Friday, May 28, 2010

This past week has been busy! I have been preparing for a little entertaining here in Kezar Falls this weekend and then a wonderful vacation in Vermont starting Sunday afternoon. Amidst all the preparation, I have managed to stick to my training plan.

My runs are feeling better and better. Fitness always comes back after a lay off. I just had to keep plugging away and wait for it, but when it started returning it came back fast. The hard part was to stay patient and not get discouraged when I felt like crap day after day on the comeback trail. It helped to remind myself how fortunate I am to be healthy enough to do all the things I love to do and to remember that running is a great gift that I should never take for granted. Does it really matter how well or fast I do the things I love? No, it is enough just to be able to continue doing them for a lifetime!

This morning's run was great. My energy level was high and my legs were strong. This was surprising because Mary and I spent an entire day fooling around on some rented crappy bikes in the hot sunshine on Peaks Island yesterday. I was totally worn out when I got home last night, but we sure had a good time! I think we probably covered every square inch of the island about 10 times over and then enjoyed a wonderful dinner and a few beers on the deck over-looking the ocean.

This may be my last post until I get back from vacation, but I'll fill you in on all our mountain biking, running, and antics when I get back. Whoooooo-hoooooo, vacation!!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Training and Nostalgia

Today was supposed to be my long run day, but it was very hot! I started out thinking I'd give it a try, but decided to turn back early and do Friday's hill repeats instead. I'll do my long run Friday.

There is a steep gravel hill that is about 150 meters long that is great for fast uphills, and just as good for steep downhill practice. The downhills over steep, loose gravel and rocks really require confidence, I have to just let go and fly over the stuff. For the workout I ran hard up the hill, looped around an easy 400 meter trail and field loop, ran hard down the hill and looped around the 400 meter Polliwog Loop through the woods. I repeated this 6 times. It really worked well.

The past few days have been nostalgic for me. I received a phone call from a long time running friend, Tom. We used to travel to races together "back in the day." He was good at gathering a group of road racers and psyching us all up for great racing adventures in different places. He started out his phone call the same way he starts his call every year around this time, "we missed you at Sugarloaf." Let me tell you, I haven't raced Sugarloaf in probably ten years. I get calls at other times of the year from him as well, "Didn't see you at Boston," or "Were you at Beach to Beacon," or "Mid Winter Classic," or "Yankee Homecoming," or "eastern States?" I enjoy his calls. I haven't run any of these races in years. It's nice to know that at least one person misses seeing me at them! I always give him the same response before changing the subject, "maybe next year."

I ran into a training friend/ racing rival, Rose at the grocery store on Saturday. She still looks lean and mean and fast. She confirmed that she is still training hard and running fast. But she says she isn't interested in racing much anymore. I also ran into another old running friend, Patty while visiting a client over the weekend. She doesn't run anymore, but stays very fit and active doing other things. It's nice how that running bond that develops between people lasts over the years. With both of these women, I felt comfortable and at ease, as if a decade hadn't gone by since we last talked.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lincoln Woods Run

I had a nice long run from Lincoln Woods on Friday. The plan was to do a nice "lollipop" loop that I used to do frequently. It involves running down the flat fast old railroad bed of Lincoln Woods Trail, turning left onto Franconia Brook Trail, then left onto Lincoln Brook Trail with it's more rugged terrain and 4 major water crossings.

On Friday, the water was high and I had some trouble negotiating the crossings, especially the first one. There are ways around these crossings, but I hate to cheat. I was able to do my famous chimpanzee walk on all fours across the shallowest area of rapids. This way I never have more than one appendage off the rocks and brook bottom at any one time. If you're going to do something like this alone, you have to play it safe, even if it means getting wet with ice cold snow melt from the mountains.

At the end of this trail, at Thirteen Falls Tent Site I normally turn right onto the nice smooth and runnable Franconia Brook trail, completing the loop and then returning on Lincoln Woods Trail to complete the run. I have done this run more times than I can count. The last time was about two years ago. Well, Friday I found that the far end of Lincoln Brook Trail is more or less non-existent now. Hikers like a destination and want to get there as quick as they can. The only destination out on this loop is Owls Head. So Lincoln Brook Trail now ends at Owls Head, about half way through the trail. It becomes a bush whack from there. It's true, the far end of Lincoln brook Trail is the long way to nowhere. Only a trail runner or a mountain biker would be interested in running on a trail that went somewhere you could go easier on other trails.

