Monday, April 23, 2012

Recovering from AR50M - Trigger Point therapy

Recovering from the American River 50 Mile Run on April 7 has been a great experience for the most part.  I experienced little fatigue, no exhaustion and very little soreness EXCEPT for the front of my right ankle.  In a nutshell, I began having pain on the top of my foot in front of my ankle at about mile 12 of the run. I managed to deal with the sharp pain for the remaining 38 miles with max doses of Ibuprofen and some serious focusing on ankle lift and relaxation. I’d never had this pain before so really didn’t know what to think except that I had some serious dorsiflexion issues exacerbated by my right foot splay.
Right foot splay as seen from the rear - the foot is relaxed, but does not hang straight down
My experience dealing with this pain for the last two weeks has been an interesting journey for me providing me with some valueable thought I would write about it. 

I iced the front of my foot for 4 days after the race with little relief. I was seriously jonesing to run, had normal energy and felt great within a few days after the AR50M except for my foot.  I was getting desparate to recover from the pain. I had been talking with Mary Lindahl, ChiRunning Master Instructor and one of my bestest friends, about my recovery and she encouraged me to consider that trigger points may be the problem and not necessarily injury.

Trigger Point Therapy Book
I knew Mary had had a great deal of success with trigger points and she was the one who referred me to the book a while back.  I found the chapter that applied to my pain area and discovered the obvious dorsiflexion muscle to be the source of the problem… Trigger points in the muscle belly of Anterior Tibialis are the number one culprit for referred pain to the front of the ankle.  So I started massaging the belly of the Anterior Tibialis, found an excruciatingly tender point (trigger point by definition) and followed the guidelines to massage it.  As I massaged the area, the referred pain on the front of my foot flared!  It was like an electrical current traveled directly from the muscle belly to my foot.  The Trigger Point Therapy Book described this to be exactly the sensation I would feel if the pain was a result of a trigger point.  In general, trigger points are usually in a muscle above the point of pain.  The key is to find which one radiates to the painful area.  Clearly, I had found it.

Within 24 hours the pain in the front of my foot had lessened significantly.  Enough so that I was able to do a hilly 13 mile training run with little, if any pain only 36 hours after I began massaging the trigger points.  I haven’t iced since.  I have continued to massage the trigger points which I’ve discovered to be in the entire length of the Anterior Tibialis muscle.  I’ve also discovered the same ones on the left side so I’m massaging them, too as preventive maintenance/therapy.

Trigger points in Anterior Tibialis Muscle of right leg (that's trail dirt tan)
As a Registered Nurse and believer in traditional medical cures, the use of trigger point therapy is a big shift to believing in something that could work that is not part of that paradigm.  I'm intrigued with the possibilities for me and for others who might be willing to be open to them.   Wow, ice didn't work, but massaging a muscle above the point of pain did.

I know that we’re supposed to be pain free with ChiRunning, and I'm a ChiRunning Certified Instructor.  What could admitting that I have pain or am possibly injured do to my reputation as a credible Instructor?  But I think it would be disingenuous to say that ChiRunning has solved all my problems for someone who wants to run long miles for many hours per week.  I also think that anatomical dissymmetry can contribute to biomechanical problems that eventually lead to pain and injury despite good technique especially if someone is running long distances every week.  I don't know anyone who is anatomically perfect on one side let alone both sides.  As a result of the “tibial torsion” (thank you David Stretanski, CR Certified Instructor, for identifying the problem and assisting me with some corrective exercises), my body is now showing the effects of dorsiflexion after putting in many miles.

ChiRunning has given me the gift of running.  Learning about Trigger Points is keeping me running while I sort out the anatomical problems and focus on the Chirunning focuses that can keep me injury free.

This pain has a message for me and that is to:
  • focus on rotating my pelvis more on the left side so it's equal to the right,
  • focus on a full foot landing directly underneath me and my center of mass,
  • don't over stride by doing the above,
  • relax the lower legs more, and allow ankle lift to happen consistently especially on hills
  • focus on movement from my center
I'll be running the Escape from Prison Hill Half Marathon on April 28, in 4 days.  It has about 2500 feet of climb.  Most of the uphills and downhills are barely runnable, so it will be challenging to keep relaxed lower legs.  The following weekend on May 5 is the Lone Pine 50K, another hilly trail race. 

So, I'll keep massaging and focusing.  The process and learning is fascinating.  And I get to run and be grateful for concepts like ChiRunning (for focuses), Trigger Point Therapy (for resolving pain) and western medicine (for ibuprofen). 

On my short trail run today, I once again thanked God that I am able to run. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

American River 50Mile Race Report April 7, 2012

The American River 50 Mile race is one of the oldest ultras around.  The race is the reverse of the Rock ‘N River 50 Mile race that I finished last October.   

