Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Ray of Hope on a Misty Morning Run

This morning is grey and rainy but I'm up before the 5:30 alarm. I tossed and turned waiting for the signal to rise and shine so I could turn it off so the unattended alarm wouldn't disturb my sleeping wife.

I got out of bed and changed into my running attire. Because of the dreary conditions, I chose a florescent green shirt for visibility, a cap to keep the rain off my face and a pair of shoes I call my "rain shoes".

As I walked down to the end of my driveway my Garmin found the satellites through the low cloud cover.

I started my watch and cautiously crossed the road. Cautious of morning traffic speed down my road to the catch the morning trains to NYC.

I trotted down the road, ever aware of my pace and effort.

As the cars rushed past me on the wet roads kicking up clouds of mist in their wake I resisted the temptation to pick up the pace.

As I climbed a small hill that temporarily hides me from the oncoming traffic I moved to the outside edge of the roadway's narrow shoulder and resisted my normal instinct to pick up the pace to the safer ground at the crest of the hill.

At the top I relaxed as I knew I was again visible to the commuter traffic, the gentle downhill was comforting. I felt my stride lengthen as gravity propelled me forward. Again I had to remind myself to be conservative.

I rounded a corner and climbed another small hill, but this incline is where just six days ago my calf started talking. Telling me it wasn't ready yet and that I should turn back and allow the strained muscle to heal for yet another agonizing week without running.

I successfully negotiated the strain the grade put on my lower leg and passed the previous point I had to turn back.

Again, another sweeping downgrade and I could feel my stride lengthen and again I put on the breaks so as not to let gravity do any damage to the healing leg muscle.

My Garmin chirped one mile complete just as I started to feel opposite muscles tire as I favored my left.

At one and a half miles I turned around and traced back my route through the misty morning.

I continued my ginger pace through the rolling hills and returned to the point of origin without incident.

My calf was not completely silent, only a tired murmur could be heard. I'll take that as a ray of hope on a misty morning run.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Long Road to Recovery

Lately I haven't felt compelled to post anything because I haven't felt like there's been much to report. There haven't been any cool runs or inspiring challenges to write about.

Since the injury, three weeks ago, I've been limited to focusing on a My Road to Recovery.

I'd like to say there's a program or regiment I've been following, but  I've just been taking time off and wrestling with my demons.

I've been limited to a couple of bike rides and last week I attempted a short recovery run in which my calf started talking and advised me that if I didn't turn back there would be some serious hell to pay.

Since I have no interest in extending this purgatory, I returned after only managing to complete a mile and a half.

I've struggled with  motivation and have had trouble remaining optimistic. I've missed the Spring Ultra and Marathon seasons. I can feel my fitness slipping away and I'm pretty sure I'll have to rebuild my base again.

The good news is I've had plenty of time to research events that I'd like to register for and I'm so anxious to get back on the trails I seem to have been able to put aside my fear of snakes (my area is know for it's Timber Rattlers).

As week four of my recovery approaches, I'm  looking forward to another short morning run..

Hopefully the voice in my calf will have been silenced and I'll be able to return to the trails and leave this Long Road to Recovery behind me.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Road Ride of Recovery

Rest and Recovery have been the mandate as I recover from the calf injury I suffered on a training run just two weeks ago.

I've been feeling well enough to get out to do something but I'm being very cautious not to further aggravate the injury that could sideline me for an extended period.

I've been feeling that I could benefit from a road-bike ride as part of my recovery, knowing a ride would get me out without any of the dangers of running and the increased circulation would probably help with the healing process.

So, instead of mapping out a trail run, I spent Friday evening preparing for my first road ride of the season. Which is horribly late in comparison to other years, but this year I've been spending a lot of time running the trails so this was going to be the season's first.

I took my Cannondale off the rack. I inspected and pumped up the tires, checked the breaks and lubed the chain. I dug out my bike shoes, helmet sunglasses and gloves from the the storage containers. From the closet I picked out a neon-green bike shirt a pair socks and padded cycling shorts.

