Thursday, April 29, 2010


Mary, my mid-week training partner gave up a day of running to come to Kezar Falls to cheer me up today. We walked 10 miles of extremely hilly country roads at a fast pace, chatting the entire way. She, like so many other people I know, seems a little miffed that I injured myself mountain biking. She has forbidden me to get back on the bike. I guess a running injury is easier for another runner to accept than a mountain biking injury. I don't get too bent out of shape when people lecture me or tell me what to do. I just let it go in one ear and out the other. And if what someone is telling me is particularly silly, I might smile a little. I'm sure that trait drove my Mom crazy while I was growing up but oddly, it has always gotten me ahead in my career.

We left my house and walked in beautiful bright sunshine. We started out by marching straight up Chapel Street Hill and through the muddy woods to the back roads of Porter. I picked a route with virtually no traffic. We walked past scenic Black Bog, the historic town pound, the old meeting house, and then walked back home between Little and Big Spectacle Ponds. I often wonder if local people who don't run, walk, or bike notice how wonderful these things are from the windows of their cars. I also admit that when I was training on these same roads ten years ago, I was running too fast and working to hard to appreciate any of it myself.

There is a lot of poverty and ignorance in this area and some of the sights along the sides of these country roads are not nice to look at, but to me it beats the suburbs outside of New York City where I was raised. People here in Porter aren't putting on any airs, that's for sure! And even better than that, nobody is asking them to! It is common to see an extravagant and beautiful home with a perfectly manicured lawn abutting a paper-sided shack with old appliances and un-caged chickens in the front yard. And it is also not uncommon to see the people from those two different worlds leaning on the fence talking to each other and enjoying the morning together. Mainers are an accepting lot for the most part.

I am scheduled for another X-ray on Tuesday and I hope to be able to start some running and riding next week. I'm not counting on it though, I'll take what I get dealt and make the best of it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pedaling in Place

I've been pedaling away and going nowhere fast! The indoor trainer is becoming a habit. Sure, it's no fun, but since I've been doing it every morning I can't seem to feel right unless I put an hour or more in on it. I am definitely pedalling faster and with more resistance, so it is improving my cycling ability and efficiency. When I get the OK, I'll have to get my road bike out and see if it's made me any faster.

I still plan to be at the Nipmuck Marathon. It's Dave's last year as race director and I wouldn't miss it. I'll definitely be able to run by then, it will just be a matter of not being very running fit. I'll walk/jog the darned thing and finish it anyway!

Next up will be the Vermont 100. I've been at this for a while and I really believe that with 100's, you can rely on the years of training and experience under your belt even if training hasn't been great in recent months leading up to the event. I have proven this in the past by finishing well at both Western States and Vermont after taking time off for injuries just before the events. For this year's Vermont I will at least be able to get a good solid 2 months of training in between recovering from my injury and running the event.

Now I've gotta get on that stationary trainer. I wasted three hours pedaling on that thing yesterday. I doubt I'll go as long today.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Top Ten

...Things to do While Waiting for a Broken Neck to Heal

1. Spin on the indoor bike trainer while watching old episodes of Amazing Race online.
2. Read almost a book a day, mostly non-fiction survival and adventure stories, then dream each night that I'm in some crazy race involving life rafts, dog sleds, avalanches, crevasses, and glaciers.
3. Start a painting, but because I don't know what I'm doing, keep layering colors until it is a uniform shade of grayish green.
4. Take walks while holding my arms out in front of me clutching imaginary bike handlebars and lifting my knees with high pedaling motions.
5. Fill online shopping carts and never check out.
6. Silently Curse all my Facebook friends who post about running and biking and hiking.
7. Pick small rocks out of the new garden space and count the earthworms I find while doing it.
8. Paint my fingernails with odd colored polishes found in my daughter's old room.
9. Sit on my front porch and watch the guys who are supposed to be building a house stand around smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee all day, or sit on my back porch and listen to neighbors argue about the same five bucks they've been fighting over for the past two weeks.
10. Talk to my deaf dog about all the above and enjoy the fact that he looks at me as if he is interested.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Reality Check

When I asked my doctor about running and biking yesterday, he asked me, "how long does it take a fractured bone to heal?" I'm a nurse and I know the answer is at least six weeks. Why had I been thinking it would only take my fractured bone ten days? I guess I was in fantasy land. Not only can't I run and bike outdoors yet, I also can't return to work, which really surprised me. I hadn't even bothered to start filling out the disability papers because I had assumed I would be returning to work before disability kicked in. So yesterday was a mad scramble with a second trip to the doctor's office to bring him papers he needed to fill out, printing out and filling out and FAXing papers of my own, making phone calls and sending e-mails, and generally doing all the clerical stuff I was supposed to have done last week. This is the sort of thing I hate to do. Add to that the fact that I had been brought abruptly back to reality about the extent of my injury, and Kevin was faced with a very unhappy and grumpy woman when he got home from work last evening.

