Monday, October 25, 2010

Last long run

Yesterday there was a pretty wild rainstorm here in the Mono Basin (snow higher up). Nestled against the Sierra, we caught whatever spilled over, which was still impressive, with gusts up to 60 mph and rain darting sideways most of the day. I had to place a cooler below the windowsill beside my desk, because so much water was sneaking through the pane. Towels were futile.

I'd hope to fit in my long run, but of course missed/ignored my only window of opportunity in the morning. So around 6 pm, as the light was fading, I finally worked up the nerve to don my Marmot rain jacket, dive outside, and it was like swimming. Running seven miles around Mono City (back and forth unfortunately has been the theme of the month), occasionally a gust would slow me to crawl, spreading my jacket across my chest like a sail. But starting late seemed to pay off in that the wind appeared to die down while I was out (though later, as I went to bed, it was howling again). Or maybe it's just that taking the plunge is always the most difficult step.

In the darkness, an anonymous SUV passed me in the driving rain. It slowed and suddenly I heard a voice say, "Bless you heart!" "Bless yours!" I replied, surprised and indeed, heartened, as the rain sluice through his taillights. "You take care now," the voice said. "You, too!" I shouted under my hood. We went our separate ways.

Today gives no indication of yesterday, except for a chill. Bright and clear, I drove to mile 10 and did yet more back and forth--17 miles worth. 3.5 out and back (to the east), 2.5 out and back (to the west), then 2 o+b (east), then .5 (west). It adds up, I hope. I was ready to be done, for all of that was run in a straight line (minus four u-turns). But the outing went well. After starting off at 7 minute pace, I ratcheted down the pace and did the last 10 miles at a steady 6 minutes per mile (at least, according to the markers--who knows how accurate those are). My right hip/knee started to complain a mile in, as usual, but I stopped before any shooting pain, gave it a firm stretch, and that was that.

17 mi, 106 minutes (45:25 for 7, then 1:00:35 for 10); Hwy 167 from mile 10

Sunday, 10/24: 7 mi, 52 min; rainstorm (Mono City)

Week total: 64 miles

Saturday, 10/23: 6 mi, 45 min; Hwy 167 close to home

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tiny, tepid tempo

Today I drove down, again, to my new running territory as of late around mile 10 on Hwy 167. The goal was to sneak in a tempo, by hook or by crook, since I've been without a real workout for too long now. Time to freshen up the legs. Sunny skies for a change:

My three mile warm up out and back toward Nevada was slightly concerning since, like much of this week, my knee started to bother me before long. But I paused and stretched several times, and afterward, when I put on my flats and did a few strides, I felt good enough to go. Unfortunately, I started out, I'm afraid, at too fast a clip. The first mile was in 5:02, which for me, at this elevation, I think is a bit quick. Made it to the 12 mile marker in a second mile of 5:15. There I turned around, and running into a breeze slowed me down further. I got back to mile 10 in miles of 5:28 and 5:31, for a total of 21:18, and decided to call it a day, considering everything. Not the tune up I was hoping for by any means, but at least I was breathing hard and it wasn't my knee that slowed me down. (I'm tempted to try a longer tempo at a steady, slower-to-start pace early next week to further encourage my legs ... but we'll see).

Tonight, my ITB is feeling the effort, but not much more so than usual. I chilled in Mill Creek for fifteen minutes.

3 mi, 21 min WU; 4 mi tempo in 21:18 (5:02, 5:15, 5:28, 5:31); 3 mi, 21 min CD; Hwy 167 from mile 10

Thursday, 10/21: 7 mi, 50 min; Hwy 167 close to home

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

One last snake

Chilly today--raining at times, and no warmer than 50 on Aqueduct Rd--but I ran into my favorite, and likely last, "narrow fellow" of the year. A rubber boa, stretched across the road, moving slowly, blending in. I'd never seen one of these before but I knew instantly what it was.

When I reached down to pick it up, it wrapped into a ball around my fingers, sticking its orange burnished tail out, as if to mimic its head. I read later that this maneuver isn't likely to foil an intent predator--fat chance an eagle, fox, or raccoon would be deterred from gobbling up this little guy. But it does allow the boa to fend off a mother mouse while it eats her entire, pinkie litter. (As result, rubber boa tails are extra hard, and often quite scarred.) I also learned that these snakes are more tolerant of cold weather than almost any other.

An aerial view, after I set it down:

To my college teammates, who, in Oregon, years ago, claimed I couldn't catch a snake--ha!

I'll admit, I finished my run, then drove back to the snake with my camera. The jog went okay, but my leg did bother me 10 minutes in. The same thing happened Monday on Hwy 167, when I tried to run down a slight hill. Both times I stopped and stretched, and was able to go on with my run. I'm hoping its healing, even as symptoms persist. Yesterday, however, I was able to run without incident: 14 on 167 from mile 10 at about 6:30 pace. Go figure.