Woodcock Road
I made sure I had an energy bar, a gel, some money, my phone and my house keys in a pouch that fits neatly in one of the back pockets of my cycling jersey. I put the camera on the charger.

I laid out all my gear so I could wake and leave without searching for some elusive piece of equipment.

The morning came and it was a perfect day for a bike ride, the air was cool and crisp without a cloud in the sky.

I had a morning cup of coffee and wasted no more time before I was on the road heading away from my house. Now to decide on the places I would go.

Farmingdale Road
I knew I wasn't 100% bike fit yet so it would have to be a modest ride that didn't leave me suffering to get home.

It felt like old times, my skills seemed to be reasonably sharp and my reflexes were on, the bike responded well as I felt reasonably strong.

I set out on a moderate route that I've enjoyed in the past. I guessed that It was about 25 miles maybe a little more, but I thought that given my run training I should be in good enough shape to handle it.

Corner of Craigville and Ridge Roads
I would head west, out Woodcock Road into Washingtonville. I would cross over to Route 94 and down Farmingdale and past the southern end of Tomahawk Lake.

I turned left on Hulsetown and up a short series of climbs I took the sharp right onto Craigville Road heading to Goshen.

On Craigville I saw another rider in the distance. I was amazed at how quickly I was gaining on him. I'm not sure if he was more of a tourist than I was, but I was going to pass him in very short order.

Ridge Road
I passed wide to the left so as not to surprise him too badly and said "Good Morning".

Interestingly the pass happened at the bottom of a small climb. I never want to appear to have pushed past someone and not carry that same effort through. So here I was pushing up Craigville cognizant of the pass I just made, pushing myself to not let the hill break me.

It's not a steep hill, but the grade and length are just enough to put some burn in the legs and escalate the heartbeat and incite labored breathing.

Apple Orchards and Views of Schunemunk
At the top of the slowly curving incline, I turned and didn't see the other rider as my eye followed the sweeping curve of the country road.

Just up ahead, at Ridge Road I took a right and started Heading North-east. This is one of my favorite roads as it slices it's way along the ridge with views of the The Wallkill River Valley and the Shawungunk Ridge in the distance.

Orchards on Shaw Road
The air is invigorating as I ride strong along the scenic roadway climbing through the hidden apple orchards with views of Schunemunk Mountain in the opposite direction.

Bull Road
At the descent before Sarah Wells Trail the road seems much rougher than I remembered it. It seems that the road had been oiled and chipped not too long ago and that the winter wear was uneven causing my  handlebars to bounce around enough to unnerve me just enough that I tapped my breaks rather than freewheeling the descent.

Schunemunk Mt & Moodna Viaduct
I negotiate the downhill and turn right onto Sarah Wells and left again onto Shea Road which is really just a continuation of Ridge bringing me down to the Intersection of Route 207.

I turn left and briefly follow a Route 208 and take s slight detour of a loop around the Roe Family Farms before circling back for home.

I pass more apple orchards and head into downtown Washingtoville.

Crossing through Washingtonville I returned to Woodcock but instead of heading straight home, I turn right on Clove Road and head east on Otterkill.

I stopped for a few minutes at a friend's house to see how their yard sale is doing and then proceed up the Jackson Avenue with the wonderful vistas of the Moodna Viaduct and Schunimunk Mountain.

After one last long descent I return to my driveway, satisfied with the first road ride of the season.

My lower-back was a little tired and my butt was definitely a little sensitive but what I'm most happy about is the feeling (or lack of a bad feeling) in my calf. I think I'm on my way to a full recovery

Distance: 31.72 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,851 feet

The Route
Elevation Profile

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!
I saw this quote on the back of a runner's jersey at The North Face Endurance Challenge and thought it was so appropriate to the Ultra/Trail Running experience.

