Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Doctor Appointment

This morning I ran 7 miles on very wet trails and dirt roads over and around Kezar Mountain. I felt good, none of the shooting type of back to hip to posterior leg pain of a few weeks ago, just a steady aching bruise-like pain in the butt and hip. I'm doing better keeping my right leg in allignment and keeping good form.

I had appointmemnts with my osteopath and with my chiropractor after my run. The osteopath is convinced that the back is safe to run on and says the pain will keep me in check and prevent me from doing too much too soon. He did strength testing and although the range of motion is very limited on that side, the strength is back to normal. He also said it was safe to let the chiropractor do his thing, but doubted it would help at all. I have what is called radiculopathy, pressure on the nerve root at the spine. As long as sensation and strength are not being effected, it isn't crucial to do something about it right now. By the way, the chiropractor really didn't seem to help matters, I felt a little worse after leaving him. Tomorrow morning I start physical therapy to work on the hamstring on that side. It has really tightened up with all this back trouble.

One interesting thing... I mentioned that my osteopath said not to do too much too soon, well he says trying to run the Vermont 100 in three weeks is OK with him. Very slow running doesn't hurt because there really isn't a lot of jarring at that pace. The good doctor has apparently done his research because he understands that a one hundred mile race is a slow jog at best. Before I left, he asked the two age old questions that everyone asks, "where do you go to the bathroom during the race?" and "do you stop to sleep?" I've got to come up with some sort of clever answers to those questions for the next time someone asks.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mountain Biking

I know, I already posted today about my sister's half marathon. But I also want to write a little about mountain biking. I couldn't tie the two subjects together in one post no matter how I tried.

On Saturday Kevin took me mountain biking on the trails at Bear Brook. I rode a mountain bike on occasion about 15 years ago, but it was always on smooth straight trails. Kevin took me on trails that were easy by his standards, but a little challenging to me. They were curvy single track with rocks and roots and a few little logs to ride over. It was a perfect introduction to the sport.

There is a lot of skill involved, although it looks pretty easy when you watch people who know what they're doing ride. Kevin was a very patient teacher. I also liked that he didn't get excited when I fell a few times. He just sat and waited for me to get going again. I hate it when I fall running on the trail and people get overly concerned. I feel the same way on the bike. Let me preserve a little dignity for crying out loud! Just let me get up, brush it off, and move on. The less fuss the better.

When we were just starting out I kept catching myself holding my breath. It was a little nerve wracking to be traveling over trails without being able to feel them under my feet. But after a while I felt more comfortable on the bike and was able to relax. Most of the times I did fall, it was because I chickened out while in the middle of an obstacle. I've learned that if I start something I need to just see it through and not try to bail out mid way.

I hope it doesn't sound sacrilegious, but riding trails is every bit as much fun as running trails. Like running, it involves picking your line, maneuvering around and over obstacles, and moving forward over the dirt the best you can. Things come at you a little faster on the bike and you don't have the same maneuverability as you do on foot. Except on some of the climbs, I found I didn't really get winded like I do running. Another difference is that I had to stay mentally alert the entire time I rode, where I can let my mind wander a little when I run. Like trail running, there is leg strength and coordination involved, but biking also brings in core strength.

I have a lot of room for improvement on the bike, but that just makes it more interesting. I can hardly wait to ride again!

Amy's Half Marathon

This past Sunday I was in Connecticut to support my sister, Amy in the Fairfield Half Marathon. The last time she ran a road race was over 25 years ago. She and I were both very successful high school track and cross country runners, but she didn't keep it up after her school years. A few years ago she started jogging a little, maybe three miles three times a week. This past winter a co-worker put the idea of running the half marathon into Amy's head and she asked me to help her train for it. I was thrilled.

Amy has a good job and is an excellent mother, but hasn't had anything in her adult life that has been just for her. I was hoping that running might help empower her and make her believe in herself. I was happy to start sending her weekly training plans. She followed them faithfully. This wasn't always easy for her. It was hard for Amy and her family to accept that it was OK for her to steal away a little time for herself to get mentally and physically healthy. She had always given everything she had to her family. For some women there is a lot of guilt involved in taking care of yourself. I think Amy is one of those women.

