Sunday, January 28, 2007

What to do?

Well, with ITB still a bit "iffy", fighting a cold all week and no single run longer than about 12 miles in over 2 months, what to do? Hmm, how about running a 50K? It wasn't exactly the plan I had when I responded to Catra's post about the Fremont "Fat Ass" 50K. Given where I with my recovery and lack of training, I was thinking of just doing part of the distance, maybe around 15 miles or so depending how I felt. However, I once I get out there, it's hard not to have the mindset to finish. Besides, the cool, cloudy day with a bit of rain at the start was perfect ultra weather. It was also a great bunch of people and I got the opportunity to meet a lot of local ultra runners. I could feel my IT band for the last half of the race and my hammies were pretty tight as well, but over all I actually felt much better than expected. Given the almost completely flat course along trails that I am very familiar with, I was pretty much guaranteed a PR even if I took it real easy. I did both coming in at 5:14 without pushing so hard that I can't function today. In fact, I feel good and am definitely charged to start my ultra season. I'm going to try to layout my general plan and pick races leading up to Miwok this week.
As for the 50K, there is a plan to make this an official race next year. This was a sort of "preview" run to illicit feedback on the course from runners. It is definitely a good course for anyone interested in a 50K PR or transitioning from a road marathon. Personally it is a bit too flat and has much more pavement than I would prefer. If you are interested in the course, maps of the three parks can be found at the East Bay Regional Park District website. We started in the Quarry Lakes where we did a small bit before heading out on the Alameda Creek Trail to the the trails beginning in Niles. We then turned around and took the Creek Trail all the way down to Ardenwood where we crossed over to the paved side and then did a run around the Coyote Hills which is really the only section where you might loose the trail (and the only section with any elevation change). The route still probably has a little ironing out to do and approvals will need to be taken care of given it is three separate parks, but look for this race coming sometime next year.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Back to the present

OK, finally finished all my vacation blogging. Now it's time to get caught up to the present and plans for the future. Well, my plans for serious training hit a few snags upon my return.

First, I decided to do a nice easy run the morning after my return. Well, there was nothing easy about running after about 16 hours of flying. My legs were so stiff I felt like I was running with splints on. Normally, my legs loosen up after about 2 miles, but this just wasn't happening. Stupidly, I persisted on until my knees started to hurt from my tight muscles and ligaments. I stopped to stretch a few times, but stupidly insisted on finishing my run. Later that day, I realized what a bad mistake that was as my achy knees repeatedly buckled whenever my legs straightened out. I took a day off then did another short run. My knees felt fine after a short warm-up, but then stiffened throughout the day. I took another couple of days off before my next test run. Same thing, fine after warm-up, stiff the rest of the day. Well, somewhere in my stubborn brain I continually convinced myself that I could run since it didn't hurt while I was running. However, in retrospect, it is pretty obvious that the continued problems throughout the day where my knee would either lock-up or buckle were anything but the process of heeling. Finally, I realized that it was January and my plans for the year would start to be threatened if I didn't deal with this so I took weeks off.

Finally, last week I was able to walk around with out any incidents of lock-knee or pain. I felt good so tried a couple of test runs this weekend. I did 6 miles around my neighborhood on Saturday including close to a mile of barefoot running in the park. The barefoot run at the end of some road miles actually felt great! It made me focus on my foot-strike and running form and I'm convinced it even helped loosen up my muscles. I will definitely integrate this into future training. On Sunday, I got in 9 miles of trail running over at Chabot. A beautiful day on some beautiful trails. I didn't feel perfect as I am also fighting a little cold, but there were no major knee issues. I also purchased some rehab tools with a Big5 gift card that someone bought me. The most important piece of equipment I have learned is the foam roller. After just one night of painfully rolling out my ITB, Thighs , shins and hip flexors/abductors, I cannot recommend this enough to anyone that runs. Despite the pain while doing it, my legs felt great afterwards and this morning seem much more secure than they have in weeks! The one I purchased was fro GoFit and came with a DVD by Core Performance author Mark Verstege. I will continue to use it and report on how it goes, but based on first impressions, I think every runner should have one of these as an essential tool!

At this point, my near term plans are simply to get back into ultra shape by the end of February. I only have one major race on my radar which is the Miwok 100K that I have already signed up for. If all goes well I will probably pick a 50K or two before and maybe a 50M as well (perhaps even AR50). Other than that I don't have any major goals beyond 100K for the year. Of course, with that said, I only had the goal of the Ohlone 50K last year and ended up doing 2 more 50Ks and a 50-miler so, who knows...