Tale of Two Long Runs

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My daughter and I headed to Pennsylvania on Mother’s Day to do a 35 miler on the Great Allegheny Passage.  I did consider that an out and back may not have been in my best interest with my ITBS, but I couldn’t resist the urge.  The GAP, as it’s called, is really a unique rail trail.  The towns you encounter along the trail provide very accessible services to trail-goers.  In fact, most of these towns are dubbed “trail towns.”  There are very long sections where you are in the midst of wilderness and only encounter the long-distance cyclist.  The river rapids and waterfalls along the Ohiopyle/Confluence section are absolutely beautiful.310071_4744779749059_1089079875_n

We went out 17.5 miles, and when we turned around we decided to stop in the trail town of Confluence and see if we could find some grub. We ate at a little BBQ shack almost right off the trail, and they were really nice and had some excellent food!  My ITBS felt pretty nasty after we left there but loosened up a lot over the next couple miles.  Then I felt great like I could run forever.  We easily cruised through the last 10 miles and finished in around 7 hours.  Everything went just right. It was by far one of the best runs I’ve had in a very long time, and we both completely enjoyed ourselves aside from the fact that it was pretty cold and gusty.

So last week, we mapped out our next bike/run on the GAP.  This time I was reaching for 40 miles.  We would start not far from where we turned around the previous week and continue to head east.  This section started at Markleton, PA and ended a bit past Meyersdale, PA.   To add yet another element, we decided to start the run at 4:30 am.  I had never run in the dark before due to the fact that I’m quite a weenie when it comes to that kind of thing!  So I felt it was time to face my fear, and the way I see it, if I’m ever going to run a 100 miler, I better get used to running at night!

I donned my headlamp and packed a backup flashlight and LOTS of batteries 😉 and we headed off into the dark trail.  Within a mile or so, we were completely isolated in the woods.  It was somewhat freaky to me the further out we got.  Around 5:20 am, the hue of morning started to glow in the sky, and I began to feel so much better.  I survived!

Strangely, things began to fall apart for me near mile 12.  I was overcome with a headache, fatigue, nausea, and heavy, unresponsive legs.  I sat down and mulled over the possibility of turning back.  I ate a gel, took an electrolyte tab, and drank some water.  We kept slowly moving forward with plenty of walk breaks.  I started feeling much better by mile 15, though the dead legs and fatigue still plagued me.  I was in such a funk that I missed a lot of the scenery, though it was very gloomy with the constant threat of rain.  I tried to keep focus on the task at hand.

The trail coursed through woodlands with scenic waterfalls and river views and into open Pennsylvania farmland with breathtaking views of the Allegheny Mountains.  It was almost like we were running through completely different states as the landscape changed.   Just before the town of Meyersdale, we crossed the Salisbury Viaduct, a 1,900 ft long train bridge converted to a trail bridge.  It looms high over the railroad and freeway below and offers some spectacular views of mountains and windmills–truly fascinating.947104_4780678966517_1046234287_n

We passed by Meyersdale and proceeded to our turnaround at mile 20, and for the first time that morning began to encounter other people on the trail.  We stopped in Meyersdale and grabbed some Subway.  There’s nothing like a breakfast sub and cookies at 9:00 in the morning after running 20 miles!  It seems that I can eat just about anything and run.  We headed back out on the trail.  I was feeling a lot better.  But it wasn’t over yet…

At mile 34-35, my daughter realized she had a flat tire.  Me and my optimistic and procrastinating nature had yet to get us a small pump for the bike.  It was bound to happen eventually, so it didn’t really bother me at all.  Being a Sunday, bike shops that we knew of were closed; the only option was to get busy walking.  By the time we got back to the car we had gone almost 41 miles and had been out for 11 hours.  My feet had multiple new blisters, which I’m hoping my new Injinji toe socks will remedy in the future.

All said and done, it was a heck of an experience, and we both learned a lot and enjoyed ourselves.  There were many difficulties throughout the day, and those were what made it so worthwhile.  We both can’t wait to get back out and do it again (with a bike pump this time)!

Injury Update

I’ve been incredibly busy since I started really putting in the training time for my ultra.  Between training for 13-16 hours a week, sneaking afternoon naps, caring for my dependant son, and fulfilling my housewifely duties… it’s been nothing short of insane.  All of this on 3-4 hours of broken sleep at night.

My iliotibial band injury has been getting much better.  It still flares up on runs over 2 hours, but I’ve continued to run through pain and have learned to manage it on the trail.  As long as I ice it and take some ibuprofen, the knee bounces back very quickly from long runs.  Granted, I’m certain it would be healing a lot faster if I were not constantly aggravating it, but I’ve ruled that option out at least until after my race in June.  For now, I can live with and manage the pain, and I’m not very concerned about getting through my race with it.

On a more somber note, my compartment syndrome has returned again in full force.  Following a 35 miler during a 70-mile week, my shins started swelling and throbbing only a quarter mile into a recovery run.  I continued to try to work with it last week and finished the week off with a 40-mile run and a 62-mile week where I was just barely sliding through the runs with tight calves and shins.  It was somewhat pathetic, and I really ended up with some poor quality workouts.  This week I’ve shifted into damage control mode in hopes of sparing this weekend’s 32-mile long run.  Next week I’ll be 3 weeks out from the ultra, and it’ll be time for pure recovery.

Obviously I choke all the injury up to quick mileage and distance increases.  I’ve also been doing a lot of intense hillwork during the week which is likely not helping much.  I’ve managed to get through the bulk of training though without much issue until just now.  Being less than 4 weeks out, the majority of hay is in the barn, so taking time to recover at this point won’t be an issue.