I was disappointed, but after I struggled for about a mile past Owls Head, I had to admit that I'd be better off running back the way I had come...complete with water crossings. I enjoyed the return trip and it went fast. I even had enough energy to take a side trip to Franconia Falls. This is best avoided in the summer, the rocks are normally covered with ugly people in swim suits and you can smell the sunscreen from a mile away. But this time of year it is safe. I lounged on the rocks (no swim suit or sunscreen for me) and soaked my feet. Then I finished the last quick 3 miles back to Lincoln Woods.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

8 Solid Weeks

After this week I return to my regular work schedule and need to get back into a regular running routine. My original training and racing plan has gone out the window due to my bike accident. I need some sort of loose plan because if I just ran how I felt all the time I would be doing long slow meandering runs every day I didn't work and not bother running at all on my work days. So here is my "loose plan" that will give me eight solid weeks of good training leading up to my hundred miler.

Mondays: 5-7 trail miles
Tuesdays: Long run on mountainous trails starting at 3.5 hours and building to 6 hours
Wednesdays: 3-5 easy on trails
Thursdays: 3-5 easy on trails
Fridays: 5-7 on trails with hill repeats
Saturdays and Sundays: mountain biking, hiking, and goofing off.

I'll also try to get 2 or 3 mountain bike rides in during the week and 2 or 3 P90X strength workouts in on the days I don't ride.

So there you have it. As soon as I hit "publish" I will be committed to it!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

After Work Run

Yesterday was my first full 12 hour shift at work since my injury. I know, I've been biking and running and working in the gardens, so work should be a breeze. But my job involves a lot of the two things that still cause neck pain and head aches, working on the computer for long stretches and driving long distances. After seeing my last patient I had to drive over an hour to get home, where I would still have computer work to do. I called home and told Kevin I would be stopping at the school to run just before I got home. I knew if I went home first, I'd have to greet the pets, look at the mail, start exporting work, change my clothes, get a snack... and more than likely I wouldn't get back out for my run. I discovered long ago, when I had little kids at home, that if I want to get an evening run in I had to do it before I went home. This really works for me!

When I pulled into the school parking lot, I saw a kid on a bike doing little hops and wheelies. Suddenly I realized, "Ooops, that isn't a kid, that's Kevin." Nice how being active and healthy can keep that little kid in us alive! Kevin escorted me on his bike for a nice 4 miler on the Ossipee River Trails. I started out feeling stiff, sore, and tired, but got better and better as I ran. It was exactly what I needed at the end of my work day!

I'm planning another long trail run on Friday. I'm on what I am thinking of as an "accelerated 100 mile training plan." I'm hoping that as long as I keep the rest of my runs at an easy effort over short to moderate distances, I will be able to increase the length of my long runs at an accelerated rate and be ready to cover the distance in July!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kingdom Trails

Yesterday I mountain biked for four hours on the Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont. These trails are fantastic! Check out the link to their home page. There is a good video that shows the trails and the area. There are over 100 miles of single track trail designed specifically for mountain biking. I have seen the occasional trail runner there as well. The trail runners who live in that area must be loving the mountain bikers for the awesome trail system! We bought season passes yesterday because Kevin and I plan to do a lot of riding there this summer. I am thinking I will make a midweek trip sometimes for some runs as well. With all the steep relentless climbs and the tricky descents, it will be excellent running grounds!

One of the things I like most about mountain biking is that there is a lot of skill involved. Mt bikers can improve on their skills throughout their lifetimes. It is progressive. The more you do it, the better you get. It takes a lot of practice! For me, that is part of the incentive. I like to work at something and see results. I've run as fast as I am ever going to run. Running is still fun and I love it, but mountain biking fills in that little void.

Kevin likes to remind me that mountain biking is what you make it. I can see that. There are riders who are content to roll down the trails and avoid any challenging sections. There are riders who are all about going fast. There are dare-devils out there who like stunts and highly technical stuff. I don't strive to be any of those types, I strive to improve my skills so I can ride with complete confidence and control! So when we ride, I like to follow Kevin and try to learn from him. Kevin rides along at a decent clip, but has very refined skills. He can "step up" onto big rocks or stumps very calmly and quietly. He can take tight turns while speeding down steep slopes without sliding. He can roll over narrow bridges without hesitating. I'll get there eventually!

My riding has improved since we last rode at the Kingdom Trails in September. The more I improve the more fun riding gets. It's hard to imagine it can be any more fun than it already is, but since I have a lot of room for improvement there must be a lot of room for more fun!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Long Run

I had a fantastic 18 mile trail run over and around Black Cap, Cranmore, and Hurricane Mountains today. My legs felt very strong, but my cardio isn't at 100%, I kind of huffed and puffed on the uphills. This was great running, challenging climbs, but with level areas to catch my breath and really no need for walk breaks.