AR50M starts at Sacramento State University and ends at the Auburn Overlook Dam.  The first 27 miles are on the paved American River bike trail where you can run on dirt next to the bike path.  The last 24 miles are on beautiful single track that runs along the banks of Folsom Lake and then parallels the American River and its dramatic cliffs.  The run is a gradual climb from start to finish with rolling trails through oak forests typical of the Sierra foothills.  The trails are rocky, are sometimes deep trenches through meadow areas, and rise and fall suddenly making it necessary to use all the hill running technique you know to lessen impact and improve efficiency. The poison oak is green and lush stretching its healthy green vines right into the trail at hip level! 

It was my second race at this distance and a memorable one for sure.  Each ultra has a theme with many sub plots that create a story making the day unforgettable.  Today's theme was about being surprised and delighted with unexpected outcomes that brought tremendous satisfaction above and beyond the accomplisment of finishing a long run. 

The start was 6 am.  It was pleasantly cool and I wore my lycra/cotton blend shorts, a white sport tech ChiRunning t-shirt, arm warmers, light gloves and a Patagonia long sleeved shirt over all that.  My waist pack carried a nutrigrain bar, 22 oz of half strength NUNN solution, my ipod for use later, my phone and a baggie with ibuprofen and S caps. 

Ron, my training partner and good friend, and I began the run towards the back middle third of the pack, passed a lot of people and ran through the start line nearly a minute and a half after the official start time.  It was dark and some people wore headlamps.  The moon was full and low in the sky over the American River.  It was a beautiful morning.  Soon the light of the early morning revealed white steam rising off the river and a big orange sun sat in front of us as we ran down the bike trail.

Our first ten miles didn’t go by well.  Both of us felt achy.  We couldn’t get in a good rhythm.  We were running too slowly and walking too much.  Ron talked about not even being able to finish – he had been worried that he was seriously undertrained compared to the several previous times he had run this race, and now he was feeling badly way too early in the run.  Around 12 miles, I picked up the pace hoping that he would follow and that it would make us feel better.  He didn’t follow and I slowly pulled away.  I didn't even say good-bye.  I paid for that later!

The first few miles on the AR bike trail
I began to feel better and by the 14 mile mark at Sunrise aid station I was in better rhythm through improved focus on my form.  My dad was watching for me on the bridge just past Sunrise, but missed me going through.  Dave and Carol also missed me.  I had hoped to give them my armwarmers and long sleeved shirt and gloves, but instead had to stuff them in my waist pack and tie the shirt around my waist.  No big deal, but I was disappointed not to see my crew.

A few miles later, I saw Dave and Carol in their cars on the road.  They waved and my spirits rose.  I called Carol and asked her to tell Ron I was sorry for leaving him and not saying good bye.  I knew she would understand because earlier she had reminded me to “run my own race.”

Around mile 19, I recognized Kathy Griest, a Master ChiRunning Instructor.  We had never met in person, I knew her from Facebook and being on the ChiRunning DVD and videos, but we hugged each other like we were old friends.  I invited her to meet me at the finish to celebrate.  An accomplished ultrarunner herself, she made the trip up to the Overlook and greeted me at the finish line.  Wow.
Kathy Griest, Master ChiRunning Instructor, at the finish
I moved through the aid station at Negro Bar, mile 22.4, in good shape barely making the cut off time.  I was feeling pretty good except for the nagging ache in the dorsum of my right foot between my ankle bones.  I had noticed it around mile 14 and knew it would probably be an issue for the whole run.  I took some ibuprofen and focused on a relaxed ankle lift.  

Beals Point is 26.53 miles and I arrived there an hour before the cut off point in about 5 hours, 23 minutes.  Walking through the aid station, I grabbed more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, orange slices and bananas.  It was definitely going to be a PB&J day!  I felt low despite seeing my dad, Dave and hearing Carol’s “WAHOO!” when she spotted me trotting in.  I knew I might be alone for the next 24 miles and wasn’t looking forward to that.  Dave walked a half mile with me as we left Beals and then slowly trotted up the trail a bit.  He told me Ron was only a few minutes behind.  I was hopeful that he would catch me.

Leaving Beals Point at 26.5 miles

On the trail at last out of Beals around 27 miles
Granite Bay was the next aid at 31.7 miles and like Beals Point, is another spot along the edge of Folsom Lake.  Nearly there, I spotted Dave on the side of the trail.  He told me that Ron was right behind me.  Suddenly, there he was bounding ahead of me on the trail!  Where did he get that energy?  We were glad to see each other.  He obviously had begun to feel better and had picked up the pace to catch me.  We arrived in Granite Bay in 6 hours, 38 minutes, which was only a few minutes slower than my 50K time 4 weeks ago.  Less than 20 miles to go, Ron and I felt the best we’d felt all day.  We ate heartily – chicken soup, lots of 7-up for me, PB& J sandwhiches and orange slices.  More S caps.  Carol brought us Mango/watermelon popsicles and we relished in their sweet, cold moisture as we walked down the trail out of the Granite Bay aid station!  There were some envious runners around us.

