Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fingers Crossed for Return from Stress Fracture

After having to stop running on August 10th because of a stress fracture of the third metatarsal I have ventured to test the foot with a run this past Saturday and this evening. I had been having pain and strange sensation in the foot a good part of the summer but after a hard run on August 9th I felt as if I was one run away from a complete failure at the fracture site so I decided it was time to give it a rest.

I didn't run at all, but went for a few walks between one and two miles and participated in regular activities in regular footwear. I tried to hasten my return to running on August 21st by going out for three miles, which was clearly an error. On Saturday, Sept 3rd I ran 5 trail miles with a fair amount of up and down terrain, favoring the right foot a bit, but it felt OK, but I still want to give it rest. I went out this evening for just 3 miles on pavement at about 9:30/mile pace doing a low impact heel strike and the foot felt fine. I am happy that on both outings I felt as if I had the energy to run for a couple of hours. Three and a half weeks of inactivity did not wipe out all of my conditioning.

I'm sure people who break arms return to many normal activities before the arm fully heals, but they don't repetitively do the action that caused the break as a runner with a stress fracture does. I speculate a stress fracture needs to be fairly close to 100% repaired before it can handle the repeated load that caused the fracture in the first place. I hope I'm close to 100% and for now when I run I hope I am able to change up the stride somewhat to not load the bone with the same stress over and over and over.

I plan to not run for the next three or four days and try a longer trail run this weekend.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bones Heal Slowly

A watched pot never boils.

Waiting for the third metatarsal of my right foot to heal feels like waiting for water to boil. At least with a pot of water, one can see some bubbles form on the side or maybe a little water vapor rise from the surface; I don't have much I can observe.

As mentioned in a previous post, I believe I heeded all the signs of a fracture in process and was able to avert a complete failure at the site of the fracture just in time. I assume that it should heal in less time than the seven weeks it took for a stress fracture last year when there was a clear instant of bone failure.

Part of the problem is not experiencing much pain. I wore a post-op shoe for about four days, then I was careful to wear a supportive shoe with an orthotic for several days, and lately in the house I haven't bothered with shoes. I would like to put some direct pressure on it to test it, but if I do enough to cause some pain aren't I also doing enough to cause some damage? And could I even be causing damage when there isn't pain? That's how a stress fracture develops in the first place, damage occurring little by little, step by step without pain until there is enough damage that the nerves are irritated and pass this information on to the brain of the always-in-denial runner.

Meanwhile, in 11 days I'm 3 pound heavier. Hmmm, maybe I should go for a run; the load of an extra three pounds can't be good for the foot, right? Must work that off. Maybe I shouldn't have put butter on those pancakes; well, too late to change that.

The plan is to not run or stress it for another week and then try it out with some easy runs. The most optimist time frame for recovery that I read from authoritative sources was 3-4 weeks for an incomplete stress fracture. 18 days is about three week.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Avoiding Rehab

For the past three days I wore a post-op shoe to protect the stress fracture in my right foot from progressing. While the shoe was suitable for protecting the foot, it was causing problems in the ankle (turning), calf muscle (tightness), and knee(stresses). The shoe is probably designed for someone who's recovering from foot surgery and needs to get from the bed to the bathroom, not for going about ones daily life.

The doctor had suggested I could probably wear a sturdy supportive shoe, maybe something like a hiking boot, so I decided to kick the post-op shoe last night. I switched to the most supportive running shoe I have and inserted some orthotics that I have from years ago which seem to direct much of the weight to the heel. I am able to walk normally with this combination. There is no pain, but since there is some flex in the sole I need to be careful about what I do.

My brain makes me laugh. I'm sure a drug addict doesn't think much differently. As soon as the pain wasn't present I found myself thinking I'll run one place or another. An addict might do some self-talk about rehab when in the scary throes of a high or crash but once in the clear seeks the next high. I have to be strong; I have to keep coming to my senses or I will have that overdose; I will complete the fracture and there will be rehab.

Hmmm, I was thinking three to four weeks, but if I can already walk ok....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stress Fracture Breaking Point

For most of the summer I've been cognizant of a stress fracture in the early stages of the third metatarsal of my right foot. Each week I have been taking more rest days, a couple of easy jog days, and a longer mountain trail run in which I don't do any pounding. Tuesday evening I felt that I needed to get out for a real run and did exactly the kind of running I told myself to avoid. I ran 7.8 miles relatively hard on hilly trails and some pavement. I felt great; it's what I've been missing. It was clearly what I needed to avoid.

My stress fracture analogy is that you take a piece of copper wire and you bend it back and forth in the same place. It eventually becomes so weak that it severs. The same thing can happen to a bone under the right conditions; mine being that the bio-mechanics aren't quite right in my right foot. The difference between a bone a a piece of copper wire is that a bone can fix itself, but the repair happens slowly so if the "bending back and forth" outpaces the repair there will be an eventual complete failure like with the copper wire.

The foot probably needed total rest but I seemed to be getting away with the above-described running routine of 20 or so miles per week down from 40 something. If I stick with the wire bending analogy, on Tuesday, instead of long slow bends, I frantically did quick concentrated bends and took it right to the point of a complete break. I didn't even notice that evening, but when I got out of bed on Wednesday morning I couldn't put any weight down on the foot. I think if I had run to the mailbox I would have completed the break.

I tried wearing a shoe but found it didn't reduce the load on the foot enough. I still had a cam walker (boot) and a post-op shoe from last year's stress fracture. I wore the boot for six weeks; the post-op shoe was useless. I gave the shoe a try and it seems to offer enough protection so today is the third day wearing it.

I had been avoiding any NSAIDs over the past few weeks because they impede bone repair and I'm continuing with that. I had been taking 1000 mgs of calcium with magnesium and zinc and I have doubled that. Already, if I step down gently and evenly barefoot there isn't pain, but if I apply focused pressure up under the third metatarsal I feel pain so I plan to keep go with the post-op shoe for a week and then try some other presumably supportive shoe options.

With a complete break last year I was able to return to some easy jogging after 8 weeks. My hope is that I can rest this for about three weeks and return to the easy jogs and longer trail runs while favoring the foot the best I can. I'll see; if it needs more time, I'll take it. I want to do a 50K the last weekend of September.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Another Light Week and a Green Mountain Ascent

Another week of low mileage has passed. My hope has been that if I limit my outings to short runs, incorporate three or four rest days per week, while allowing a long slow trail run on occasion the pains and twinges I feel as a potentially pending metatarsal stress fracture will be averted. The plan seems to be working. I went out for a couple of three mile jogs this week pushing Elliott in the running stroller and on Saturday Alex joined me on a run to the summit of Green Mountain from the NCAR parking lot in Boulder and back.