 Dr Seuss has got some great quotes.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The COYOTE BUSHIDO - the way of the trail runner

by CoachJimmy

An inspiring video with many lessons for runners of all abilities:

The Coyote Bushido (the way of the trail runner) is something we collectively discovered over the process of years of trail running. The samurai have their "way of being" and trail runners have our own distinct way. This isn't a comprehensive list by any means, but a representative sample of some of the main bullet points of what it is to be a trail runner.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

A Chapter Comes to a Close

My previous described my journey and how I injured myself prior to running the 50k The North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain.

Before the injury my plan was to go to take Friday off from work and go to NYC to pickup my race packet so that I wouldn't have to deal with any of that on race day morning.

Since the injury, my running has been dormant. I saw significant healing from Saturday to Wednesday and then only minor improvement over the following few days, leaving my skeptical about being able to complete a 50k (or any other distance for that matter).

The Bear Mountain Bridge
I decided it would be best to listen to my body and take advantage of the opportunity to move my registration for the 50k to the 5k and gain another day of healing. I still wasn't sure I would run but my thinking was that if I could run or walk the 5k at least I participated.

I went to The North Face Store on the upper-west side of Manhattan on Friday morning and easily changed my registration( for a $10 fee). The team handling the morning registration we're totally sympathetic and accommodating to my request.

I stuffed my bib number and jersey into my bag without inspection.

When I got home I was pleasantly surprised that the red, short-sleeved, performance shirt had little more than the event logo on the right sleeve.

Event Village
I thought the shirt was perfect.

I could wear the shirt without guilt, even if I didn't do any portion of the event. It was as if the shirt (as it was) reflected the fact that I had trained for the 50k event but wasn't boasting about having completed it (or any other distance).

I later learned that distance specific silk-screening was available at the event site. I was happy with the blank shirt, the metaphor was perfect.

Dean K. Welcomes Us to Church
On Saturday morning I was somewhat depressed knowing the race I had trained for was underway without me. I struggled with the consolation and felt like I would attempt to run the 5k the following morning. I was still trying to be cautious about the decision.

On Sunday morning I woke early and got myself together to make the short drive to Bear Mountain.

I opted to park at an alternative parking lot. As I walked to Bear Mountain I realized just how far it was from the start and that if I did have an issue with my calf, this was going to be a long walk back to the car.
Lineup for the Start

I made my way across the high traffic areas without incident and entered Bear Mountain State Park as an enthusiastic announcer was getting the Sunday runners prepared for the days events.

Today would include the shorter distance of the weekend's festivities. First the 1/2 Marathon runners would leave, followed by the 10k and then the 5k. Then there would be a Karno Kids race after all the other events had departed.

Bear Mountain 5k
I wandered among the other runners feeling somewhat detached. I yearned to tell someone that I was suppose to have run yesterday. That I had trained for the 50k and that an injury has me doing the 5k.

I was also silently hoping that I would be able to finish the shortest distance of the weekend without further incident or injury.

I watched the other distance depart and finally put away my fleece and checked my gear bag.

Dean Karnazes welcomed us to the start by proclaiming "Welcome to Church", he joked that he felt like a slacker because he took a plane from California to New York, while last year he had done his famous Run Across America.

Tough Descent
Soon enough we were starting the 5k. We headed out across the soft grass and quickly into the woods. The 5k crowd getting backed up as the less experienced trail runners struggled with the ruts and rock strewn terrain.

Stairs at Doodletown
The first mile seemed to go by rather quickly and I'll admit it seemed like it was a mostly uphill mile. As I favored my left calf I found myself doing most of my pushing off from my right side and could feel the obvious imbalance in stride.

Through the abbreviated distance we were still indoctrinated into the full Highlands experience.

There was no shortage of hills or rocks to maneuver around or over. The trail rose and fell. We crossed mud and rock. We climbed railroad tie stairs in Doodletown and rock strewn culverts before cresting the final hill.