Ron and I running in to Granite Bay around 31 miles
Once finished with our popsicles, we began to run.  Ron was feeling good and our pace felt normal and strong.  We were on dirt and it finally felt like the run we’d been waiting for all day.  In fact, Ron took off at a blistering 10 minute pace powering up hills and cruising easily down hill and on the flats.  The trail was rocky and technical and amazingly neither of us tripped.  We slowed at one point.  He looked back and saw I had hung on despite passing many people and running hills that I probably would have walked had I been alone.  “I’m proud of you”, he said, “you’re doing well.”  I told him he was killing me and promised I’d never ditch him again!  He laughed, but I think he was glad that he’d proven to himself and to me that he was strong.  I was happy to be following him because I trust his pace and know his rhythm.

Buzzard’s Cove is the aid station at 34.6 miles.  The volunteers bring food and fluids in by boat on Folsom.  This time they had ice cream cones.  Wow.  I didn’t feel like ice cream, but orange slices, 7-up, coke and of course, PB&J sandwiches were gobbled   We thanked them and left around 7 hours and 35 minutes.

The next miles were fast.  Ron pushed the pace several times and I hung on, inspired by my body’s ability to focus and respond despite my fatigue, the pain in my ankle and the long hours on my feet.  I was running in the present moment;  the trail and moving over it was my universe.  We joked that he was still making me pay for ditching him!  He couldn't believe how good he felt despite his usual achey knees and back, and I was grateful to manage my ankle pain and keep going.

At Horseshoe Bar I called Mary and gave her an update.  She thanked me for calling surprised that I would use the energy.  But her voice energized me and after grazing heavily on, you guessed it, PB&J sandwhiches, orange slices and more 7-up, filling our bottles and downing more S caps, Ron and I took off.
Running down the trail into Rattlesnake around mile 40
We met Dave at Rattlesnake Bar aid station, 40.94 miles.  Dave would run with us to the finish.  We had to drag Ron out of there.  He loves to eat at the aid stations.  I started walking up the trail and Dave continued to coax Ron out of the buffet.  As he left, he turned back to Carol, who was taking video.  He said, “I love you”, then paused and turned again and said, “Will you marry me?”  She said yes and then about three other women’s voices said, “I will!”

With less than 10 miles to go, our spirits were good and Ron again picked up the pace when a couple wanted to pass us.  The five of us stuck together at a pace that I was pretty sure I couldn’t hold and sure enough after about 20 minutes I asked Ron to slow.  The couple passed us and we continued on at an easier pace.  I swear I'll never ditch him again! 

Last Gasp aid station is a mile or so up the start of THE HILL and only about 2.5 miles from the finish.  Its volunteers are shirtless young male runners with gorgeous bodies.  They would run down the hill towards us, take our bottles and run up the hill and have them filled and ready for us when we arrived.  An enormous source of chi, oh and did I mention they were gorgeous?  Ok, it was a great distraction from this 15% plus hill we just climbed!

We had more climbing ahead of us, not as steep and we started at a fast walk as we left Last Gasp.  For me to keep up with Ron’s long strides I had to ChiWalk at a high cadence or even run.  Ron wanted to go faster and asked me to dig deep and pick it up.  He wanted to pass people in front of us.  I told him ok, but I needed to focus just on my running.  No conversation except to talk about focus.  We picked up the pace.  I ran fast enough that he had to keep focused to keep up with me.  He began to sound like a ChiRunner as he coached me, the Certified Instructor: swing your arms more, chin up, y’chi.  And I chanted, “relax” as I focused on running from my center, rotating my "cotton around the needle".  We zoomed up the hill and passed many people.  Both of us surprised at our speed and power and delighted that we would finish under 12 hours and even break our last 50 mile time of 11:42.

After a steep 50 yard uphill, we turned the corner and there was the finishing chute, loud speakers announcing our arrival.  Our pace picked up to a normal run.  We crossed in 11:40:43.