Alex was not in the running condition necessary for such a run but with overall strength and youth on his side he was able to tough it out and make it up and back. I felt great. I probably could have run the entire ascent in close to an hour but Alex, who was also suffering from strained cartilage around the sternum from parkour that made hard breathing painful, needed an occasional rest and to walk some of the steeper sections. The temperature was around 90 and although he brought a liter of water I don't think he had hydrated adequately beforehand. I had eaten a hardy breakfast, hydrated during the night, and downed a quart of Gatorade beforehand so I was prepared. I didn't even need a gel on the way.

The elevation difference between NCAR and Green's summit is about 2100 ft., but there is an ascent and descent before the trail starts up in earnest in Bear Canyon so overall gain is probably 2400 ft. I think the route is the most runnable of any of the climbs to the summits of the peaks on the edge of Boulder. There are no stretches where a well-conditioned trail runner would have to break from a run motion to a power hike. The overall ascent was 4.2 miles so there is roughly a 10% average grade.

We took in the view at the top for a couple of minutes, were awed by hundreds of dragon flies swarming, chatted with some hikers taking a rest and headed back down. I had assumed that Alex would let loose on the descent and that he'd be waiting for me but the irritated cartilage was even more painful running downhill, we assume because of increased arm movement for balance, so I was a bit torn between going slower and staying with my invited guest or letting fly. Once we were about halfway down and I found myself alone I just kept going; I figured Alex might be better off at his own pace without feeling he was influencing what I was doing or that he was having to push himself through pain.

My foot did not seem impacted by the run although there was some increased irritation of the Achilles tendon in the left foot. Today is the start of my last week of summer vacation before the school year begins so I'm going to try to fit in two long runs.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Metatarsal Test on Green Mountain

After getting a stress fracture last summer and feeling similar early symptoms again I backed off on my running for the past week. I did a couple of three mile jogs and walks of a mile and a half. I had also tried to remedy the situation by cutting a hole in the insert of the shoe, wearing shoes all the time, and favoring the foot a somewhat while running. By favoring, I mean going for either a heel or a flat foot strike.

Yesterday I decided to go for a long run and see how it would do. I'd been wanting to do a circumnavigation of Green Mountain on the edge of Boulder. It was already 90 degrees when I was ready to go. I drank a quart of diluted cold Gatorade before starting and carried two liter bottles in my hands, one with water and the other with diluted Gatorade. As I started up toward Chautauqua Park from the Pearl Street Mall I realized I was already struggling. Something wasn't right. The heat shouldn't have been a problem that soon. I stopped and checked my pulse; it was irregular. It seemed to be in atrial fibrillation which I've had over the years but not recently. I had noticed some irregularity the day before after a particularly strong cup of coffee at Ozo. Excessive caffeine can trigger it. I decided to go on; going for a run has often been effective in making the rhythm return to normal. It didn't seem to be working. I went on, thinking I could always turn back and if things got bad I was still where an ambulance could get to me. Funny how we think sometimes. After about 2 miles and 800 feet of elevation gain it seemed that maybe I was returning to normal. I would soon be in terrain that if things were to go bad I would be stuck there. I ate a Honey Stinger and drank some water and kept going. I don't know if my decision to continue was stupid, well-analyzed, or what but after a while the initial distress was all but forgotten and I was enjoying the trail.

Much of the running was on steep trails which made it easy to not make pounding foot strikes. The two and a half hours were uphill for the most part and the last hour and a half was a steep descent and then a mile and a half on streets all downhill. Once I was back to Pearl Street I discovered the temperature was 95, but as we say here "it's a dry heat". The heat index probably made it 91 and being in the mountains in semi-shade I can knock off a couple of more degrees. I drank three quarts of water and a beer to rehydrate. The foot seems no worse for the tens of thousands of foot strikes. I'm still going to take it easy for a while so that the foot isn't getting excessive repetitive load every day. I'll save that for a long run later in the week.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Running Acculturation

Many of us have lives that involve complex interactions with people and demands on our time and our being. We may feel that we are riding a horse that sometimes we can control and sometimes it has a mind of its own and all we can do is hold on and hope it goes in the general direction we want to go. One of the many pluses of running is that when a runner is out on a trail or, heaven forbid, a road he or she is in control for that time period. One can speed up, go slow, stop for a breather, walk, take a drink, change routes, etc. We don't have to consider how it affects the needs or wishes of others. Running with others changes that.

Six months or so ago I joined a local trail running group and I manage to run a couple or three times a month with them. There are about fifteen hundred runners on the contact list but the groups that I meet up with usually have between 10 and 20 runners. The runs I choose generally take place on trails that don't require I drive far; consequently, the terrain is relatively flat and the runs are usually "no drop" easy runs. The social format is that the group stays more or less together and over the course of the run each person seems to have the opportunity to chat and run with the different runners in the group. The etiquette is fairly informal and simple to follow. Sticking with the horse metaphor, I'm on a horse that is going where I want to go.

Recently I woke up early and couldn't get back to sleep. I knew there was a 5:30 AM run that day, so I decided to join it. I wrote of this run in an earlier post but not with respect to running etiquette. The mountain trail route was more challenging and the pace was faster. There were five of us and we were soon a group of three ahead and a slower paced pair running behind. I was in the threesome; we went faster than I would normally run solo but it was good for me to be held to a pace. We stopped two or three times and waited a minute or so for the other two to catch up. After a three and a half mile ascent of about 5% average grade we had a somewhat steep descent. The two I was with dropped me and one by one the two behind me went by. On the ensuing ascent one of the two caught the lead pair and I caught the other who had asked to scoot by on the downhill. We chatted a bit about shoes and such but he was soon a couple of strides behind and I sensed, slowing down. I pulled away and reached the top of the ascent a few seconds behind the lead three. We waited a couple of minutes for the other runner and took off through the woods on a slight descent. I was fourth and comfortable with the pace. After a few minutes, on a tight turn the fellow in front of me glanced back and noticed the fifth runner was by himself a minute or so back and he pulled off without saying anything, but clearly just waited for the other runner. I went along with the two with whom I had started out.

I wondered if I should have slowed down to accompany the last runner since I was the closest to him in pace. But he had gone by me on the descent. The run wasn't a declared "no drop run" and usually the run leader takes charge to keep the group together. I don't know how everyone else thinks, but my view is that as a runner I'm used to running by myself. Having other runners around provides some peripheral entertainment and if running shoulder to shoulder and chatting happens that's cool, and if I end up dropped that's OK too. I still interact in a way; I see if I can recover and catch up. Communicating ones wishes directly is good too; we could always say what we want or need.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Averting a Metatarsal Stress Fracture in Progress

I've been sensing some dull pain and odd twinges on the top of my foot for at least the past two weeks. I've worried that I have another stress fracture in the works. Last year at this time my right foot had been in a protective boot with a stress fracture of the second metatarsal. I don't want another break, but I don't want to stop running either.