I arrived Saturday night and could feel the stress. Amy was nervous and her family still wasn't behind her. What did she want to run a stupid race for anyway? I half expected her to back down and decide not to run. I kept my mouth shut and waited to see how it would play out. I think the old Amy would have just said, "let's forget it and have a family day instead." But the new Amy laid out her running clothes and wrote out directions to the start and went to bed early. Race morning arrived and Amy and I drove to the start. We went through the ritual of number pick up and port-a-pottie visitation. Then we mosied over to the starting area. This race had thousands of competitors including some international big shots. I helped her seed herself in the starting area and tried to get her to act at least a tiny bit happy to be there.

Originally I had planned to run the entire half marathon with Amy, but I am not able to tolerate running on pavement with my current injury. Instead I ran the first few miles and the last few miles with her. I wasn't sure how she would do with the crowded start conditions, but she stayed calm. I told her, "don't try to weave, it will thin out" and we fell into her pace. She wanted to run 8:30's and we hit the first mile at a chip time of 8:34. Soon I bid her well and jogged back to watch the 5K and the kids 1 mile race. Then I ran back out on the course to join Amy for the last miles. I joined her in the middle of a huge climb. She looked at me and grimaced with her eyes rolling back into her head, but she was just being dramatic. She was doing very well and moving up through the pack, although she claimed to be dying. I tried to pass on my energy to Amy and the other runners around us. "There's a nice downhill waiting for you after this climb!" "Stay Strong!" "Don't walk!" ... I might have been driving people crazy, but hopefully I helped a little. I know I helped at least one guy because when I paused at the water table to let Amy drink, he said, "stay with me Red, I need you to pull me along," to which Amy replied, "she's mine."

I ran with and talked to Amy through the last few miles and she really stayed strong and steady. I told her she was on her own for the final quarter mile kick. I left her with the parting words, "Almost 50-years-old, my ass! Look around you, you're kicking butt!" There were lots of women in their 20's around us at the time and Amy was leaving them in her dust! She finished in 1:53:13, 13th out of 116 in her age group and in the top 25% overall. I am so proud of her!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fawns and Leprechauns

I have been compared to many things while running on trails. I'm not sure why, but people like to say, "look at you running along the trail, you're just like a .....fill in the blank. I have heard all the fairy like terms... sprite, pixie, nymph, and my personal favorite, Leprechaun (I think it was the green shorts I was wearing that day). Then there are all the animal similes... antelope, bull in a china shop (it was a rough trail), mountain goat, deer, and most recently, bunny rabbit (I liked that one). Today I ran 4 miles on the easy trails behind the schools and I found myself thinking, "look at me, I'm running like a timid little fawn." I am being very careful with foot placement and concentrating on keeping the right leg in good alignment. It is feeling good, but not natural and flowing yet. I'm hoping to be back to Leprechaun by next week, but fawn is OK for now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I hiked a nice loop over Lincoln and Lafayette today. I left Lafayette Place Lot and headed up the Falling Waters Trail at around 11. I like to start a hike mid morning if I know it isn't going to take me all day. This gives the other hikers a chance to get their early starts and hopefully spread out a little on the trail. Falling Waters can be a popular trail in the warmer months and the lot was full of cars. Doesn't anyone work on Thursdays?

Falling Waters Trail is one of my favorites. The first few miles follow Dry Brook and pass numerous water falls, which were especially impressive today following a rainy week. I love the sound of rushing water. I was moving quick, mixing running and fast walking, but I paused to admire each falls as I passed. Everyone loves a water fall, and this trail passes lots of them. It's hard not to feel good along this stretch!

After about 2 miles, the trail turns away from the brook and climbs straight up for a mile or so breaking treeline and ending at the top of Little Haystack. The sun was out early on, but it clouded up as I got to the higher elevations. It was cloudy, but still clear at the top of Little Haystack and I could see the Franconia Ridge Trail running over the sharp ridge to Mt Lincoln. I ran most of the ridge between Little Haystack and Lincoln. There are steep drop offs in places, but the trail is fairly smooth and easy.