My dad, Carol, sister and her family were at the finish.  Steve Mackel, another ChiRunning Instructor met me there, too, with Kathy Griest.  I had never met Steve before either, but the three of us hugged and chatted like we were family.  It was so great to see other ChiRunners out there besides me and Ron. 
Cool jackets! And Alaskan Amber!
Ron, me and Dave minutes after finishing

What a memory this day made!  Better yet, the whole weekend ended in a way I least expected.  We all went skiing the next day at Heavenly, proudly wearing our new AR50 finishers' jackets and skiing moguls on the famous Little Dipper.  The Comet Kats were out in force, the sun was bright and the snow perfect!

Skiing Litter Dipper the day after AR50
Ron works the soft moguls on Little Dipper

Dave shows some knee action on the bumps

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"Chi Marathon" and tapering for AR50M

I recently listened to Danny Dreyer, Founder of ChiRunning and author of his new book, “Chi Marathon, the Breakthrough Natural Running Program for a Pain-Free Half Marathon and Marathon”, speak at a running store in Asheville, North Carolina last week.  His book, co-authored with his wife Katherine, is a wonderful next step to practicing the ChiRunning form and philosophy.  Since I began studying ChiRunning in July, 2010, I knew that I would need to race in order to fully test it.  With the release of his book, Danny has validated advancing ChiRunning practice through training and racing long distance.

ChiRunning, as many of you know, is more than just learning how to run properly.  It’s about living in those moments during a run where it is more than just putting one foot in front of the other or maximizing fitness.  It’s about moving through space effortlessly and with such ease that your joy and energy is uncontainable and boundless.  I'm sure others have said it more eloquently, but that's my version and I continue to struggle in describing what a huge impact it has had on my mental, spiritual and physical life.

In “Chi Marathon”, Danny and Katherine, write about the basic ChiRunning skills, and then they take it to the next level where the ChiRunning practitioner can refine their skills through training and racing in a half marathon, a full marathon or longer.  Danny writes about the Phases of training, preparation, racing and recovery in ways that have not been described before.  And although many runners, me included, may have preconceived notions of what the following phases mean, the way those phases are described through the eyes of the Master of ChiRunning himself are unique.  By the way, I have heard it said that Danny claims he is not a Master of ChiRunning.  He is a practitioner like we all are.

1.  Phase I:  Vision, Goals and Planning

2.  Phase II:  The Technique Phase

3.  Phase III:  The Conditioning Phase

4.  Phase IV:  The Mastery Phase

5.  Phase V:  Taper Time

6.  Phase VI:  Race Weekend

7.  Phase VII:  Rest and Renewal

I am currently tapering for the American River 50Mile Endurance Run on April 7, my 53rd birthday, only two days away as of this writing.

So, I thought I would write a bit about my experience of tapering as a way of reviewing  Danny and Katherine’s book.  Maybe I will write about Phase VI and VII in the next weeks.

Danny writes in the first paragraph of this chapter:  “The main Chi focus during the taper phase is Containment – containing your energy, your enthusiasm, your nerves and your desire for a successful outcome.”
(page 142)

Not an easy thing to do when I’m used to running 50 miles a week and now my longest run has been 10 miles in the last two weeks!  I’m so full of energy that I went skiing yesterday holding myself to two hours and long rests between 20 turns on the sweet steepness of the Chutes at Mt Rose.  Even that energy release barely appeased my fit legs.  I called Mary and chattered on for five minutes about how great the snow was and how good it felt.  She laughed and commented about how much energy there was in my voice.

Intensity and Quality of runs during tapering:

Most runners understand that the tapering phase before a race consists of a decrease in mileage, but not a decrease in intensity and quality.  I like how Danny writes about this distinction:  “… energy is like money in the bank. You only have so much, and the wise person spends that money carefully.  During taper time, you are amassing your money in the bank.” (Page 143). 

My runs have been shorter over the last two weeks, but they are at race pace (for 50 Miles that would be about 10:30 or slower for me.)  Although, I admit I’ve run a few 8’s and 9’s while in Asheville with runners 20 years younger than me!  As Danny instructs, the quality of these runs should be about keeping your body and mind sharp.  It is the time to focus and sharpen the ChiRunning focuses and “to allow all the good energy to be stored in your dantien”.  “The only thing to build in this phase is trust.”   I use positive affirmations that improve trust in me, my training and my fitness.  One phrase I began to use during my taper for the Way Too Cool 50K four weeks ago was, “I am confident in my skill, ability and fitness to run and finish the race strong.”  It was amazing how my nerves were calmed as I built my trust in my training.  I’d never thought about it that way:  to trust myself. 

I’m also very focused on pelvic rotation and relaxed ankles.  More specifically, allowing my left hip to rotate back equal to my right hip in order to ensure that I’m not overstriding on my right side.  I’m also very focused on the light in my dantien that my needle rotates around creating a strong connection to my mind and Y’chi. 