To confirm that the pain was related to a metatarsal I took a golf ball, placed it on a half inch foam pad, and stepped down on it at the second and third metatarsals heads. I used my left foot as a control and there was no pain or discomfort. The second metatarsal on the right foot (the one that fractured last year) seemed OK probably because it ended up stronger through the healing process, but there was definite discomfort when applying pressure on the ball under the third metatarsal. There was even some lingering pain. The discomfort was also not to the level of the two or three days leading up to the eventual break. My self-diagnosis is Stage I or II of a stress fracture in which there is crack initiation or an area of stress for Stage I or even some stress propagation in which any repair that is occurring is happening slower than the damage that is being done if I'm at Stage II. Stage III is complete failure; I know what that feels like and I am not there. It is a pain that can not be run through or even handle any weight bearing.

I did some googling and found that all advice suggested a rest period. I want to rest it, but I'm wondering if I can just rest that particular metatarsal. One bit of hope was the mention that the other metatarsals act as a splint to some extent for the distressed metatarsal. My thinking is that if I can divert most of the load that falls on the third metatarsal to the first and second and to a lesser extent, the fourth and fifth it may be able to recover while "going along for the ride".

It seems to me that if the metatarsal head weren't to bottom out during the foot strike that it wouldn't receive the forces of bearing weight. At this point, just wearing a shoe feels better than being barefoot. To relieve the metatarsal of its duty I cut a hole in the insert under the forefoot at the third metatarsal. The hope is that the metatarsal head doesn't bottom out and that it just enters the void in the insert.

For a test run I ran 3.3 miles pushing Elliott in the running stroller on pavement. I tried to heel strike a bit more and focus on getting the front inside edge of the running shoe down to the ground. The foot felt fine running, but walking around later, especially barefoot, the dull ache and an occasional hot twinge were apparent.

The question will be whether I've isolated the bone enough so that it can repair itself faster than I damage it. I'm assuming that reducing the upward force on it will be enough, but there may be lots of torsional stresses that occur that I haven't taken into account. I'm imagining the healing process to be similar to a cut on a knuckle that gets a lot of movement; it will eventually heal, but it takes longer than a cut on the forearm. Less movement should be better, but are the dynamics of bone healing different from skin? Look for updates in subsequent posts.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sunrise Run (with Elliott images)

I've never been one of those people that start their day off with a run. I like to start the day a little slower than seven miles an hour; I prefer sipping hot coffee and checking out what's going on in the world. Tuesday I noticed that there was a Boulder Trail Runners' run scheduled for 5:30 in the morning. I contemplated getting up for it, thinking that if I got the run out of the way I could dedicate more time to family and household needs, but by the time I was asleep it was 1:30 so I abandoned the notion, that is until I woke up at 4:30 and felt that if I went back to sleep I wouldn't wake up until 9 so I got up for the run.

There were four other male runners at the Dowdy Draw trailhead from BTR but I didn't recognize any of them. We took off up the draw and there was talk of ones plan for the Leadville 100 after not having done it for four years, another spoke of his 2:57 at Boston and another brought up Big Horn and other ultras that he'd done. It sounded like I might be in over my head and that the group would have to wait for me at each junction but I hung with them; we were only running 8 miles not 80. It was easier if they were conversing and I just chugged along inhaling and exhaling.

The route is one of my favorites so I was rather comfortable with what we would be doing. We covered about 7.8 miles in an hour and twenty minutes (11 minutes faster than previous runs of the same loop) with about 1000 feet of elevation. We were back at the parking lot right at 7:00.

It took a while to recover over the course of the day. I think I hadn't hydrated and didn't bring any liquids with me. I also felt as if I had been up partying all night. I puttered around, played with Elliott and slowly I felt as if I had a normal night sleep and had not run.

I guess I've always know the reason I don't like to run early in the day is that the run is then behind me and I'd rather have it to look forward to. A run later in the day also seems to serve as a pick-me-up, so at about 4PM I took Elliott out for a couple of miles in the Baby Jogger.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Monsoon Madness

Looking out across the back yard and to the blue sky as far as one can see it is difficult to imagine that sometime this afternoon dark clouds will be overhead with their monsoon moisture and a need to balance their electrical charge with the ground below, but this has been the pattern for about ten days now.

The weather and an ever-lengthening to-do list has forced me to have some rest days this week, which is probably not so bad. This time last year I was trying to get accustomed to wearing a cam walker to protect a stress-fractured foot. Moving about pre-coffee this morning I sensed that the middle metatarsal on my right foot is fatiguing under the burden of a converted heel-striker and the tightness and sharp pain of Achilles tendinitis is present in the left foot from the adjustment to the new Asics 3020 (which I like for trails although not a trail shoe) which I bought with the hope that they would protect me from the stress that my right foot doesn't seem able to handle in more minimal footwear.

Yesterday I added "long run" to the top of the aforementioned to-do list. If I can keep adding to the bottom of the list, why not add to the top? I rode the motorcycle down to Eldorado Springs. It's been a while since I'd trod on those trails. I headed out under blue skies with a liter of water in each hand, a half a liter, a bowl of Malt-O-Meal, and three cups of coffee in my stomach, and a pocketful of assorted nutrition in my shorts. I thought about how for years I wouldn't enjoy the first three or four miles of a run but now I find pleasure from the first step. The run would be seven miles uphill eventually taking me to the railroad tracks at the top of Rattlesnake Gulch. I doubt is was named as such because of the presence of rattlesnakes but rather to discourage more viper-phobic prospectors from venturing up there. The climb seemed so much easier than it has on other occasions. I typically would walk some of the steeper sections but not yesterday.

I descended the way I went up until I was back to the Fowler Trail which I took to the North Springbrook Loop until it joins to where I had elected the south loop on the way up. I had planned to run across the valley and go up the switchbacks on the other side and do the relatively flat loop on the mesa but the dark clouds had appeared and I was already hearing thunder from the area that I had just come down from so with threatening weather moving in I took a left and headed back to the trailhead.

In three hours and ten minutes of running on some of the greatest trails around I only saw two other runners. Earlier this week Alex had left to do parkour and returned a short while later saying the gym was too full. I told him the trails are never crowded and he said that's because there aren't that many crazy people and I said it's because not that many people know where to find sanity.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On the Up and Up

Friday and Saturday I took advantage of bringing Valerie to work at the cart on Pearl Street to do a couple of runs from downtown Boulder. My plan Friday was to run to Chautauqua Park and from there take the Mesa Trail to Bear Canyon to circumnavigate Green Mountain. I'd run on on the trails I planned to take, but never in this sequence. I liked the route because it would be an uphill grade of about 6% for about seven miles before a steeper descent back to town. Once in Bear Canyon, about 4.75 miles out, I started to hear a lot of close thunder and the clouds were quickly darkening overhead. I had to decide, and quickly, whether to continue around or return the way I had come; to me this was a case where "when in doubt go uphill". Maybe there wasn't any doubt; I turned around and headed back. I felt the edge of the storm was pushing right behind me most of the way back. It should have been; most storms during our monsoon season seem to track to the northeast and my return trip was due north. At one vantage point I was able to see that the storm had taken a turn and moved out to the southeast toward Denver. By the time I was back to Pearl Street the sky over my planned return route was entirely blue. I would most likely make the same decision; live to run another day...which I did yesterday.