C’ya ITBS – Hello 20 Miler!

My 3-month hiatus with ITBS seems to be finally coming to an end!  After taking off from running for 3 weeks, doing Insanity workouts daily, and incorporating a glute, quad, and adductor strengthening regimen to my lifting routine, I eased back into every-other-day short runs.  I skipped the stretching and foam rolling.  I increased my daily intake of fish oil, glucosamine/MSM/chondroitin, and anti-inflammatory foods.  Things seem to be resolving.  I am taping my knee and wearing my ITB brace on all my runs for now until the residual in my knee tightness subsides.  I am still getting some mild waxing and waning pain after 5-8+ miles, but I’ve found if I walk and stretch my quads, I can start running again pain-free for quite some time until I need to repeat.

The biggest factor here, obviously, was identifying the cause.  In my case, it was running too many miles too fast on rugged, snowy mountainous terrain.  Once I stopped, it was just all about waiting for time to heal it.  No doubt that the strengthening exercises could have played a part in recovery as well, and I plan to keep doing those preventatively.  Now, I just have to be careful not to overdo it and continue to baby the leg until all the tightness is gone.  I no longer have any pain or stiffness after runs or when I’m in bed.  I am continuing to ice it after runs.

My mileage for the previous two weeks:  21 and 33!  I ended the week last week with a 20 miler with  mild elevation gain of 1200 ft.  Wow, did that run kick my butt!  It’s amazing how quickly the body un-adapts (is that a word?) and re-adapts to stressors!  I ran it exceptionally slow to baby my leg, since I just wanted to be out there moving as long as possible, regardless of time.  I knew it was going to be somewhat trying for me since I hadn’t been on a good long run since mid-January and indeed it was!  I found myself walking quite a lot the last 5 miles!  I was good and sore the next day, and my recovery run yesterday was a little rough but loosened everything up nicely.

In 5 days I’ll be doing the training run for my 40-mile ultra in June.  I got a feeling it’s gonna be tough on me this weekend!  But what doesn’t kill you makes you run faster!  Ha!  I’m going to try to be careful with my mileage this week and preserve my legs (and IT band) for the stress of the training run…. Right?

Down with ITBS – Back to the Weights

In mid-February my right IT band finally stopped me in my tracks.  On a 30-mile run, only 7 miles in, I was limping pathetically back to my car.  I took a week off from running only to find myself in pain at 3 miles on a 5-mile run.   I knew I was done for and finally gave in to accepting that I wasn’t going to be able to run through this injury.  I don’t care how tough you are, it’s just not possible to run with an angry IT band.  I iced it for a couple days initially, upped my intake of anti-inflammatory foods, and increased my dose of MSM/glucosamine.  I have very little faith in foam rolling or massage as far as injuries are concerned so I didn’t even go that route.  Instead I decided to focus solely on leg strength, particularly of the quads and glutes.  I haven’t done any strength exercises for my legs whatsoever since I started running again after surgery last year.  It makes sense that could be the culprit.  So I pulled out my Insanity discs and have been doing those in place of running.  If you’ve ever done Insanity before, I’m sure you’re well aware of how intense it is on your legs and butt!  I also added weighted side leg raises to my lifting routine.  I did try an IT band strap.  It didn’t seem to do anything at all for me.  Maybe I still had too much inflammation at the time.  Anyway, I’m not even going to attempt to run again until mid to late March which will give me a full month’s rest.  I’m hoping (biting-my-nails type of hoping) with some amount of crazy luck that I will be able to make the first training run for my ultra in early April.  It’s probably a 50/50 shot.  Damn I’m mad at myself now for not taking off in January to address this as soon as I noticed it!  I will never learn!

During all this downtime, I’ve been trying to stay positive and shift focus to my weight training.  I’d love to build a little more mass than I had last year, and now seems like a great time to do it before I start training for my ultra again, so I’ve been eating slightly over maintenance.  The hardest part for me when it comes to adding on some muscle is accepting the fact that there is going to likely be some fat gain.  I just hope it’s smallish!  Then again, any gained fat should shred off pretty quickly when I start building mileage up again.

After only 2 months of returning to lifting, I am lifting at and slightly above what I was before surgery.  Muscle memory is sweet!  I was told I can’t do situps anymore, so I bought 20 lb adjustable ankle weights and do modified leg raises which are quite effective!

I’m still doing a full-body routine, because I really enjoy long workouts.  There are pros and cons to splitting it and not splitting it, but I figure the biggest pro is whichever one you enjoy doing the most!  I think if you are going to stick with full-body workouts, it’s a good idea to change up your routine from time-to-time.  If you always start with pull-ups and pushups, and give those 110%, then chances are you’re not going to be able to give 110% to bicep curls and French press afterwards.  So, I think it’s important to reverse, switch up, or do alternate exercises every 2-4 weeks or so once you’re well-adapted to your routine.  Of course, other good options are to lift in circuits, supersets, or drop-sets.  It’s all something you have to play around with and experiment to find what works best for you.  Nobody has the answers… that’s the most important lesson I’ve learned when it comes to lifting or even running.  Takes a lot of figuring shit out on your own.

Right now, I’m lifting 4x week and stacking it with Insanity.  Some people warn against doing this, but I have yet to see why and plan to find out for myself.  In the past, I did a milder version of stacking the two and can’t say I noticed any negatives in doing it as long as you have the energy.  I lift every other day, and off days are always Insanity days (usually a month-2 workout).  Twice a week, I lift and then follow it with a month-1 Insanity video (preferably something like the Pure Cardio workout).

Enough of that!  Get out there and go long!