10 mi, 70 min; Aqueduct Rd on Williams Butte

Tuesday, 10/19: 14 mi, 130 min; Hwy 167 from mile 10

Monday, 10/18: 10 mi, 70 min; Hwy 167, close to home (back and forth)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Back and forth

Three days without discomfort = reason to be optimistic. I credit ibuprofen, a second, more rigorous and productive massage in Mammoth (I took it as a really good sign that my therapist was working on Meb later in the day--"your competitor," she said--we laughed), and ice bathing in the local creeks. Sitting in the waters (I've tried Mill Creek now, too), I start to imagine myself a boulder or root wad. Creek bubbles bounce around my legs, and catch in my quivering hairs. Yellow cottonwood leaves wrap around and stick to my thighs. If only I could stay in longer than 15 minutes (without fear of hypothermia), I could be all gold in a few weeks.

I have to admit I was pretty surprised/overjoyed Friday when I was able to jog 60 minutes without any symptoms. I started with a mile or so of walking in Mono City, then, to attempt a run, I drove a short ways to the relatively flat stretch of Hwy 167 between 395 and Wilson Creek. Most unfortunately, this stretch is less than a mile long, so I felt a bit like a rotisserie chicken turning under the cold fall sun, as I jogged back and forth. I was also holding my breath, as it were: trying to stay focused on my form, keep from speeding up, and stay alert for any sign of ITB unrest. The ice age tufa that stand in a row across the road, like hulking linebackers, proved worthy distraction--they have for months now. They're such interesting shapes--a natural Japanese rock garden. (Zen football players?) I called it a day after 60 minutes, about 4.5 revolutions, and headed down to Mammoth for a session of "bodywork."

Yesterday, I did the same, but 5.5 revolutions worth. Today, for adventure, I drove to mile ten on Hwy 167, where there's a relatively flat 5-mile stretch. It rained off and on much of the day, so by heading east I also may have avoided a few more droplets. After parking, walking, and starting up, I ran at just under 7 min pace to the "MONO 167 12.5" mile sign, u-turned to the 8.5 mark, etc, etc. Though I haven't been running fast, perhaps psychologically this straight and narrow pavement running has helped prepare me for the long blocks of NYC. And it was stormily gorgeous out there, however chilly. The Sierra was draped with raincloud, but the sun seared through, briefly, in scattered rays and, as I drove away, rainbows.

I think I'll always remember Hwy 167 as my injury runway. When I had a pain near my achilles in late June-early July, I ran out and back on it ad nauseam. Then, I was after the pavement--to avoid sand. I suppose I still am, but I'm more concerned with flat terrain--no rocks, and little grade--and there's not much around the Basin beyond 167, other than 395. Tomorrow, however, I might try a hill or two, and maybe stray off asphalt. I hope to try a workout of some sort mid-week.

10 mi, 70 min; Hwy 167 from the 10 mile marker

Week Total: 37 mi/4 days

Saturday, 10/16: 10 mi, 75 min; Hwy 167, close to home

Friday, 10/15: 8 mi, 60 min; Hwy 167, close to home

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Well ...

My former coach, John G, used to prescribe three days off, no cross training, when ever we were confronted with an injury. So when the problem cropped up again on Monday ten minutes into my run, I walked back to the house and told myself I would heed his advice from years ago. Yesterday, I went down to Mammoth for a brief check in with a chiropractor and a massage. When I told my massage therapist I was interested in environmental writing and journalism, she casually revealed she was a climate change skeptic, and proceeded to try to prod me into a debate, which made me wonder if I was really in good hands. But, surely the massage helped; it hurt, at times--in a good way--at least.

The chiropractor, of course, gave me the once over and said all kinds of things were awry, which I absolutely believe, sort of knew, and in some cases could see: one quad muscle 20 percent bigger than the other, my left hip rotated forward, my right leg an inch or two shorter. He told me to see how it goes the next few days and come back Friday, or next week, if I decided I wanted further help. Nice guy.

Today, I tried running on the flat section of Aqueduct Rd that traverses William's Butte. I stretched, walked for a spell to get the blood cycling, and started up. But ten minutes in the symptoms returned, then grew mildly painful. It seems that I have IT band syndrome, or a form of "runner's knee." My IT band is inflamed, and so rubbing against my knee bone--side to side action seems to aggravate it. Likely, of course, it stems from problems at the hip, including my glute muscles; after all, the IT attaches up there. It's all one system.

I stopped, stretched some more, felt despondent, and began to walk back to the car. But I decided to attempt jogging again, to be sure I could describe the situation correctly (still can't). But surprisingly, I was able to keep it up for another hour, at a slow pace--maybe 8 min miles--with out any real pain. I felt the occasional twinge, but nothing as alarming as I had during the first ten minutes. So, I know that the injury warms up, rather than getting worse--perhaps I need a more rigorous warm up routine if I'm going to work with this thing. In any case, a slow jog is a thousand times better, to my mind, than resorting to a pool in June Lake.