Again, I dropped Valerie off at Pearl Street and armed with about 60 ounces of water I took off toward Ebin G. Fine Park mostly along the Boulder Creek Path. Near the park there is what would appear to just be a dirt alley but it is the access to the Viewpoint Trail which connects up to the Flagstaff Trail which would take me to the summit of Flagstaff Mountain. There are enough switchback on this trail to make the entire route runnable except for a short stretch near the top where it just makes sense to hike for a couple of minutes. The trail crosses the road that has its own switchbacks winding its way up the face of the mountain. Flagstaff is actually a rather small mountain rising to 6872 feet above sea level which is about 1500 feet above the park where I started the ascent. Anywhere else in the Rockies it probably wouldn't even be named, but being right on the western edge of town and a popular and convenient destination for some great views of the area it certainly makes sense that it have a name.

The weather held out for me on this run. The deluge, two of them actually, came a little later on in the day. I generally prefer to run in the afternoons, but given the weather pattern we're in I expect I'll be venturing out more in the mornings.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Boulder to Betasso Preserve and back

I didn't run yesterday and although I ran 36 miles last week, most of the outings were half an hour or an hour so today I felt up for a longer and hillier run. I dropped Valerie off at the cart and headed out from there. I had heard some talk of the Betasso Preserve. I ran streets and worked my way to the Boulder Creek Path and took it up Boulder Canyon until it ends and then ran about a mile along the narrow edge of the winding heavily holiday-trafficked road before coming to the Betasso Link about 4.1 miles out. It was a little steep but runnable. The 1 1/4 mile link comes out at the Betasso Loop which is 3.3 miles around. There were some hikers and lots of mountain bikers on the trail. Every other month they do the loop in the opposite direction. I chose to run against them to make it easy to see them coming. I think there was about a 1400 foot elevation gain to the loop, but from the point where I entered the loop there was maybe a 500-600 elevation drop before returning back up to the starting point.

The temperature was surely about 85 at the start but with cloud cover in the mountains and the elevation gain the weather was rather tolerable. I had some Malt-o-Meal for breakfast and drank plenty of liquids to be hydrated. Just before starting I drank about 20 ounces of water and carried two 24 ounce water bottles with me. I don't think I touched the water until I had reached the loop. I ate a Clif Bar at that point as well and had a Gu before heading back down to Boulder. I drank the other water on the way down and found the conditions bearable. Once back I found myself disappointed that the run was over already. I had anticipated a more strenuous run but I felt as if I could have easily gone longer.

I wore the Asics 3020 mentioned in the previous post and found them effective on the trail. The real proof will be with how my feet feel in the morning.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Asics 3020

June finished with my mileage at 600.3. I would like to run more, but 100 miles per month is my without fail target so I'm satisfied. The current week finds me out for some short runs pushing Elliott in the original Baby Jogger that I bought used fifteen years ago for Valerie and tried to sell at a garage sale the month before we knew Elliott was going to exist. It's blue canvas is rather faded, the spokes are rusted, and the two rear tires are thin on tread and lined with cracks, but it's a smooth ride so we like it.

The short runs have given me a chance to accustomed my feet to a new pair of running shoes. I like the Merrell Trail Glove, but my right foot is structurally challenged to handle day after day or runs over an hour and a half. My analysis is that on that foot the big toe point inward and in effect doesn't extend out as far as the second toe and consequently the weight burden disproportionately carried by the second metatarsal which fractured last summer under the stress. Minimalist running though has helped me change away from being strictly a heel-striking runner. I have bought several different running shoes over the past year and nothing seems to work for me so I keep running in either the Merrells or two very used pairs of Asics Evolutions, but the tread has worn smooth so I've had a little difficulty with traction on the trails. Last week I bought the Asics 3020 (available in EE) which is supposed to accommodate a mid to forefoot strike and it seems to live up to it's billing. I haven't been able to get out on any technical trails with it or for any runs over an hour so I can't state unequivocally that it meets my needs. I am a little concerned that I've sensed a little Achilles tendinitis in my left foot. This seems to occur with new running shoes if I don't alternate them in slowly with other shoes.

I think I will be able to take them out on the trail this weekend at some point. The forecast is for mid nineties so I may not run for more than an hour and a half but that should be long enough to give me a sense of whether the 3020 is going to work for me as a trail shoe although it certainly isn't designed as one. The Trail Glove suits my wide foot but almost all of the traditional trail shoes only come in a standard width so I have to use a road shoe for trails if it's not the Merrell.

Speaking of trails, I was looking at my elevation gain for the year. On 600 miles I have 53,000 feet of elevation gain in six months. I remember looking at Anton Krupicka's stats for the first month of this year and he had over 100,000 feet of elevation gain. I guess the trade off on that is that I'm able to run and he's been injured most of the year.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Are You Tough?

I'm not.

For the average person on the street to take off and run fifteen miles because of some dire situation, it would likely require that the person persevere through pain, discomfort, and uncertainty. In many cases the person would even face real issues of life and death. A not tough person in that case would probably give up and drop in despair, whereas a tough person may push on until he or she drops dead.

The untough prepare and condition themselves so they don't land in unfamiliar circumstances related to pain, discomfort, and uncertainty. If I build up to being able to run fifteen miles by first running two, then three, then five, etc. I slowly learn what to expect, what pains and discomforts might be normal and with that I can reduce the uncertainties. Through the conditioning that may take many weeks one gets to the point where they are confident that they can do it and the unknowns are minimized.

So what if I had to run 50 miles, or 100. Would it require toughness at some point or would I be able to prepare and condition myself enough so that I am familiar with the possible pains, discomforts, and uncertainties so that I'd be able to endure them? Let's use a simple common example. I never get blisters, but let's say that sixty miles down the trail I develop some horrendous ones. Being prepared, I may have some means to alleviate the situation somewhat by applying an ointment, in which case a high level of toughness isn't required or I push through the pain, intellectualizing that I only have a superficial irritation and if I can keep my attention elsewhere some natural endorphins may come to the rescue. If I've trained to run 100 miles I'm sure I have experienced having to deal with pain and discomfort so maybe I'd be able to handle blisters.

When do I need to be tough? There could be potential problems with hydration, electrolyte levels, and injuries that physically make it impossible for me to go on even though I resort to crawling forward. Am I tough at that point? If I'm sleep deprived, hallucinating, and vomiting and still able to put one foot in front of the other, am I tough? Or am I still in some kind of comfort zone because I've been here before and putting one foot in front of the other is where I'm most comfortable?