I really wanted to check out Red Tail Trail, which is much talked about among mountain bikers. Today, I ran down it's length and took some video to show Kevin. It's definitely something I would enjoy riding. We'll have to get back out there on wheels!

I ended up coming out onto pavement near the Cranmore Ski Area. I asked directions from someone coming out of the fitness complex, and was able to run back to my car over about 2 or 3 miles of roads. This was definitely a great confidence run. We all know how hard it is to judge fitness after taking time off from running. I can definitely say that the stationary trainer and the treadmill kept my legs strong, but I can also say that I need to work on my cardio fitness.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm Back!

Yay, I feel like I'm back to about 95% of my pre-injury self! I ran five trail miles today and felt wonderful. No neck pain, no back pain, and no headache, which have been the limiting factors up until now. I only have eight and a half weeks until the Vermont 100 and 5 miles is a far cry from one hundred, but I am feeling optimistic after yesterday's and today's runs. I have to put some thought into how I'm going to build my long runs back up. I'm not sure at what distance I should start. I think I will head out to the mountains on Friday and see how long a long run is for me right now. Then I will write up a plan to build from there. Nipmuck Marathon may not be in the cards for me this year, we'll see. But Vermont 100 is a definite, I know I can whip myself back into Ultra shape in eight and a half weeks! The fitness is still there, I just have to turn it back into running fitness.

I'm off to work now, but I hope to get a mountain bike ride and maybe a P-90X strength workout in this evening.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Good Run with a Bad Stomach

I woke up very early this morning with an upset stomach and tossed and turned for a few hours before finally getting out of bed. Ugh, I hate feeling sick. I blame the two half rotted avocados I had for lunch yesterday, but who really knows. I tried to call Mary and cancel our run, but I couldn't reach her by phone and before I knew it, she was here and ready to run. When I explained how sick I was feeling, she simply said, "we'll stick to the woods and you can step off the trail as often as you need to. No problem." No problem for her, anyway.

Surprisingly, although my stomach never did settle down, our run went very well. We ran eight miles of single track. What a difference a week makes. I sure was struggling on my runs until this week. We averaged under ten minute pace on winding trails, and I didn't even stop the watch for dashes off the trail and into the woods. Not bad for two semi-retired runners!

We talked about 5K's since there was just a big one in Portland on Mother's Day. Neither of us had looked at the results or heard anything about the race results. We declared ourselves "officially out of the loop" now. Then we went on to estimate (fantasize) about how fast each of us could run a road 5K at this point in our lives with the right kind of training and a small dose of desire. We have each run under 18 minutes for a 5K in the past, and like to pretend we could still do that. But we both finally admitted breaking 24 would be a miracle for either of us right now. We sure do crack ourselves up! At least all our fantasizing and bragging kept my mind off my stomach issues during the run, but now I have to go lie down for a while.

Tomorrow, I am going to try to get over to the high school in North Conway after work to see Mary's daughter run the mile and the half mile. She won both events last week. Hooray, for the next generation of speedy girls!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Finally, a Good Run Today!

This morning I went out for a chilly mountain bike ride on the local trails. Other than numb fingers and toes, the ride was great. The only residual effect from yesterday's ride at Bear Brook was feeling a little weak in my legs on the uphills today. I rode over the Skinny Dip Trail for the first time since we cleaned it out on Saturday. What a surprise to see someone else's bike tire prints on the newly improved trail already! It made me think of the line from that baseball movie, "build it and they will come." It was smooth fast riding through there! On another trail, The Clencher, I cleared a little detour around a tough rocky area that I haven't been able to ride over. This is cheating and when Kevin sees it he is going to give me a hard time!

My work shift doesn't start until this evening, so I saved my run until the afternoon. I just got back from a 4 mile run on the Ossipee River Trails. I am very happy to say that it felt pretty good! This is the first time since my return to running after my injury that running hasn't felt awkward, uncomfortable, and difficult. I don't know how running could feel so unnatural to me after doing it for 35 years. I think it had to do with the neck and back stiffness. Anyway, let's hope I'm on the right track now!

I would like to continue to do my P90X strength workouts four times a week, but with the biking and running it is hard to find the time (and the energy!) I hate to have girly whimpy arms, but I think running and biking take priority. I'll try to fit the strength workouts in only twice a week and put up with having whimpy arms for a few months. Arms aren't what will get me through the Vermont 100 anyway!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bear Brook Ride

We had an absolutely fantastic day of mountain biking at Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, New Hampshire today! We rode about 18 miles of mostly single track. Kevin gave me a wonderful tour of some of the smoother flowing trails so we could do some good fast riding. Kevin has ridden and worked on and built trails in this state park for years so he is an excellent tour guide. There is a fair amount of climbing on the trails at Bear Brook, so I got my heart beating good and fast at times today.