Final Approach
Soon enough we merged with the 1/2 marathon and 10k courses as we all descended a final muddy slope.

The red inflated finishing line became visible in the distance.

 I resisted the temptation to sprint to the finish, as I let a couple pass me just before the line.

I finished in 36:46 without incident.

The 2012 North Face Endurance Challenge chapter has come to a close.

Now to turn my sites on healing and focus on the next chapter.

Elevation Profile
The Route

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Stories from Team CLIF Bar: Scott Jurek

Nice video about Scott Jurek and a tribute to Micah True and his Copper Canyon Ultra

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

A Reluctant Realization but a Wonderful Journey

I'm relatively new to the world of ultra running, so to successfully complete the 50k North Face® Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain  has been the only goal I have had since I registered in late January -- I wouldn't mind if I had some fun and didn't die along the way... but those are secondary thoughts.

The event website describes the course as
A serious, hardy test for trail runners of any level, The North Face® Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain, NY takes place on the western shores of the Hudson River and through the craggy foothills of the Catskill Mountains.  

Runners can expect technical terrain and rocky footing that cuts to the chase, with some trails heading steeply uphill rather than zig-zagging at a gentler grade. Descents end in wooded hollows before the next rapid climb ending with a breathtaking view. Make no mistake: this will be a tough test of off-road endurance.
Overall Difficulty: 5 out of 5
Technical Terrain: 5 out of 5
Elevation Change: 4 out of 5
Scenery: 5 out of 5
I've never been concerned with my time, in fact I've been repeating to myself (and others) the ultra mantra of "Start out slow and then slow down". A very different mindset than the world of marathon and road racing where everything is about pace and finishing time.

In preparation for "The Challenge" I've run the Harriman portion of the 50k course twice. On my first run there was a thin crusty layer of snow on the ground and the second run was in early spring when the trail had softened. I've also done a reconnaissance run of the Bear Mountain portion of the course on a brilliant spring day as hikers enjoyed the views while I suffered through the brutality of Timp Pass.

In March I successfully completed my first 50k at the New Jersey Ultra Festival. My first Ultra was in the books.

But last weekend the unthinkable happened. I strained my calf on what was to that point, one of the most beautiful runs I've experienced.

I strained my left calf 8 miles into a modest 10 mile run and found myself struggling with the pain over the last 2 miles of difficult terrain just to get myself out of the woods.

As the pain shot through my calf with every step I took, I knew there were going to be implications and I did everything I could to not do any more damage to the pained muscle.

I knew that my ability to realize my goal was in jeopardy. I was already anticipating the mental back-flips I was going to experience while trying to decide whether I was healthy enough to start the race and if I did start, would I be risking a DNF and the possibility of making an injury worse (possibly sidelining me for months).

Since the injury, I've been advised by friends to take it easy and to avoid risking further injury, while I've spoken to another registrant who is already injured and plans to rough it out regardless of the physical toll it may take.  

Since Saturday, I've tried to rationalize the injury and refocus my attention. Perhaps on another event and give my leg just a little bit longer to heal, but that's a lot harder to than it sounds. There just aren't a lot of ultras in the northeast.

Over the last few days of waking up and anxiously assessing the healing and agonizing over the decision, I found was how much I've already accomplished and what I've already gained from the journey.

Trail running has become something that I truly love. I've come to desire the freedom and solitude of the paths that I had previously thought to be un-runable.

Over the last four months I've run portions of The Long Path, Highland and Appalachian Trails. I've been lost in both Harriman and Stewart State Parks. My dog and I have seen vistas from the tops of various Hudson Highlands peaks that may have taken years to experience on weekend day hikes.

I've experienced determination and self reliance that comes from being on runs that have lasted longer than the life of my watch battery.

And yet, as I reluctantly come to realize that I can not participate this weekend, I have found that I have been participating for the last four months. Disappointment has been a part of it but it's been a wonderful journey.