The moment I face an unknown or uncertainty that I can't make familiar, especially if I'm on the edge of physical exhaustion and mentally fragile, I quit, I give up, let me lay down in the fetal position with a beer. I'm not tough; I'm just prepared, conditioned, and experienced.

Long distance runners gain some transfer; we certainly feel comfortable facing challenges on the trail and probably even some challenges away from that realm. Part of pushing our limits is to extend our comfort zone, to be tough so we don't really have to be tough. For most people, persevering in the face of the unknown is where we may be called upon to be tough, but even then, if we have enough experience facing the unknown, we don't have to be tough.

I teach, and in education I see too many students who are put in a position of having to be tough or quit because they are not prepared, conditioned, and face the unknown. Using a parallel, too often they find themselves being able to run two miles but viewing the next concept or unit as being asked to run twenty and they give up or make excuses. Too often, teachers make assumptions about where students are and ask them to run twenty miles instead of three when they are able to run two.

If I can have control and gradually build up experience and conditioning and not face big unknowns, I'm in, but if I truly have to be tough, I'm going home.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Three Peaks

I had been wanting to do a run that included the three peaks of South Boulder Peak, Bear Peak, and Green Mountain for quite a while and yesterday finally seemed like an appropriate day. My conditioning is decent and the weather was right; it was about 60 degrees with low clouds and occasional drizzle.

The adventure began in Eldorado Springs where I took the Towhee Trail to the Shadow Canyon Trail. The Towhee Trail has a 9% average grade on which I was able to maintain a running pace, but once in Shadow Canyon the average climb becomes 24% and I soon found myself power plodding or maybe I'd call it speed stumbling. One mile took 42 minutes. At just about three miles I arrived at the summit of South Boulder Peak which is in effect a pile of Boulders 2500 feet above South Boulder Creek where I began. I took a few pictures and was ready to head back down to the truck. I picked my way back down about 350 vertical feet to the bottom of the saddle which lies between SoBo and Bear Peak where I drank some water and ate a Clif Bar. I decided to go for the next peak which isn't that far and is only another 250 foot climb. I would decide there whether to continue to on over to the summit of Green Mountain or return.

At the top of Bear Peak I was feeling better physically and mentally as well because I had now reach two out of three of my destinations. I was ready to move on to Green Mountain. After an initially steep descent I found a the Green Bear Trail runnable as it headed down to a little valley behind Green Mountain and then started up it. I would say I lost and then gained about 1200 feet of elevation on the journey between the two peaks.

Before starting out I had envisioned myself heading down to Chautauqua Park from Green Mountain and then taking the Mesa Trail all the way back to Eldorado Springs but I had already been out for three hours and thought it would be better to take the route through Bear Canyon to pick up the Mesa Trail. The Bear Canyon trail was an enjoyable descent to run and I'll probably go back there because it seemed the most runnable incline of the day. Somehow I missed the Mesa Trail and was told by a couple different people walking there that I would have to go back up to connect to it. I ran back up to a trail intersection with a posted map but I couldn't make sense of it relative to what I was seeing. I decided to run back down and see if I could pick up a different trail that might connect. I ended up in a neighborhood which may have been better in the long run; I was able to fill up my water bottles at a community pool drinking fountain and also down 24 ounces quickly.

I found a trailhead with a map. There was a low route and I high route to where I needed to go. Both ways were about four miles. Again I misinterpreted the map; a turn-off was much sooner than expected and I ended up on a long descent to the high route. At this point though, rehydrated I felt fresh even though I had been out for more than five hours. I finally picked up the Mesa Trail and felt some comfort of knowing where I was and the definite distance that remained.

I don't have accurate data on distance and elevation because the iphone doesn't have the battery power to operate the Mapmyrun app for so long, but I think the total distance was only around 15 miles, possibly even less, but the elevation gain and loss was likely around 6000 feet.

It's interesting that I didn't feel as spent after the run as I have on other outings of even three hours. I functioned normally last night and feel OK today; there's not even any concomitant soreness. I didn't expect I'd run today, but now I think it's likely.

Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak as seen from the valley behind Green Mountain

Green Mountain as seen from Bear Peak

View to the Continental Divide from South Boulder Peak

The playground as seen from Cherryvale

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Pattern

I am returning to my summer running routine. Since my last post of nine days ago I have run a dozen times. I would like to keep going every day as long as I feel I can. I feel a bit of tightness in my left Achilles tendon upon arising in the morning and I stay cognizant of how things feel in the forefoot pad of my right foot because the structure of that foot the second and third metatarsals carry more than their share of footstrike forces.

Three nights ago I ran with about eight members of the Boulder Trail Runners. The idea was to go out easy on the flat and anyone who wanted to let loose on the return could do so. I decided to go with the lead group that let loose, but I soon found myself losing seconds on them. After about a mile I was 25 seconds behind. I kept pushing and felt that I was running faster than I did in the Bolder Boulder. Sure enough; I ran three plus miles at 7:15 pace. I did catch and pass one of them who didn't sustain the pace but I still ended up a little over a minute behind three others. Two of them are running a 100 miler this weekend. It was good for me to get the fast turn over which I usually don't on the climbs and descents I typically do.

Two evenings ago I ran a bit more typical route from the house on trails with lots of ups and down over six and a half miles at 10 minute pace.

Last night I went down to Eldorado Springs and cruised on the trails there; I felt like I could have kept going and going as far as muscles and energy were concerned but I had only had time for seven miles.

Friday, June 10, 2011

In Transition

Yesterday evening I finally escaped for a run. I ran the Bolder Boulder on Memorial Day and was content with 49:22 for the 10K. I had done a lot of hill work prior to the race which evidently is not the same as speed work so I was a little slower than I had hoped. We have been busy with one priority or another for days and we also spent four days in a heavy haze from the Arizona wildfire so it was just as well I didn't run. The day after the race I got out with Alex for a 4 mile run and the only other run before last night was a three mile jog with Elliott in the running stroller so when I hopped off the motorcycle to run with the Boulder Trail Runners I felt like a race horse when the gates are opened.

There were about 20 runners ready to go at the Fowler Trailhead in Eldorado Springs when I pulled up. As soon as I was out of my motorcycle clothes the group took of uphill. I took off and soon found myself running at the head of the group. I stayed at the front for the first mile which was all uphill and continued there for the next half mile or so which was flat. We stopped at the base of the Rattlesnake Gulch trail. Some of the runners had never been there before; I knew I would have to pace myself up the mile and a half 9 percent grade so I waited until the most enthusiastic had bolted up the trail.

I've never run the entire route without walking some sections and last night was no different, but the walks were fewer and shorter. It seemed that in no time we were up to the railroad tracks. It was a somewhat eerie scene at the mouth of the tunnel with low clouds that had us all in a fog. On the return I started out in the with the faster third of the group and held on at the back for most of the speedy mogul-bashing descent. Toward the end where the descent was more gradual and the trail smoother I was dropped by the lead group but finished maybe 20 seconds behind them.

