Monday, July 13, 2009

Looking back, catching up

I intended to have written some further thoughts about Western States by this point.A busier than normal work and personal schedule combined with the fact that I find it difficult to write about running when I am not actively doing so, have left this space rather silent. As might be expected, the weeks after my race have not been especially active. I am focusing on recovery. July, like December, is a month when I generally "plan not to plan" as far as my running goes. I still hope to do some sort of retrospective on the different phases of my Western States race at least before my next race--whenever that might be. However, I'd first just like to get back in the flow of running and writing. Below are some of the "opportunistic" runs that I've managed to fit in over the past few weeks.

Lodge Run
I took the full week off after States. The next weekend was the 4th of July. With no plans, I started looking for last minute trips near the end of the week. I discovered that the Tenaya Lodge just south of Yosemite National Park was available so I booked a room for my wife and myself. We had no plans other than to relax and enjoy the weekend in a beautiful setting.

There really isn't much to tell about the trip, but I did get in my first run since the race on the fireroad (and a bit of single-track) behind the lodge. I wore my Vibram FiveFingers and clicked off about 7.6 miles. I have been using the Vibrams for my recovery runs and to see if they can help with the plantar fasciitis that I've been fighting most of this year. This was the longest run I've done in the them and was terrifically enjoyable.

The fireroad behind the the hotel went for quite a ways, but a few miles up there was a nice little singe-track trail that led to a small waterfall. In an uncharacteristic turn, I actually remembered to bring my camera on this run and snapped some photos along this section of trail.

Birth of a Trail Runner
Edgewood Park is an unassuming bit of open space especially given that it sits within one of the greatest expanses of publicly accessible land around. Between the 17 San Mateo County Parks and the 26 Mid-Peninsula Regional Openspace Preserves there are more than 72,000 acres of land and countless miles of trail available on the southwest side of the bay. However, it is within the relatively small expanse of Edgewood park where my love affair with trail running began.

I believe I've told the story here before, but to be brief, it was during my time working at an Internet start-up company in Redwood City. I had switched from mountain biking to running as my main form of fitness. Mostly I would just run on roads around work, but discovered the idea of trail running and wanted to do more of it. Mission Peak is my local park, but with an initial mile that climbs more than 700ft, it wasn't exactly beginner friendly. Besides, being in start-up mode, I was spending more time at work than at home. Discovering a local park with a variety of trail options was just the thing I needed to get me off the pavement back in touch with my love for the outdoors.

For various reasons, I've recently found myself back in the neighborhood of my (literal) old stomping grounds. My first Edgewood Park run in more than 6 years was a Tuesday evening romp wearing the Vibrams. The first thing I remembered was how much I used to hate the initial 1/2 mile of uphill. While it is still a bit of a climb, relative what I am not used to I actually had to keep myself from pushing the pace during this initial warm-up. The other memory that came back was the first time I was actually able to complete the 5-1/2 mile loop. I was set to repeat it on this day, but on the way back I decided to add a little bit more climbing going around one side of the Ridgeview Loop. Finally, on my way down I was reunited with my final (and perhaps fondest) memory.

The switch-backing singletrack trail in this park has just enough twists, turns, rocks and roots to be considered moderately technical for a new trail runner. I remember how I used to try and take the final downhill mile faster and faster each time I ran here. I remember learning the practice of scanning the trail up ahead of me, anticipating my foot placements and the excited, staccato breathing pattern following my footfalls along the uneven surface. This is where I learned that trails are run with the entire body, using arms and torso to control both speed and balance allowing me to eventually glide easily down trail where I had previously only tentatively tread.

Running this trail again in my nearly-bare feet was like a return to those days as I felt much more in touch with the ground and had to relearn how to move fearlessly at speed without the extra support of a traditional running shoe. Of course, I am a much more skilled trail runner now so it really was like the best of both worlds; a renewed sense of excitement and discovery combined with the confidence of experience.

Simple City
As the crow flies, Club Sport is about a mile and a half from my house. Driving generally takes about 3 miles, but on foot has required something more along the lines of 5 as the only pedestrian passable roads have required going far out of the way. That is, until they finally finished the 880 overpass. Now my gym is exactly 2 miles from my house by car, bike or on foot. As soon as it was open, I of course had to give it a try. The convenience of being able to run to the gym and back is great. It also puts the Baylands trail within accessible distance if I want to hit up a nice flat piece of dirt. Mostly, I just like the idea of using my feet as my vehicle of transportation. It is probably the only type of road running that I really enjoy.

Legs and Feet
A new road route is fine, but nothing is more satisfying than discovering new trails. Two weeks post States and jonesing for a real trail run, I found myself once again heading to the other side of the bay. I wanted to get in at least 12 miles or 2+ hours to test my legs so was looking for something more than Edgewood could offer. However, none of my mainstay openspace preserves were really enticing me. Then I noticed Pulgas Ridge. It was literally right across the street from Edgewood Park. I could do a run there, fill my water bottle at my car and then head across the street for some more miles in Edgewood.

New trails and old combined with a checkpoint in the middle to see how I was holding up. Aside from running more in my Vibrams, I had recently switched from my venerable Brooks Adrenalines to the more neutral Defyance shoes. A podiatrist on a mailing list had mentioned that he puts people in neutral shoes after they have been fit with custom orthotics. I have been wondering if getting "too much support" has been part of my foot problem. Besides, I never liked the idea of pronation control when running on trails. The stop in the middle would also let me see how my feet were holding up as well.

To make this short, I will just say that the trails in Pulgas were a blast. It started on an uphill, but after attaining the ridge it was about a mile and a half of fun rolling hills before the descent. I then went back up on a paved road and down another single track before heading back to the car. I got in about 6 miles and covered just about every bit of trail in this wonderful little park (skipped half of the Hassler Loop if you must know). I would definitely recommend this place with one caveat. If you don't like dogs, stay away. They have an off-leash area here and, for the most part, it extends de-facto throughout the park. This means there are a lot of people with a lot of dogs out there on the trails. After Pulgas, I headed over to Edgewood and did my standard loop with an option of going all the wait to the peak of Ridgeview trail. Came out with just under 14 miles and everything feeling fine, though my foot would start hurting later.

And, Now...
Since weeks have now past since I started this post and I am actually considering a race this weekend to kick myself back into training mode, I will just give a quick summary of the rest of the weeks. That second week summed up to a grand total just over 25 miles. The following week I was in West Virginia with my son for a few days for a basketball tournament, but still managed to get in a 38 mile week that included 12.5 miles of rail-trail and a 14 miler on Mission Peak once I returned home. Last week we were in Vegas for a tournament and between basketball, staying on the strip and temps that bested 105 degrees, I managed all of two whole treadmill runs for an 11 mile total.

Finally, this week, I feel like I am back into some sort of a routine. Back at work. Running in the evenings and my foot feeling better. Still, with just barely 100 miles for the entire month and a longest run barely over 14, it may not be the wisest thing to jump into a 50K. We'll see how I feel when Sunday morning rolls around. It's not like I am diving into a 50 or 100 miler on a whim. Then again, Headlands is next weekend...


Anonymous said...

hey, how do you like those vibrams? a friend recommended that i pick up a pair for trailrunning here in texas, but i'm worried i'm going to tweak my ankles or get a bone spur because of the lack of support.

Eudemus said...

waffleghost, I like the Vibrams a lot and will hopefully be doing a full write-up on them here soon. However, I would recommend caution before jumping into them as they take some getting used to and you will definitely need to build strength in muscles you do not currently use as much. I think you should start by integrating some basic barefoot running into your training. Find a nice soft, grassy park start with a mile or so of running there.