In “Chi Marathon”, Danny describes niggles as those little, unexplainable pains that have not been there before.  They kind of nag at you like you hadn’t noticed them ever before.  Like the funny knee pain I had never felt before in my left knee, I knew this was a niggle and it quickly disappeared after a few tenths of a mile running.

“No funny stuff”

or what I call, don’t do anything stupid!  I did ski yesterday and I did ski the Chutes, very steep runs where a fall would result in a 1000 foot slide with the potential to crash into some big rocks.  But I did it anyway and skied it fairly decent using the danger and risk to focus my mind and move from my dantien, my center.

Pre race diet:

Having a steak tonight.  I do love beef.  Should have stuck to something lighter this close to the race, but it will be ok.  Nothing that I don’t know how my body responds to.  Gathering energy. storing money in the bank, containing my enthusiasm to eat everything in sight.

Pre race planning logistics:

Danny calls it “The big list”.  I call it trying-to-decide-what- to-wear-and-put-in-my-fanny-pack-and- travel-bag.  I’m staying at the Quality Inn in Sacramento; driving down Friday with my training partner Ron and his wife, Carol; picking up our race packets at Fleet Feet; then having dinner at the Spaghetti Factory on J Street.  My dad and Dave have all the logistical information for the aid stations and about what time I will arrive at them so they can cheer me on and offer me stuff the stations might not have.


“Realize how much you have cultivated the intelligent athlete, knowing that you can rely on the wisdom of your mind and body to fully enjoy your event.” (page 148)

Thanks Danny for the release of your book during this critical phase of my training!  This race will be another "experiment" as Instructor Candidate, Glen said last week in Asheville. 

I'm ready.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Way Too Cool 50K Race Report

What a day for a trail run! Perfect weather with a start in the high 40’s, no wind and perfect trail conditions all of which are unusual for this race.  Typically, The WTC, in Cool, CA, is a wet, muddy, often stormy race in the western foothills of the Sierra where only the most obsessed trail runners flock to test their skill.  It is mostly single track through beautiful California woods with some steep climbs, but some gloriously long rolling trail along the contour lines of deep canyons and sometimes even paralleling the American River.  This year was ideal and for sure, a course record was set at 3:27 or so.  Mere mortals like me were happy with an hour or several behind that!
Typically nervous before any big race, I calmed myself with positive affirmations of confidence and visualized myself running through the finish line.  I had slept very poorly the night before in a bad bed.  I kept dreaming that I had woken up after the start of the race!  Breakfast was minimal since the butterflies in my stomach refused to land.  I chose stretch shorts (lycra/cotton combo) and a long sleeved Patagonia shirt, DryMax socks and New Balance 110s.  A Nathan waist pack with a 20 oz bottle filled with half strength Nunn solution to start, a bag of S caps in case they didn't have any at the aid stations and a couple of NutriGrain bars.  Throughout the day, I filled my bottle with water and supplemented with S Caps (that were at the aid stations) about 1 to 2 per hour.  Temps rose into the 70s.

 Me and the WTC Frog before the start

A few minutes before the start, I positioned myself fairly far back in the pack with the intention to “start slow and taper off”, but my intentions faded quickly as I went out at a 9 minute pace feeling strong and relaxed.  I thought that this could be a great day.  10 minute miles?  No way, I am strong, I am woman!  yeah right.

The first miles were down hill on pavement, and then changed to dirt trail and steady uphill climbs on mostly single track.  I found myself hovering around an 8:30 min/mile pace and still felt fine.  The first 8 miles is a loop that takes you back to the starting line and I found myself going through that 8.1 miles in 1:21.  Wow, a bit fast, but I still felt good.  I even went through an ankle high stream to avoid the line of runners crossing over the rocks.   Minutes later, I hardly noticed that my feet had been wet.

As I headed into the 11 mile aid station, I was still doing sub 9 min miles and was amazed at my speed given the terrain, however I began to feel some twinges in my right calf and hamstring.  My focus intensified on relaxing my lower legs and allowing my pelvis to rotate easily.  I realized that even tho I was quite relaxed I had not done any real speed work, so the energy that was required for each foot fall at this speed and distance was beginning to take its toll.

Sure enough, approaching 13 miles, the pain in my calf intensified.  By mile 14, I was at a full blown hobble.  I wondered if I would have to quit.  How could I possibly do another 17 miles?  I heard Ron’s voice in my head, “this too shall pass.”  Don’t quit, I can’t quit.  Can I get to the finish walking?  My slow pace eased my calf, but uphills were torture and even running the flats was painful.  I could jog easily downhills, but the worst uphills were still ahead.  I pushed the thought of Goat Hill out of my mind for the moment.  Did I have a strain or was this just a cramp that would pass?  All I could do was wait for time to pass and see.