My legs had all kinds of strange cramps in the night. I've never had cramps in the muscles on the front side of my lower legs. The muscles clenching at the shins was excruciating as I tried massaging them. Everything seems fine this morning. I'm ready to resume my summer regimen of amassing mileage.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Birthday Run

I turn 53 yesterday and earned my cake and ice cream with a birthday run of 13 miles that included three climbs that totaled 1800 feet. The first 2.5 miles were uphill for about 600 ft., then I covered a couple of more miles of relatively flat up and down to reach the mouth of Rattlesnake Gulch. The gulch has some gravely and rocky single track that rises 800 ft. in 1.4 miles.

The trail ends at a railroad tunnel for a route that winds through the Rockies. Taking a moment to squeeze down a gel I a deep vibration. It was about 6PM; was the world ending? No, but the train was a-comin'. I set my iphone to video and pointed it at the tunnel opening. Three locomotives came through with seemingly endless coal cars all equally filled on their way to fuel our summer air-conditioning needs. Three more engines appeared pushing the long chain of cars plus towing their own load. Again, countless coal cars and two more engines pushing at the end. What a nice birthday treat.

I headed back down the gulch trail feeling as if I were skiing a mogul run. I covered the same relative flat for a couple of miles and then turned off and up the north end of the Goshawk Trail. I'd never run up it, only down. It's a smooth-surfaced 400 ft. climb in about 8/10 of a mile up to the top of the saddle; the running is made more difficult because of the smoothness of the trail; some rocks or gravel would be nice for traction, but there is none.

All that was left at this point was 3.5 miles of descent. Sometimes downhill can be an effort but my energy was still good and I just cruised. I hadn't done this exact route before but twice I've done the same distance and climbs on the same trails and this time I'd cut 10 and 20 minutes respectively off those two outings.

Today I'd like to do about 7 miles of milder hills, then later this week do one tempo run, one hills run, and one easy jog with the Bolder Boulder coming up on Memorial Day. My hope is to do the 10K in 47 something. I like that my birthday is a week before the race because since the BB does ages brackets by each individual age, I get to be about the youngest in my group; there should be about 350 fifty-three year old men. I better write another sentence so that my last two words of the blog aren't "old men".

Sunday, May 15, 2011

No, I'm not Training for Something

Blog posts seem the best when they concisely address one issue. Two issues can pass as one issue if they are artfully integrated. Forgive me if I go beyond one issue and if their integration doesn't approach the level of artful.

Rain was in the forecast yesterday and the likelihood was greater as the day progressed. Priorities kept me from getting out, but at about 3:45 I managed to be ready to go. I like to do the climbs around Eldorado Springs on the weekend and as I drove west I had to turn the wipers on and could see that it was raining harder where I was headed. I pulled over for a couple of minutes to contemplate turning around but I went on, deciding to decide once I reached the trail head. At the trail head there was a definite steady rain and the area I was heading up to was obscured by low clouds. There were other vehicles in the lot so I figured if others can, I can. (I did encounter mountain bikers walking down with wheels so choked with mud that they din't rotate as they were dragged along) I knew the trails I was heading to that prohibit bikes would not be muddy.

I had invited Alex to join me, citing that 53 degrees was considered the ideal running temperature. Apparently to him, the temperature was more appropriate for seeking adventure in the virtual world. The first 3.3 miles of my chosen route is uphill with a 5.5 percent average grade. Usually, I feel a bit sluggish early on but after five days of rest and the cooling effects of the rain and the 39 degree temperature (I learned later), I cruised; it almost felt as if I were running on the level.

I recently wrote that I believed a long uphill with a long downhill was a harder workout than a series of short uphills and downhills of the same distance, slopes, and elapsed time. Yesterday's run caused me to consider temperature and it's impact on a workout and overall training. I believe that if you are going to run or race in the heat you need to train in it to acclimate your body, but as I discovered yesterday you may become impacted by the heat causing you to slow down and consequently you don't work the muscles as hard as you could if the temperature were cooler. My non-scientific realization is that even though one may be training to run in the heat, some workouts at cooler temperatures are probably in order for muscle building and conditioning and to accustom the legs to a faster turnover that might not be able to be maintained for the same duration on a hot day.

Although I keep trying to increase my mileage, endurance, speed, overall conditioning and state of health I don't make goals, nor do I consider anything I do as "training". This past Friday was the 13th and I pondered my position on luck. I believe that most things that people chalk up to luck, good or bad, really has to do with the positive or negative application of preparation, education, alertness, decision-making, anticipation, etc. Ironically, I got a flat tire on my motorcycle that day, but after analyzing details I believe it had to do with not sweeping the garage after a little project that left some debris on the floor, including a carpet tack.

Interestingly, with regard to my running, I do prepare, educate myself, analyze information and data, anticipate situations based on past experience and make prudent decisions, and I even make an increased effort to be more cautious when I become weary after two or three hours on a trail. So I find it curious that I avoid making specific goals and don't do any training to reach those goals that I don't make. I don't want to jinx myself.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Is all Elevation Gain the Same?

Most of my runs these days take place on trails that are a series of long uphills and long downhills. To be more specific, I may start off with a three mile uphill with a 900 ft. elevation gain followed by a two mile downhill with an elevation loss of 600 ft. followed by another two miles and a 600 ft. gain, followed by another similar drop, followed by a 1200 ft. climb over two miles, and then back to my original starting point via a more direct route. A route like this may add up to 3300 ft. of gain and loss over 15 miles. I might feel somewhat spent after such a run.

I often read blogs of other runners who may cite similar or greater elevation gains but I am certain that their climbs are shorter, but more frequent. I wonder if two runs of the same distance, same elevation gain and loss, and same elapsed time are in effect the same workout.

Scott Jurek mentioned on the last page of Runner's World magazine this past edition that the training that prepared him to become the ultrarunner he became took place on hilly trails around Duluth, Minnesota and that even when he's gone back to them after training on significantly longer climbs in the West he finds the Duluth trails to still be a challenge. This makes a case, I think, more that one can do better at what one is conditioned to do.

My intuition, experience, and just enough knowledge to be dangerous would suggest to me that an athlete of conditioning that doesn't predispose her to favoring one course or another would be able to run longer before reaching exhaustion on a course that repeated 52.8 ft. elevation gains and losses of 5% grades than repeats of 528 ft. elevation gains and losses of the same grade. I have a couple of pieces of logical evidence that supports this way of thinking. One is that the heart muscle keeps beating until one dies. I could do some quick research but I seem to remember from somewhere in my education that the heart muscle has a rest built in after every contraction that is about 40% of the cycle; it gets very frequent rests. Also, more runners are building in a brief recovery walk into their marathons and improving their times.