The most helpful thing my doctor told me yesterday was "if it's hurting, it's not healing." He went on to explain that my muscles supporting the injured area were tense and swollen from guarding the injury because it was hurting, cutting off healing blood flow to the area. He also pointed out that my usually low blood pressure has been extremely high since my accident, most likely from pain. I had been thinking I had to suffer through the pain and actually hadn't had a single minute without pain since the accident. I wasn't taking any pain medication, wasn't wearing my collar as much as I should, was doing activities I shouldn't be doing, wasn't using heat or massage or anything else to ease the discomfort. I was approaching my injury like I would approach a long and difficult Ultra. I was trying to tough my way through it.

So I started today with a new attitude. I want this to heal as well and as fast as possible. I am determined to do everything I can to achieve this! Instead of doing something I'm not supposed to, I rode the bike on the trainer on the back deck for exercise this morning. I have my collar on as I type this, I am going to go soak in a hot tub in a few minutes, and I will take some Motrin if I need it during the day. Pampering myself is going to be quite a challenge for me, but I think I'm up to the task!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ready to Ride (as soon as my doctor says it's OK)

My new bike helmet arrived today! It looks like an awful lot of helmet for my little self, but it feels very comfortable and fits perfectly. It is Gyro Zen mountain bike helmet. It sure seems to have a lot more protection than the road bike helmet I was wearing when I had my accident, although that one did it's job well (may it rest in peace.)

I'm feeling positive, my helmet has arrived, my face has decided to stop being swollen and purple, the only pain I have left is in the very back of my neck in a very small area, and my energy is beginning to return to normal. I am only wearing the neck collar for short intervals now, figuring that I shouldn't allow my neck muscles to get too lazy and that I should be working on getting some range of motion back in my neck. I have my follow up doctor appointment tomorrow and I am hoping to be cleared to do some running and bike riding. Keep your fingers crossed!

Today I took a walk around the Heath Pond Bog area in Ossipee, New Hampshire. I walked a total of 8 miles on informal trails, with a lot of back tracking for dead ends at the bog. I saw a ton of birds, including ducks, woodpeckers, turkeys, and some sort of hawk. I sure do see a lot more when I am walking instead of running or riding, but it just isn't as much fun!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Biding Time

Yesterday was the first day since my bike accident that I felt like myself, meaning restless and eager to be outside doing something. In the morning I distracted myself by setting up my bike on the trainer and spinning hard for two and a half hours while watching the Boston Marathon. I matched my cadence to the lead runners' cadences, which was about 180 strokes per minute, a fast spin for me. The sweat was flying and it was very satisfying. But the minute I got off the bike I wanted to get out on the trail on foot or bike! So I distracted myself further by doing some easy yard work... pulling a few weeds, picking up trash that had blown over from the neighbor's construction, and generally shuffling around the yard looking at and kicking at stuff, just like my 85-year-old neighbor does.

Finally at around 5PM I gave in and drove over to the nearby trails, telling myself a fast walk would cure me. I started out walking, but broke into a shuffling jog now and then. I meant to behave, but the little careful jog felt sooooo good. It really wasn't any faster than my fast walk, but it was great. I got back to the car feeling happy. I opened all the windows as I drove home to dry my sweat so no one would know I had run a little. But as soon as I got out of the car Kevin said, "you've been running, haven't you?!" Caught! I couldn't believe he could tell!

Today I promised to stick to the indoor bike trainer and some easy walking on level surfaces until I am seen again by a doctor on Thursday. I hope to get permission from my doc to return to work and start running on level surfaces. My fracture is considered "stable" meaning it isn't going to displace very easily. I understand that it needs a chance to heal, but I'm really not sure what types of activities will hinder progress. I'm also going to ask about road biking and mountain biking, but I have a feeling he will say not for several more weeks.

Right now I am going to set up on the back deck and spin as long as it takes to put out my fire. I might be out there all day!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Walking and Investigating

I walked 10 miles on easy trails yesterday, averaging 16:08 pace. That pace takes focus and effort for me, so it was a very good mental exercise, as well as some good strength and cardio. I have some neck and head pain, but feel great from upper chest down. So walking feels good.

Early in my walk, I passed the site of my bike accident. I stopped and did a thorough examination of the area, looking for clues like a CSI. My head indentation was still there in the dirt, despite the heavy rain and slush coming down from the sky. It was a good three inches deep in hard packed dirt. I could see where my front bike wheel prematurely left the wooden ramp I was riding. It went off the right hand side of the ramp and should have just given me a harmless little bump as I hit the ground and rolled on down the trail. It looks like Kevin was right when he guessed that something caught up on the ramp and stopped the bike's forward momentum. Probably the hub of the wheel hit, there is definitely a good gouge in the wood. This stopped the front wheel while me and the back wheel continued on forward and upwards. I never even had time to let go of the handlebars. Oh well, things could have turned out worse.