So a few miles went by.  People passed me.  The calf pain backed off from 8 out of 10 to a mere 4 or 5 out of 10.  I could run on the flats.  Uphills still hurt.  By mile 19, I was moving better.  Hydration was good throughout, high energy bars and coke at all the aid stations kept me going.  My stomach will take anything!

Around mile 20, I hooked up with another 5 runners who were averaging a nice 10 to 11 min pace.  The leader, Daniel, was walking in all the right places and running swiftly on the flats and downhills.  Together we ran about 5 miles to the base of Goat Hill, a ¾ mile slug up an extremely steep climb where the 26.3 mile aid station is.   Short strides and big arm swing took me past my group that had pulled me for the last hour.  My calf pain had receded to a tolerable 3 or 4 out of 10 as long as I Chiwalked the uphills and ChiRan relaxed at a slower 10 min pace with a very short stride on the flats and downhills.  Norm Klein was serving soup and celebrating his birthday at the top!  (Norm was the Western States 100 Mile RD for many years.)

I later found out that Dave, my husband, had run back from the start to the top of Goat Hill and missed me by 5 minutes or so!  I had not seen him since the start and didn’t see him again until the finish.  He had underestimated my aid station times – I was running way faster than I told him I would!

The last 5 miles were spent changing leads with a couple of young women who could fly uphill, but I passed them going down.  I heard my phone go off and when I was walking up a hill, checked to see who it was.  It was Mary so I called her back.  She was amazed I called while I was "running" and it was good to hear her laugh as I told her I had about 3 miles to go, I was wiped and I'd call her at the finish!

The last aid station came and went in a blur and I was told there was only 1.4 miles to go.  My Garmin was lying to me!  Happens when there are so many ups and downs on a trail; the Garmin loses a lot of distance.

The last hill was brutally short and steep, only 4 tenths from the finish.  A guy with a bullhorn at the top shouted encouragement.  I looked at my watch and realized, despite my calf pain, I was actually going to make my goal of finishing under 6:30!  I poured my mind into the present and focused on relaxation with every step and an arm swing that kept my pelvis rotating freely around my center.  Only a few more minutes to go!

The last 50 yards, a woman ahead of me slowed to a walk.  I touched her shoulder and said, “Come on girlfriend, let’s finish together!”  She began to run and followed me in across the line.
A woman hugged me for getting her to run to the finish
My dad and Dave were there waiting.  My dad had dried blood all over his pants!  He had fallen in the middle of Highway 49 when Emily (his Golden Lab) kind of got in his way.  He took himself to the ED, got a stitch in his finger, and an x-ray confirmed he broke a rib!  Then he drove himself back to see me finish!

Dad at the finish with me!  Back from the ED, no less!

I did it!  Met my goal of under 6:30 with an official time of 6:27:44
Lessons learned, notes to self:

  • Do speed work if the goal is to go fast.
  • Skiing may not have been the best way to taper – I had been sick with a cold only 2 weeks ago as well so my last real training was the 26 miles 3 weeks before the race.  If I had not been sick, a 15 miler would have been good in place of some of the skiing.
  • Don’t go out faster than you know you should.  Stick to the plan.  In this case, 10 min miles.
  • Have your dad take a picture of you before you start so he can remember what to look for as you come through aid stations and approaching the finish.
  • Remember that “this too, shall pass.”  Stick with it and remember that the goal is to finish and finish well, not hurt.  The only competition is me.
  • S Caps worked well, again. 
  • Make sure the bed works for me before I settle in the room for the night before.
  • Stretch shorts work to prevent chaffing!!!
A fabulous day despite the lows.  I am so grateful for my friends and family support!  When it gets dark, those are the ones you think about.  It gives me a reason to never quit.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Running Partner - the essential element

I met him skiing on Little Dipper at Heavenly Ski Resort in Tahoe several years ago.  His style in the moguls is unmistakable.  He’s tall and lean and skis very upright and “stacked”, with great posture and alignment.  His nickname is “smiley Ron”.  His broad smile reveals gleaming white teeth under a shortly trimmed grey mustache framed usually with grey stubble.  He’s always smiling when he skis.  I think he’s gritting his teeth.  His skiing is remarkably smooth yet fast and ambitious through the deepest and steepest of moguls.  He’s one of the best mogul skiers on the hill.  Amazingly, Ron Nageotte's youthful energy hardly reflects the 62 years he's been around.

Ron tears it up on Little Dipper - ChiSkiing!

I had always admired him from a distance believing that I wasn’t even on the same scale as he as a mogul skier.  Then one day in 2010 on Little Dipper, I overheard him say that he had just run a 50K the day before!  Intrigued, I got up the courage to talk to him about it.  It’s not often that you meet an ultrarunner who skis, too.  Ron was gracious and humble about his experience and talking with him made me remember when I had once run long distances.