Doing longer uphills or continuing to run in a marathon where a short recovery walk would be beneficial seem to place greater stress on the muscles, forcing them to continue to push although approaching fatigue. Although covering the same distance and elevation gain and loss at the same slopes in the same amount of time might be considered doing the same amount of work, it seems that if in route A the muscles have to operate closer to fatigue this would be the "harder" workout.

I know there are lots of factors and maybe my question is open to interpretation so to put it as scientifically quantifiable as possible, the question is which route would one be able to sustain longer, the one with longer and fewer ups and downs or shorter and more frequent ups and downs.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

More on the Merrell Trail Glove

I've been running in the Merrell Trail Glove for a couple of months now and have more to report. I like it. It allows for the what's good about barefoot running, the feel, foot strike, and other dynamics while providing protection. I've mostly worn them for technical trail runs up to eight miles. For me to go farther in them will require building up foot strength. The Merrells are great for climbing and for most surfaces. For longer runs, I still switch to a traditional running shoe, but this is more because of my weaknesses than about the shoe.

There are two issues for me. One is with minimalist footwear in general and the other is with the Merrell specifically. I have a hard time running downhill fast in minimal footwear if the conditions are such that I would normally be able to cruise. Under those circumstances I prefer some heel with cushioning. Minimal footwear is still OK for steep/technical downhill. Yesterday I did a very technical and steep run and I discovered that toward the end of the run when my legs were particularly fatigued, the protective front of the Merrell made it seem as if I were trying to run in clown shoes; they kept catching on bigger rocks or roots which cause me to stumble a lot. I like the roominess of the toe box but maybe the protective rubber toe protection on the outside could be reduced a bit. I'd rather risk a little toe stub than a fall into jagged rocks on a steep trail.

University of Colorado campus to the right side of my head from Bear Peak

Trail to summit of Bear Peak over my right shoulder

Monday, February 28, 2011

Merrell Trail Glove ...at last

Merrell Trail gloves have it the store shelves and I was able to get a pair yesterday. I had a bit of a long run planned yesterday so I decided to try them out on a shorter run today.

I think Merrell is going to take over the "barefoot" market with this shoe. I think the most important feature of this shoe is it's toe box form. I normally need a EE in any running shoe and they still never feel right. The shoe feels as if someone from Merrell made a cast of my foot and then designed the shoe.

The Trail Glove has about the same feel as the Vibram FiveFingers but with a bit thicker sole, enough so that I won't feel that I have to pay attention to every foot placement on a rocky trail. (One year to the day that I wore the FiveFingers for the first time) I also wore these shoes all day at work before I went for my 4.1 mile maiden run and they were comfortable the entire time; I can not tolerate regular running shoes on my feet if I'm not running.

I do a fair amount of my running in the barefoot style even though I wear my old Asics most of the time but I find that with the Asics I can let go with heel striking on some of the smoother downhills that I encounter. The Merrell keeps me honest about barefoot form and I know I will have sore calves tomorrow because of it.

For my run this afternoon there wasn't much of a variety of conditions to test out traction. I was mostly on compacted dirt, but they seem to hold traction in some mud and packed grasses. I did run in some areas with rocks but never felt one under foot.

I am very happy with them. My son should be happy with the the three other pairs of shoes I bought before these since the fall and was never able to run in. I should have known it would be Merrell that finally pleased me in running footwear; I've worn Merrell casual open-back shoes for several years now. Too bad I only had the money to buy the shoes and not some stock in the company.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Last night the Boulder running community enjoyed a special treat. Anton Krupicka's girlfriend Jocelyn is involved with the Center for Energy and Environmental Security through the University of Colorado Law School. She put on a fund raiser for the organization that brought together Christpher McDougall, Scott Jurek, and Anton Krupicka to share some of their running experiences. The court room of the Wolf Law Building probably exceeded its capacity by 100 people.

Timmy O'Neill (I don't know who he is but clearly a local comedian) had made a hilarious and rather silly film about wanting to become an ultra-runner and seeking out Scott Jurek to train with. He also livened up the room with some entertaining antics before the running gods spoke. The director of the CEES had also prepared a humorous monologue about his take on ultra running.

Tony spoke first and through slides shared his development as an ultra runner with us. It was interesting to know that his inspiration to run came from a book bought in a second hand shop and that he ran his first marathon at 12 years old. He spoke of runners who influenced him, his mediocrity as a runner in high school and college, and his training as he moved into the world of ultrarunning.

Through a response to a later question about avoiding injury he shared a good rule about training; he said that sustainability was important and in training he tries to run only what he could go out and repeat day after day. Of course what he can do day after day and what I can do day after day are different but it can be built upon slowly.

McDougall Krupicka Jurek

Roes (red cap), Jurek at microphone, Krupicka to right

Jurek explains
Krupicka (blue shirt) listens

McDougall speaks

Jurek and McDougall spoke next and they mostly spoke to Luis Escobar (also present) slides about the Mexico trip that was recounted in Born to Run. There was little new insight to the adventure but it was fun to hear it from the two of them live and in person. Their enthusiasm was the same as if they had just come back from the trip and were telling about it for the first time.

I hung around for the raffle afterwards. Geoff Roes (2010 Western States winner) was recruited to draw the numbers and Scott announcing the prizes and calling out the numbers. There were lots of prizes and I won a winter beanie, socks, and gloves. There was a brief question and answer session and autograph signing. I had brought the book (I told McDougall that it was the family bible). It was getting late and I didn't want to wait in two more lines for Scott and Tony so I split although waiting may have increased the potential value of the book some day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

No Inov8s for me :(

My old Asics have been serving me well even though I don't think I have a pair with less than 1000 miles on them. I've been running most of the winter with sheet metal screws in one pair. I thought I'd try to get a pair of Inov8s but I couldn't find a pair that I felt would work for me. Three pair were clearly too narrow, like racing flats and another was Gortex. The closest to what I was looking for was the Rocklite 295 but it was a bit sloppy in the heel even with appropriate lacing and the forefoot was too tight in width. I tried them without the inserts and that did provide more room but lost what little comfort they had.

I looked for any other wide trail shoe there might be and found the Brooks Adrenaline in a EE to be suitable. I took them out for a 5.3 mile run today in packed snow, slush, ice, and pavement and they were ok. They allowed me to run with an appropriate foot strike without the heel getting in the way, but it was there if I wanted to cruise downhill on pavement. The traction was nice; I haven't had that all winter except for the screws. They have trail traction but not much up front for protection in rocky terrain. I wasn't in any today.

One should always be skeptical of a shoe review based on one short outing so check back in a month to see if I'm still relatively content.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Triangulation, Honesty, and Culture

I enjoyed a three hour solo run yesterday afternoon. I can't say exactly how long I was out and I can't say exactly how far I ran; I use the iphone as my measuring device but part way into the snowy wet run I discovered that it was getting wet even in the Zip-lock baggie and it was inexplicably displaying Facebook, sharing that a high school friend of my sister's enjoyed the Mellencamp concert, instead of presenting my up-to-the-second data on MapMyRun. I decided I should shut it off and try to dry it out; I put it inside a couple of extra gloves I had brought along. I would be off the grid and have to reconstruct my data; my elevation gain, mileage, and time would all be estimates now.