I had been passing friendly cheerful hikers since I started, but at the the top of Lincoln there was the surliest group of backpackers I had ever seen. About 6 guys in their mid twenties were sprawled out on the rocks with grim expressions on their faces. I couldn't even get a nod from any of them in response to my "hi." There was no room to stop and take in the view because they were hogging the entire summit. They and their gear were wet and muddy. I imagine they had probably been out in the rain for this past week. I've been there, it's not fun. Probably the last thing they wanted to see was an overly cheerful lady in running shoes carrying nothing but a Camelback. I pushed on. Ironically I never got wet at all but when I looked back as I climbed Lafayette I could see that they were getting showered on. If they had at least acknowledged my "hi," they might have warded off the bad Karma.

I could see the clouds settling over Lafayette as I climbed and by the time I summited, it was completely socked in. Just as I took the last few steps to the top I passed a tall guy who was greeted by a group who were waiting for him at the top. He told them he was cramping bad and didn't know what to do. I handed him 2 Succeed Capsules and told him what they were. He looked a little paranoid about taking pills from a stranger, but his wife told him to just take them, and he did. Hopefully, they helped make his descent a little easier.

I turned down the Greenleaf Trail and ran down to Greenleaf Hut. I hate huts. If we are going to invade the wilderness in great numbers, shouldn't we at least avoid congregating? The huts are always packed with people who seem to be excited to have a place to go to get off the trail. I can see sleeping there, but why hang out there on a perfectly beautiful day? I needed to refill my camelback so I went in. Reluctantly. It was full of joyous people sitting around on the benches reading and eating and talking. I don't get it.

I was in and out as fast as possible without making eye contact with anyone, lest I get sucked into the hut mentality. The last stretch is down the Old Bridle Path. This had been recently rained on and the rocks were wet and slippery. This can be a fast running descent on dry trails, but I had to be cautious today. I still made good time. As I descended below the cloud cover, the sun shone again and it became hot and steamy. The 8.8 mile circuit took me three hours and seventeen minutes. I've done this loop in just over 3 hours but I was being cautious today. Hmmm, caution...I probably should try to make a habit of that!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Ran Today!

And it felt great! I was supposed to go 28 days without running, but let's not dwell on that.

The nerve pain (sciatica-like) has been gone for about a week. The right hamstring at the very top in the butt area, remains tight and painful like a bruise. For the month that I was running after I injured my back, I couldn't lift and drive my right knee forward and swing the lower leg straight through. Instead I was folding the knee inward so it was actually rubbing against the left knee and then swinging the right lower leg and foot outwards to barely clear the ground with each stride. A lot of times it wasn't clearing the ground and I was stumbling and falling. This awkward stride has shortened and tightened the upper hamstring. This can be stretched and strengthened with time.

I have spent the last few days talking about trying to run. Today I felt I was ready. Kevin and I went to Bear Brook State Park for my test run. I was jumping around with a big smile on my face in the parking lot saying, "I feel good, I can run, Let's go! Come on." I probably looked like a hyperactive child. There's nothing like a little time off from running trails to feed the passion for it!

Kevin rode ahead on his mountain bike and led me over beautiful gently rolling singletrack. There were very few rocks and roots and it was a great place to try out the leg. I had absolutely no referred back pain, just the tightness in the hamstring and glut. I had to concentrate to lift my right knee with each stride and drive it straight forward instead of rolling it in, but I could do it! This pulled a bit on my sore butt but it got better as I went, confirming it just needs to be stretched a little. I didn't stumble once.

It felt great to be running! And it was very nice to find that I hadn't lost much, if any, fitness in the time I had taken off from running. The cross training I have been doing has been time consuming and difficult, but it has paid off big! After a while of running happily along the trails, Kevin stopped to ask how far I wanted to go. I was thinking about 3 or 4 miles, but he said we had already done about 6. I was in heaven out there, I could have kept going all day! We ended up doing about 10 miles. I know that's a lot for my first day back, but I would have stopped to walk at the first sign of trouble from my spine.

I am going to try to run every other day for a few weeks. I won't do any fast paced running or difficult terrain for a while. I need to concentrate on keeping my form and getting that hamstring and glut back where it belongs. If I have any symptoms from my spine I will take more time off.

Injuries are tough. Every time I get injured I think that it will be the end of my running. Running has been my passion since I was 13 or 14 years old. It's an old friend I count on to help me through tough times and to celebrate good times with. I could live without it, but I wouldn't be complete. I am one happy woman tonight!

