Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2010 - the Year of the Runner

OK - so I realize 2010 is actually the Year of the Ox under the Chinese Zodiac, but for me it has been the Year of the Runner. Last year was decidedly NOT the Year of the Runner. A bout with plantar fasciitis left me unable to run at all, and barely hike, from March through August.

For those unfamiliar with plantar fasciitis, it is an inflammation and micro-tearing of the fascia that runs along the bottom of your foot. Plantar fasciitis is quite painful and can debilitate a runner for years if not brought under control. I stopped running completely as soon as I knew I had it (in both feet!) and began a program of stretching, massage, running shoe changes and, eventually, running form modification via the ChiRunning method.

When I restarted my "running" routine in August, I began low and slow.

Walk 10 minutes, jog 5 minutes, walk 10 minutes - Done.

The next week: Walk 10 minutes, jog 5 minutes, walk 10 minutes, jog 5 minutes - Done.

And so on.

This from a person who had been running 3-4 days a week, up to about 7 or 8 miles at one time.

It was tough to start out doing so little, but fear of being hampered by plantar facsiitis for years motivated me to proceed cautiously. I was able to able to bike without foot pain, so I rode a lot; mountain, road, downhill. So, I guess 2009 could be called the Year of the Bike, but most years are the Year of the Bike for me. I digress...

I have long wanted to do an Ultra Marathon Trail event. Ultras are basically any race longer than a marathon (26.2 miles). Most Ultras are on trails, probably because all that pounding on pavement could not be good for you. As I slowly increased my running mileage throughout the fall and winter, I decided to sign up for an Ultra in 2010. It wasn't so much that I wanted to do a race, it was more that I wanted a goal to 'train' for. The process of 'training' - aka doing lots of running - was more of my goal than the actual race. I know, kind of Zen.

I discovered a new race in July not too far from my home. The North Fork 50, to be held on the schmoove trails of Buffalo Creek in the Pike National Forest, offered a 50 Km and a 50 mile race. I opted for the 50 Km version, signed up and booked lodging nearby for the night before. There - I was committed to run 31 miles in one event!

And so I began 'training'. I laid out a weekly plan for upgrading my mileage (or is that kilometerage, since I am doing the 50 Km race?). I have been good about sticking to that plan, but also flexible when LIFE happens. I started running two to three days a week before work. I added a progressively longer Wednesday after work run into the mix. And I gradually increased my weekend run distance; 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 20, 23. That's where I topped out - 23 miles in one run. I will have to pull the other 8 miles out of my ass.

In early July I began to taper. I logged in over 140 miles for June. I've been a runner almost consistently since 1974, when my best friend in Junior High/High School got us into running to meet boys (it worked BTW). But this is by far the biggest volume of running I have done, even in my adventure racing training days. To some folks in Boulder, 140 miles in a month is not a lot, but it is for me and probably most people.

What has all this running done for me? And more importantly, how has the process of 'training' benefited me mentally and physically?

First off, I have lost weight. About 10 pounds (maybe more - I haven't weighed myself in almost a month). This is a lot on a 5'1" frame that wasn't exactly big to begin with. Even my bicycling has benefited - my climbing feels great! The weight loss has given me an excuse to buy new clothes too!

Oddly enough, I have MORE energy than I did before. Some of that may be due to other factors (namely that I am super motivated about my career again and that energizes me too), but I think a lot of it is due to the running.

My dog is in fantastic running shape. Strelka had been a bit of a wuss in becoming the trail dog I wanted her to be. She would get all out of breath and, being a complete creature of comfort, decide to stop and rest a lot. She would get hot and just lay down in the middle of the trail. Not any more! She now happily runs four to five miles in the morning with me before work. She runs the first four miles or so of my long weekend runs with me, sometimes even in the heat (I try to run her mostly early in the day, since I know that dogs are not as efficient at cooling themselves as humans are). In short, she has become a trail dog throughout this process and she has developed a love for running which will help keep her healthy and trim!

I have been able to think a lot on my solo runs; or not. I toyed with getting a little mp3 player for my long runs (and may still do that) but I have found the time alone in my head to be a good thing. I have planned out all kinds of things; solved all sorts of problems. I have also emptied my easily-distracted brain and meditated for long stretches.

I start my days off centered and content on the mornings I run before work. In addition to the physical results, my soul is lifted by the beauty of the mountains, the clear blue skies, the birds singing and my dog happily galloping and sniffing all over the open space next to my house. It's a good way to start the work day.

I have committed to stretching by doing yoga three days a week to keep from becoming a tight ball of constricted muscles and ligaments. Yoga is beneficial period, so any excuse to do more of it is a good thing in my book.

I decided to get regular massages, at least every 2 weeks. I realize not everyone can afford this 'luxury', but I'd rather pack my lunch everyday and not eat out so I can afford this. I think the massages are helping prevent injury and they also allow me (actually my massage therapist) monitor problem areas so I can focus stretching on these areas.

I have learned to enjoy ice baths. I knew ice baths would be a good idea once my mileage got up there. They are known to reduce inflammation and soreness with no negative side effects. Well, except they are freakin' COLD! At first I could barely stay in the water for a few minutes. I whimpered so loudly Jesper thought I was dying. But then, I employed some smart tactics to stay as warm as possible and I actually ended up kind liking the baths.

Me in my ice bath, staying as 'warm' as possible in fleece top and hat while drinking HOT tea

I am reaping HUGE satisfaction in my discipline of sticking to my running routine. There's something to be said about setting a goal and taking the steps to get to it. There are mornings when I do not want to get up early and run, but I set my clothes out the night before and I get up when that alarm sounds. I am always happy afterward, both from the immediate affect of running but also from the satisfaction of being disciplined.

My race is in 3 days. I have my own personal goals for a finishing time, but I have already reached and exceeded my goals through the process of 'training' these last several months. The race is just gravy.

Wish me luck!


Carey said...

Nice write up Jen, I like how you listed the benefits of your running routine.
Good luck, I know you'll do great!

Chipotle-Titus Rider said...

hydrotherapy dates back to 4500 BC !!!

JenyJo said...

Good luck bunnie pie!

bbrooke said...

Your motivation motivates me, too. KICK BUTT in that race!!! :-)

girlintube said...

Great post Jen. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Good luck!