My experience is that runners generally tend to be honest. I think I've read a discussion before about whether running makes one honest or whether running appeals to honest people. I think part of it is that runners constantly face undeniable personal truths. Our challenges are with ourselves. Collectively, this contributes to the character of the runner's culture. I define culture as the actualization of the unwritten rules that we follow to survive. Running is often done alone but through common experience a runner can connect with a runner from anywhere. Second to second triangulation of my location helps me document the honest facts of my running.

On Wednesday GPS helped me determine the facts about the dishonest disappearance of said iphone. It was on my desk for most of the day (I teach at an alternative high school) but I left for a while to make some copies and evidently forgot to lock the door to the classroom. Through a trial offer of FamilyMap by AT&T I was able to determine the location of the phone and cross reference that to the address of a student. The center of the GPS circle placed the phone at the driveway side of the house. When the police showed up, the student removed the phone from her backpack that was sitting right there by the door leading to the driveway.

The student lied about taking it, saying she had merely found it in the girl's bathroom. In the course of the investigation a friend of hers gave her up saying that he witnessed her taking it. These kids live in a culture where the the only running they do is from the police, and the unwritten rules are you tell a lie instead of the truth, if no one is looking you take it, and you don't snitch because you wouldn't want someone to do that to you. And you get mad at the people who catch you and you blame the victim.

Maybe running should be part of the correctional process. Notice I didn't say punishment; I would never want someone to run as punishment.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Running with People - kind of

Being off for two "inclement weather" days gave me a little extra time so looked into joining a trail running club and found Boulder Trail Runners. There are runs every day and night. I decided to go meet up for one last night out near Boulder Reservoir. There were six of us and the temperature was minus six. It was very dark so I never saw a face, just bright halogen headlamps and backsides. The pace seemed a little faster than what I usually run. It was also difficult to discern the grade but I felt that we were running up a two to three percent grade for a ways at a good clip. Three runners ended up about fifty yards ahead a two about fifty yards behind. We eventually came to a gate and we all reunited and ran as a group from there after one fellow headed off in a different direction to go home. I was able to make some acquaintances in the next few minutes. The pace also seemed to start to taper a bit; at that point though I was used to the pace and could have kept it up. At 5.6 miles we were back to the parking lot.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Outdoors to Myself

The temperature plunged from a high of almost 70 on Saturday when shorts and a T-shirt were suitable running wear to yesterday when the high temperature reached 0 degrees as you can see from the screen shot. I waited until the "warm" part of the afternoon before starting my run. The school districts around here called an "inclement weather" day for yesterday and today; there were concerns about students waiting for buses and walking in the cold. City buses that many kids take to school tend to have significant delays with any kind of weather issue. Also, since winter weather here can often be handled with not much more than a hoodie for such tasks as waiting for a bus, many kids don't seem to even have adequate cold weather gear.

I've noticed comments on other blogs of runners coming from warm climates in which they ask what to wear to keep warm. Typically it's not all that cold here in the winter but zero is probably considered cold for most anybody. Yesterday I wore a fleece hat, windbreaker, fleece top over a thermal top, with thermal tights. Hands and feet don't seem to be much of an issue to keep warm. I wore a cheap pair of cotton gloves and wool running socks although I'm sure I would have been fine with regular synthetic socks. Traction was quite good with an inch of squeaky underfoot.

I ran roughly southwest from the house on terrain that around here is called Open Space. Open Space is land that has been purchased by the county or city to maintain undeveloped. It may be leased back to farmers or ranchers for livestock to graze. There were no cows out yesterday. I did see what I suspect were coyote tracks in the snow because dogs are not usually out in that area without human company. The run was rather pleasant until I turned around after about 4 miles and discovered I the wind had been at my back the entire time and that a snow squall had been following me and finally caught up. My face felt the effects of wind chill on the return with the snow wanting to freeze my eyelashes together.

I ended the run with 8 miles in about an hour and 20 minutes. I also reached 100 miles for the year. I wanted to do that by January 31st, not February 1st but I'm OK with that; I missed running 19 days in January because of work, a cold, and other obligations that stole priority.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Feeling Too Good

I hadn't run for almost two week, not counting a three mile jog last night, because I've been busy and had a mild cold, but today with the temperature at about 60 I decided it was time to make up for it. I took the motorcycle out and headed to Eldorado Springs. It was certainly a shorts and t-shirt afternoon.

With rested legs it was fairly easy to run uphill. The first hill was 2.2 miles long with a 3.5 percent grade. I came off of that and started onto another climb of about two miles at 4% grade. Things leveled out for a while as I entered Eldorado Canyon, but from there I started up Rattlesnake Gulch. This climb was something over 2 miles and an average of 9% grade. I was cold by the time I reached the end of the climb and my IT bands were starting to act up. I forgotten all about them for the past few years. I was 9 miles into the run at the turn around point and on my way down decided that I was not going back the way I came.

I was able to make it back to the motorcycle with just a 4 mile return and 1800 ft of vertical. I was pleased with the run overall especially that I was able to run it all; I stopped for pictures but I was moving most of the time. I was surprised that I was out for six minutes shy of three hours, but almost nothing was flat.

There is a road at the bottom of the valley

I generally look worse in photos on a run

These rocks are the same as the ones in the photo below

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Life under the Bell Curve

Colorado Staircase

Snow Pack


Green Mountain from Bear Peak Summit

Boulder County to the Divide

Running is one of those sports that we all can experience in a way not unlike the top athletes in the sport. If I hit a softball and can run to first base, in that moment my experience is not all that different from a professional baseball player. If I struck out every time I was at bat or the ball went by me every time it was hit toward me I would only experience the negative. Running is different; as long as I can stretch one foot out in front of the other my experience in the moment is basically the same as a world class runner. It's sad that the experiences people could have are suppressed by their tendency to compare their ability to others, whether it's physical, academic, or otherwise.

Yesterday I ran to the top of one of Anton Krupicka's favorite summits (elevation gain 2674 ft), Bear Peak, the neighbor of Green Mountain behind the Flatirons of Boulder. I ran up Shadow Canyon from Eldorado. There are places I had to power hike and almost crawl, but for the most part when I'm in the zone of choosing between snow, rock, ice for the next foot plant and I'm breathing and sweating surrounded by the forest, it's the same experience. Only when I put him next to me and feel inadequate by immediately lagging behind, do I notice the difference.

Most of us go through life with roughly the same capacities as everyone else. There is the handful that go through life at the extremes under the bell curve and we shouldn't measure ourselves by them; we should do what we can without comparison. Anybody else under the fat part of the curve that we find ourselves competing with should be seen as friends who are helping us to seek our limits and do our best.