That mystery solved, I enjoyed the rest of my walk. I was never even tempted to break into a run. Jolting still hurts my neck and head, which is my body's way of saying, "don't try to run yet, you idiot!" The weather went from rain to sleet to slush to snow and then back to rain. I got a thorough soaking, but kept my effort hard enough to stay warm. That hot shower sure felt good when I got back home!

This morning I did a quick spin on the indoor trainer. Now Kevin and I are off to do some hot tub shopping, which will be our wedding gift to each other. I have visions of sinking into that nice hot water out on the back patio after zero degree training runs or snowshoe jaunts next winter. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Walking as Training

I am doing my best to work hard and stay fit during this period of forced cross training. Age has definitely mellowed me, as in the past when I couldn't run I was miserable. Cross training was torture. Now I find it a challenge to be creative in my workouts and a joy to be moving however I can! I've been doing fast uphill walking on the treadmill for the past few days and today I'm going to take the show to the woods!

I am planning a long fast walk in the rain. I can't go on rough trails in the mountains, I have to stick to the gentle terrain of the snow mobile trails and tote roads. Fast walking is a skill that can come in handy in a hundred mile race. So many runners in these events have a great pace and rhythm while running, but just shuffle along without making much progress during their walk breaks. It is no coincidence that many of the most successful one hundred mile runners are also avid hikers. Only practice can make a person efficient.

The first time I ever paced at a hundred miler, I paced a woman who had won Leadville several times. She was an awesome runner. But every time she took a walk break on a long climb or over rough footing, the other runners, who were also walking those stretches, would leave her in their dust. She lamented, "I'm just not a fast walker." When I asked if she ever walked in training, she said no, only during 100 mile races. She didn't even hike. She ran her training runs on trails where she didn't need to take walk breaks. Walking uses a whole different system of body mechanics than running does. It takes practice to be efficient at it!

I know another woman who is an incredible walker! I don't think her walk pace is much slower than her run pace. She claims to have walked the entire distance at Western States one year due to an injury, and finished within the time limit ! She placed extremely well at last year's Six Day Race, racking up almost the same mileage day after day. I credit her efficient and powerful walk.

So today, I'll be walking but I'll still be training!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Staying Busy

I set the bicycle trainer up on the back deck this morning. It was sunny and breezy back there, nice riding weather! I put Natalie Merchant on the CD player, clipped in, and rode for over an hour. The breeze in my face was almost enough to make it feel like I was going somewhere instead of sitting in one place! Sure, the neighbors looked at me kind of funny. Maybe it was the neck brace, but I think it is more likely just the idea that someone would actually ride a bike in place for an hour. They aren't exactly a "health conscious" sort of crowd over there.

I followed my "ride" with an uphill walk on the treadmill for another hour. Together, that made up a great morning workout without any risk of jarring my neck. I had been feeling like I was finally getting to a good fitness level, I'm not going to give that up just because of a stupid mistake I made on my mountain bike!

There are a lot of things I need to get done around the house. But, I just can't do a lot of them right now. Also, I can't do the things I like to do most, biking, hiking, and running in the woods. I can see that this might make me pretty blue within the next few days, so I am trying to focus on finding things I can do! Next on today's agenda is a walk to the Post Office.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's all Fun and Games 'til Someone Breaks Their Neck

Yesterday I woke up with a ton of energy! I couldn't wait to get out on the trails for a morning run. My training plan called for a fast paced 8 miler on trails with a long run of 18 or 20 trail miles the following day. This is my alternative to back to back long runs. I figure after pushing hard on tough trails for a moderate distance on the first day, that second day's long run will be on those much desired end-of-a-hundred-miler, tired, used-up legs. And this will be without increasing my weekly mileage to a level that isn't healthy for me. Whether this will really give the same benifit as the usual back to backs is yet to be seen. It seems like it should work in theory, but that theory is only my own.

I wore my heart rate monitor to keep me honest and put in a good solid effort for 8 miles of tough trails in just under 1:20. This was one of those runs where I just couldn't wipe the smile off my face. The air was cool, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I was working hard. The whole time I ran, I was looking forward to the next day's long run and planning my route in my head.

In the late afternoon, Kevin and I rode the Ossipee River Trails, practiced some skills in the school parking lots, visited my little jump ramp, and then rode the difficult Black Forest Trail, which gives me some trouble due to tight turns, rocky and rooty ascents, log hops, a stump jump, and loose soft dirt. Yesterday on Black Forest, I had to get off the bike a few times. This doesn't frustrate me, it just makes me want to improve my skills! I need more practice!