Sunday, June 21, 2009


When I am able to run, one or two bike rides a week is plenty. I'm doing a lot of riding right now and I'm waiting for it to start growing on me. So far it really hasn't. It's fun going fast on smooth roads and I can definitely put in a hard effort and get a quality workout on the bike, but I prefer to be in the woods. And I like to have my feet on the ground so I feel connected and part of the trail. I can get that same feel from walking in the woods as I do running, so I'll get out to the mountains Thursday, rain or shine.

I've been talking with Kevin about trying mountain biking. I did some years ago. I was using a crappy heavy bike and just riding easy trails behind my house. I liked it, but never really pusued it because of all the other activities I enjoy that compete for my time. I stopped when I originally hurt my back because I was afraid of falling and doing more damage. At this point I figure I fall just as much on my own two feet, so why not ride a mountain bike?

Today will be an hour on the trainer this morning (still won't ride in the rain if I have a choice) and Yoga and strength this evening. I think I have to ramp up the workout effort a little, yesterday I had to resist a strong urge to pull the car over at the Massabesic Experimental Forest and take a quick run on the trails in my work clothes!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Still Sane, Barely.

Biking, Bike trainer, Strength training, Walking, Cardio X, repeat...

Although I am missing the running and several times have had to resist the tempatation to just to put on the trail shoes and give it a try, I am burning up plenty of time and energy with all this cross training. I'm not going TOO stir crazy. My son might beg to differ, as I did have a fit about him tracking dirt into the house yesterday, which is out of character for me. I think I was just jealous that he had dirt on his shoes to track into the house while my trail shoes are perfectly clean.

Hopefully, if the weather cooperates I will be able to do a long hike in the mountains next Thursday and/or Friday. That will definitely help my head. The body is doing pretty well so far with the training I am doing, but spinning on the bike, jumping around to Cardio X, and grunting under the dumbbells doesn't do much for the mental side of things!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More Cross Training

I am determined to stay running fit without running. My Osteopath says I can run the Vermont 100 if my back is stable by then, I just won't be able to get any specific run training in before the race. He has kindly recruited his son who is an athletic trainer at Georgia State to help make this possible. The plan is to train, train, train to keep my cardio and strength at as high a level as it would normally be at if I were running. I think of this as a challenge, and I love a challenge! Two years ago, I ran Westren States on cross training only and it went very well. So I know it is possible. Don't worry, I won't attempt to run Vermont unless I am 100% cleared by my physician and I feel like I am able to run smoothly and easily. But it does give me something to work toward and a reason to avoid becoming a 200 pound couch potato.

I started out today with Cardio X, which is a P90X workout DVD which involves Yoga, Kempo Karate, Plyometrics, Core, and good old fashioned Calisthenics. I repeated the harder sequences to keep my heart rate above 150 for a total of 50 minutes. You can kind of dog it on these types of workouts, but wearing the heart monitor keeps me honest. I have to modify a few of the jumping moves to avoid hard impact, but most are not a problem. After the Cardio X, I rode my bike on a very hilly course through Freedom and Effingham, New Hampshire and Parsonsfield, Maine. Average heart rate for the ride was 139 for 33 miles in just under 2 hours. This evening will be abdominal and arms strength work. This is a tough and time consuming routine, but if I keep my head in the right place I think I can get through these 4 weeks without loosing my fitness or my sanity.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Walking and Biking

I haven't run a step in 5 days and haven't had a nervous breakdown yet. This weekend I did some brisk walking on trails. Kevin took me on a tour of some beautiful singletrack trail in New Hampshire's Bear Brook State Park under sunny skies on Saturday. Sunday we walked on trails near Massabesic Lake in the pouring rain. We saw a large fox and some loons, so we weren't the only crazies out in the rain. Both days were a lot of fun. In both areas, we walked on prime running trails and it was hard to not break out into a run! Kevin was poised to grab me by the back of my shirt if I tried. Walking doesn't seem to bother my back/hip. In fact, it seems to make it feel better.

Today we took a 34 mile bike ride over mildly hilly back roads. Other than dealing with traffic, I enjoy bike riding. I feel like I get a good workout from it. The only part that aggravates my back/hip is when I pull up with my right foot while pedaling uphill. But I can pedal uphill fine without pulling up, just pushing down instead. The sky was overcast through most of our ride and the temperature was very comfortable. We got rained on in the last miles and were pretty soaked by the time we finished. Tonight I did a strength workout focusing on chest, back and core.