The weather was cool and windy, but we stayed plenty warm riding and stayed sheltered from the wind most of the time. We saw a few bikers in the parking lot, but once we were out on the trails we only met one couple hiking and one small group biking. I felt like we had the entire park to ourselves for most of the day.

These trails are beautiful for running, too. If, I mean when I get back to the point where I can run comfortably again it would be worth the 1 1/2 hour drive for me to do a good hard long run there! Bear Brook State Park

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Trail Work in the Rain

I ran three days in a row leading up to today. Let me tell you, it hasn't felt good. I sure hope running starts to feel normal and natural again very soon! My runs have been three, five, and three miles. My legs feel heavy, my back and neck are stiff, and my face and head hurt from the jarring (at least the neck feels good!) This is going to be a tougher come back than most. I'll keep at it and wait for it to get better. On the bright side, I am enjoying the mountain biking very much. Biking doesn't seem to jar me as much, thanks to the great suspension on my bike.

Today I took a day off from running and biking. Kevin and I went down to the Skinny Dipper Trail and cleaned out the entire trail in the rain. We call it the Skinny Dipper because of the hand lettered sign that points down to the river and simply says, "Swim." This is the connector between the Ossipee River Trails and the Durgintown Trails. It is a pretty area, but the trail itself was an old logging road with loose rolling sticks and rocks and other debris. So it was slow and rough for riding and running, not a lot of fun.

We cleaned out a single track line along the entire length of the logging road today. It is going to be fantastic fast riding! We were both very excited to see how great it turned out. If I wasn't so chilled by the time we got home I would have grabbed my bike and pedaled it today! Kevin built in a few stump and rock jumps, moved some barriers just enough to allow a bike through without encouraging ATVs to get through, and fixed one of the bridges to make it safer to ride over. With just a half day of work, we really made a nice connecting trail. I can't wait to run it and ride it in the next few days!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Running Again!

I had planned to take my first run since my injury on Tuesday, but decided to play it safe and wait until after I had my scheduled X-ray Tuesday afternoon. The X-ray confirmed that my vertebra is healing and hasn't shifted since the fracture. I had a good discussion with my doctor about activities and risks. He feels that my spinal cord is safe and the vertebra isn't going to move even if I fall. Ligament and muscle damage is still causing pain and limited movement in my neck, so he advises that I try an activity (like running), wait a day and if it hasn't increased the level of pain or decreased the range of motion then I could continue to do it.

So yesterday I strapped my running shoes to my Camelback and rode the mountain bike through the Osippee Trails to the Durgintown woods. I stowed my bike in the bushes and ran 1 mile loops on soft level dirt, hoping for three miles but willing to stop at one or two if I had to. My legs felt awkward and heavy, but my pace wasn't bad. I ran the three miles at 9:10 pace, which is not much slower than I would normally run there. I think the fitness is still there, but the stiff neck is making the running motion feel strange.

I have had no change in pain or range of motion since the run, so today I am driving over to North Conway to run trails with Mary. I think I have four miles in me today. Mary thinks eight, but she's delusional. This weekend Kevin and I will bike at Bear Brook. I want to try some climbing, work on getting comfortable and confident on the bike again, and have some fun!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Back in the Saddle

I'm back on the bike! Pain is the measure I am using to gage how much and what sorts of activities I am ready for, and on the mountain bike there is absolutely no neck or head pain. This is thanks to my full suspension Rocky Mountain that cruises over bumps and rocks and roots like they aren't even there.

I went out for my first ride since my accident on Sunday with Kevin. I was scared, not of crashing or re-injuring myself, but that I would now be a timid and ineffective rider. At first, I got off the bike to get over every single little obstacle, but by the end of the ride I was much more comfortable. I rode again Monday and did fine. I am still avoiding things that tend to be difficult for me to ride anyway, a particular log that I have trouble getting over, a steep climb on loose gravel and rolling rocks, a steep downhill switchback, and that wooden ramp where I broke my vertebra. I'll be back at all those things soon, except the ramp which I believe I will be walking over from now on!

I am going to try running on soft dirt this morning. I'll ride the bike out to the Durgintown snowmobile trails and run a few short loops there. This afternoon I will be having a follow up X-ray to confirm that everything is in place.