Thursday, April 2, 2015

Four strange weeks (part one)

Most days, I haven't had any significant pain while I'm in my office or in the car, but the minute I set out on the roads I've got this consistent tightness in my entire right leg that makes me wonder if I'll ever return to the type of running I've been able to expect and taken for granted for the past few years.

Some days the tightness has worked itself out after a mile or so, but usually I start to tighten up again around 4 or 5 miles. At this "re-tightening" point, on a number of days, I have started to lose some degree of co-ordination in one or both legs. This is something I experienced a little on a couple of my longer hard days leading up to Caumsett and most significantly during the race itself.

The weirdest experience was on the treadmill last Sunday (the one time I've been on the treadmill in the last three weeks): after about three miles I would have random strides when it was almost like my legs were disconnected from my brain and would forget how to move normally. I would end up jerking my knee up by throwing my upper body back. That's probably not the best way to work on maintaining good running form.

Before I make it sound like it has been pure misery, though, there have been some definite highlights this March. I'll try to emphasize them during the recap of the last three weeks:

The first week after Caumsett I ran 3 easy miles with Heather on Monday.

Tuesday I was back to work at Gordon, and I ran 6 miles at practice at 7:50 pace, which gave me a nice opportunity to run with some of the women on the team that I don't usually train with.

Wednesday I did a little over 7 miles at about 7:30 pace, exploring the roads to see where it might be safe for the team to run an afternoon workout.

Thursday I ran twice: 5 miles at lunch with Nate H. and Dan P.; 4 miles at practice with the team. This was probably more than I should have done, but it was so relaxed that it felt ok. I also noticed in the aftermath of Caumsett that I was getting really stiff and sore between runs, so I thought some easy doubles might actually help prevent that.

Friday I definitely overdid it, with 10 and a half on the roads in a bit of a hurry to get back to campus before heading down to NYC for DIII ECAC's. Driving the 12-passenger van down that night I was very uncomfortable.

Saturday morning, I met up with my best friend from college, Brandon, for an easy cruise through Central Park. Brandon has lived in Manhattan his whole life (save the four years we were both in Ann Arbor, when he introduced me to the way of the Wu (-Tang), LOTUG (see below), Nas, Jay-Z, Lost Boyz, etc.) and has run the NYC marathon the past few years.  This past fall at age 38 ran his best time so far in 3:23. He was a great tour guide through the park and we covered some terrain in there I had never seen in my previous trips. We ended up doing 5.25 miles at 7:30 pace together. 

Week Total: 68 miles (including 26+ miles of the 50k)

Week 2: March 8-14 (Gordon Spring Break, no practice)

Monday I did almost 9 miles at just over 7 minute pace, but my right hip was still very tender. In the afternoon, I headed over to see my friends at NE Running Company in Beverly, and picked up some Hoka One One Cliftons, hoping that the maximal cushion would be just what the "doctor" (aka, me) ordered for the prolonged 50k recovery. 

Tuesday I drove up to Keene, NH to meet with former CMS-er Tim at Beeze Teez Screen Printing and talk about getting some team gear for XC next fall. I had half-hoped to be able to connect with a member or two of the extensive Keene running community and get guided around the roads and/or trails up there. After a couple failed attempts to get in touch with people (and I was nervous I might accidentally connect with someone who wanted to go a lot faster or further than I was capable of anyway), I just decided to tool around a little on my own in the Hokas. I did about 7 miles in 48 minutes mostly dodging ice on the sidewalks and then a little out and back on a completely covered, but melting snowmobile trail.

My big mistake on Tuesday came when I got back to campus in the afternoon. I was feeling well-protected in the Hokas, so I thought I'd chase a couple Strava segment course records on the roads around Gordon. The first was the 2.1 miles from the Bennett Center to the Wenham end of Grapevine Road. The record (mine) was 13:37 (6:23/mi.) which I wanted to see if I could do without too much effort. Sure enough, I cruised it in 12:48, then had a little under a mile to get ready to attack Tom Brown's Grover Street standard of 7:40. I went for it with a little more gusto, since it wasn't my record to begin with, and I was somewhat loosened up from the first harder effort. I came through in 6:48, with a very short recovery before the Hull St. "Mile" - (Scott McGrath's 5:55 that he ran during a Gordon XC practice this fall). I worked fairly hard to run 5:38, and got back to Gordon to upload the results. To my disappointment, only the Hull St. Mile had lined up with the previous measured segments, so I was 1 for 3. Anyway, that's enough Strava dorkiness for even the most dedicated running blog reader. The bottom line was I had run much faster than I should have and I was going to pay for it.