I am putting together a cross training plan for the week. It involves a lot of hiking, biking, and strength training. I'm afraid you are in for some boring posts, but the fascinating trail running posts will resume in 23 days if everything goes well!

Friday, June 12, 2009


The prognosis isn't as good as I'd hoped, but it could be worse. It turns out that my hip pain is actually referred from my lumbar spine. I've had problems with a herniated disc in the same spot in my spine years ago. I opted not to have surgery and had alternative treatments instead. So it isn't a very stable spine. My mis-step at Massanutten caused some inflamation in this troubled area. I don't think my fall at Nipmuck helped it any. To prove that it is my spine and not my hip, my doctor kindly jammed his thumb into the problem spot on my spine and caused a jolt of pain to shoot into the part of my hip that has been hurting. This explains my clumsy running, falls and muscle cramps.

He tells me no running or high impact activity for at least 4 weeks and promises that if I follow this advice I can continue to avoid surgery. He'll see me again in a week. I had mentioned in my previous post that I have known my doctor for a long time and he has seen me through a lot of injuries over the years. Today he asked, "how many more miles do you plan to run in your lifetime, anyway?" I answered, "Lots!" And I do.

Biking and Health Care Ranting

I biked about 2 hours yesterday in the cold raw morning. I hate feeling cold so I didn't enjoy it much, but it took the edge off and made me feel better for the rest of the day. Biking doesn't seem to bother the hip. In the evening between work calls, I did an hour of gentle stretching involving my whole body. It felt very good.

This morning was 1 hour on the bike trainer. It is pouring rain out and cold. I am simply unwilling to take the bike out in this. I'm sure there are a few crazies out there biking this morning, but I can't even imagine. The wind chill would probably kill me. The bike trainer is even worse than the treadmill. Like the treadmill, it is boring. But in addition to the boredome, it is hard work! Why do my quads burn more on the trainer? Sometime this evening I will get my core work in.

I have an appointment with my Osteopath in a few hours. He has been my personal doctor for many years and we know each other well. He has a "let's wait and see" attitude about most things. We see eye to eye on this. Being in the health care profession I have seen many cases where more harm than good is done in treating problems that could have gone without treatment. Americans have a sense of entitlement to good health. We, as a rule, feel like good health is owed to us and not something we have to work to maintain. (I know the people who read this blog are an acception to this mind set, but it is the way most Americans seem to feel). If we are sick or hurt, we rarely take responsibility for it and we expect someone to fix it for us. We want pills, injections, surgeries, x-rays, MRIs, Scopes, and therapy. It is somehow owed to us. We often DEMAND it and if we don't get it from the first doctor we see, we want a second and third and forth opinion until we do get it. Don't we love our antibiotics! But I'll leave that for another day when I feel like ranting.

My physician, God love him, practices by the motto, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." I hear that a lot from him and I agree completely most of the time. I am just afraid he is going to look at my hip and butt and say that today. If he does, I am going to grab him by his shirt collar and shake him while yelling in his face "IT IS BROKE, SO FIX IT!" I'm an American, I'm entitled.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Joining the Injured List

As I sit here on a package of frozen squash, it is time to admit that my right hip is injured. You will hear no more of the "it's minor, I'm not concerned" that I have been saying since it first became a problem when I stumbled at MMT. Sunday, I fell three times at Nipmuck when I couldn't lift the right foot high enough to clear the trail. Tonight I fell in the same way, catching my right foot on the ground when I was trying to swing it through while pushing off of the left. There was no trail to blame tonight, it was bare, level, paved road. And if that wasn't enough to convince me to join the injured list, there are the Nipmuck race photos that show my right leg crossing way over the left at a strange angle with every stride. Enough! I admit it! I'm injured.

No running for a while, that's for sure. Tonight I made it about two miles from home before stumbling and falling. I decided then and there I wouldn't run another step until I got it checked out. So I turned around and walked back home. It is one thing running through the not-so-good part of town in a skimpy running top and short running shorts, it is something completely different WALKING through town in the same outfit. While running, people hardly seem to take notice of me. But WALKING seems to be an invitation for harassment from the local rednecks, which I was in no mood for. (No offense to any local rednecks who might read this). It hasn't been a very good evening.