Fast forward another 8 months and I had learned ChiRunning, was running long and injury free, and was well on my way to becoming a Certified Instructor in ChiRunning and ChiWalking. 

The 2011 skiing season was one of the most extraordinary for the Sierras in years.  There were so many powder days that mogul skiing was merely a distraction for days when there wasn’t deep powder.  But mid January was the start of a dry spell that lasted about 6 weeks and as the trails dried up, running became the focus.  I began to run with the Tahoe Mountain Milers where Ron introduced me to the group and their running routes which included the Escape from Prison Hill Half Marathon course.  It was somewhere during that time that I learned that Ron had registered for the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile in July 2011.  I boldly offered my assistance to him as a pacer.  I barely knew him, but somehow realized that pacing him could help me to safely and confidently re-enter the running and racing world.  I had paced others before in big races so I knew I could do that.  But what really intrigued me about Ron was his incredibly optimistic attitude about life, running, and working through pain and adversity.  I wanted to learn how to do that.  How did he smile all the time?

Ron’s ability to run through physical pain is quite remarkable.  Twenty years ago, after a serious ski accident that involved a tree, a serious head injury and a close brush with death, Ron continues to deal with serious arthritis and chronic pain in his back.   Further, severe iliotibial band syndrome sidelined his running for years and only resolved with major surgery.  He discovered ChiRunning several years ago and that has helped his running considerably.  He has persisted through the physical challenges, but none probably as great as the challenge that he dealt with when his son died tragically in 2004.  Eric was only 18 and one of the most gifted and promising mogul skiers in the U.S.  Ironically, it was Eric at the age of 5 who ensured that Ron received timely care when he hit that tree 20 years ago. "He saved my life that day," Ron told the Tribune after Eric’s death. "I only wish I could have been there to save his.”  

Ron and his wife, Carol used their grief and the memory of Eric’s short but remarkable life to create a memorial fund benefitting young freestyle skiers through the Heavenly Ski & Snowboard Foundation.  TheEric Nageotte-Lowe Memorial Snowshoe 5K benefits the foundation and is held each February at Camp Richardson in South Lake Tahoe. Other freestyle and mogul events are held throughout the year as fundraisers for the foundation.  Currently, some of the top freestyle skiers in the country are funded through it.

Fast forward to July, 2011 and Ron accomplished a long sought after goal of finishing a 100 mile trail race.  The Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile run is a grueling event.  I paced him for 12 hours throughout the night from mile 50 to 80.  In the early hours of the morning, from about 2 to 6 am, Ron demonstrated his remarkable ability to deal with adversity.  His back pain had become intense and every 20 minutes or so, he would ask me to massage both sides of his spine.  Our pace had dropped to about 4 miles per hour, but he continued to run the downhills and flats despite his pain and the darkness of the Tahoe forest.  He rarely spoke except to say that it really hurt a lot, his voice flat, but not whining.  I kept waiting for him to tell me he wanted to stop, lie down, to sleep.  His face showed fatigue, but an intense determination.  There was no sign of defeat or fear.

A few months later, in October, 2011, Ron and I completed the Rock ‘N River 50 Mile race.  It was my first 50 mile attempt.  Success would not have been possible without Ron’s encouragement, and Carol’s, my dad and Dave’s, aid station support.  Somewhere in the last 10 miles of that run, I remember Ron laughingly asking me if I was hurting yet.  Duh. “It feels like someone’s hammering on my quads with a baseball bat every time I take a step.”  Nice analogy, Ron.  He chuckled more, grinned widely with those big white teeth of his and said, “oh and it’ll only get worse.”  Great, I thought.  I’m so inspired.  Typical Ron comment. And that smile again.

Classic Ron smile after finishing second in his age group at the Rock 'N River 50 Mile
Now it’s 2012 and a very dry winter has left us with some very good trail running conditions.  Our snow skiing is minimally satisfying.  It’s February 8 and if it wasn’t for snowmaking we wouldn’t be skiing at all.  Running training on the other hand, is in full swing.  I’m registered for the Way Too Cool 50K on March 10 and the American River 50 Mile on April 7, my 53rd birthday.  Ron helped me create my training plan last month at a Christmas party and it includes skiing as cross training, and running on the same day.  He says that after skiing moguls all day and then running for an hour afterwards is like you did a 20 miler that day.  Hmmm.  Yes, it definitely felt that way last week!