Wednesday my hip was feeling it and I couldn't quite hold 7:20's for 5 and three-quarters miles.

Thursday was definitely the highlight of the week, and thanks to Kevin, I've got the pictures to prove it. In spite of how slowly my recovery was progressing, I made plans to meet up with NH's own Kevin Tilton, my CMS teammate whose success at the challenging discipline of mountain running and knowledge of the White Mountains made him the perfect companion for a winter mountain adventure. Kevin had originally suggested a loop on the Franconia Ridge Trail, from the Lafayette Place parking area on 93 in Franconia. This is a loop I've done twice as a summer hike, and I know the views from the ridge are spectacular, so I was looking forward to giving it a go on a clear day on snowshoes, when the views would undoubtedly be vastly whiter than when I've been up there before. Thursday was clear in the morning, but pretty cold for March, with valley temps in the 20's and high winds. We agreed that it might be unbearable running the exposed ridge in the cold winds, and adjusted the plans accordingly. 

We decided to head across the interstate and up the Lonesome Lake Trail toward the Kinsman peaks. We both wore snowshoes and the lower section of the trail up to the lake was well-packed and pretty runnable. I was glad that Kevin was okay with keeping the run conversational, as even that proved to be a challenge for me at points. We stopped a number of times so I could scarf some snacks and water (Kev seemed to be content strengthening himself with the views) and I'm glad Kevin had his camera with him to capture the amazing beauty of the day and our surroundings.

Above is a shot of the Franconia Ridge which was behind us as we ascended the Kinsmans. (Lafayette is the higher peak on the left in the picture, Lincoln is on the right; Little Haystack is barely visible further to the right peaking over the closer trees.) The pristine Lonesome Lake is in the foreground. Kevin snapped this pic from just below the AMC Lonesome Lake Hut, which is open year round and would have been a welcome warmup if it were located on the summit of South Kinsman. :) At this point in our ascent, we were well-protected from the wind and pretty toasty.

From the Hut, we continued on the Fishin' Jimmy Trail (also part of the Appalachian Trail), which was packed-out, but had a fresh covering of a couple light inches of snow that had fallen overnight. The going was still pretty good, with a couple steeper climbs that had me sliding a bit with my rounded-over worn snowshoe cramp-ons.

Here's another good look at the Franconia Ridge, with me happy to catch my breath on the Fishin' Jimmy Trail:

And here's Kevin at the same spot:

Below are a couple pics of me kicking up a little snow on the way up North Kinsman. That's the summit you can see in both shots, but more prominently in the first one:

At the top of the Fishin' Jimmy Trail, we turned left to the summit of North Kinsman, but not before Kevin snapped this picture of the trail sign barely peeking out of the snow:

Charging up to the top of North Kinsman:

Me at the top of North Kinsman (4293'):

Kevin on top of North Kinsman:

Looking back at Franconia Ridge (my desktop image now):

We continued south along the Kinsman Ridge Trail, down into the trees from the North Kinsman summit and then up to the more exposed South Kinsman peak.

Me on the chilly summit of South Kinsman (4358'):

Kevin on the summit of South Kinsman:

From here, we turned and retraced our steps.

Heading back down (Mt.'s Liberty and Flume (w/ snow slide) on the right)

Bald Peak (looking Northwest from the Kinsmans)

The round trip was ~10 miles, which we covered in about 3 hours. Great company, great scenery, great pics - thanks, Kevin!

Friday, the day following my wonderful long run with Kevin on snowshoes, I met up with Dan Pfistner at Gordon and worked pretty hard to maintain 7:17's on a seminary loop-plus. Fortunately, I had some new areas of soreness to distract me from my hip problems. My quads were worked up from the mountain climbing and my "ring" toes were rubbed raw from 3 hours in snowshoes. I welcomed both distractions.

Saturday, my quads were still really sore as I met up with Alex Vlahos (soon to be CMS-member?) for a cold 8.5 miles in the rain on the roads from Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School. It was my first run with Alex since before the snows came.

Week Total: 60 miles

Week 3: March 15-21

As the week started and my quad pain began to dissipate, it became clear (again) that something funky was still going on in my body. The pain in my right leg was most concentrated in my hip and butt, but I was also experiencing soreness and stiffness in my knee, hamstring, foot and lower back. I started thinking I might have to go see someone. I called my primary care physician to see about getting a referral over the phone. No dice. I'd have to come in and see him again (in order for him to tell me that I needed PT???) I decided to forego making the appointment. 

I called faithful friend John Gillis and scheduled a deep-tissue massage.

(Later in the week, I succumbed to my wife's urging, sucked it up, and went back to the doc to get my PT referral.)