My plan is to sit on this squash for a while tonight, then make a call to my doctor tomorrow.

Monday, June 8, 2009

2009 Nipmuck Trail Marathon

Nipmuck Dave put on another great event at the Nipmuck Trail Marathon in and around Mansfield Connecticut yesterday. For the majority of runners at this race, the theme is fun. Sure, there were a few fast guys out there grimacing in the front, but most of the field was smiling and chatting for the entire distance.

As with all trail races, this race begins with the pre-race briefing letting the runners know about trail conditions and risks and things like that. You expect to be bored at these things, but Dave's pre-race briefings tend to be good entertainment. This year's rendition was a rap number by Dave and the Muckettes. The motto for this year's race was "Don't matter if you're fast or slow."

After the briefing, we all shuffled over to the starting lines. There are two lines on the road, one slightly ahead of the other. This front corral is not for the elites, it is for the race director, who takes advantage of his position and gets a little head start on the rest of us. It's only fair, trail races are not easy events to direct! At Dave's signal we were off.

I started near the back and chatted with runners I knew and gradually moved up through the pack for the first 6.5 miles. I have never seen so many runners I know at a race before. Nipmuck has a loyal following of some of the nicest and friendliest runners out there. The G.A.C. runners were there in force along with the usual group of hard core veterans from Maine, and a smattering of other familiar runners, many of whom I hadn't seen in years. Kenny was there spectating. I felt bad for him when I talked with him before the race. He wanted to run but had recent eye surgery and had to watch from the sidelines. But as I ran past him at every road crossing, sitting in a beach chair enjoying the beautiful day, I stopped feeling bad for him and started envying him!

The course has us run out for about 6.5 miles then back to the start where we cross the road and do another 6.5+ out in the opposite direction and then back. Because of this we get to see, cheer for, and collide with each other as we head in different directions twice. It adds to the fun!

At my return to the starting area, before starting the second out and back I caught up to Rich and Bob. This was much earlier than I expected to see Bob and I hadn't expected to see Rich at all. So I had a chance to run with Rich a bit before he moved ahead. Then I went back and forth with Bob for a long time. My hip was starting to hurt through this stretch and I finally gave in and took 2 Motrin. I had planned not to take any so I would know if I was making it worse and slow down or stop if I had to. Once the Motrin kicked in, I moved ahead of Bob. He can beat me in a road marathon by a half hour or so, but I can usually finish ahead of him on the rough trails. I wasn't really racing and would have been happy to stick with Bob to the finish, but I lost him somewhere. I waited a few minutes at the turn around but didn't see him so I continued without him.

The entire trail is gnarly single track at it's best. Did anyone NOT fall? I doubt it. There were blood, bumps, and bruises galore. I fell three times due to my right hip injury, I just wasn't lifting that leg over obstacles very easily. My most spectacular fall of my running career happened around mile 20 or so. I was running over a narrow wooden footbridge crossing some mucky water and mud. Somehow I caught my foot and went over forward. I somersaulted one full rotation before coming to a stop on my back, teetering on the edge of the bridge. I had just enough time to think, "at least I didn't go into the muck," before slipping over the side and falling about 3 feet, landing on my back in the mud. A few rocks hit me square in the lower back. This is the kind of fall that hurts everywhere. I just lay there groaning for a minute before gathering myself, crawling out onto the trail, and finally starting to move down the trail again. After I got back into my rhythm, I forgot all about it. It didn't start hurting again until I was finished. I have a huge black bump on my left outer upper arm and a bruised and sore lower back. This morning I feel like I was hit by a truck. Again, all part of the fun!

Heading back over the home stretch I saw and exchanged pleasantries with Bob, Gilly, the G.A.C. girls, Melanie, Joe, etc. as they headed out to the turn around. I love that! Then further down the trail with the stragglers was Craig. He is a running icon. He has run impressive times at many ultras over the years. He has a string of Hard Rock finishes and has completed loops at Barclay. With his long grey beard, pony tail, and contagious smile, he is hard to miss. Everybody knows Craig. He is suffering with a bad knee problem and has been reduced to a walk. Not too long ago he would have been 30 minutes to an hour ahead of me at this point in the race. This day he was happy to be bringing up the rear. He is still out there enjoying the trails with the rest of us and I admire him for that. His attitude is great. So despite his slow progress on the course, I wasn't surprised to hear him greet me with a big smiling "Hey, it's Miss Laurel!"