To return home, we traveled the very familiar near end of the River Run Trail. I've been over this lots of times and it is relatively easy riding. Kevin led. We were really going at a leisurely pace, just kind of wrapping things up. I was still feeling great and energetic. I'm not sure why, but I suddenly screwed up on a technical little piece, went over my handle bars, and landed full force on the top of my head. I'm very thankful for my bike helmet. My neck and upper back took all the impact. I sat up and had to lay right back down. Kevin stopped when he heard the thud and was at my side in seconds. It took me a while to pull myself together, but eventually I rode my bike out of the woods and back home. By the time I got home I knew we had to go to the ER (where we spent at least 6 hours.)

So today there will be no long run. I am laid up and out of commision for a few weeks. I believe I will be able to walk and spin on the indoor trainer during that time. There will be no running, outdoor riding, working, yard work, or driving for a while. But believe me, it could have been a LOT worse than it is. I fractured a cervical vertebrae (broke my neck,) but it is a stable fracture and my spinal cord is not effected. I just have to wait for the bone to mend and I'll be as good as new. Good thing, because I don't want to wear this ugly collar for my wedding, I still want to run Nipmuck, and... I can't wait to get back on that mountain bike!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Just Checking In

Sometimes I have great fun adventures with my running and other times I am just squeezing the runs in where I can fit them. This past week, I've been squeezing them in around work. I've put in some good miles at various times of day and in various places, but I've been tired and hurried. I try to convince myself that runnimng on exhausted legs after a long work day is good practice for those last miles in an ultra. I don't know if this is true or not, it might be better to rest up when I'm this tired. Oh well, it does feel good to know that I have gotten all my planned runs in this week. No one ever said they had to be easy and fun to be good training. It's just that I don't really like to think of my running as training, I like to think of it as recreation. This past week it has been plain old training. Next week I'll get back to having some fun with it!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ten Trail Miles

Today, Mary came to Kezar Falls for our run for a change. Usually I go to her house because she has kids to put on the school bus in the morning and "soccer mom" type after school activities to contend with in the afternoon. But she felt like she needed a change of scenary today, so we set out for our run from my house.

We ran the snowmobile trails and single track for ten miles. My legs feel well recovered from Saturday's race. I do have some lingering general fatigue, but running slow felt fine. We got back home just as it was starting to sprinkle. By the time we were done with lunch and Mary was starting for home the skies had turned very dark, the rain was falling, and the temperature had dropped. It looks like a good afternoon for laying on the couch with a book. I'm glad we got that nice run in before the weather turned bad!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Northern Nipmuck

Saturday I ran the 16 mile Northern Nipmuck Trail Race starting at Bigalow Hollow State Park in Union, Connecticut. I love this race. It is very low key, but attracts some fast trail runners because it is part of the Grand Tree series. It is a no frills kind of event. Race director, Jim Campiformio keeps it simple, yet well organized. We're there to run on a great stretch of trail, how complicated does that need to be?

The Nipmuck Trail is rough and technical with constant steep ups and downs over ledge, rolling rocks, roots, and mud. This year there were more blow downs across the trail, but most had been trimmed so they were easy to jump or climb over. There was only one big pine that I needed to leave the trail to get around. There was a lot of mud and water in places, due to the heavy rains the previous week. Northern Nipmuck is an out and back, and the turn around is at the far end of the Nipmuck Marathon course. So the two race courses don't overlap.

Kevin and I drove down on race morning and made it with plenty of time to spare. We took a little walk around the park to kill some time before the start. Finally it was time to go. With little fanfare, we were off! I paid no attention to pace or position, I just wanted to have fun and enjoy myself. It was quite warm and I took Succeed caps twice and drank gatorade at each of the three aid stations. I carried one water bottle and emptied it between each aid station. Still, I started to cramp up in the last 4 miles! I wasn't alone. A lot of people were complaining of cramping. For me, it wasn't too bad. I have been brought to a screeching halt with leg cramps in the past, but my cramps at Northern Nipmuck were just little twinges that I could continue running through for the most part.

I had one good fall and I went off course for about five minutes, but otherwise my run was pretty uneventful. I may not have beaten many people, but I did beat Kevin back to the truck. The trails he mountain biked became very messy and he ended up walking the bike for miles. When he got back, we visited with some of the other runners at the refreshment table and then hit the road for home.

On the way back we stopped for a pitcher of Harpoon IPA and a greasy burger at the oft-spoken of, Mickee's Bar. This is near where Kevin works and he and his co-workers are frequent Friday visitors. I was warned that it was "a dive," and it was. It was great! Then we stopped for a walk and a rest in the nice green grass of Hilton Park. We figured we might not make it home in time to enjoy the sunshine, so we should stop on the way. All in all, it was a great day.