To finish this long story up and get to the point, I write this as both an acknowledgement of and thanks to a great man, friend and training partner, but also to demonstrate the value of finding the right person to run and train with.  Here is what I’ve learned about what makes a great training partner:

  • Having the same pace and rhythm when running together.  It’s critical to be able to run long distances and not feel pressured to run fast or slow.  Agreeing to a pace before the run is important so that goals of both people can be met.
  • Being able to incorporate your runs together into your own training plan, i.e. time of day, time of week, distance and speed.
  • Agreeing to the type of run before you go – trails, roads, hills, flat, speed, or long slow distance.
  • Encouraging each other.  Staying positive during rough spots.
  • Being comfortable with each other during long periods of running silence, but also being able to put your mind on audio and chat about life. 
  • Being comfortable enough to ask for help, to be “real” during the tough times that inevitably happen during many hours of running.
  • Being willing to learn from each other.
After running a year with him, I recognize how blessed I am that I have found the essential element for successful training - my running partner, Ron.  I'm thankful that Ron and I have enjoyed success in our running lives in 2011 as a result.  I’m looking forward to 2012 being as successful and joyous as we both reach for new challenges in the coming racing season! 

And may you, my friend, find a running partner who enhances your running life just as Ron has done mine.

If you are blessed to have a running partner that you share that special bond with, I'd like to hear about it!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011: A Year of Transformation

Happy New Year everyone! May your 2012 be memorable, healthy, happy and injury free!

This past week has been one of reflection and thanks for a most incredible year. There’s some irony there given that there was great tragedy and hardship in our nation and throughout the world. Our Reno community suffered through some difficult times with senseless shootings during Hot August Nights, the tragic crash and loss of life at the Reno Air Races and then the frightening fire in November where 30 homes were lost and hundreds were threatened.

Personally, I was affected by family tragedy with the horribly unnecessary death of my dad’s wife, Andrea. The bitter sweet is that my grief stricken father is reaching out to his family for support and love, a wonderful and comforting thing to be a part of.

Yet, despite all this, 2011 was one of the happiest for me in years; a transformation that began in July 2010 with the casual interest in a book a friend of mine was reading called “ChiRunning”.  Since that day in 2010, my life has not been the same. I went from painful knees when I ran more than 15 miles a week, to running 30 to 50 miles a week during 2011, racing for the first time in 15 years, and completing my first 50 mile race in October. My weight is close to what it was 15 years ago albeit my percent body fat is higher I’m sure, but my body does not feel like it’s been around for 50 plus years!  My spirit has soared and my love affair with running has resurfaced after being dormant for so many years.

So what are the stats? I raced in trail runs of a ½ marathon, 10 mile, and a 20 mile; I ran 21 miles as part of our “Stupid Fast” team during the Hood To Coast Relay; I paced 20 miles of the American River 50Mile and 30 miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile with my training buddy, Ron; and I completed my first 50 mile race.  All with satisfactory times and performances, and most importantly injury free and happy.

My training log says I ran anywhere from 20 to 55 miles per week during the year.  My self proclaimed remarkable accomplishment for an injury prone runner and a "has been" triathlete.

And what did I learn? Reviewing my training log reveals so much! Food tolerances, or maybe that should be training food favs (very few intolerances) for pre-training, racing and post race (I will always love beer after a run!); shoe preferences – I now run 90% of my miles in a minimal shoe, the other 10 % is in my Saucony Kinvaras.  I learned that recovery and rest are more critical than miles, and that a training plan can be changed if my body says so.  To that end, less is more – I can run a 50 mile race on 50 mile weeks especially with the ChiRunning skills.  Most of all, I learned that the joy of running is found in sharing the experience with others and being part of their accomplishments.  From coaching to pacing and racing, the running experience offers so much.  I am grateful for so many people for the life I have. You know who you are!

And, at the end of this year, I am without injury, am healthy and I still love running more than ever! Staying healthy, fit and injury free were my goals for 2011 and they won’t change for 2012.  I’ll focus on nutrition and training recovery strategy to continue to optimize my training time and efficiency, and I’ll deepen the strengthening and maintenance of my core and upper body.

My race goals for 2011 are to:

  • Complete the Way Too Cool 50K on March 10 in less than 6 ½ hours;
  • Complete the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 mile on July 21 in less than 12 hours; and
  • Complete the Rock ‘N River 50 mile in October in less than 11 hours. 
Those are the biggies.  The other smaller races will be fun for training and repeats of last year – Escape from Prison Hill Half in April, Lone Pine Half or 50K in May, Ponderosa Ridge Run in June and Run on the Sly in August.  And then, will it be the Reno Odyssey Relay or Hood to Coast Relay? Oh and there’s a new 50K and Half Marathon trail race inaugural happening in Grey Eagle in September which looks gorgeous…

Lots to look forward to!  Happy New Year everyone!

Next post, I promise pictures!