With two miles to go I realized that despite all the fun I was having, I was going to finish about 15 minutes faster than last year. Then the first leg cramp hit with a vengeance! I involuntarily let out a loud "ARGHHH!" as my right leg shot out in front of me and my foot flexed up towards the heavens. This was followed by a few "EEEEH GADDDD!"s and "UGGGGGHHHH!"s. Runners went past with suppressed smiles, "cramping, huh?" and "I heard you before I saw you, keep it down will you?" from the men. From the women it was a more sympathetic, "I hate it when that happens" and "you don't have far to go," although they also seemed to be suppressing smiles. Apparently I look very funny when I am in the throws of the Electrolyte Imbalance Polka. I pulled myself together, took a hand full of electrolyte caps and finished my water. "OK, I can run," I said to myself, starting to run again "easy does it. Careful...OH MY GODDDDDDDD!!!" this time clinging to a tree to keep from falling to the ground. More runners went by with "I'll send an ambulance back for you" and "you could probably crawl it in from here." These cramps involved hamstrings, quads, and calves. They were incredible! I hadn't seen them coming. I had been taking my electrolytes and drinking plenty. I'm not sure what happened. These were EXTREME cramps. Even I had to laugh a little between the pain at all my thrashing around and weird noises.

Eventually, with a lot of stop and go and a few more wise cracks, I limped over the finish line. Runners who had already finished were seated in chairs in the shade across the street watching the finishers come in. As I walked across the street, I cramped again and this time everyone in their chairs let out a big "OHHHHHHHH!" with those little suppressed smiles. Nothing like a little pain to liven up a party. Steve P. had also cramped at the end and he looked sympathetic as he sat there hydrating and rubbing his muscles.

After drinking a lot and eating as much salt as I could find, I started feeling better. I was soon able to join the lawn chair brigade and have a few cold beers with friends as we watched the rest of the runners come in. The circle grew larger and larger as more and more people finished. About 7 hours after the race started someone started to fold his chair and said something about heading out, and others got up to do the same. Then someone else said, "Craig hasn't finished yet." Chairs went back up, more beers cracked open and conversation resumed. You've got to love that trail running camaraderie! About a half hour later Craig came in with a smile and we all headed off for home.

It was fantastic fun. Falls, cramps, and all. And if the race itself wasn't enough fun, I also enjoyed the long ride to and from the race with Bob in his Porche. I doubt the winners got to ride home in such style!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Nice Run, a Baseball Game, and the Olympics

Yesterday I went to North Conway to run with Mary. We ran 4 miles out and back for a total of 8 miles on dirt roads and trails in the National Forest. Going out is steady uphill, steep at times and gradual at others. Coming back is when my hip started bothering me, which was strange because it has been hurting on the climbs, not the descants. But either way, it didn't hurt very bad at all. We kept a good pace the whole run and it still felt like an easy effort to me. I should take today off to let the hip rest for tomorrow's trail marathon. Nipmuck will be a fun long run for me, I won't be in race mode. If the hip hurts, I'll walk.

Back at Mary's house we had a long and strenuous game of baseball. Mary and me against a bunch of kids aged 7 through 12. Mary had it easy as all she did was pitch and yell at me. I played all the other positions. We got creamed! Mostly because I can't sprint after the ball, I can't throw, and I can't hit. Other than that I am a great baseball player. It was a lot of fun and quite a workout!

My favorite part of the day was when Mary's daughter admitted that she had lied and told all the kids at school that Mary and I had both run in the Olympics. As we doubled over laughing over that, she added "and I said that my Mom won and Laurel got second."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

5 Miles on the Stinky Mud Trail

There is a trail in Parsonsfield that is wonderful winter running, snow shoeing or back country skiing. In the warmer months it is about 2 1/2 miles of swampy mud interspersed with small patches of higher drier ground. This trail runs along side the Osippee and is never completely dry, even during the driest spells in August. I affectionately refer to this trail as the Stinky Mud Trail. It takes a certain frame of mind to tackle it in any season other than Winter. I was in the right frame of mind today so I went for it!