Afterward, I drove to Lee Vining Creek, and jumped in right beside 395 for 12 minutes, sitting on a granite stone so that I was covered to the waist. Totally frigid, but healing, I hope, like the legendary icy waters of the McKenzie up in Oregon, which are known to vanquish shin splits after a single soak. I wore two fleeces and a towel with pink, yellow, and orange flowers over my head, and felt the blood rushing back into my expanding veins as I drove home.

So, we'll see. Going to try again tomorrow. Hoping for the best.

~ 9 mi, 70 min (with break after the first 10 minutes); Aqueduct Road on William's Butte

Tuesday, Wednesday, 10/12-13: Off

Monday, 10/11: Off -- 1 mi, 10 min, and then a walk home

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Four weeks to go

On Friday, I jogged down to Cemetery Rd for another bout of intervals, trying to simulate ~1000m repeats with 3 minute efforts. The temperature was just right, and aside for a car with a male driver that passed me going way too fast (even after I tried waving to get the jerk to slow), throwing up a cloud of dust, it was pretty smooth. The roads by no means flat, so going out I felt faster than coming back. Yet the luxury of running on time, not laps or miles, is that its effort that counts. My track:

Today, I put in a good 20-mile long run--not super long, but at a relatively brisk pace. I'd intended to go another mile, actually, but was feeling rather dizzy/drained by the time I got back to the house--perhaps I started out too fast--so I called it a day. Also, early in the run (from about 1 mile in to mile 5), I was feeling an occasional twisting/pain on the side and back of my knee (sciatica?), especially on the downhills, which is worrisome. I thought about aborting the run, and perhaps should have, but decided I could always hitch back along Hwy 167 if it stayed with me through 10 miles. It disappeared, for now--I'll have to monitor it closely. Possibly it stems from my hips being slightly out of alignment after the hard half-marathon effort/Friday's workout. We'll see ...

20 mi, 135 min; Cottonwood Canyon loop

Week total: 97 miles -- this will prove to be my highest weekly total for the year

Saturday, 10/9: 10 mi, 70 min; reverse Conway Ranch loop

Friday, 10/8: 4 mi, 28 min WU; 5 x 3 min hard, w/ 2 min rest (~ 4 mi); 4 mi, 30 min CD; Cemetery Rd (12 mi total)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A return to winter

Monday, my calves extremely sore/tight from the race, I got into the car and began the drive back to Mono (I'll spend 3 more weeks here before heading east in time to race the ING NYC Marathon on Nov. 7). It wasn't until Oakdale at the edge of the foothills, however, that flashing signs warned me that Tioga and Sonora Passes were closed due to accumulated snow. Sheesh.

So I drove through the town of Sonora, heading north in a gamble toward Monitor Pass, which I hoped was still open. I stopped in the evening at Calaveras Big Tree State Park for a shake out, jogging out and back slowly along a fairly hilly road, then finishing on a beautiful ~1.5 mile loop through a spectacular grove of sequoias. Boy I'd forgotten how wonderfully big--big is just right, but still understatement-- those trees are. I found myself staring up, hardly watching where I was going. I wished I had more time to spend there, but around 6:30 drove on.

After a winding, dark, laneless road on the backside of the Bear Valley Ski Area, I made it to the top of Monitor Pass without a hitch--jet black, but no snow--and slalomed down the eastside all the way to the Travertine Hotsprings in Bridgeport. Along with the trees, the soak made the longer drive almost worth it. When I arrived at Mono City, I filled the bathtub with cold water and kneeled in it to ice off the lower legs, which are pretty brutalized from the half-marathon--my first real effort in flats, instead of trainers.

Since then, I've tried to encourage my calves to come around as quickly as possible with some double runs. Meanwhile, as you might have guessed, winter has arrived, or at least made an appearance, in the Basin: the Sierra are entirely white above 8,000 feet; the crowns of the Mono Craters are wreathed in snow; and the White Mountains, in the Nevada distance, are once again themselves. Tuesday and Wednesday, when the peaks out my window were capped in low-slung, brooding storm clouds above the colorful aspen, I bundled up in running tights, long sleeves, gloves and fleece hat, reminding me of many miles earlier this year on the Western Slope of Colorado. But today the clouds have mostly cleared--Tioga Pass has reopened--and it was warm enough for short-shorts! Whoo hoo! Not quite a second summer, but I won't complain.

Yesterday, I ran a solid, steady 15 miler tufa-to-tufa on the Southwestern edge of the lake, but today I was a little tired--and the calves were still complaining--so I held off on a workout, which I plan to do tomorrow instead.

10 mi, 71 min; Decambeau loop; + strides

Wednesday, 10/6: AM: 15 mi, 105 min; Tufa-to-tufa, on Test Station and Picnic Ground Roads

PM: 5 mi, 35 min; Mono City sagebrush ramble

Tuesday, 10/5: AM: 10 mi, 70 min; Hwy 167-Cemetery Rd-Mono City

PM: 5 mi, 35 min; Mono City sagebrush ramble

Monday, 10/4: 10 mi, 77 min; Calaveras Big Tree State Park, CA