill again in the same mud as before. A quick two mile downhill on mostly dry Chaffee County dirt road but then six miles of uphill/downhill in snow, ice, slush and mud. A good part of those six miles are part of a very rugged and steep descent heading back into town. The last two miles... some downhill, some flat, mostly clear and gentle terrain but hell, by then the damage is or was done.

Garmin has a neat tool where you can follow me on the course during my run here:

I crossed the finish line about 30 minutes slower than I would have liked with my knee killing me. Overall, energy-wise, I felt great, just the pain in my left leg. I still had a bit of gas in the tank it was just unfortunate that I had a cracked axle.

This was supposed to be a major training weekend for me. 26 miles on Saturday, 23 miles on Sunday. It just didn't happen. I iced my knee Saturday night and took care of it and when I woke up Sunday morning it felt fine, I could walk on it jut fine and I could even bound up and down the stairs without any issues "GREAT," I thought... I only got banged up a little bit and it is all systems go. I confidently packed everything I'd need for my run and took off.

Forget it. I made it about a mile before the pain and discomfort radiating through my knee made me just stop. Part II of my big training weekend was not going to happen. I walked back to the house feeling quite defeated. Angry at myself for even running that race the day before knowing full well the course was crappy with the snow and everything. Mad at myself for getting hurt and having to puss out on a training run. Overall just greatly disappointed in myself, my training, my running talent (or lack of). Also I was and am fearful over the training time that this injury is going to cost me and the impact this will have next month, and in May, and in June, and ultimately in August?

Called my coach... received orders to stay off of it... push the ibuprofen, ice, yada, yada... the standard routine. He did say he'd rather me lose a week than a month. All I can think the whole time we are talking is that I completely blew the weekend. The plan for 50 miles in two days is a wash out. Angst.

In reflection again, it has really been one freaking thing after another these past few weeks. I am not an injury prone person, nor am I typically accident prone. I failed to mention that on two occasions the past couple of weeks, I have also managed to take a couple of decent sized chunks out of my scalp too. That doesn't impact my running of course, but it is still a pain to deal with.

So here I am just a month and two days out from my next race. My first 50 miler of the year and I'm having to take it easy. I guess it is a good thing that I haven't registered yet.

I've been injured worse in the past I know and at worst, even then I'd lose a week and a week isn't that long. Originally I was hoping that I would be able to do a light run tomorrow but I just don't see that happening. I hate missing training runs. It has been months since I have missed one and I hate to start doing that now.

Damage control as my coach said... right now it is all about damage control. RICE, don't run, ibuprofen... don't run... don't run... That is the thing about running injuries that sucks the most... the cure is typically to completely refrain from the cause... running.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Here we go... Again...

I completely failed last year at chronicling my running, races, training and everything else throughout the year. That is probably mostly because my running, races, training and everything else throughout the year took up to so much time. To summarize, here were the results from last season:

Salida Run Through Time Marathon

Garden of the Gods 10 Mile

San Juan Solstice 50 MIle Run

Leadville Trail Marathon

Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile Run

Pikes Peak Ascent

Leadville Trail 100 Run
DNF 48 Miles

Of course that big DNF in the last entry is what has been haunting me daily for the past seven months. Regardless of the DNF or what caused it or might have caused it, I had the biggest running year of my life. If the Leadville 100 had not been a goal, at least half of those other races which were accomplishments in and of themselves probably would not have happened. A big year and experience was gained.

So here we go again. It is a year later and I am back at it. One goal and one goal only and that is to complete the Leadville 100.

My first real race of the year is this coming weekend in Salida, Colorado. It is a Marathon, 26.2 miles and the course is a tough one. This year it will be even more challenging as there is plenty of snow on the trail between miles 18-23. Good thing I did the Trudge in Wyoming in January.

Here is the fun part about this weekend. See, for most a Marathon is a huge deal in and of itself and afterward, well you typically get to take some time off. Not me. Nope. Sunday is a 23 mile run to give me a total of 50 miles for the weekend. My coach is wanting to get me up to 70 miles per week as soon as possible and this is all part of that.

See... everything is about Leadville.