The parts that are dry are very dry and clear, nice running! The parts that are wet are knee deep sloppy black smelly mud. If you let the mud slow you down, the swarms of mosquitoes will be on you in a second! So the correct way to run this trail is to stomp right through the mud at a good clip, while curling your toes a little to hang onto your running shoes. Like I said, it takes the right frame of mind. If I try to run this trail when I'm tired or not happy about something, I get frustrated and start swearing and vowing to never run there again. If I'm in the right state of mind, I find myself laughing out loud during some of the more ridiculous stretches of mud.

I don't take friends on this trail. I don't know how they'd take it. They would definitely need a good sense of humor. I took my ex husband on this trail once when we were married, he on his mountain bike and I running. It was a disaster. Let's just say that he didn't have much of a sense of humor.

So today I ran the 2 1/2 miles out in 21:38, excellent time as the fastest I've ever gotten through the mud is 20 minutes flat! At the turn around there is a metal grate bridge over the South River. I like to lay down on my stomach and look through the grate for trout. Today I did see one, often I don't. I watched it in it's little pool swimming against the current in a lazy fashion. It was moving just fast enough to stay where it was, not making any headway against the current. When I thought I had donated enough of my blood to the mosquitoes, I headed back the same way I had come. I was about 20 seconds slower going back. I blame that entirely on the 2 or 3 extra pounds of mud I was carrying on my shoes for the second half.

Hip and hamstring were just a dull ache today and the run was a ton of fun!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I ran in the middle of my work day today on the trails/roads of the Massabesic Experimental Forest. I'm still taking it easy for the rest of the week to allow my hip and hamstring to get back to 100%. A slow pace doesn't hurt at all, but when I open up my stride to speed up, it still pulls on the hamstring and gives me a tenderness in the lateral hip. It is feeling better every day and I think it will be back to normal soon as long as I don't push it.

I don't know where all this patience is coming from, In the past I have kept running on an injury until I am just about crippled. Actually I do know. A few years ago I ran through ankle pain that started out as an achilles problem and ended up causing stress fractures. I think BJ still has a video of me trying to run with all that going on. There were big huge bony bumps sticking out the sides of both my feet and another one in the back of my right heel/achilles area. My "run" was a sideways shuffle with a dragging right foot. Lovely to watch. Someone should have slapped me and told me to stop running!

So now it seems I have become a patient and cautious runner. Jeeze, it took long enough! I've been running for a long time.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Minor Injury and Inspirational People

I was supposed to do seven minute mile repeats today, but as soon as I speed up a little the hip starts hurting. Plus, it is starting to effect my hamstring on that side, I think from changing my stride a little for the hip. So I ended up doing 2 of the seven minute miles, then just took an easy run instead. The hip doesn't hurt if I run slow. Even the hills aren't bothering it much at a slow pace. It is definitely getting better every day.

I will still do Nipmuck this wekend, since slow running doesn't bother me and you can't run very fast on that course. I may end up just falling in with a slower friend. We'll see how the day goes. Easy running only for the rest of the week, I promise!

While I was running slow after bailing on the repeats, I starting thinking about how exercise and fitness can change a person's life. I have two people who are close to me that are undergoing a fitness revolution.

Last evening I ran with BJ, the incredible shrinking man. He has lost about 12 pounds in the last 6 weeks. We have been working out together 6 or 7 evenings a week with strength training 3 days a week and plyometrics or yoga on the days between. Also he is running regularly. It is pretty incredible to see how fit he has become in such a short time! On last evening's run we ran on his trails. To get back out of the woods there is a big steep climb that has to be well over 1/4 mile. I ran behind him up that climb and couldn't believe how he was just trotting up the hill like it was nothing! It is really nice to see a friend get motivated to become fit and then watch him do it! It is inspiring!

My sister, Amy, has also dedicated the past several months to getting fit. She has been training for her first half marathon and has come a long way! I hope she remembers when 5 miles was a long run. It wasn't too long ago! Now she is up to 12 miles and putting in 30 mile weeks! The half marathon is in less than 4 weeks. I have no doubt she will finish in good time. She is another inspiration!

Success is a motivator, whether it is our own success or the success of the people around us. Maybe that's why we read each other's blogs and race reports. I'll be at Amy's half marathon cheering her on and maybe running a bit with her, unless she is winning and we don't want to risk getting her disqualified ;) And I'll be waiting anxiously to hear how BJ fairs in his 4th of July 5K.